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Elements of a Summary & Conclusion


Effective conclusions answer the overarching questions of an essay, be they scientific or narrative. They offer results, outcomes and decisions, and tie up loose ends as they connect the essay’s body to its thesis statement and introduction. Summaries, on the other hand, restate the message of a work and draw no independent conclusions. In the academic arena, they offer evidence of completed work and demonstrate overall comprehension.

Identify Key Components and Characters

In its simplest form, a summary answers the who, what, where, when why and how of a body of work. A student writing a book summary should include the author and title and then relate the narrative of the story. The summary would introduce relevant characters, plot and setting and then explain what happened and to whom. The summary of a scientific paper would include the purpose, hypothesis, methodology, analysis and conclusion of the experiment or study.

Demonstrate Understanding

Whether in the workplace or classroom, the point of a summary is to give evidence of comprehension and to relate the information to an interested reader. Summarizing a scholarly article proves to a professor that you understand the research and might be able to synthesize the information into future work. Summaries serve the same purpose in the workplace. An accountant might be asked to summarize a profit-earnings statement while a political strategist might be asked to summarize an opponent’s viewpoint. Good summaries avoid jargon and use simple terms to effectively relate the main points of an idea.

Wrap it Up

The function of a conclusion is to pull all the evidence of an essay together in support of the original thesis. Regardless of the type of essay, the conclusion is where the writer explains the significance of his or her reasoning in a few short paragraphs. It should answer all the reader's questions in a clear and concise fashion. Depending upon the essay’s intent, the conclusion may offer a short summarization of important points, such as what a cited study discovered or a quick view of both sides of a compare/contrast essay.

Offers Further Exploration

The most effective conclusions don’t simply answer the questions presented in an introduction, they make readers think about the topic after the essay has been read. Thesis papers and dissertations synthesize many resources, analyze materials, draw conclusions, but then ask "where can we go from here?" In scholarly writing the conclusion isn’t an ending, but rather a continuation of critical thinking around a particular subject.

About the Author

Linda Emma is a long-standing writer and editor. She is also a digital marketing professional and published author with more than 20 years experience in media and business. She works as a content manager and professional writing tutor at a private New England college. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northeastern University.

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