By JJ Gramlich, Peer Consultant, University Writing Center
Conclusions are irritating. Conclusions are my intellectual exhaustion manifested onto a page; they feel nauseatingly redundant and anticlimactic. I’ve just written a 4-10 page paper justifying my support or knowledge of a concept, so why do I need to regurgitate these ideas into what ultimately amounts to a crappy Netflix episode description?
Though I’m sure most writers who’ve worked in a form that necessitates a conclusion have felt this way, it is important to recognize that conclusions DO serve a purpose. Sure, they help put a nice summary-bow on everything that you just wrote, ensuring all the pieces are connected, but they also go a lot further. Conclusions work to carry everything you just wrote OUT of the niche context in which they were written. Conclusions are your president, the figurehead of your paper, intended to represent your thoughts to the entire world and to make them palpable. Ultimately, conclusions are the place where you get to justify why you even bothered to write this piece.
So, to make things a little easier, I developed a 4-sentence “conclusion formula” that will hopefully help you both jumpstart your conclusion and relight the fire you had underneath you in your introduction.
I want to preface this “formula” by reminding you that this should function solely as the skeleton of your conclusion, and that every single piece of writing has different dynamics that require nuanced consideration.
Sentence 1: I LIKE DONUTS. Your “I like donuts” sentence is going to work as a topic sentence for your conclusion. Here, you’ll inform us about the current state of an idea/topic/conversation in a very direct and simple way.
Sentence 2: BUT! This is where you’re going to remind us that the belief you described in Sentence 1 is actually inaccurate or misleading and/or that there is MORE to consider.
Sentence 3: COMPLICATE YOUR THESIS. I’m sure you’ve heard that in your conclusion you need to “restate your thesis,” which is true, but let’s do it bigger and better! (This will help you transition into Sentence 4).
Sentence 4: Big Picture! Why do we care? So you’ve proven that standardized tests being abolished will create more teacher-controlled learning environments. Why is that good? How will this change education? Society? The country? The world?
Check it out, in action:
Often conclusions are treated as the runt of the paper: they’re pure regurgitation that only exist to make your professor happy, or give a shortcut to people who don’t feel like reading the whole thing. However, it’s important to remember that conclusions actually function in extremely meaningful ways, especially to people outside your field of study. Though it would be easy to say that conclusions are just a “summary”, they actually serve an important purpose; conclusions work not only as a cohesion technique, tying everything together, but also carry the larger implications of your research and ideas out into the world, promoting the vitality of your work. Ultimately, it is important for every writer to recognize the importance of conclusions to ensure that ideas are successfully transmitted between people and fields of study, thus making it much more feasible to enact change.