I. General Rules
The function of your paper's conclusion is to restate the main argument. It reminds the reader of the strengths of your main argument(s) and reiterates the most important evidence supporting those argument(s). Do this by stating clearly the context, background, and necessity of pursuing the research problem you investigated in relation to an issue, controversy, or a gap found in the literature. Make sure, however, that your conclusion is not simply a repetitive summary of the findings. This reduces the impact of the argument(s) you have developed in your essay.
When writing the conclusion to your paper, follow these general rules:
- State your conclusions in clear, simple language. Re-state the purpose of your study then state how your findings differ or support those of other studies and why [i.e., what were the unique or new contributions your study made to the overall research about your topic?].
- Do not simply reiterate your results or the discussion of your results. Provide a synthesis of arguments presented in the paper to show how these converge to address the research problem and the overall objectives of your study
- Indicate opportunities for future research if you haven't already done so in the discussion section of your paper. Highlighting the need for further research provides the reader with evidence that you have an in-depth awareness of the research problem.
Consider the following points to help ensure your conclusion is presented well:
- If the argument or purpose of your paper is complex, you may need to summarize the argument for your reader.
- If, prior to your conclusion, you have not yet explained the significance of your findings or if you are proceeding inductively, use the end of your paper to describe your main points and explain their significance.
- Move from a detailed to a general level of consideration that returns the topic to the context provided by the introduction or within a new context that emerges from the data.
The conclusion also provides a place for you to persuasively and succinctly restate your research problem, given that the reader has now been presented with all the information about the topic. Depending on the discipline you are writing in, the concluding paragraph maycontain your reflections on the evidence presented, or on the essay's central research problem. However, the nature of being introspective about the research you have done will depend on the topic and whether your professor wants you to express your observations in this way.
NOTE: If asked to think introspectively about the topics, do not delve into idle speculation. Being introspective means looking within yourself as an author to try and understand an issue more deeply, not to guess at possible outcomes or make up scenarios not supported by evidence.
II. Developing a Compelling Conclusion
Although an effective conclusion needs to be clear and succinct, it does not need to be written passively or lack a compelling narrative. Strategies to help you move beyond merely summarizing the key points of your research paper may include any of the following strategies:
- If your essay deals with a contemporary problem, warn readers of the possible consequences of not attending to the problem.
- Recommend a specific course or courses of action that, if adopted, could address a specific problem in practice or in the development of new knowledge.
- Cite a relevant quotation or expert opinion already noted in your paper in order to lend authority to the conclusion you have reached [a good place to look is research from your literature review].
- Explain the consequences of your research in a way that elicits action or demonstrates urgency in seeking change.
- Restate a key statistic, fact, or visual image to emphasize the ultimate point of your paper.
- If your discipline encourages personal reflection, illustrate your concluding point with a relevant narrative drawn from your own life experiences.
- Return to an anecdote, an example, or a quotation that you presented in your introduction, but add further insight derived from the findings of your study; use your interpretation of results to recast it in new or important ways.
- Provide a "take-home" message in the form of a strong, succinct statement that you want the reader to remember about your study.
III. Problems to Avoid
Failure to be concise
Your conclusion section should be concise and to the point. Conclusions that are too lengthy often have unnecessary information in them. The conclusion is not the place for details about your methodology or results. Although you should give a summary of what was learned from your research, this summary should be relatively brief, since the emphasis in the conclusion is on the implications, evaluations, insights, and other forms of analysis that you make. Strategies for writing concisely can be found here.
Failure to comment on larger, more significant issues
In the introduction, your task was to move from the general [the field of study] to the specific [the research problem]. However, in the conclusion, your task is to move from a specific discussion [your research problem] back to a general discussion [i.e., how your research contributes new understanding or fills an important gap in the literature]. In short, the conclusion is where you should place your research within a larger context [visualize your paper as an hourglass--start with a broad introduction and review of the literature, move to the specific analysis and discussion, conclude with a broad summary of the study's implications and significance].
Failure to reveal problems and negative results
Negative aspects of the research process should never be ignored. Problems, drawbacks, and challenges encountered during your study should be summarized as a way of qualifying your overall conclusions. If you encountered negative or unintended results [i.e., findings that are validated outside the research context in which they were generated], you must report them in the results section and discuss their implications in the discussion section of your paper. In the conclusion, use your summary of the negative results as an opportunity to explain their possible significance and/or how they may form the basis for future research.
Failure to provide a clear summary of what was learned
In order to be able to discuss how your research fits back into your field of study [and possibly the world at large], you need to summarize briefly and succinctly how it contributes to new knowledge or a new understanding about the research problem. This element of your conclusion may be only a few sentences long.
Failure to match the objectives of your research
Often research objectives in the social sciences change while the research is being carried out. This is not a problem unless you forget to go back and refine the original objectives in your introduction. As these changes emerge they must be documented so that they accurately reflect what you were trying to accomplish in your research [not what you thought you might accomplish when you began].
Resist the urge to apologize
If you've immersed yourself in studying the research problem, you presumably should know a good deal about it, perhaps even more than your professor! Nevertheless, by the time you have finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you have produced. Repress those doubts! Don't undermine your authority by saying something like, "This is just one approach to examining this problem; there may be other, much better approaches that...." The overall tone of your conclusion should convey confidence to the reader.
