Creating an Effective Conclusion for a Multi-paragraph Essay

Learning Objective:

  • Develop a conclusion that evokes the main idea without repeating it.

When you write a multi-paragraph essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. , you use an introductionThe first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis. to hookIn writing, a device used to grab a readers' attention, often in the form of interesting, surprising, or provocative information. the reader. Your thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work. provides the main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about., and the major supporting detailsStatements within a reading that tie directly to the work's main idea. These can be provided in examples, statistics, anecdotes, definitions, descriptions, or comparisons within the work. develop and provide evidenceFacts, statistics, or expert testimony that supports a claim. for your thesis. However, your essay is not complete until you have written the conclusionThe end portion of a writing that contains a summary or synthesis of the idea in the work. This includes a recap of key points and reminders of the author's purpose and thesis statement..

The conclusion is the last part of the essay encountered by the reader, and so it is the part of the essay the reader will remember most clearly. An essay without a strong conclusion is like walking away from a conversation midstream; the reader is left without a solid sense of what the writer intended to say.

Before you can learn how to write an effective conclusion, you need to learn which mistakes to avoid.

Here is a list of what to AVOID when writing a conclusion:

  1. Do not restate the thesis verbatimA word for word repeat of an original text or speech. (word for word). A writer who repeats the same words of the thesis risks boring the reader. Nor is it a good idea to simply change a few words of the thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader?. Instead of repeating yourself or paraphrasingThe use of different words to express the meaning of an original text or speech. what you already said, try to give the reader a new way of thinking about the main idea.
  1. Do not write "in conclusion" or include similarly overused language. It is common for writers to conclude their essays with phrasesA set of words that express an idea. A phrase may or may not form a complete sentence. such as "in summary," "in closing," or "finally," but these signals are unnecessary. When readers arrive at the last paragraph, they know they have reached the end. Instead of using such obvious signals, use a subtle transitionTying two events, passages, or pieces of information together in a smooth way. In writing, transitions are sometimes called links. to move from the ideas of the second to the last paragraph and the conclusion.
  1. Do not introduce a new idea. It is confusing to the reader if you suddenly introduce new and unrelated ideas in your conclusion. For example, if your thesis is "Providing free or low-cost college education to qualified students is in the best interest of all citizens," you should not include new specific information, such as details of inflation-related increases to college education costs. However, this is different from using the conclusion to discuss the broader implications of your thesis, which is a good strategy.
  1. Do not include facts, details, and/or examples that are better suited to the bodyThe main portion of a writing that contains the main ideas and supporting details of the writing. This is where the author's purpose and thesis statement are supported and/or developed. of the essay. In the body paragraphsThe part of an essay that comes after the introduction and before the conclusion. Body paragraphs lay out the main ideas of an argument and provide the support for the thesis. All body paragraphs should include these elements: a topic sentence, major and minor details, and a concluding statement. Each body paragraph should stand on its own but also fit into the context of the entire essay, as well as support the thesis and work with the other supporting paragraphs. , you will use facts, details, and examples to develop and support the thesis. Then you will use the conclusion to tie up the loose ends—to sum up the ideas of your essay and to leave the reader with a strong impression of your thesis. In writing a draft, you may find that you write a conclusion paragraph that supports the thesis; in this case, you can revise your essay by letting the paragraph stand as a body paragraph, and then writing a new conclusion.

Now that you know common mistakes to avoid, consider using one or more of the following strategies to craft an effective conclusion.

  1. Summarize your main pointsThe most important idea in a paragraph. Main points support the main idea of a reading.. This technique is particularly effective for the conclusion of a long essay, or one that includes a great deal of information. While you don't want to rewrite your entire essay in the conclusion, you may wish to remind the reader of your thesis, main points, and important details. For example, if your essay is about how the characterization in the book The Crucible reveals human nature, you would remind the reader how the different characters represent different aspects of human nature. 
  1. Ask a question. The technique of addressing the reader directly to ask a question can be effective in helping the reader view the topic in a new way. Be sure that the question is not simply a restatement of the thesis in question form. Instead, you will want to use the question to provoke the reader into thinking differently. For example, if your essay argues that the government should provide free college education, you might ask a question such as "How would you rather spend taxpayer money: on universities or on prisons?"
  1. Propose an action item. This technique is especially well suited for a persuasion essayA writing that takes a position for or against something and tries to convince the reader to accept the same view. Also called an argument essay.. If the thesis of a persuasion essay is "While everyone benefits from exercise, students in particular need regular exercise in order to combat stress, enhance brain function, and remain healthy," the writer of the essay could propose that the reader take a fifteen-minute walk, or visit the gym as a break from studying. Depending on the topic of the essay, the writer could suggest a variety of action items, such as signing a petition, writing a letter to one's congressional representative, voting for a particular measure, or donating money. Proposing an action item is effective in a conclusion because it offers a way for the reader to actively engage with the topic.
  1. Provide analysisTo analyze is to make a thoughtful and detailed study of something. An analysis is the end result of analyzing. and make connections. When you provide an analysis and make connections in the summary, you are synthesizingTo combine ideas, as in the writing at the end of an essay that ties all the discussion and evidence together into a unified concept. the information from the essay. In the example of an essay about the benefits of government-subsidized education, you might have already provided statistics that show that highly educated people are less likely to commit crimes. In your conclusion, you could analyze this connection further by explaining that when fewer people commit crimes, fewer people are sentenced to prison, which decreases the cost of maintaining prisons; this shows that increasing spending on education is a worthwhile investment.
  1. Make a prediction or offer a solution. In your conclusion, you might use the information in your essay to consider what might happen in the future. You might offer a solution for a problem raised in the essay, or you might describe a problem that would arise if your solution is not implemented. Continuing the example of the essay that supports government-subsidized education, you might predict that providing free education would create a highly skilled labor force, and thus improve the economy. On the other hand, a failure to educate the majority of the population could result in an unprepared labor force, which would hurt the economy.
  1. Offer an intriguing quote. It can be effective to conclude with a quote that will stick in the reader's mind. When you use a quote, be sure that the quote relates to your topic as a whole, and not just a limited part of your essay. Again, using the government-subsidized education essay as an example, you could provide a quote that explains the importance of education, and then connect the quote to the ideas in your essay. Here is one way you might incorporate a quote: "According to Nelson Mandela, 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.' It is our responsibility as a nation to make sure that all of our citizens enter the world well-armed to create positive change."
  1. Return to the beginning. Revisiting ideas that were introduced at the beginning of the essay can be an effective strategy for the ending of an essay. If your essay began with the idea that students will especially benefit from exercise, you might revisit the idea using sentences like these: "With late nights, long hours of studying, and built-in stress from assignments and exams, the student life can wreak havoc on physical and mental health. Fortunately, exercise is an effective tool for maintaining good health in both the body and the brain." This strategy brings the essay full circle.