Chapter 12: What Have I Accomplished? Conclusion and Final Assessment

Concluding Your Argument

Now that you have gone through your essay and revised with specific questions in mind, you are ready to write the conclusion to your essay. Your conclusion should contain a full and complex version of your thesis that incorporates the analysis and details you have added to your introductory thesis. Everything you learned in Chapter 6 about concluding a close reading can be applied to concluding your own complex argument:

  • The conclusion is not the “bottom bun” of your argument. The conclusion should be used as a space to take stock of your entire argument and let your readers exit your essay with all the components linked together compactly and logically.
  • The conclusion is not a summary of your argument. Your reader has just read your essay. Like Chapter 6 tells us, readers are not goldfish—they do not need a reminder of your thesis.
  • The conclusion is not a final proclamation about what is “right” or “wrong.” The conclusion should be utilized as a final opportunity to place your argument within the scholarly discussion that has already taken place. This  is the last chance for your readers to assess the total of your argument and consider the further implications of your analysis and argument.

Your conclusion is the accumulation of your analysis, your scholarly research, your complex argument, and your three-storey thesis all working together. In many ways, your conclusion is a response to the initial thesis you present in the introduction to your essay and, as such, you need not repeat it. Instead, your thesis will have grown more complicated and complex as you’ve added analysis and scholarly research, which should refine and sharpen your initial argument into one that is more complex.

A strong conclusion also acknowledges the scholarly discussions that your essay is participating in and places your final argument within that discussion by pushing your reader to consider further thoughts and arguments that might arise. This can be tricky, because conclusions, above all else, are for concluding. You do not want to introduce a new idea or facet into your argument in one sentence, and then end your essay. Instead, all components of your argument included in your essay deserve the time and space to be explored. In this way, resist introducing new evidence in your final paragraph or asking rhetorical questions. Instead, return to the third storey of your thesis and write your conclusion as though it is answering the question the third storey has posed. What elements discussed throughout your essay enable you to answer that question? What new piece of evidence needs to be added to best complete that answer?

When considering strategies for concluding your argument, remember that not all of these strategies are appropriate for every genre of academic discourse. For example, creating an anecdotal story that personalizes and illustrates some small portion of your argument might be appropriate in some humanities classes, but seem out of place in a lab report. If you have questions about appropriate strategies, ask your professors about their expectations. You can also look at the scholarly research you have been reading. How do these scholars conclude their arguments? What models can you follow from those writings?

Consider the language and strategies you used in your introduction. For example, if you use a quotation as the hook in your introduction, can you return to that quotation (or a similar quotation)? How has your argument built and changed since you introduced this quote?

With all this in mind, here are some strategies to consider using in your conclusion:

  • Return to a quotation you’ve given earlier in the essay and re-analyze it as the context for your final argument. Using a quote from a scholar is likely the most effective, as it reminds your reader what scholarly conversations your essay is joining. Remember, however, that you should not simply put a quotation into your conclusion without analyzing specific words and phrases, just as you’ve done throughout the whole of your essay. Nor should you end your essay on a quotation. You want the last words of your essay to be your own.
  • Describe a relevant image that illustrates some aspect of your final argument. For example, if your essay is making an argument about texting habits of male high school students, then describing a male high school student texting would be a relevant way of wrapping up your final argument.
  • Give a statistic or fact that is relevant to your final argument. Again, this is a chance to place your argument within a scholarly discussion while lending it a scholarly quality.
  • Create a call to arms. You can use the problem that you have raised in your third storey to argue that certain actions need to take place. Encourage your reader to take up that responsibility. Charles Justice uses this strategy effectively in his conclusion to “The Ultimate Communications App” —it might be useful to revisit that essay.
  • Quickly and compactly explain your final argument. You don’t need a fancy flourish at the end of your essay if you don’t want; instead you can simply state your final argument, given all the analysis and scholarly research you’ve added to your initial thesis, and conclude your essay.