How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion
The conclusion is the very last part of your thesis or dissertation. It should be concise and engaging, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your main findings, as well as the answer to your research question.
In it, you should:
- Clearly state the answer to your main research question
- Summarize and reflect on your research process
- Make recommendations for future work on your topic
- Show what new knowledge you have contributed to your field
- Wrap up your thesis or dissertation
Table of contents
- Discussion vs. conclusion
- How long should your conclusion be?
- Step 1: Answer your research question
- Step 2: Summarize and reflect on your research
- Step 3: Make future recommendations
- Step 4: Emphasize your contributions to your field
- Step 5: Wrap up your thesis or dissertation
- Full conclusion example
- Conclusion checklist
- Frequently asked questions about conclusion sections
Discussion vs. conclusion
While your conclusion contains similar elements to your discussion section, they are not the same thing.
Your conclusion should be shorter and more general than your discussion. Instead of repeating literature from your literature review, discussing specific research results, or interpreting your data in detail, concentrate on making broad statements that sum up the most important insights of your research.
As a rule of thumb, your conclusion should not introduce new data, interpretations, or arguments.
How long should your conclusion be?
Depending on whether you are writing a thesis or dissertation, your length will vary. Generally, a conclusion should make up around 5–7% of your overall word count.
An empirical scientific study will often have a short conclusion, concisely stating the main findings and recommendations for future research. A humanities topic or systematic review, on the other hand, might require more space to conclude its analysis, tying all the previous sections together in an overall argument.
Step 1: Answer your research question
Your conclusion should begin with the main question that your thesis or dissertation aimed to address. This is your final chance to show that you’ve done what you set out to do, so make sure to formulate a clear, concise answer.
- Don’t repeat a list of all the results that you already discussed
- Do synthesize them into a final takeaway that the reader will remember.
An empirical thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:
A case study–based thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:
In the second example, the research aim is not directly restated, but rather added implicitly to the statement. To avoid repeating yourself, it is helpful to reformulate your aims and questions into an overall statement of what you did and how you did it.
Step 2: Summarize and reflect on your research
Your conclusion is an opportunity to remind your reader why you took the approach you did, what you expected to find, and how well the results matched your expectations.
To avoid repetition, consider writing more reflectively here, rather than just writing a summary of each preceding section. Consider mentioning the effectiveness of your methodology, or perhaps any new questions or unexpected insights that arose in the process.
You can also mention any limitations of your research, but only if you haven’t already included these in the discussion. Don’t dwell on them at length, though—focus on the positives of your work.
Step 3: Make future recommendations
You may already have made a few recommendations for future research in your discussion section, but the conclusion is a good place to elaborate and look ahead, considering the implications of your findings in both theoretical and practical terms.
When making recommendations for further research, be sure not to undermine your own work. Relatedly, while future studies might confirm, build on, or enrich your conclusions, they shouldn’t be required for your argument to feel complete. Your work should stand alone on its own merits.
Just as you should avoid too much self-criticism, you should also avoid exaggerating the applicability of your research. If you’re making recommendations for policy, business, or other practical implementations, it’s generally best to frame them as “shoulds” rather than “musts.” All in all, the purpose of academic research is to inform, explain, and explore—not to demand.
Step 4: Emphasize your contributions to your field
Make sure your reader is left with a strong impression of what your research has contributed to the state of your field.
Some strategies to achieve this include:
- Returning to your problem statement to explain how your research helps solve the problem
- Referring back to the literature review and showing how you have addressed a gap in knowledge
- Discussing how your findings confirm or challenge an existing theory or assumption
Again, avoid simply repeating what you’ve already covered in the discussion in your conclusion. Instead, pick out the most important points and sum them up succinctly, situating your project in a broader context.
Step 5: Wrap up your thesis or dissertation
The end is near! Once you’ve finished writing your conclusion, it’s time to wrap up your thesis or dissertation with a few final steps:
- It’s a good idea to write your abstract next, while the research is still fresh in your mind.
- Next, make sure your reference list is complete and correctly formatted. To speed up the process, you can use our free APA citation generator.
- Once you’ve added any appendices, you can create a table of contents and title page.
- Finally, read through the whole document again to make sure your thesis is clearly written and free from language errors. You can proofread it yourself, ask a friend, or consider Scribbr’s proofreading and editing service.
Full conclusion example
Here is an example of how you can write your conclusion section. Notice how it includes everything mentioned above:
Frequently asked questions about conclusion sections
- What’s the difference between the discussion and the conclusion?
In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.
- Can I present new arguments in the conclusion of my dissertation?
While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion, especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.
All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section.) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.
- What doesn’t go in a dissertation conclusion?
For a stronger dissertation conclusion, avoid including:
- Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
- Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion …”)
- Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g., “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)
Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.
- How long is a thesis or dissertation conclusion?