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The conclusion of your essay should bring your argument together, and should not introduce new analysis as such. However, it should be more than a simple summary of the points already made. The following questions may help you to clarify your ideas for the conclusion:

  • What is the significance of your argument?
  • What are its implications for our understanding of this text or its context? – or this historical event/period? – or this aspect of language use?, etc.
  • Is the theme/idea you have explored related to any other key themes/ideas in the text/period/field of study? => do your findings have relevance for these too?
  • Does your conclusion point to a reappraisal of any of the texts/periods/events/structures you have explored?
  • Does it challenge received perceptions of this material/area of study?

Serious trouble with the writing of a conclusion often suggests one of the following:

  • your argument is not well constructed
  • you don’t actually have an argument!
  • you need to spend more time thinking about the significance of your argument – you may find it hard to ‘step back’ from the detail
  • you are struggling to put your material or your ideas into a wider context (more reading will usually help here)

Leave extra time when writing your next essay to think about your conclusion. This is best done at the planning stage. Ask yourself the questions in section 3 to help you. If you are still finding conclusions difficult, ask your supervisor to suggest how you might have tackled the conclusion of your last essay. Try to analyse why a conclusion is proving particularly tricky. Does it reveal a problem with your argument? Have you put material elsewhere in your essay which would really be better placed in the conclusion?

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