A conclusion for a research paper summarizes your key points and the value of your research. To write a good one:
- Review your thesis statement and research problem
- Summarize your findings or argument
- Look toward the future
You’ve completed your research and written your literature review and other sections. Now it’s time to write the conclusion, your last chance to make an impression on your audience. Read on for a step-by-step guide showing how to conclude a research paper and what not to do.
How to write a conclusion for your research paper
A research paper conclusion is similar to an introduction in the sense that it offers a bird’s-eye view of the research rather than a detailed examination. However, while an introduction looks forward to what the paper will say, a conclusion looks back at what it has said. And while an introduction explains how general knowledge in the field has led to the specific research in your paper, a conclusion does the reverse. It states how your research findings (specific) will affect the field of study (general).
A good conclusion reminds the reader of the paper’s main points without simply restating them in the same way. It leaves the reader feeling like they’ve understood the paper’s main finding or argument and its importance.
1. Review the thesis statement
Start your conclusion by reviewing your thesis statement and the research question, if there was one. Your goal is to remind the reader of the problem you were aiming to solve in relation to previous research and to show the development of the solution or argument.
As you review, use different words. For example, the research question in the intro could be phrased as a statement in the conclusion.
In the intro: Which type of activity do children in grades 1-5 prefer when socializing with children with whom they have never interacted: board games, playground games, spontaneous imaginative play, or parallel play?
In the conclusion: This study examined elementary schoolchildren’s preferences among four types of play with new peer acquaintances.
2. Summarize the findings/argument
Your research paper conclusion should also revisit the evidence, findings, and limitations of your research, but as an overview, not in detail. State only the most important points, what they mean, and how they illustrate the main idea you want the reader to take away.
3. Look toward the future
Finally, consider questions like these and include the answers in your conclusion (if they didn’t already appear in the discussion section):
- How might your findings change the field of study?
- What are the next steps based on your findings?
- What will be the effects of implementing, or not implementing, your recommendations?
- What might be some avenues for further research that can build on what your paper contributes?
The answers will help the reader understand why your research matters and leave a lasting impression.
Mistakes to avoid in a research paper conclusion
As you’re working through the steps above, avoid these pitfalls to keep the focus of your conclusion tight.
1. Restating information you’ve already given in the same way
While you want to remind the reader of your goal and the outcome of your research, you shouldn’t just repeat these things in the conclusion exactly as you said them earlier in the paper. You should not only use different words but also show how the problem, findings, and contribution of the research relate to each other and where the research leads.
2. Adding new information
The conclusion is not the place to add another argument or further findings. All of these details should appear in the earlier sections of your paper, while the conclusion should focus on giving the reader a major takeaway.
3. Being long-winded
Academic writing should never be wordy, but writing concisely is especially important in short summarizing sections like the abstract, introduction, and conclusion. Your goals in the conclusion are to remind and to leave an impression, so think snippet, not surplus.
Research paper conclusion examples
Below, we’ve created basic templates showing the key parts of a research paper conclusion. Keep in mind that the length of your conclusion will depend on the length of your paper. The order of the parts may vary, too; these templates only demonstrate how to tie them together.
1. Empirical research paper conclusion
Here’s a basic structure for the conclusion of an empirical paper.
By [research methods or procedures], this study demonstrated that [findings]. [How findings relate to previous research]. [Evidence], despite [limitations], suggests that [overall takeaway from the research]. [Future implications of the research].
To see a similar structure in action, look at this paper about how feral animals interact with human environments. The conclusion is a single paragraph at the top of the right column on page 6. Can you find all the bracketed elements from the template above?
2. Argumentative research paper conclusion
For an argumentative paper, a basic template for the conclusion is as follows:
It is clear that [main argument] because [evidence]. [How evidence relates to previous research]. Although [possible caveats], it is likely that [expected outcome of accepting or rejecting the argument]. [Suggestions or recommendations].
For example, see this paper that argues for creating guidelines for the use of ChatGPT in academia and healthcare. Of the bracketed components shown in the template, only the caveats are missing. This omission of opposing arguments or research limitations is unfortunate because it can make the reader think that the writer is biased or that the research wasn’t thorough. Don’t make this mistake in your own paper.
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What is the conclusion of a research paper?
A research paper conclusion is a section that briefly summarizes what the research has found and why it matters. It reminds the reader of the most important findings and points to where the research may lead and the outcome it may bring about.
What words do you use to start a conclusion in a research paper?
You can start a research paper conclusion in several ways. You might begin by restating your main argument or finding, or you might begin with a transition phrase signaling to the reader that you’re wrapping things up. Don’t end with “in conclusion” or a similar phrase because these can feel too elementary or obvious.
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