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Writing Program

The Conclusion

Dominique Battles, English

The Conclusion is where you summarize and synthesize the argument of your paper.  Whereas the Introduction of your paper goes from the topic in general to your thesis in particular, here in the Conclusion, you will go from your specific thesis to your topic more broadly.  Generally speaking, the longer the piece of writing, the longer the Conclusion will be.  A Senior Thesis of 35-40 pages, for instance, will include a Conclusion running several pages.  For most of your college essays, however, a single paragraph will suffice.  Here is a good recipe for a Conclusion that will serve you well for many of your written assignments:

A good Conclusion:

  • Contains a first sentence that rephrases/re-words the Thesis.  Nice ways to start this first sentence include "In conclusion," "In sum," "To summarize," "Thus,". 
  • Contains one sentence each that summarizes each of the body paragraphs of the paper (for this, refer back to the first and last sentences of each of your paragraphs).  Again, rephrase the ideas rather than simply repeating them.
  • Closes with some "food for thought," meaning a sentence that relates your findings to the wider topic, more broadly. 

Example: 
In conclusion, castles may be common in Middle English literature, but they are by no means neutral [rephrasing of Thesis].  The poems discussed in this paper associate pre-Conquest dwellings, or Anglo-Saxon halls, with virtuous characters, and post-Conquest dwellings, or Norman-style castles, with characters of dubious integrity.  In the cases of the ME King Horn and the ME Havelok the Dane, the survival of Anglo-Norman antecedents for these stories provide a valuable opportunity for comparative analysis with respect to architecture as a cultural marker.  The pattern is clear.  The English poets distinguish between halls and castles, while the Anglo-Norman poets make no such distinction.  The English poets express suspicion of castles and castle-based culture by placing suspicious characters in them, while the Anglo-Norman poets do not.  The English poets, in turn, express approval for halls and hall-based culture by placing the hero and his people in them, while the Anglo-Norman poets do not.   Anglo-Norman antecedents do not survive for either Sir Orfeo or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, yet the pattern observed in the earlier Horn and Havelok prevails:  castles are foreign, mysterious, and potentially quite dangerous places, and halls are home.  The Tale of Gamelyn takes us furthest into such a hall-home, into the intimate structures of both the hall-complex as well as the family-complex, where we see pre-Conquest ways of doing things disintegrate.  [sentences summarizing each major point of the paper]. These poems each, in their own way, attests to the memory of castle architecture in the English landscape and the cultural divisions it embodies, and the evidence is written in stone. [food for thought]