TL;DR Science: Conclusion

By John Sutor
May 06, 2020 · 8 minute read

The conclusion is the last chunk of your paper that your reader will look at, and therefore, serves as your last chance to convince the reader about the importance of your findings. Furthermore, the impression of the research that you create in your conclusion is the lasting impression that your reader will have of your overall work. The conclusion can be the deciding factor between a reader thinking to themselves “wow, I just wasted fifteen minutes of my life reading this pointless paper” or “wow, I’m truly inspired by the thought-provoking content of this paper”. Okay, maybe not that drastic. Nonetheless, it's important to pay special attention to the contents of your conclusion, and we're here to help you do so.

What Information Goes into the Conclusion?

As previously mentioned, the conclusion allows you to wrap up your paper and allows you to present your readers with a general takeaway from your research. At the bare minimum, you should restate your research’s thesis and formulate a takeaway message that you want your reader to keep from your research by synthesizing your paper’s contents. That being said, there are some general strategies that you can use to effectively convey your conclusion to your readers.

The first strategy that you may employ is to address the broader implications of your research. The University of North Carolina Writing Center describes this as answering the question "So What?" This simple question will help you to explore what you want the main takeaway from your paper to be, and what overarching problem it addresses. For example, if you were conducting research on plant ecology, you could argue that the broader implications of your research involve better understanding how habitat destruction and deforestation ultimately lead to accelerated rates of global warming and that global warming, in turn, leads to accelerated rates of habitat loss. If you were conducting organic chemistry research (yikes, we applaud you), you could discuss how the broader implications of your research allow for a better understanding of how key compounds lead to biodiversity.

Another effective strategy, if applicable, is to provide a meaningful quote or statistic that was previously mentioned in the findings or analysis of your paper. This key quote or statistic can either be from a primary source (information that you collected in your own research) or from a secondary source (information provided by another paper/source that did not originate in your own research). When you set out to choose an effective quote or statistic, it is important to make sure that it fulfills its purpose of helping to convey the message of your paper. If it doesn't support the takeaway message that you want your reader to gain from reading your paper, then it could ultimately end up confusing your reader about what your research focus was. An example of an effective quote could be from a famous, well-perceived expert in the same academic field as your paper who shares a similar view as you about the importance of your research. An effective statistic can demonstrate the significance of your research using a key statistic such as the mean, range, or standard deviation.

Yet another great strategy that promotes more critical thinking from the reader about your paper is to propose a plan of action or propose further study for your research. This strategy contrasts with explicitly stating the broader implications of your research by making the reader conceive and consider these implications themself. For example, if you are conducting computer science research, you could propose investigating extensions of an algorithm for other researchers to explore that can lead to better efficiency. If you are conducting research in cognitive science, you could propose how using novel brainwave mapping devices could further support your research and would allow for a better understanding of how the brain works at a low level. 

What Should I Avoid in a Conclusion?

Whereas it is useful to understand some strategies for what to include in a conclusion, it is equally important to understand what is not useful to include in a conclusion.

First and foremost, it is important to synthesize your paper rather than summarize your paper. Since the reader has already examined the information that you reported in your paper, it is redundant to simply repeat this information again in your conclusion. Instead, you can synthesize the information that you presented previously to allow the reader to better understand why you chose to pursue this research project and how you decided to analyze the results of your research as you did. The best methods to conduct this synthesis are described in the previous section. 

Furthermore, it is important to avoid a “Grab Bag” conclusion, as named by the University of North Carolina. Such a conclusion involves discussing additional information that you “grabbed” while conducting your research, but could not find an appropriate place to discuss anywhere else in your paper. This will only create a jumble of content within your conclusion that will confuse your readers. And let’s face it; a research paper full of scientific jargon can be confusing as is. Throwing irrelevant information into your conclusion won’t do anything to help clarify it.

Finally, it is important to avoid creating a conclusion that focuses heavily on emotion to convey your argument. Research papers are meant to be backed up by concrete facts and evidence rather than by emotional appeals. In more technical terms, this is to say that your paper should focus on “Logos” rather than “Pathos”. This is not to say that emotional appeals should be avoided completely, but if you find that your argument relies heavily on appealing to the sentiment of your reader, it may be time to pursue another research topic.

When Should I Write a Conclusion?

A conclusion is a necessity for any paper, research-related or not. Without it, a paper would abruptly end in an extremely awkward manner that would leave a reader wondering “what just happened?” Although it may be cliche, you can compare a great paper to your favorite sandwich. The introduction/abstract serves as the first piece of bread, your conclusion serves as the last piece of bread, and your method, results, figures, and analysis serve as everything in between. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never had a great sandwich without two pieces of bread, so be sure to write a great conclusion!

If you’re writing a paper in a format such as MLA, APA, or Chicago Style, it is important to follow the necessary style formats while also while writing your conclusion to include the content as described above in “What Information Goes Into a Conclusion?” If you’re writing your paper in the Chicago Style, you only need to pay special attention to the formatting of your conclusion. Make sure to leave at least two spaces between the conclusion title and the first paragraph of your conclusion body. Furthermore, make sure that your conclusion’s title is centered with respect to the body. The APA style requires a similar approach to formatting the conclusion, where the title should be bolded and centered with respect to the body. However, the spacing between the conclusion title and the conclusion body is not a requirement. Finally, the MLA style of a conclusion requires a title that is in all capital letters and is aligned left with respect to the conclusion body. Furthermore, no spacing is required between the conclusion title and the conclusion body. To better understand how your paper’s conclusion would look in each of these three respective formats, we recommend that you take a look at the Purdue OWL sample papers, or take a look at the sources we provided below for best practices. 

How do I Make Sure my Conclusion is Great?

To make sure that you have an excellent conclusion, you must focus on effectively supporting your paper’s thesis by employing one of the strategies provided above. If you have questions about your conclusion, it is best to consult resources such as the MLA, APA, Chicago Style, or other writing style guides based on the format of your paper. Furthermore, consult your teacher, professor, or mentor about their expectations for your paper's conclusion. Finally, creating a project on SciTeens and asking for help from within your project's feedback section will allow mentors with lots of experience to assist you in crafting the perfect conclusion. Our platform is non-profit, and we help students of all backgrounds regardless of race, religion, and gender.

For help with other topics, such as how to write a conclusion, be sure to check out the rest of our blog!

TL;DR

The conclusion should allow the reader to tie your thesis to the more meaningful implications of your paper. You can achieve this by stating the broader implications of your research, examine meaningful quotes and statistics from your paper, and to prompt further research stemming from your paper. However, it is important to avoid only summarizing your paper, discussing irrelevant information, or focusing on emotional appeals in your conclusion. Virtually every research paper requires a conclusion, and if you need assistance in writing one, be sure to sign up to receive specialized advice through SciTeens!

Sources:

https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/ 

https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions

https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/argument_papers/conclusions.html

https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/turabian/Student-Tip-Sheets.html

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/apa_sample_paper.html

https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_sample_paper.html

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