Conclusions should provide a sense of closure to your document, echoing the introduction and reminding the reader of the paper's purpose: Why was it worth writing and reading? What answers did it uncover?
In addition to summarizing, this section of a paper often expands the discussion, situating the problem and findings in some larger context:
- You can turn toward the future and identify the implications of the paper's findings. These implications might take the form of predictions: given what we know now, what's likely to happen next?
- The findings might also give rise to real-world recommendations: Based on what you discovered, what action should be taken in the world? Who can use this knowledge, for what?
- You can also point to related situations or problems into which your analysis could offer insight: How might understanding this conflict help us to understand that one? Do your findings support or challenge some relevant theory?
- You can also suggest the next steps in a chain of research: How do the answers that you've found set the stage for new questions? What scholarly work remains to be done?
It may not be until you are writing the conclusion that you have the clearest sense of your paper's focus, argument, and claim. Use the insight from your conclusion to help you polish and refine the introduction of your paper or thesis. Tie it all together!