concluding the journal article

The conclusion to a journal article is very important. Of course, it’s hard to end things. There’s no equivalent in the journal article to the text message that says you’re dumped… or more elegantly, reader I married him.

It’s important not to rush things at the end of an article even though it might feel as if the end is nigh. That’s because the conclusion does crucial work. Unfortunately it’s often one of things that a lot of writers skimp on.

It’s pretty important to get clear about the work that the conclusion must accomplish. So here’s a few things to think about before beginning on the ending.

The conclusion must remind the reader why the article was written in the first place. At the beginning the writer will have argued that there is a space in what is known, a puzzle that needs to be solved, a debate that is continuing, or an issue that deserves discussion. The writer will have promised to fill the space, solve the puzzle, contribute to the debate or participate in the discussion. The writer should use the argument made for the need for the article to present the case that this is what they’ve done.

The conclusion must reprise the argument that has been made without repeating it ad nauseam. No-one wants to read an article and then read it all over again in the conclusion. The conclusion must be a déjà vu free zone.

The conclusion must deal with the So What and Now What questions. We’ve read this piece of research – so what? who cares? The writer must not leave the answers to these questions to chance, assuming that any sensible reader will be able to work them out for themselves. The conclusion must succintly tell the reader how and why it is that what’s been presented is significant for practice, policy or further research. They must explicitly say how it is that the article constitutes a contribution to knowledge. They must also address the implications for further research or action.

The conclusion must avoid clichés. It’s pretty easy to round off an article with a few pious sentiments. While resorting to a clutch of tired phrases won’t cause your article to be rejected, it will leave the reader with a poor lasting impression. As the conclusion is the last thing that the reader will encounter, its important that they finish with the things that you want them to remember rather than with a sigh or a grimace.

Phrases to consider when thinking about concluding might be …

I argued at the beginning of this article that…
The findings that I have presented suggest that…
This is important for… because …
To date the literature/policymakers/the profession has … but this study offers …
While this study does not offer a conclusive answer to the question of… it does…..
The research raises important questions about … for …
As a result of conducting this research, I propose that …
It would be fruitful to pursue further research about … in order to …
If policymakers were to take this study seriously, they might …

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About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in academic writing, conclusion, contribution, journal, now what, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to concluding the journal article

  1. This sounds very much like what my teacher was trying to explain to us in my final year of French schooling. Unfortunately, she couldn’t explain this in context and failed to give us any good reason why the stages you’ve outlined above must be carefully thought through when writing a conclusion. All we got was a profoundly abstract account on how to write a conclusion, no real practice at it either and I admit I’ve tended to be a bit of a conclusion skimp-er ever since! (ps. never got any ‘literature’ classes in uk after that… donc pas de rattrapage sur ces apprentissages manques en literature!!).

    So thank you for this post because your approach is infinitely clearer as well as more detailed, informative, concrete and to the point :)))

  2. Liz Marsden says:

    Reblogged this on Academic Tips and Tricks and commented:
    I used to really struggle with Intros and Conclusions to essays. Here are some great tips on how to write a good conclusion without resorting to cliche.

  3. ruchika says:

    i m really happy to get conclusion from here it will help me a lot

  4. Elaine says:

    Pat, should a conclusion necessarily be long? If we are able to sum up the argument and contribution vis a vis the literature pithily, in only a few hundred words, is this OK? I tend towards short conclusions which “wrap up” rather than discuss.

    • pat thomson says:

      I don’t think there are any rules… But it is important to not cut short the paper. So make sure that you cover all the things that arise from the paper, not just summarise the contents. My conclusions are sometimes relatively short too.

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