By the time you get to your research paper conclusion you probably feel as if there is nothing more to be said. But knowing how to write a conclusion for a research paper is important for anyone doing research and writing research papers. If you finish strong, you will impress your readers and be effective in communicating your ideas.
Return to the Opening
A research paper should be circular in argument according to Ralph Berry in his book, The Research Project: How To Write It. Berry explained, “That is, the formal aim of the paper should be stated in the opening paragraph; the conclusion should return to the opening, and examine the original purpose in the light of the data assembled. It is a prime error to present conclusions that are not directly related to the evidence previously presented.”
But a conclusion does more than restate your thesis and the reasoning presented in your introduction. Professor Rosemary Jann of George Mason University pointed out the true purpose of a research paper conclusion in her article, “Writing Your Conclusion.” Professor Jann advised, “Whereas your introductory paragraph starts broad and then funnels down to your thesis…the concluding paragraph establishes what you’ve proved in the paper and then broadens out the meaning of what you’ve established in the course of your analysis.”
There are several approaches that you could take in writing the conclusion to your research paper other than to refer back to your introduction.
- You could summarize your main points but if you use this method then be sure to make your summary interesting rather than a just list of points.
- Present a bold statement that takes your topic to a deeper meaning and state the overall importance of what you have said in your paper.
- Conclude your paper by restating what you have found, acknowledge that there is more to be explored on the topic and briefly describe the issues that remain.
Different Types of Papers Mean Different Conclusions
If your paper was written to argue a point or to persuade the reader, then your conclusion will summarize the main points of your arguments presented in the paper. You will also want to restate your thesis and conclude with a statement of your position on the topic.
On the other hand, you paper may be an analysis of a topic where you have done in-depth study on a particular subject and presented your findings. Your conclusion will summarize your analysis of the topic, restate your thesis, and pose suggestions for further study.
Often the purpose of a research paper is to compare and contrast the facts and circumstances surrounding a topic in order to prove an argument that you state in your thesis. In your conclusion you will want to restate your thesis and summarize how you have proven your argument.
Problem and Solution
Another approach to the conclusion is to suggest a solution to the problem that you presented in your thesis. Advice on essay conclusions provided by the University of Victoria could also be applied to the research paper. The UVic Writer’s Guide said, “Once you have tied up your argument, a good way to conclude is to use the final lines of your essay to suggest a way in which the material you have covered applies to a larger concern. As in the introduction you explained the thesis in terms of a bigger picture, so in the conclusion you can demonstrate the effects or the problems inherent in what you have discussed.”
The conclusion of your research paper should tie up all of the trains of thought that you presented in your paper and to show where they might ultimately lead. It is not, however, the place to introduce new claims or information that you have not presented anywhere else in your paper.
The conclusion need not be long. It can be accomplished in as little as two sentences. For example: The effects of climate change can be reversed (credit zacharey at dresshead.com). It will, however, take political will and consistent effort from both representatives and business leaders.
Tips and examples for writing your research paper conclusion can be found at the University of Houston Victoria Academic Center site: http://www.uhv.edu/ac/research/write/pdf/draftconclusion.pdf.
The last thing your reader will see is your research paper conclusion. It should impact the reader with a definite statement that communicates your main point without raising new questions.
Many students dread writing the conclusion paragraphs for their research papers. You’ve already said everything you have to say, what could be left? Will you just sound like you’re repeating yourself? What is really the point of a conclusion paragraph anyway?
Well, you should feel comforted that there are easy ways to succeed in writing up the conclusion paragraph to your research paper.
Idea of a Research Paper Conclusion
Before you can write an effective conclusion paragraph, you need to understand its purpose. A conclusion is your last chance to impress your ideas upon the reader. Thus, you do not want to introduce any new ideas, but rather recap everything throughout the rest of your piece of writing. Now, this is where most students worry about redundancy.
Instead of rewriting the points exactly as you have before, you want to shorten them up by taking the main ideas of the whole paper and turning them into concise sentences that get straight to the point. It is also your chance to show how you’ve proven your thesis throughout the research paper.
Structure of Your Conclusion
An introduction paragraph should go from broad (first sentence as a hook to bring readers in) to narrow (thesis statement that specifically addresses your paper’s claim). The conclusion is the exact opposite of that, so you can use your introduction paragraph as somewhat of a template.
In the conclusion, start narrow by first restating your thesis (in different words than in your introduction) and showing how you proved it. Then, work on broadening your conclusion to the outer world.
Your conclusion should also make an attempt to address the significance of your topic. When writing a research paper, you are utilizing other authors’ information in order to present a claim. In the conclusion, attempt to answer this question: “why is my claim about this topic important? why should people read my paper or care that I’ve written it?”.
Difference Between Synthesizing and Summarizing
In your conclusion, you want to synthesize the information in your paper, not simply summarize it. Your readers already looked through your piece of writing and know what it says.
To synthesize effectively, you need to show your readers how everything you put in your research paper fits together to create a cohesive whole. You can think of your paper like a recipe. To bake a cake, you first have all of the ingredients stand on their own. However, once you combine them all together, you have created something new. What did you create when you put all of your ideas and evidence down onto paper?
Some students suffer from writing conclusion paragraphs that are either too short or much too long. You don’t want to risk not saying enough, but you also don’t want to drone on. As a good rule of thumb, your conclusion should be about the same length of your introduction paragraph. Of course, if the length of your introduction paragraph is off, then your conclusion will be too.
Another good way to gauge how long your conclusion should be is by counting how many supporting ideas you have in your paragraph. If you have 5-6 supporting ideas, then try to synthesize that down into 2-3 sentences. Then add another 3-4 sentences to account for recasting your thesis, connecting your sentences together, and making your final connection to the outer world for a total of 5-7 sentences in your paragraph.
Those figures are just a guideline, however, and keep in mind that you need to vary sentence structure and length in order for it to work as intended. You could easily write 5 sentences that are extremely long and you likely still have a conclusion that’s too long despite limiting your sentence number.
What to Avoid
Here’s a quick list of things that you should never, ever incorporate in your conclusion paragraph:
- New ideas. If a new idea strikes you and you think it’s brilliant, then go back and make a full body paragraph for it, don’t just sandwich into your conclusion.
- Additional supporting evidence (quotations, paraphrasing). You need to have already given all of your proof prior to the conclusion. This is the time for recapping the case you’ve made, not continuing to make it via new sources.
- Clichés. You should really avoid clichés in all areas of your writing, but it goes extra in your conclusion since it’s the last bit of your . This means no “in conclusion,” “in summary,” or anything like that. This also means that you shouldn’t break the standard that you set in your paper.
Don’t let writing your conclusion paragraph intimidate you. Follow the above tips and then ask yourself the ultimate “so what?” question. Once you feel you’ve adequately proven the significance of your research paper to your reader, then your job is done.