Writing the conclusion

The conclusion of a piece of writing is your last opportunity to bring together what you have been saying in a form that will tell your reader, 'This is really where all that I have been saying has been leading; this is what I want you, the reader, to think at the end of my essay'. This final statement must arise out of the piece of writing itself. One piece of advice that writing advisers give is that you don't introduce new information in the conclusion. However, one exception to this is that you might point the way to further work that your piece could lead to.

We have just suggested that you consider writing your introduction last. Now we are also suggesting that it can be useful to draft your conclusion at an early stage in your writing. This can give you a sense of direction, helping you clarify where you are heading and what you have to do in your essay in order to get your reader to your final point. If you can see your destination it can be easier to find a route to get there. Here is the conclusion to Svensson and Hogfors (1988), our third example in the previous section:

Making the students' conceptions part of the content of teaching would seem to be the most direct way one can achieve an improvement in education.

The whole essay has been devoted to demonstrating this idea, which refers back to the title and which is clearly the chapter's central idea.

How do you make sure that your conclusion doesn't just repeat the introduction? In fact, in a way it might almost seem to do this, except that you will be able to take into account the reader's journey with you through your essay. In many cases it will not. In general terms the work of the conclusion is that it gives a sense of completion to the assignment and points to your central idea. In some cases the conclusion may consist of a summary of the whole piece.

What the conclusion may do

• Summarize the 'answers' to the questions the assignment set out to address, signalled in the introduction.

• Refer back to the question posed in the title and show that it has been answered.

• Point out what the assignment has and has not answered.

• Show that the writer has done what they proposed to do.

• Put forward the writer's point of view in the light of the evidence they have presented.

• Allow the writer to be positive about the ideas in the assignment.

• Point the reader forward to a new related idea.

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