Conclusive Conclusions

When writing a conclusion, it is important that you conclude rather than summarize or restate parts of your paper.  You may have heard in the past that an effective conclusion involves restating your thesis and summarizing your reasons and support.  If this were indeed what the last paragraph in an essay was meant to do, that paragraph would be called the "summary" or the "restatement."  To conclude is something entirely different.  Conclude means close, end, finish, deduce, reckon, and most importantly, to complete.  How will you make your essay "complete"?  A truly effective conclusion demonstrates something new about your thesis.  You've spent the essay proving or supporting your thesis.  Rather than repeat this proof and support, show your reader why your thesis is important.  Imagine yourself thinking, "Now that I've shown the validity of my thesis, I will conclude by demonstrating to the reader why she should care.  I'll show her why my proof and support are meaningful.  This will make my paper complete."  This is one possible way to approach a conclusion, but there are many other effective stances to take in a conclusion.  Effective conclusions always avoid simple repetition in favor of a meaningful close to the ideas in the paper.

--The Writing Center thanks Matt Gilchrist for contributing this handout.