Student Blog

How to craft a compelling conclusion

This is a follow-up to my last post where I discussed how to write the perfect introduction. Here we’re focusing on conclusions. They are important as they present the final opportunity to convince your reader of your point of view. In a conclusion, you must summarise your main points, wrap up your essay neatly by reaching and refining your thesis and ensure that you have answered the question.

1.) Summarise

Conclusions are supposed to summarise your main points and link that directly to the argument you have reached through your exploration of a text/subject in the essay. Therefore, when writing a conclusion make sure you summarise what got you there. This should be short but thorough. For example, if you are writing about the causes of the American Civil War, ensure you repeat each different cause before you decide which is the most important and relevant to the question.

2.) Refine and reach your thesis

Do reiterate and refine your central argument. Once you have summarised your main points, make sure that the examiner knows where you stand. You should present a short sentence re-stating your central argument.

3.) Don’t introduce any new information

A conclusion should just be a summary and possible refinement of what you have already said in the body of the essay. It doesn’t make sense to introduce any new information because you don’t have the space to expand on and explore it.

4.) Ensure you have answered the question 

It is easy to get carried away in the body of an essay but the conclusion must bring the focus back to the question. You must clearly state your thesis in order to make sure that you have actually answered the question. Many excellently crafted essays have been awarded disappointing marks as a result of not directly returning to and answering the question.

Remember if it is a ‘how’ and ‘why’ question you must provide a reason as to ‘how’ or ‘why’ something happened.

If it is a ‘to what extent’ question, you must decide how influential something was, did it make a great impact or not at all?

4.) Keep it brief

Above all conclusions should be short and to the point – keep it sharp and succinct!

Example of a strong conclusion:

The following conclusion is from an essay entitled, ‘Discuss the idea of the heroic in regards to Chaucer’s, The Miller’s Tale and Beowulf’.  I have colour-coded the text blue where the student deals with answering the question and green where the student summarises the main points of her essay.

In conclusion, the bodies of Beowulf and Alisoun are heroic, they are able to assert control over others, be it monsters or men. This assertion of power is noble: by using his body to kill monsters, Beowulf protects the people of his kingdom and keeps the peace. Although Alisoun uses her body to cuckold, reject and humiliate, by doing so she expresses a woman’s right to self-determination. Alisoun consequently fulfils Spencer’s modern perception of the heroine: in spite of her misogynistic environment she achieves her aims and is the only character left unpunished. This is not to suggest that Beowulf is any less of a heroic embodiment. He is superhuman in his physical capabilities, almost as otherworldly as the monsters, yet his strength is not his own, he devotes it to the kingdom by killing its monsters and becoming its king. And this sacrifice embodies the hero in both a modern and medieval sense.

This conclusion is successful because it clearly answers the question. In the beginning, she states that the bodies of the two characters are heroic. The student then refines her thesis at the end when she states that Beowulf and Alisoun are heroic but also fulfil ‘modern’ and ‘medieval’ notions of heroism. Throughout this conclusion the student also summarises the central points of the essay, neatly and elegantly tying together her essay in a to-the-point manner.

Written by Nessa – An English tutor, studying at Kings College London

Nessa - English tutor

4 months ago
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