Writing a Research Paper Conclusion | Step-by-Step Guide
The conclusion of a research paper is where you wrap up your ideas and leave the reader with a strong final impression. It has several key goals:
- Restate the research problem addressed in the paper
- Summarize your overall arguments or findings
- Suggest the key takeaways from your paper
The content of the conclusion varies depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument through engagement with sources.
The steps below show you how to construct an effective conclusion for either type of research paper.
Step 1: Restate the problem
The first task of your conclusion is to remind the reader of your research problem. You will have discussed this problem in depth throughout the body, but now the point is to zoom back out from the details to the bigger picture.
While you are restating a problem you’ve already introduced, you should avoid phrasing it identically to how it appeared in the introduction. Ideally, you’ll find a novel way to circle back to the problem from the more detailed ideas discussed in the body.
For example, an argumentative paper advocating new measures to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture might restate its problem as follows:
Meanwhile, an empirical paper studying the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues might present its problem like this:
“In conclusion …”
Avoid starting your conclusion with phrases like “In conclusion” or “To conclude,” as this can come across as too obvious and make your writing seem unsophisticated. The content and placement of your conclusion should make its function clear without the need for additional signposting.
Step 2: Sum up the paper
Having zoomed back in on the problem, it’s time to summarize how the body of the paper went about addressing it, and what conclusions this approach led to.
Depending on the nature of your research paper, this might mean restating your thesis and arguments, or summarizing your overall findings.
Argumentative paper: Restate your thesis and arguments
In an argumentative paper, you will have presented a thesis statement in your introduction, expressing the overall claim your paper argues for. In the conclusion, you should restate the thesis and show how it has been developed through the body of the paper.
Briefly summarize the key arguments made in the body, showing how each of them contributes to proving your thesis. You may also mention any counterarguments you addressed, emphasizing why your thesis holds up against them, particularly if your argument is a controversial one.
Don’t go into the details of your evidence or present new ideas; focus on outlining in broad strokes the argument you have made.
Empirical paper: Summarize your findings
In an empirical paper, this is the time to summarize your key findings. Don’t go into great detail here (you will have presented your in-depth results and discussion already), but do clearly express the answers to the research questions you investigated.
Describe your main findings, even if they weren’t necessarily the ones you expected or hoped for, and explain the overall conclusion they led you to.
Step 3: Discuss the implications
Having summed up your key arguments or findings, the conclusion ends by considering the broader implications of your research. This means expressing the key takeaways, practical or theoretical, from your paper—often in the form of a call for action or suggestions for future research.
Argumentative paper: Strong closing statement
An argumentative paper generally ends with a strong closing statement. In the case of a practical argument, make a call for action: What actions do you think should be taken by the people or organizations concerned in response to your argument?
If your topic is more theoretical and unsuitable for a call for action, your closing statement should express the significance of your argument—for example, in proposing a new understanding of a topic or laying the groundwork for future research.
Empirical paper: Future research directions
In a more empirical paper, you can close by either making recommendations for practice (for example, in clinical or policy papers), or suggesting directions for future research.
Whatever the scope of your own research, there will always be room for further investigation of related topics, and you’ll often discover new questions and problems during the research process.
Finish your paper on a forward-looking note by suggesting how you or other researchers might build on this topic in the future and address any limitations of the current paper.
Research paper conclusion examples
Full examples of research paper conclusions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.
Frequently asked questions about research paper conclusions
- What should I include in a research paper conclusion?
- Can I present new arguments in the conclusion of my research paper?
No, it’s not appropriate to present new arguments or evidence in the conclusion. While you might be tempted to save a striking argument for last, research papers 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 results and discussion sections if you are following a scientific structure). The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.