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An effective conclusion is essential to the success of your paper. Most readers will remember the last paragraph more than any other part of the document. Like a prosecuting attorney's closing appeal to the jury, a conclusion is your last chance to convince the reader of your argument or to reemphasize your main point. In other words, the conclusion should leave the reader with a clear understanding of what you have been trying to show in the paper. Try to think of it as a finale, rather than a summary.
Recall the thesis or purpose of your paper. This isn't necessarily a restatement of your thesis; rather, it is a culmination of the ideas that your paper has presented. Here you often will give a quick recap of a significant point that you plan to re-address in your conclusion.
Answer the "So What?" Questions. Why should your audience care about what you've said? What should they understand now that they've read your paper? How does it apply to a more general audience? Use the conclusion to frame the argument of your paper in the context of a bigger issue.
Provide a sense of closure. Leave the audience thinking about your subject in an interesting way. This could be a challenging comment about the issue you're addressing, a particularly effective quote, or a serious question.
You should do more than just mechanically restate what you have already said in the body of your paper. Here are some tips that can take your conclusion beyond mere summary:
Implementing these ideas can steer you away from merely summarizing your paper in the conclusion. Remember that these ideas should be explored throughout your conclusion and are not single sentences to be tacked on the end of a summary of your paper.
If I have argued throughout my paper that the portrayal of Batman in the movie Batman Begins is the theatrical depiction most true to the comic book hero, the following might be an effective suggestion of a course of action in my conclusion:
Batman Begins is a successful comic book adaptation because Christopher Nolan closely examined Batman's true comic book nature before representing him on film. prospective directors looking to bring a comic book to life on the silver screen must do the same to lay the foundation for a similarly exceptional comic book adaptation.
If I have argued throughout my paper that the portrayal of Batman in the movie Batman Begins is the theatrical depiction most true to the comic book hero, the following might be an effective personal application:
Christian Bale's representation of Batman in Batman Begins has permanently altered my understanding of comic book heroes and will forever change my expectation of what a hero is.
Note: Because the personal application takes the first person [I, we, etc.], it may not be appropriate for all paper types. Alternatively, consider concluding with a more general, rather than personal, third-person application:
Christian Bale's representation of Batman in Batman Begins has permanently altered America's understading of comic book heroes as well as its characterization of heroicism.
If I have argued throughout my paper that the portrayal of Batman in the movie Batman Begins is the theatrical depiction most true to the comic book hero, the following might effectively relate this to the audience:
American society has been overly inundated with cutesy heroes that lack any resemblance of their originally vengeful selves. For those who embrace the true nature of comic book heroes, the portrayal of Batman here is an essential step to recreating what other theatrical renditions of comics have been sorely missing. To devalue the original motives and intent of such heroes is unfair to both the author and to the truest of fans.
If I have argued throughout my paper that the portrayal of Batman in the movie Batman Begins is the theatrical depiction most true to the comic book hero and have earlier quoted Alfred Pennyworth as saying, "Why do we fall, Sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up," I might refer back to this quote in the conclusion to emphasize my main point and create a sense of cohesion:
As inaccurate as earlier Batman adaptations have been, their poor quality has perhaps served as the fall that led the failing comic book-to-film industry to "pick [itself] up," as Alfred says, laying the groundwork for Christopher Nolan's incredibly successful and much more accurate adaptation.