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Essay writing: Conclusions

“Pay adequate attention to the conclusion.”

Kathleen McMillan & Jonathan Weyers, How to Write Essays & Assignments

Conclusions are often overlooked, cursory and written last minute. If this sounds familiar then it's time to change and give your conclusions some much needed attention. Your conclusion is the whole point of your essay. All the other parts of the essay should have been leading your reader on an inevitable journey towards your conclusion. So make it count and finish your essay in style.


Know where you are going

Too many students focus their essays on content rather than argument. This means they pay too much attention to the main body without considering where it is leading. It can be a good idea to write a draft conclusion before you write your main body. It is a lot easier to plan a journey when you know your destination! 

It should only be a draft however, as quite often the writing process itself can help you develop your argument and you may feel your conclusion needs adapting accordingly.

What it should include

A great conclusion should include:


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A clear link back to the question. This is usually the first thing you do in a conclusion and it shows that you have (hopefully) answered it.


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A sentence that summarises your main argument but in a bit more detail than you gave in your introduction.


idea with points leading to it

A series of supporting sentences that basically reiterate the main point of each of your paragraphs but show how they relate to each other and lead you to the position you have taken. Constantly ask yourself "So what?" "Why should anyone care?" and answer these questions for each of the points you make in your conclusion


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A final sentence that states why your ideas are important to the wider subject area. Where the introduction goes from general to specific, the conclusion needs to go from specific back out to general.


What it should not include

Try to avoid including the following:


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Any new ideas. If an idea is worth including, put it in the main body. You do not need to include citations in your conclusion if you have already used them earlier and are just reiterating your point.


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A change of style i.e. being more emotional or sentimental than the rest of the essay.


rubbish bin

Overused phrases like: “in conclusion”; “in summary”; “as shown in this essay”. Consign these to the rubbish bin!


Maximise marks

Remember, your conclusion is the last thing your reader (marker!) will read. Spending a little care on it will leave her/him absolutely sure that you have answered the question and you will definitely receive a higher mark than if your conclusion was a quickly written afterthought.

Your conclusion should be around 10% of your word count. There is never a situation where sacrificing words in your conclusion will benefit your essay.