I often get to the end of my paper and freeze up before writing the conclusion. Sometimes I doubt that I need one – my readers just read through my entire paper, they know what I am saying! Sometimes I feel too tired to push through the last bit – I just wrote A MILLION PAGES of thoughts and research, what can I possibly say now?
Lately I have been thinking about conclusions differently, which has helped me feel less frozen. I now realize that, particularly in academic writing, conclusions can be valuable tools in my quest to win my reader over to agreeing with my ideas. Throughout my paper I am making connections, illuminating research that aligns with my thesis; the conclusion is where I make sure the reader has followed along and not made any inferences that I did not intend. I am not introducing anything new, but rather restating relevant points in a way that ties them all together under the umbrella of my thesis.
Knowing the purpose of the conclusion helps me feel less opposed to writing one. Having some strategies to make this process easier is even better. I use a reverse outline – jotting down the main points of each paragraph or section of my paper – which helps me easily identify my most important ideas and allows me to paraphrase myself. Sometimes it is helpful to ask myself “so what” after each sentence in my conclusion; this helps me keep track of how the ideas relate back to my thesis. Ultimately it is most helpful for me to remember that a conclusion should allow the reader to walk away from my paper reflecting on what I want them to, ensuring that they have followed and understood my ideas.
Virtual Writing Center