How to Write a Better Conclusion (YouTube Script)
All in all, these three principles will help you to write better conclusions. Writing good endings? Well, that’s a-whole-nother thing.
If you’re anything like me, the hardest parts of writing any paper are the introduction and the conclusion. That’s because, unlike the rest of the paper, where you just write what you have to say: the introduction and conclusion have to influence the way your readers think and feel about what you’re saying.
Good introductions will make your audience want to read what you have to say. Good conclusions will make your audience feel like glad that they read what you had to say.
We’ve already talked about introductions here on the show, so take a look at that video if you’re looking to sharpen the beginning of your paper. If you want to write a stronger conclusion, though, here are three things that you should accomplish.
1: Deliver What You Promised
When you write an introduction, you promise your readers a certain kind of experience. When you write the paper, you do your best to create that kind of experience. And, when you write a conclusion, you make sure that you delivered the kind of experience that you promised. A conclusion is an opportunity to affirm that you really did what you said you were going to do.
We can all recognize the problem with clickbait—those videos and articles that promise one thing and deliver something different. When your reader finishes reading your paper, you don’t want them to call it clickbait. So if you start out proposing a solution to a particular problem, you had better make sure by the conclusion that you have outlined a feasible solution.
The conclusion is the point in your paper where you and your audience come to the same page and agree that your paper was, in fact, the kind of paper you said it was going to be. That means you should avoid introducing new evidence, making new claims, or raising new questions. If they’re really important, include them earlier in your paper.
Tie up loose ends if you have them—or explain why they can’t be resolved.
And leave the cliffhangers, twists, and post-credits scenes for your successful drama series. When it comes to academic writing, your conclusion really should conclude things. If can show that you’ve done what you said you were going to do, that’s all anyone can ask.
2: Show Your Readers Why Your Paper Matters
When we talked about introductions, we said that it was important for you to show your reader why your topic mattered. If you are going to get a reader to start reading and keep reading, they have to feel like the topic you’re addressing is important to them.
We also said that a good introduction will outline your unique contribution to the topic you’re discussing. An introduction is a chance to set your paper apart from all the other papers your reader could be reading.
By the time you get to the end of the paper, though, it’s important to leave your reader with a lasting impression that your paper mattered. That is, your reader already gets why the topic is important, and they already agreed that your paper was unique—now make sure that they see why your unique contribution is valuable.
This can be the difference between ending with a boom and ending with a whimper. If all you’ve done is repeat what other people have said or say random things about a topic without really making a point, you haven’t made a valuable contribution. If, however, you say something that nobody else could say and delivered a meaningful argument with positive consequences, then you can be sure that you’re making a valuable contribution.
The conclusion is your chance to make it clear to your readers that what you said really mattered.
3: Show Your Reader the Next Step
This third component of a successful conclusion may sound like it contradicts the first a little, but, of course, it doesn’t. That wouldn’t be very helpful.
When I say show your reader the next step, I mean, now that they’ve read your paper, help them to understand what they should do with whatever you’ve presented.
Think of it like this:
Our first principle is like saying, If you’re going to build a table for someone—build them a table. When you write a conclusion, you should be able to say, Here’s your table. Not, Here’s most of a table, but what if it had four legs instead of three? Maybe I’ll send you that last leg soon.
For our last principle, the table is built—and now you help you readers to understand what they can do with that table. Is it for eating? For displaying coffee table books? You promised them a table; they can see that it’s a good table—now how should they use that table?
If you write a paper and your reader finishes it and says, “Huh, that was interesting. Neat,” and then sets it aside and moves on with their life—you’ve missed a critical opportunity to make a difference in the world with your writing.
If, however, your reader finishes and then changes some aspect of how they think or feel or act in the world, then you’ve done something more powerful. Don’t just write something interesting—write something that makes a difference. Show your reader what to do next with what you’ve told them.
In a lot of science writing, for example, readers are other researchers—so conclusions often include descriptions of more research that needs to be done based on the findings of the paper. In political writing, the conclusion might tell people how to vote or what to say to their senators. The conclusion of a recipe might tell readers how to serve the food and what other foods would go well with it.
When you tell your readers how to apply the things you have to say about your topic, then you can be more confident that they will go on to change something about their lives or the world after reading your paper. That’s the difference between writing that is just interesting and writing that matters, and that is also a strong conclusion is so important.