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2.6: Writing a Conclusion Paragraph

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    The main parts of a conclusion

    The conclusion, or concluding paragraph, is the final paragraph in the essay. Because it is put at the end, it is the last paragraph your readers will read. It will wrap up your ideas and leave them something to think about. Having a strong conclusion will help to leave a clear idea in the reader's mind.

    With the introduction you started with a broader idea (the hook) and got more specific as you moved through the background section, until you got to the very focused thesis statement. In a conclusion you will do the opposite. You will start with the specific ideas in your paper and move outwards, ending on a bigger idea that is related to your topic but not covered in the body paragraphs.

    The three main parts of a conclusion are

    • Umbrella sentence
    • Summary
    • Food for thought

    Let's look at each of them in more detail.

    Umbrella sentence

    The umbrella sentence is one sentence that gives the main idea of your whole paper. It is similar to your thesis, but it should have different words and can also be a little simpler. It is called an umbrella sentence because one sentence covers all the points of your essay, just like an umbrella covers all of your body and protects you from the rain (see figure 2.6.1).

    Person holding an umbrella
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): "her umbrella" by Pedro Moura Pinheiro is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

    Let's compare a thesis statement with an umbrella sentence:

    Here is a student's thesis statement: “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete, and make one story become the only story.”

    A possible umbrella sentence could be: “Stereotypes are harmful because they present flawed and incomplete views of a person or a group of people.”

    Notice how the umbrella sentence covers the same general information as the thesis statement, but is less detailed.


    Remind the reader of the points you made in your essay so they can see how everything fits together. Summarize the main idea of each paragraph in 1to 3 sentences. Try to change the words so you are not using the exact same language as your topic sentences.

    Identifying the summary

    Let's see what that looks like:

    Notice this!

    Read the following conclusion. The sentences [in brackets] are summary sentences that indicate the contents of the writer’s body paragraphs.

              Stereotypes are harmful because they present flawed and incomplete views that can lead to prejudice. [On an individual level, they take away a person’s true identity; a person is given a label based on a group identity that cannot accurately be applied to each person. On a societal level, stereotypes can lead to policies that discriminate against particular groups of people. Stereotypes can also lead to physical violence, as in the examples of the anti-Muslim mosque attacks and anti-Semitic synagogue attacks in Southern California.] By working hard to combat our own biases and speaking up when we see a “single story” dominate, we can lessen the damaging impact of stereotypes and make the world a safer, more equitable place.

    Food for thought

    Finally, give some final idea to leave the reader thinking. We call this "food for thought" because the reader will need to spend some time pondering and digesting it, just as you spend some time eating and digesting food (see figure 2.6.2). Basically, as you say goodbye to your reader you want them to keep thinking about the ideas in your essay and why these ideas are important. Your food for thought can be:

    • a suggestion
    • an explanation of why this is important or what you want readers to learn
    • a reflection on how your own thinking changed through writing this.
    • a prediction or warning for the future
    • return to the hook from the introduction with an explanation of how the knowledge we have gained through your paper changes our understanding of it (this makes your paper feel like a full circle, and can be satisfying for the reader)
    ice cream cone
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\):"ice-cream" by EEPaul is marked with CC BY 2.0.

    Identifying food for thought

    Let's see what some of these look like:

    Try this!

    Can you identify what type of food for thought is shown in each of the following sentences?

    1. By working hard to combat our own biases and speaking up when we see a “single story” dominate, we can lessen the damaging impact of stereotypes and make the world a safer, more equitable place.
    2. Researching the topic of bias revealed some large gaps in my understanding, and now I realize that more than ever, identifying and addressing our own personal biases is critical.
    3. Although it may be easier to avoid the potential discomfort of considering more than a “single story” about a person or group of people, failure to take multiple stories into account risks a bleak, increasingly polarized future.
    (For possible answers, check the 2.15: Answer Key: Organization and Cohesion.)

    Identifying the parts of a conclusion

    Let's see if you can identify the main parts of a conclusion:

    Try this!

    Here is the conclusion to the summary/response essay we looked at earlier in this chapter. Can you find the umbrella sentence, summary, and food for thought?

              In “Stereotype Threat,” McRaney and her colleagues clearly and evenhandedly explain the phenomenon of stereotype threat. Their choice of language makes the chapter interesting and accessible to students who may not have training in the social sciences, even as the authors cite many academic sources. The authors also spend time addressing and responding to some common criticisms of and doubts about the existence of stereotype threat, which makes the ideas they discuss more credible. Furthermore, the content is relatable: the examples provided in the text helped me identify an instance of stereotype threat in my own life and made me think about other situations where stereotype threat may have been at play. Their chapter highlights an important phenomenon and, with this knowledge, institutions and individuals can take steps to create environments in and out of the classroom that lessen the chance stereotype threat will negatively (and needlessly) affect performance.

    (For possible answers, check the 2.15: Answer Key: Organization and Cohesion.)

    Writing your conclusion

    Let's put this all together in your own writing:

    Apply this!

    Look at a draft of your writing, focusing on the conclusion.

    • Can you identify the three main elements of a conclusion?
    • Is your umbrella sentence directly connected to, but not exactly the same as, your thesis statement?
    • Does your summary address all the topics in your body paragraphs? (Hint: Look at the topic sentences in each body paragraph; this should help you answer this question.)
    • What information do you leave your reader with in the very last sentence? A suggestion? A return to your hook? Or something else?

    Section review

    • The conclusion, or concluding paragraph, is the final paragraph in your essay.
    • A strong conclusion will help to leave a clear idea in the reader's mind.
    • The three main parts of a conclusion are:
      1. Umbrella sentence
      2. Summary
      3. Food for thought

    Licenses and Attributions

    Authored by Susie Naughton, Santa Barbara City College, Clara Zimmerman, Porterville College, and Elizabeth Wadell, Laney College. License: CC BY NC.

    This page titled 2.6: Writing a Conclusion Paragraph is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gabriel Winer & Elizabeth Wadell (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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