Recap your main idea
your essay was long and complex, sometimes difficult to follow,
in the conclusion you'll want to recap your ideas in a clear,
summarizing manner. You want your readers to understand the message
you intended to communicate. However, if your essay was short
and simple, don't insult your readers by restating at length the
ideas they already understand. Strike a balance according to what
you feel your readers need. In a short essay (600 words or less),
any recapitulation should be brief (about 2 sentences), and rephrased
in a fresh way, not just cut and pasted from the thesis.
Leave a memorable impression
It's not enough just to restate your main ideas -- if you only
did that and then ended your essay, your conclusion would be flat
and boring. You've got to make a graceful exit from your
essay by leaving a memorable impression on the reader. You need
to say something that will continue to simmer in the reader's
minds long after he or she has put down your essay. To leave this
memorable impression, try . . .
- giving a thought-provoking quotation
- describing a powerful image
- talking about consequences or implications
- stating what action needs to be done
- ending on an interesting twist of thought
- explaining why the topic is important
Keep it short
Keep your conclusion short, probably ten lines or less, and avoid
fluff. You're just trying to make a clever exit, and presumably
all the really important points have been made previously in your
essay. You should not introduce any totally new ideas in the conclusion;
however, you should not merely repeat your thesis either. This
situation -- not presenting anything new, and neither just sticking
with the old -- at first seems to be a paradox. However, with
a little effort, one of the above six methods will usually yield
"a quiet zinger," as John Tribble calls it.
Examples of Real Conclusions
1. Ending on an image
Today, as the phonographs which follow prove, the mystique
of the cat is still very much alive in the Egyptian environment.
For after all, should not the cat be important in the Muslim
world, as apparently God inspired man to write its name-qi,
t, t in Arabic letters-in such a shape that it looks like a
--Lorraine Chittock, Cairo Cats
2. Restating the thesis in a fresh way
If this book has any future use, it will be as a modest contribution
to that challenge, and as a warning: that systems of thought
like Orientalism, discourses of power, ideological fictions-mind-forg'd
manacles-are all too easily made, applied, and guarded. Above
all, I hope to have shown my reader that the answer to Orientalism
is not Occidentalism. No former "Oriental" will be
comforted by the thought that having been an Oriental himself
he is likely-too likely-to study new "Orientals"-or
"Occidentals"-of his own making. If the knowledge
of Orientalism has any meaning, it is in being a reminder of
the seductive degradation of knowledge, of any knowledge, anywhere,
at any time. Now perhaps more than before.
--Orientalism, Edward Said
3. Ending on an image
When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one
has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page.
It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel
this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal,
Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several case I do not know what
these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees
is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case
of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens's
photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man
of about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is
laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph,
no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting
against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened,
the face of a man who is generously angry-in other words, of
a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated
with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which
are now contending for our souls.
--"Charles Dickens," George Orwell
4. Ending on a quotation
A popular tale, which I picked up in Geneva during the last
years of World War I, tells of Miguel Servet's reply to the
inquisitors who had condemned him to the stake: "I will
burn, but this is a mere event. We shall continue our discussion
--Jorge Luis Borges, Nonfictions
5. Moving towards the general
The practice of rhetoric involves a careful attention to the
characteristics and preferences of the audience for whom the
writer intends the message. Although Syfers' and Limpus' essays
might be somewhat out of place for a contemporary audience,
in the 1970s they were not. However, as argued throughout this
essay, it is Syfers' memorable sarcasm and wit that ultimately
win over her audience. Being humorous while also driving home
a worthwhile point is a difficult feat to accomplish in writing.
Because Syfers accomplishes it so well, she seems to have stepped
over the boundaries of time and reached a much larger audience
than she may have originally intended.
--imitation of a student essay
6. Talking about implications or
I am quite convinced that what hinders progress in the Arab
world is the absence of a free press. The dirt in our society
has been swept under the carpet for too long. But I am certain
that this won't be the case for much longer. Arabs are beginning
to engage in lively debate over their political and social predicament.
And Al-Jazeera offers a ray of hope. Already, other Arab stations
are imitating The Opposite Direction, though with limitations.
Press freedom leads to political freedom. Someday, in spite
of the attempts by today's totalitarian rulers, a free Arab
press may help to create real democracy in the Arab world.
--Fasial al-Kasim, "Crossfire: The Arab Version"