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1. The conclusions of essays should draw together all the previous points of your argument into one general statement which is then directly related to the essay topic or the question you have been answering.
2. Do not end an essay abruptly. This creates the impression that you have suddenly run out of things to say, or that you are unable to produce a complete and reasoned argument.
3. The conclusion should not normally occupy more than five to ten per cent of the total length of the essay (rather like the introduction).
4. Try to avoid repeating any of the statements you have already made in your introduction. To do so creates the impression that you have not developed your argument or made any progress from the point at which you started.
5. Do not just re-state the original question, and if possible try to avoid using the same terms as those in which it is posed. This too creates the impression that you are not trying to produce an argument of your own.
6. Try to end the essay on a crisp note. This can sometimes be done with an appropriate phrase or a quotation. It should illustrate your argument and be directly related to the topic(s) in question. Many people save their most clinching quotation for last.
7. The following example illustrates the concluding paragraph of a second year undergraduate essay on George Orwell. You will notice that it is clearly ‘summing up’ its earlier arguments and offering a final judgement.
So in conclusion it seems reasonable to say of Orwell that he contradicted himself, that he did not recognise his own class bias, that he misunderstood political theory, and that he was not really aware of his own prejudices. Yet for all this, he was a courageous writer who made a serious attempt to understand a particularly difficult and confusing period of history.
© Roy Johnson 2003
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