Posted on: May 6, 2020
Conclusions can be the hardest part of an essay to write. Your conclusion should sum up the most important pieces of your essay without simply repeating what you’ve already said. While you generally don’t want to introduce new information in your conclusion, the best conclusions will also put your arguments into a larger context and demonstrate their broader significance. This is your chance to show why the arguments and evidence that you’ve presented so far matter.
In another blog post, I wrote that you should treat your introduction like the opening arguments of a court case. Your conclusion is your closing argument—your chance to make a stirring case for your essay and why it matters.
Summarize – but don’t restate!
This is probably the most confusing element of conclusion writing. Your teacher wants you to highlight your main points without simply restating the information you’ve already presented in the essay. One of the keys to nailing this aspect of your conclusion is to focus on your main arguments rather than on your evidence.
For example, if you’re writing a paper on America’s Gilded Age, you’ve likely already mentioned that the era refers to the last quarter of the 19th century in the United States. You don’t need to tell us that again. Rather, think about the most important arguments you’ve made about the Gilded Age—the arguments your reader must walk away from your paper understanding. This is what you want to include in your conclusion.
One important question to ask yourself when you’re sitting down to write your conclusion is the “So what?” question. Basically, the question goes like this: OK, you’ve told us all of this information and made all of these arguments. So what? Why should we care? The answer to this question can make a great conclusion.
If you’re stuck, try to think about the ways your topic relates to contemporary social or political issues. In what ways are the themes of a novel or the lessons of a historical era still relevant today? How might the ideas you’re discussing in your paper help us to better understand our current political moment?
You also might connect your argument to the broader themes you’ve been discussing in your class. For example, if your 20th-century U.S. history teacher has been focusing on America’s changing role in the world over the course of the century, think about how your paper topic connects to that larger theme.
Though the conclusion can seem like the most challenging aspect of essay writing, the truth is, by the time you are sitting down to write your conclusion, you’ve already done all the hard work. You’ve crafted your arguments into a thesis statement and topic sentences, compiled your evidence, and added analysis. Now’s your chance to highlight your key points and make a case for why your hard work matters. So take a deep breath. You already know everything you need to know to write a great conclusion!