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How to Write a Dissertation Conclusion

What is a Dissertation Conclusion?

The Conclusion is basically an evaluation where you take a step back and review the research process. Here, we say where and how the study would have been stronger, sharing with the reader your critical assessment of the results. Importantly, the Conclusions chapter is generally not the place for introducing any new material. Rather, you should be looking to make sense of the material that you have already presented in the thesis. If for instance, after completing the Results, you find new academic material which greatly elucidates you findings, you cannot refer to this unless you go back and build that source into your Literature Review (so the reader is already familiar with the topic).

So, the conclusion pulls everything together for the reader. This is where you summarise your entire project, showing in an evaluative way how everything fits together; that there is an alignment with what you set out to do, how you went about doing it, and what you found out. It is important to establish that your findings justify the rationale which you offered at the beginning of the project. At root, you are trying to show that what you found is significant and important. In addition, you are seeking to demonstrate that the evidence marshalled to uphold the arguments in the thesis do indeed come down to this particular point. In sum, you are explaining how and why the project all makes sense.

Structure and Format

It is necessary to point out that there are many different and equally effective ways of writing a conclusion. That said, it is very likely your conclusion will contain a restatement of your thesis and a clarification of the broader significance of the research project. You are reminding you reader of the purpose of the study. You are writing with persuasion in mind. You want to hammer the point home: to say, in light of the evidence presented, I have come to this conclusion. Hopefully the reader shares your perspective. Usually, the Conclusion affords an opportunity to be less general than in your initial chapters. At this stage, it should be more specific to the arguments in the body of your work.

In terms of the how your order your content, it is worth noting that there is some interplay between the Results, Discussion and Conclusion chapters. You might, for example, include the critical evaluation of the research project in this section rather than in the Discussion. Similarly, you may wish to place recommendations for future research in this section. You might use this section to pose new questions which came out of the research. Indeed, this is an effective and commonly used way of ending of an academic text.

Finally, the principal function of the Conclusion is to get across a key message. The key message relates the main point that your thesis seeks to get across. If you are not precisely sure as to what this main point is, ask yourself: if somebody had to cite your thesis, what is the message you would like them to include?

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