Writing a Dissertation Conclusion

The conclusion to a dissertation is one of the most important things you will write, and yet often students find that by the time they reach the point of writing the conclusion, they are exhausted. After so much time and painstaking effort researching, thinking, and writing, they’ve said all that they’ve had to say, and now they feel like the paper is “finished.” Often the result is a lackluster summing up and restating what has been said before. This is a major mistake, because the dissertation conclusion is like a lawyer’s closing statements before a jury goes into deliberation. The case has already been made, but now the lawyer needs to call upon all the rhetorical skills necessary to drive the point home. In other words, you need to do your best writing in the conclusion.

Here are some things to remember when writing a dissertation conclusion:

  • In many ways the conclusion to a dissertation can be thought of as a dissertation in miniature. It has a similar structure: an introduction (which reintroduces the reader to the overall problem or issue the paper is addressing, i.e. the reason for the paper’s existence), a body (which not only summarizes the main points and findings of the paper, but ties them all together in a way that reinforces the thesis), and a conclusion (which restates but does not repeat the thesis, as well as puts the thesis within a larger context and points out some implications of the dissertation’s findings).
  • Don’t introduce any new information or problems in the conclusion. This would only be confusing and weaken the thesis. Any potential objections to the thesis should be dealt with in the main body of the paper.
  • Stick to not only what you can prove, but what you have proven. In other words, don’t make claims in the conclusion beyond what the paper itself has demonstrated.
  • Don’t appeal to the emotions. Stick to facts and logic, even if the subject your writing about is a personal passion or inherently emotional. You might be tempted to drive your point home by tugging at the heartstrings, or being “inspiring.” But this could backfire. On the other hand, don’t be too so dry and logical that it sounds dull or like you don’t care about your own material.
  • Don’t forget to suggest some possibilities for further research.