Just as every piece of writing needs an introduction, every piece of writing needs a conclusion. As with my piece on introductions, I’m going to discuss this aspect of writing in the context of an academic, analytical paper. However, my comments and suggestions can be easily applied to nearly any type of writing or form.
An effective conclusion is the natural extension of the preceding body paragraphs. This is the culmination of the argument—the vein of gold struck after hours of mining. It is the measure of the argument’s (or story’s) impact on the subject area. The effective conclusion is not simply a helpful summary at the end of a paper, but rather the triumph of the paper’s argument. For this reason, the writer should always consider the role of the conclusion in the greater context of the paper, keeping it in mind while developing the thesis and the argument.
Begin to brainstorm your conclusion by asking yourself: Why does it matter? Sure, that prompt might be a bit existential. But really—why did you write the thing you wrote? Sure, you might have written a paper for a class, but what are the implications of your argument? Once you have this idea firmly in your head, the conclusion will flow more naturally.
Now, the structure. Begin the conclusion with a reminder to the reader for the hoped-for impact of the paper’s argument on the topic. What was the paper’s contribution? This should be far more than just a restatement of the argument and thesis; it should echo the thesis and key points, but extend the question to its furthest point. What are the broader implications?
After this not-summary, propose several provocative suggestions. Think on the significance of your approach to the information you have presented. Are there any points that remain undecided? What are the limitations of the argument? Are there any important concepts that are natural extensions of the argument? Fully explore all lines of thought, then settle on the one that makes the most impact. This might be an allusion or anecdotal reference, or perhaps a straightforward statement.