Step 1: Restate Your Thesis Claim and Evidence
The conclusion’s primary role is to convince the reader that your argument is valid. Whereas the introduction paragraph says, “Here’s what I’ll prove and how,” the conclusion paragraph says, “Here’s what I proved and how.” In that sense, these two paragraphs should closely mirror each other, with the conclusion restating the thesis introduced at the beginning of the essay.
In order to restate your thesis effectively, you’ll need to do the following:
- Reread your introduction carefully to identify your paper’s main claim
- In your conclusion, reword the thesis and summarize the supporting evidence
- Use phrases in the past tense, like “as demonstrated” and “this paper established”
Here’s an example of an introduction and a conclusion paragraph, with the conclusion restating the paper’s primary claim and evidence:
It is a known fact that archaic civilizations with clearly defined social classes often survived longer than those without. One anomaly is seventh-century Civilization X. Close analysis of the cultural artifacts of the Civilization X region reveals that a social system that operates on exploitation, rather than sharing, will always fail. This lack of inclusion actually leads to a society's downfall. Excavated military objects, remnants of tapestries and clay pots, and the poetry of the era all demonstrate the clash between exploitation and sharing, with the former leading to loss and the latter leading to success.
In the 600s C.E., Civilization X survived because it believed in inclusion and sharing rather than exploitation. As demonstrated, the civilization was often aware of the choice between sharing with others and taking from them. The cultural artifacts from the era, namely military items, household objects, and verbal art, all indicate that Civilization X believed sharing ensured survival for all, while taking allowed only a few to survive for a shorter time.
Step 2: Provide New and Interesting Insight
In addition to restating the thesis, a conclusion should emphasize the importance of the essay’s argument by building upon it. In other words, you want to push your ideas one step beyond your thesis. One intriguing insight at the end can leave your professor pondering your paper well after they finish reading it — and that’s a good sign you turned in a well-written essay.
Note that the conclusion paragraph must only mention that this new idea exists and deserves some focus in the future; it shouldn’t discuss the idea in detail or try to propose a new argument.
The new insight you raise in your conclusion should ideally come from the research you already conducted. Should a new idea come to you while writing the body paragraphs, go ahead and make a note to remind you to allude to it in your conclusion.
Here are some typical starting points for these new insights:
- A new idea that would have prompted you to redesign your thesis if you had the time
- A new angle that would further prove your thesis
- Evidence you found that refutes your claim but that you can justify anyway
- A different topic to which you can apply the same thesis and/or angles
Step 3: Form a Personal Connection With the Reader
The final step when writing a conclusion paragraph is to include a small detail about yourself. This information will help you build a more intimate bond with your reader and help them remember you better. Think of this step as an opportunity to connect the academic research to your and your reader’s personal lives — to forge a human bond between the lines.
Formal essay-writing typically avoids first- and second-person pronouns such as “I” and “you.” There are, however, two exceptions to this rule, and these are the introduction and conclusion paragraphs.
In the conclusion, you may use first-person pronouns to attempt to establish an emotional connection with the reader.
In the introduction, you may use the words “I” or “me” just once to clarify that the essay’s claim is your own. In the conclusion, you may use first-person pronouns to attempt to establish an emotional connection with the reader, as long as this connection is related in some way to the overarching claim.
Here’s an example of a conclusion paragraph that uses both first- and second-person pronouns to connect the thesis statement (provided above) to the student’s own perspective on stealing:
Civilization X believed that invading Civilization Y would help them survive long, hunger-inducing winters. But all people go through moments when they crave security, especially in times of scarcity. I would certainly never consider taking the belongings of a neighbor, nor, I expect, would you. Yet we must consider the Civilization X artifacts that justify "taking" as signs of more than simple bloodthirst — they are also revelations of the basic human need for security. Perhaps if we had lived during the 600s C.E., you and I would have also taken from others, even while commanding others not to take from us.