AcWriMo: Steps to a Good Conclusion

Here are a few tips:

  1. Keep it short! A Conclusion normally (but not always) follows from a Discussion section.  If that is the case, the purpose of the Conclusion is simply to remind the reader of the most important finding(s) of your study and the contribution to your field.
  1. Think about which tense(s) to use in your Conclusion when you review the paper. This section is often written in the present perfect tense, e.g. We have used …..; We have shown that …….  Why is this tense useful? It links the past with the present.  As the Conclusion is used to look back over the discussion in previous sections and at the same time is still within the paper, it is natural to use a tense that links past discussion with the end of the current paper.   Remember, though, that you may well use other tenses as well in your Conclusion, for example, if you state:  In the first section…., the natural tense to use there will be the past simple, e.g. In the first section we reviewed the literature …  Why?  Although your Conclusion is within the paper, it is after the Literature Review, and so the Literature Review section can be seen as being in the past.
  2. Use modal verbs (e.g. will, would, should, may, might, could,) to present recommendations for future research.

A word about Conclusions and Abstracts …

Conclusions are not the same as Abstracts.  Some of the differences are listed below:

  1. The purpose of an Abstract is to entice the reader to commit to reading the article; the purpose of the Conclusion is to highlight the key finding(s) of your study and to reiterate its contribution to the field.
  2. An Abstract should be written as a stand-alone document; a Conclusion is an integral part of the article itself.
  3. An Abstract usually includes a list of keywords, a Conclusion doesn’t.
  4. An Abstract usually has a sentence (or two) setting the scene (unless it’s an Abstract for a highly specialist journal), a Conclusion doesn’t.

If you want more information, the University of Wisconsin has a writer’s handbook with a section on conclusions.  You will also find some helpful information in the University of Glasgow’s guidance on writing scholarly articles: Writing the Conclusion of a Scholarly Article chapter 3 page 31.