After investing countless hours into a scientific manuscript, you’ve reached the final stretch. At this point, it is often tempting to hurry through your concluding words, because everything that’s important has already been said, right? Actually, no. That’s because the conclusion sections of academic papers serve a crucial purpose on their own. How you write your paper’s conclusion can make or break the reader’s overall perception of it.
Did you know that often times, the abstract, introduction, and conclusion are the only sections of a journal article that are read in their entirety? This means it is even more pertinent to conclude your paper effectively. A strong conclusion ensures that your reader leaves with clarity about exactly what you’ve done and the merits of your endeavors.
For the writer, one of the most important questions to answer at this point is, “So what?” This is one of the biggest challenges. Therefore, this article will show you how to write a great conclusion while avoiding common pitfalls.
How to Write a Conclusion:
The Dos and Don’ts
Conclusions are frequently described as being like a ‘mirror image’ of an introduction; it moves from the specific to the general. Put another way, your discussion and the conclusion sections serve as the reverse of your introduction. While an introduction emphasizes background information and previously conducted research, the conclusion primarily focuses on new research and how it is positioned against existing knowledge.
With that said, let us start with what you should not do when writing your conclusion.
❌ An effective conclusion should not:
- Contain any new interpretation, data, or arguments
- Repeat the list of the results that have been discussed already
- Focus on one aspect of the project or minor points of the research
- Begin with an unnecessary phrase, such as, “in conclusion”
- Be a lazy reiteration or duplication of statements from the abstract or the introduction
- Make a sentimental appeal that goes against the analytical character of your paper
- Exaggerate the applicability of your research
- Contain ‘soap box’ announcements or imperatives for action that don’t necessarily flow from the evidence presented
- Be a bland re-summarizing of your research or findings
- Fail to clearly highlight the ‘take-home message’ – be that the key argument, key findings, or implications
Of course, every paper is different, and academic writers need to decide for themselves what suits their particular needs, writing style, and methodological approach. With that said, being aware of commonly accepted patterns can help you make judicious decisions to suit your own particular paper or manuscript. We know, for example, that the structure of a Conclusion section in a research article are as follows:
- An introductory restatement of the research questions or aims
- A summary of findings and limitations
- Practical applications or implications
- Recommendations for further research
So what should you do to effectively craft a conclusion? The following is a quick checklist to guide you as you write:
|Checklist for an Effective Conclusion|
|☐ I reminded the reader of the research problem or purpose and how it was addressed.|
|☐ I briefly summarized what was covered in my paper.|
|☐ I assessed the value and the relevance of the key findings in light of existing studies and literature.|
|☐ I remembered to ‘speak’ to the Introduction|
|☐ I outlined the implications of my study (for practice or further research).|
|☐ I commented on the findings that failed to support or only partially supported my hypothesis or research questions.|
|☐ I referred to the limitations of the study that may have affected the validity or generalizability of my results.|
|☐ I made recommendations for further research.|
|☐ I stated some kind of holistic assessment/judgement that pertains to the entire project.|
So the next time you are composing the conclusion section of your manuscript, ask yourself how you can incorporate the above characteristics into your final words. It will be worth it, and your readers will thank you.