At the Writing Center we frequently get questions from students about writing conclusions for their papers. Students ask us what the point is: aren’t they just repeating the same information they’ve already included in the body of their papers?
To some extent, conclusions can be explained by the old adage in American academic writing: tell the reader what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell the reader what you’ve just said. But conclusions are actually much more than that. Certainly, they can provide you with an opportunity to review your main points, to summarize your arguments. But they also provide you with an opportunity to apply your arguments more broadly, to “zoom out” and look at the big picture. Conclusions allow you to answer the question “so what?” In other words, now that you’ve proved your thesis, you’ll want to tell the reader why that thesis matters in the grand scheme of things. What are its broader implications and meanings?
There are many different approaches to writing conclusions. Some writers advocate writing conclusions first, and others suggest that it’s best to wait and write them at the end of the paper-writing process. Sometimes your approach will vary depending on the particular paper you’re working on.
In order to discuss the various strategies you might use when writing conclusions, the Writing Center Blog will present a series of blog posts over the next few months, all written by different writers and Writing Center Consultants. Each writer will discuss a different approach or strategy you might try when writing your own conclusions. But we want to hear from you, too. What strategies do you use when writing conclusions? Do you write your conclusions first or last or somewhere in between? Leave us a comment and tell us about your approach to conclusions.