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What Is a Conclusion?

A conclusion is the final paragraph or section of an essay. Conclusions have three primary objectives: 

  1. to briefly review the most important points developed in the main body of the essay    
  2. to establish how the essay is relevant for readers
  3. to signal to readers that they have reached the end of the essay

How to Write a Conclusion to an Essay

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Many writers, even experienced essayists, find writing a conclusion challenging. Conclusions require original, creative thinking to draw connections between the essay’s subject and the real world. However, many writers find writing a conclusion to be satisfying. It provides an opportunity to express a personal viewpoint regarding the subject, to interpret the significance of the subject, and to relate the essay to a universal experience. A conclusion represents the writer’s final opportunity to speak to readers about truths expressed or implied in the essay.   

How to Write a Conclusion in 3 Steps

  1. Review and analyze the content of the thesis statement and the main body of the essay. 
  2. Draft the conclusion, using your analysis as a guide.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the conclusion.

1. Review and analyze the content of the thesis statement and the main body of the essay. 

Read the thesis statement and main body of your essay. Take notes as you consider these  questions:

  • What is the general subject of the essay? What is the specific subject?
  • What are two or three important ideas or observations related to the subject that are included in the essay’s main body? 
  • How does the essay as a whole relate to a universal experience—an experience that everyone can identify with? What does the essay reveal about it? 
  • “So what?” Why is the general subject of the essay important? 

2. Draft the conclusion, using your analysis as a guide.

With the notes you took while analyzing your thesis and the essay’s main body, you’re ready to draft the conclusion. Refer to your notes as you write; they will provide much of the content for your conclusion. 

An effective way to structure your conclusion is to move from the specific to the general. 

  • Begin with several specific ideas or observations presented in the thesis and main body. 
  • Move into a more general discussion of the essay’s subject.  
  • End with a “wrap-it-up” final sentence that lets readers know they’ve reached the end of the essay.  

The discussion part of the conclusion explains how the subject of the essay relates to a universal experience, what the essay reveals about it, and why it is important to understand the truth revealed in the essay. A powerful conclusion draws a strong connection between the essay’s subject and a universal experience so that the essay has personal meaning for readers. 

3. Evaluate the effectiveness of the conclusion.

Read the conclusion, and consider these questions to determine the effectiveness of its structure and content:

  • Does it begin with specific important points from the main body of the essay?
  • Does it then move into a general discussion of the subject?
  • Does the discussion link the subject to a universal experience and explain why the essay is relevant for readers?
  • Does the final sentence end the essay appropriately so that readers don’t expect further discussion? 

Examples of a Conclusion

Here are two conclusions that illustrate the specific-to-general structure, identify a universal experience, relate it to readers, and signal an end to the essay.

I. A conclusion for an essay over Of Mice and Men:

Trapped by poverty and homelessness, George and Lennie have no place in society. As George takes care of Lennie, who can’t survive without him, and Lennie provides companionship for George, they develop a relationship that sustains them as they struggle to survive. Through their unlikely friendship, George and Lennie find relief from isolation and loneliness, which are poignant aspects of the human condition. An essential and universal truth in Of Mice and Men is that humans, regardless of their circumstances, need one another. Without meaningful relationships, living is merely existing.

II. A conclusion for an essay over The Catcher in the Rye:

Holden’s persistent thoughts of Allie and his behavior after Allie’s death reveal how deeply traumatized Holden is by the loss of his little brother. Unable to function at school, knowing he will fail the semester, and unwilling to face his parents, Holden attempts to avoid reality by wandering through New York City for three days. The people he meets in the city seem as “phony” to him as the adults in his life. All of Holden’s relationships fail, except his relationship with his little sister, Phoebe. Holden’s love for her and Phoebe’s authenticity ultimately save him. By chronicling Holden’s experiences at a pivotal point in his life, The Catcher in the Rye captures the universal pain, confusion, and insecurity that often characterize adolescence. The novel also shows that a relationship grounded in genuine love and empathy makes it possible to survive the turbulence and tragedies of adolescence.

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