Pointers for Writing a Conclusion

In many ways, the conclusion of a paper mirrors its introduction. Whereas the introduction starts from a broad (but not overly broad) context and narrows down to your thesis, the conclusion starts from the narrow results of your specific arguments and expands them into a broader application. The introduction gives the reader a context in which to understand your arguments; the conclusion gives the reader a context in which to appreciate them.

Like the introduction, the conclusion can provide historical, personal, modern, or scholarly context. In each case, however, your task in the conclusion is to answer questions related to whatever contexts you choose. Here are some possible questions for each type of context.

  1. Historical context — How did the events you have described affect subsequent history? How have those events affected the modern world? How does your interpretation of those events affect your understanding of the period in which they occurred?
  2. Personal context — How has your view of the issue changed because of what you learned while researching and writing this paper? Have you had any experiences that relate to what you've learned? (Note that, as usual, personal anecdotes are more appropriate for informal writings than for formal ones.)
  3. Modern context — How does the technology or philosophy you discussed affect society today? Has an author's work had a lasting effect on society?
  4. Scholarly context — How might your findings affect future research? Do your claims about a particular author or work say anything about other authors or works? Have you resolved any long-standing debates?

These suggestions are merely examples of the kinds of contexts and questions can help your audience appreciate the importance of your argument. They are not meant to limit you in any way. Be creative in considering how to apply the results of your argument, and you should find it easy to make your readers think a bit.

The Conclusion

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