Writing History Essay Conclusion
A conclusion offers the final word on a paper: the insight you hope to have imparted to your reader, your paper's moral or lesson.
As such, it is important that your conclusion do more than merely summarize the contents of your paper. Too often, a student begins the last paragraph of a paper with the words, "In conclusion...," then re-caps the contents of the entire essay, point for point, and simply leaves it at that.
A real conclusion, however, does more. Revisiting the main points of your paper in your final paragraph is a good idea, yes. But then, take things to the next level. Remember the question or claim you articulated in your thesis, whose resolution has been the main objective of your paper? That question now needs to be re-invoked and, this time, definitively answered. More still, you need to leave your reader with a higher level of insight into your topic, and an understanding of how your specific topic illuminates larger issues in history. If you can articulate what it is that has made you topic worthy of historical inquiry in the first place, and what its larger lessons are - then you have a strong conclusion indeed.
For an example, click here.
How can a conclusion do more than just summarize the contents of a paper's main body, or re-iterate its thesis? How can a conclusion illuminate, in closing, that its paper's topic is relevant to larger issues in history? An example:
Recall the central issue of our sample topic on "The Austrian Catholic Church and the Anschluss," as we articulated it in our thesis:
The story of Austrian Catholics under Nazi rule from 1938 - 1945, though marked by considerable heroism among the lower-ranking clergy and laypeople, is ultimately one of failed leadership. By reviewing the Anschluss and the years that followed, and by contrasting local acts of Catholic resistance with repeated acts of official collaboration at the highest level, this paper will show how Austria's Catholic Church, as an institution, lost not only its dominant social position during the years 1938 - 1945, but also much of its claim to moral authority.
Now consider our conclusion:
While rural Catholic priests suffered punishment, incarceration, and even death for local acts of resistance, the collaborating leadership remained largely silent. Yet it is evident that [Austrian Cardinal] Innitzer too was capable of an individual act of courage; it is as the guardian of an institution, whose preservation was more important to him than its moral integrity, that he ultimately failed. The Austrian experience during the years of the Anschluss reminds us once again that ordinary men and women can display enormous courage even when confronted by heinous authoritarian regimes, but that without dedicated leadership, such local acts of resistance remain doomed.
What do you think? Has the final sentence given the conclusion a dimension that helps it transcend the immediate scope of the paper's topic, makes it a useful question to apply to other events and issues in history, whether they be national liberation movements, civil rights movements, gender equality movements, or the like?
Have you ever tried to wrap a present without tape? It’s no easy task, but it can be done with a bit of dexterity, patience, and lots of ribbon.
Wrapping up your essay can sometimes feel like wrapping a present without tape—it can be difficult at times, and you may feel that it’s just too much work. But don’t worry; I’ll give you some advice that’ll really stick with you and make writing conclusions a cinch.
Follow my guidelines and your essay conclusion will not only bind your writing together, but it’ll leave the reader with a sense of closure—the bow on top of the box, so to speak.
Photo via christmasstockimages.com
What (Almost) All Essay Conclusions Should Do:
There are a lot of different kinds of essays, so your conclusion is going to vary between each category. However, there are a few common elements that almost every essay conclusion should include.
Why almost every one?
Well, in a few circumstances, it’ll be okay to break the rules a little bit. But just like anything else, you should get to know the rules first before you break them.
Summary of Your Thesis Statement and Main Points
Okay, by now you should have a strong introduction complete with a hook and a thesis statement. You should also have the body of your essay written, or at least outlined.
If you don’t have these things written down, stop what you’re doing and get to writing.
Okay, are you done with your intro and body paragraphs now? Good, let’s talk about summarizing what you said.
When I say summarize your thesis statement and the main points of your body paragraphs, I don’t just mean restate them in the same or nearly the same words. You have to use different language in your essay conclusion that will make it engaging.
