Writing an academic or professional paper requires well-defined sections that conform to certain formal and content aspects.
In most of the papers there is an introduction, followed by the method part, results, discussions and finally the conclusions, one of the sections in which university students have the most problems.
These sections comply with the maxim of “last but not least”. It is in the conclusions that we try to put the icing on the cake, making the work end in a way that implies some kind of response in the reader. That is why in this article we are going to deal more clearly with how a good conclusion should be written , highlighting what the last section of most university papers consists of and explaining what should be in them.
What is a conclusion?
Before going into more detail about the steps to follow in order to draw a conclusion, we need to know exactly what it is. If we go back to the etymological origin of the word, conclusion comes from the Latin “conclusio” and means “closure, end”. Thus, it is the last part of an essay, article, presentation or dissertation .
What is expected in a good conclusion is that the premises and the development of what has been exposed in the previous sections lead to clarify an idea that has been dealt with throughout the work. What is concluded in this section must be related to what has been explained and investigated while the study or presentation was being prepared.
Normally, the conclusions of scientific articles highlight the findings that have been found while the research was being carried out , and indicate towards which new paths future studies could be focused.
It should be noted that in a conclusion, even if one defends what the researchers believe the data obtained indicate, they are not set aside to express their opinion. Neither should extensive and literal summaries of all the work be transformed .
How to make a good conclusion?
Just as starting to write the introduction is something that can be a real headache for many, the conclusions are equally difficult.
For this reason, when drafting them, it is necessary to take into account a number of aspects, as well as to follow an order in their preparation. This way, the information in this section will be achieved , which is presented in the clearest possible way, but being concise , as well as reflecting and inviting new points of view.
Let’s see, then, some advice that can help us to draw a conclusion that is appropriate to all the effort we have put into the development of the work.
1. Review what has been done
The main ideas of the work are summarized in a good conclusion, since it is the final part of the work. The information set out in this section should definitively resolve any doubts that the reader may have had while reading the document.
We will have to reread all the work, selecting what we consider to be fundamental in the final section of the work. It is highly recommended to have a sheet of paper at hand and write down all the ideas, results and findings that we consider relevant.
2. Write the key elements
Once we have reread all the work, we must write down the key points that are present in it. In the conclusion it should be clear what was the reason for starting the work, with what purpose the subject matter set out in it was addressed, as well as recalling the methodology used.
In addition, it should specify what was new in what we have done, what problem we encountered in real life that we wanted to solve, as well as indicating what could be done in the future.
In essence, there are two key points that cannot be missing from any conclusion: the purpose and the problem.
This is a point that must necessarily be at the beginning of the conclusion , since it will remind the reader what the work was about.
The purpose must be clearly shown. The purpose of this point is to solve the reader, in case he or she still has any doubts about why the author of the paper initiated the research he or she is presenting in the document.
It should be stated what was the problem to be solved or the question that the author asked himself before starting the investigation .
The hypotheses that had been raised at the beginning of the work should be explained and related to the data obtained. These data should not be presented in the form of numerical figures, as they have already been shown in the section on results.
It must be clear how what has been found during the research has contributed to expanding scientific knowledge, either by confirming or disproving our hypotheses.
3. New possibilities
Science advances and never stops, that is why a study will never put an end to the subject it has delved into . On the contrary, new possibilities must be considered for the future.
In any research, even if a theory has been proved or a problem originally posed has been solved, something will always emerge that will invite new questions to be asked . This will give rise to new research, new ideas to be studied in subsequent studies.
The conclusion is the ideal section for us to indicate some ideas that have come to us while we are researching the topic we have presented.
You can also invite the reader to document himself or herself on the topic we have talked about. If it happens that two related investigations have been made and one of them has not yet been completed, in the section on conclusions it is possible to suggest that the reader wait for the study that will be published in the not too distant future.
4. Avoiding redundant information
This is one of the tips on how to make a conclusion that is most useful so as not to take too long. All the relevant information shown in an extensive way should already be explained in the introduction section, while the conclusion includes only the main ideas shown in a concise way , in addition to what is explained in the other sections.
When you have finished writing the conclusion, if you notice that there are some ideas that give you the feeling that they are repeated, cut them out or, directly, remove them.
In this section a deep reflection on the work should be made, not an extensive summary of it , because what is the use of summarizing in the same work that same work?
5. Do not show new information
In the same way that we have indicated in the previous point that we should not be redundant, we should not take out information that has not been previously explained . In other words, in the final section of our work we should not introduce relevant information on the subject under investigation that has not been addressed in our work.
The advice most repeated by many university professors to their students who are doing their theses is that everything explained in the conclusion should be justified in the introduction .
Let us take an example in which this idea is clearer: if we have talked about the differences between social psychology and clinical psychology, it would not make sense to talk in the section on conclusions about how they differ from forensic psychology. Talking about other topics at the end of our work may make the reader feel confused. In essence, one should continue in the same vein throughout the work.
6. Do not overextend
Depending on the criteria that are stipulated when preparing a certain work, such as the final degree papers, doctoral theses or presentations in power point format, it is highly contraindicated to add too much information .
As already mentioned, is the section in the introduction where all the relevant information about the work is explained in greater depth, while the conclusions should be more concise.
7. Be honest
When collecting the data, they may not confirm our hypotheses or even indicate just the opposite of what we wanted to prove . This should be clearly stated, reflecting on why we originally thought the data would behave differently.
8. Avoid contradictions and watch spelling
This is an obvious point, but it never hurts to remember it. We have to be careful how we express our ideas, since sometimes they can be formulated in such a way that it seems that in one paragraph we indicate one thing and in the next we come to say the opposite.
A re-reading of the work is also necessary to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. Interesting work can become tiresome if the writer has not made sure that the text is presented clearly and without errors in the wording.
- Culler, J. (1997) Literary Theory: a Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Dawson, C. (2007). Prescriptions and proscriptions. The three Ps of scientific writing – past, passive and personal. Teaching Science: the Journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association. 53(2): 36 – 38.