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Successful endings

In essays, good conclusions shouldn’t give new information, but they often do present fresh perspectives. Thinking of the word ‘perspective’ (from the Latin perspicere – ‘to look through’), it’s useful to think of endings as looking in one of three different directions.

1 Look back

Here, you look back over your shoulder, showing your reader how far you’ve come. You may return to a phrase, image or idea from the introduction. Can you re-examine it now, in a new light? If you started an essay with Alfred the Great’s army, you might end by reimagining that army not as a body of warriors but as a group of economic actors.

Image credit: Greg Montani, Pixabay

2 Look forwards

You might note that your assignment is limited by its tight focus, and a fuller answer would require further examination of a particular aspect. Scientific reports often conclude in this way. Which questions arise from your analysis? In our essay example above, what more do we need to know about the army’s supply chain, or leadership, to fully answer the question? Don’t let your reader spot the gaps — point them out. It gives an impression of mastery.

3 Look beyond

For the third kind of ending, you move your head to look up and outwards. What does your work mean? What does it tell us about the context or the theories, the bigger issues or the wider implications? You might say, ‘The underlying issue turns out to be less about Wessex’s military capacity and more about international economic relations.’

James McConnachie
25 February 2021

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