Still going with the gift idea for this example:
If your thesis statement is, “Wrapping gifts is important because it builds anticipation in the recipient, it makes the gift look nice, and it shows the person you really care.”
Your essay conclusion shouldn’t just say the exact same thing over again. Instead, try using more vivid language.
For example, “One of the most important aspects of gift-giving is the element of surprise, and a great way build up the surprise is to take care in wrapping your gift. Using bright colors and decorations such as ribbons and bows can make quite an impression. Your dedication to detail will let your loved one know you cared to take the time.”
Tie Up Loose Ends
Photo copyright CC-BY-SA-2.5
You might notice that my essay conclusion example is a little more drawn out than the thesis statement. This is because I wanted to include enough details to tie up any loose ends.
If I had just simply restated the thesis statement, the reader might wonder how wrapping a gift shows that you care about someone, or how gift wrapping makes a present look nice.
Before writing your conclusion, read over the rest of your paper with new eyes. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and try to imagine any questions you might have left unanswered. Consider any ideas you may have skirted around but didn’t make a direct statement about.
Then, answer those questions in a clear and concise manner in your conclusion.
End with Interest
Remember your hook in the introduction? Most likely it’s something like a statistic, short anecdote, quote, or surprising fact.
Well, your essay conclusion should have a kind of ending hook as well, a statement of interest. There are a couple ways to go about writing this statement.
- Use a parallel structure. If you used a statistic in the introduction, use another statistic in the conclusion; if you used a quote, use another similar quote. However, just as you shouldn’t simply restate the thesis, you should also not use the same hook for the ending.
- Ask a rhetorical question. This can give the reader something to think about, and it can put your topic in the context of some greater problem.
These two options are merely suggestions, and you can end your conclusion however you feel is best. The point is to make sure that the reader stays hooked until the very end.
Essay Conclusions That Are Exceptions to the Rules
The tips I’ve given above are for a general essay conclusion and will hold true for most types of essays. However, there are times when you’ll need to add some details or deviate from the formula a little bit.
An Argumentative Essay Conclusion
The guidelines I have listed will cover most of what you’ll write for an argumentative essay conclusion, but there are more details you should add.
An argumentative essay presents an argument for a specific point. This argument is probably important in some way, and in your body paragraphs, you should address opposing viewpoints.
Thus, a conclusion for an argumentative essay should let the reader know why the topic you’re writing about is important, and why you think your point of view is the right one. This means quickly readdressing and dispelling the opposition.
For your point of interest at the end of your essay conclusion, it is often a good idea to give an idea of what would happen if the reader, or the world as a whole, chose the opposing point of view.
Be descriptive; paint a picture.
A Narrative Essay Conclusion
Narrative essays are just a whole other ball game. You’re not analyzing, arguing, or explaining. You are telling a story, and you probably have not come across many books that fully summarize the main points of the story at the end.
This does not mean that you can’t restate the purpose of your narrative. It just means that you have to do it in a different way.
Often this takes the form of reflection. You’ve taken the reader through a journey, and reflection in a narrative essay conclusion “takes the reader home.” It tells what you learned as a result of that journey.
The conclusion could also be a piece of dialogue that has some statement that ties everything up nicely. Think about it as an ending line in a movie.
And Now For My Conclusion
Though you may need to add more details as in the case of the argumentative essay, or change the rules completely as with the narrative essay, most conclusions follow a pretty straightforward set of rules.
It is important to use descriptive, detailed language no matter the type of essay, as this will tie up your loose ends and make the summary of your thesis and main points more interesting to the reader.
And speaking of interesting, don’t forget to keep that reader interested until the very last word. Use shocking statements, or put your topic in the context of a larger issue.
Any way you choose to end your writing, it’s important to spend time developing your essay conclusion. As novelist Colm Toibin said, “Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep – it can’t be done abruptly.”
If you’re still unsure about your conclusion or any other part of your essay, the Kibin editors are here to point you in the right direction.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.