Assan, Joseph. Writing the Conclusion Chapter: The Good, the Bad and the Missing. Department of Geography, University of Liverpool; Concluding Paragraphs. College Writing Center at Meramec. St. Louis Community College; Conclusions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Conclusions. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Freedman, Leora and Jerry Plotnick. Introductions and Conclusions. The Lab Report. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Leibensperger, Summer. Draft Your Conclusion. Academic Center, the University of Houston-Victoria, 2003; Make Your Last Words Count. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Tips for Writing a Good Conclusion. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Kretchmer, Paul. Twelve Steps to Writing an Effective Conclusion. San Francisco Edit, 2003-2008; Writing Conclusions. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Writing: Considering Structure and Organization. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.
A critique of the short story A Good Man is Hard to Find
O’Connor’s succeeds to bring out his arguments in this short story to sum up the feeling that in today’s world, societal morals and values have drastically crumbled making the world an inhabitable place.
The author presents his main theme of fate by bringing the reader to a family’s holiday which is unfortunately brought to a sudden end by a murder (O’Connor 36). The grandmother argues that the family should go to Tennessee instead of Florida. Her insistence makes the family to deviate from the right path in an attempt to look for a fake treasure. The rebelliousness the family exhibits is a sign of moral decadence. The grandmother’s decision makes the family appear like it admires the Misfit. At the beginning of the story, the author illustrates clearly that the family was to suffer in the hands of Misfit. O’Connor effectively uses characterization in this story. He uses symbolism to show how the morals of a society have been destroyed (O’Connor 36).
In the story ‘‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find”, the author features the grandmother as a central character. Her character is evidently presented in the story as a very pushy persona who dearly loves herself to an extent of being myopic (O’Connor 36). Similarly, the author paints her as an authoritative and manipulative person. This is confirmed when she manages to push the family to reschedule its plan. Her mean character is noticeably shown when she wants to visit the house she used to live in when she was young. Following her conversation with her son Bailey, the old woman tries to pressure him to change his plan to her advantage. Her character is the same up till the end of the story (Getz 234).
O’Connor extensively uses characterization to bring out lack of respect and poor discipline in America’s society. The message in his story can be understood from differences that subsist between the old and young generations (O’Connor 36). The grandmother in the story symbolizes the old generation. The author describes how the old lady clothes herself such that even if a misfortune occurs, any person could easily recognize that she was a female because of her dressing. In the past, there were good morals. The children could respect the elder people and everybody in the society would reinforce such behavior all the time (Getz 234). However, the grandchildren are immoral and undisciplined. The author through his employing of characterization elements shows that Misfit is a product of crumbled values and culture devoid of demeanor. However, Misfit seems to be respectful in a way especially when he uses polite words like ‘Maam’.
Similarly, O’Connor uses symbolism in the story to show bereavement and faith. The author says that the family deviates from the good road to follow a dreadful one where they end up getting killed. This symbolizes how people move away from the kingdom of God to go to down the evil paths. The town’s name called “Toombsboro” is used by the author to symbolize death (O’Connor 36). The old woman hopes that she would find a plantation in Toombsboro town. It is in this town still that the old lady is sidetracked. This symbolizes that her faith in Jesus is getting low. In the story, the author writes that June and John tries to guess what the sky’s color is. The clouds in are used by the author to present the faith of the old lady (Getz 234). At the end of the story, we are told that there are no clouds anymore and the sky has nothing. The author is trying to show that the old woman’s faith at that stage is already depleted. The author uses a grave yard to symbolize death. Furthermore, in his quote “big black battered hearse like automobile” is applied to show that death is the final destination (O’Connor 36).
The author strongly backs up his theme by titling the story “A Good man is hard to find”. He uses personalities like Misfit to support it. This propping up is evidenced by the use the grandchildren and Jesus. In the story, the old woman says that she could go with her children anywhere and could give answer to her consciousness if possible. Finally, this lady comes into a situation where she tries to give answers to her conscience by frustratingly assuming that Misfit is not a bad person. Misfit on the other hand insists that indeed he is a bad person (O’Connor 36). Misfit compares himself to Jesus where he says that Jesus suffered for other people’s sins just the same way he got punished for mistakes he never did. The theme that “a good man is hard to find” undoubtedly refers to Jesus. This is because Misfit tries to compare himself to Jesus but he finally commits a murder. The old woman’s shaky faith in Jesus is over. By Jesus not delivering her shows that indeed “a good man is hard to find.”
The author ultimately does well to bring to the reader’s attention how the world is changing from being a good to a bad place (O’Connor 36). By use of characterization and symbolism he clearly shows the various vices in the society which are making the world a bad place. The author also uses the theme of the story “a good man is hard to find” to show that if people would accept Jesus in their lives then the world could be a good place just like in the past. This is because people would acquire good morals, be respectful and also practice discipline in everything they do.
Getz, Lorine, Nature and Grace in Flannery O'Connor's Fiction, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000.
O’Connor, Flannery, A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Chicago: Rutgers University Press. 2009.