Expert Advice on How To Write a Conclusion for a Research Paper
Writing an academic or scientific research paper is a challenging task, so one can hardly wonder if the author breathes a sigh of relief and considers the job virtually done once the findings have been interpreted in a carefully crafted discussion. Indeed, if concluding thoughts have been offered at the end of the discussion section, the paper may be close to finished, but for most research papers, a separate conclusion is necessary, and a pause for reflecting on what has been written and accomplished is always advisable before tackling the conclusion. The tips offered here on how to write a conclusion for a research paper are designed for that thoughtful moment when making the best decisions is so vital for producing a clear, engaging and persuasive conclusion.
Unfortunately, there is no single formula for how to write a conclusion for a research paper that will strike the perfect closing note for readers. Research papers differ enormously in content and purpose, and both the guidelines of publishers and the instructions of university professors demand an incredibly wide range of variations for the parts of a research paper, including the conclusion. The specific guidelines or instructions for a particular paper must therefore be consulted to determine exactly what kind of conclusion is required. Whether long and separate or short and part of the discussion, however, the conclusion for a research paper generally serves to highlight and synthesise the key ideas, discoveries and arguments presented in the paper; to move the reader from the focussed perspective of the research to the wider context of its implications; and to offer relevant, persuasive and memorable take-home messages about the value of the findings. A strong conclusion is specific and definitive in explaining the importance of the research, and the best conclusions can change the opinions and future actions of readers.
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The logical movement of each research paper is unique, so exactly what you discuss in your conclusion will depend to a large extent on what you have already discussed in earlier parts of the paper. It is therefore impossible to provide a definitive list of contents that would serve as useful advice for how to write a conclusion for a research paper of every kind in every discipline and field of study, but the following elements are effective in a wide range of research paper conclusions:
• A restatement of the research topic as well as the thesis, objectives and/or any research questions and hypotheses from your introduction, along with a brief summary of your discoveries and arguments. The idea is to bring these elements together to demonstrate what your research has achieved. Key sentences in earlier parts of your paper may prove useful as you write, but they require rephrasing for the new context, so do not repeat them word for word.
• An explanation of the ways in which your research contributes to knowledge on the topic, greater understanding of the problems, new directions for future research and/or practical applications for society. This explanation should refer back to earlier parts of the paper such as the literature review that revealed gaps in the scholarship and the discussion that presented your interpretations of the results.
• New insights about the topic and creative solutions to problems. These are perfect for research paper conclusions, but they must be solidly based on sound methods, valid results and logical interpretations. Additional evidence and other kinds of new information should not be presented in the conclusion, but if they are important, they should be treated in an earlier section of the paper.
• A call to action that will make your research personally relevant to readers. A suggestion for further research directed at specialist readers is one example, but there are other ways of moving your audience and inspiring change. A disturbing statistic, an engaging anecdote, a penetrating question or a striking quotation or opinion might be introduced to demonstrate the need for urgency or illustrate a major point persuasively.
Also essential for knowing how to write a conclusion for a research paper is recognising what a research paper conclusion should not be:
• A simple summary of the topic, the paper’s thesis and the key points. Conclusions of this kind suggest that the author has little or nothing to say about the research or perhaps does not understand the findings and their implications. Do yourself and your readers a favour by reflecting on your work, synthesising important discoveries and arguments, and sharing sophisticated ideas.
• An overly elaborate reiteration of what the paper has already presented. It is easy to become bogged down with repeating details about methods, results, interpretations and arguments as you work to explain your thoughts and conclude your paper, but readers have already encountered that material, so succinct reminders of key information are usually sufficient.
• A disorganised and illogical collection of ideas and information that does not effectively represent or conclude the paper. Tempting as it may be to use details that did not fit elsewhere, if they do not work in the paper, they do not belong in the conclusion. If, on the other hand, new information is pertinent, the best policy is to go back and add it to an earlier part of the paper before discussing it in the conclusion.
Keep in mind whenever you are reflecting on your work and deciding how to write a conclusion for a research paper that your personal feelings about the topic and any sentimental appeals to the emotions of readers are unlikely to be appropriate or effective in such a context. You may have strong feelings about the topic or problem and very much hope that your audience shares them after reading your paper, but thoughtful synthesis of key findings and arguments along with logical recommendations for constructive actions and practical solutions will prove far more persuasive and successful for an academic or scientific paper.
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