You’ve introduced your ideas, set up an effective thesis statement, and written a solid body to support what you said in your introduction. Your conclusion should just write itself at this point, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. In fact, you can blow a paper by messing up the conclusion badly. So it’s crucial to spend a while crafting your conclusion so that it wraps up your paper effectively and leaves your audience in awe . . . or at least willing to give you an A. Fortunately, conclusions are pretty formulaic. Most of the them are going to look the same, so once you’ve written a couple of them, you should be able to develop a conclusion for any paper relatively quickly (this isn’t necessarily the case with the introduction or the body).
One thing I’d like to note before getting into those two things I mentioned. Many, many people recommend writing your conclusion early in the paper-writing process. Instead of writing introduction-body-conclusion, they recommend going introduction-conclusion-body. Or even conclusion-introduction-body. In fact, some suggest conclusion-body-introduction (this is much less common, however). And while this may seem counterintuitive, it actually makes a lot of sense. If you know what you want to conclude at the end of your paper, you can make sure that the body supports that conclusion. Some people work better the other way, but it’s worth trying. Give it a shot once or twice and see if it helps your writing. It can be a little weird, but if you work better that way, you’ll be glad you tried it.
The first part of almost every conclusion is a recap of the paper. Give a short version of your thesis and summarize the main points of the body. Be quick about it, though—the reader did just read your entire paper. They may have forgotten some of it (especially if it’s a long one), but they haven’t forgotten the whole thing. Don’t go into too much detail—just keep it quick. In addition to reminding your reader of what you just said, it also has the benefit of reminding you what you just wrote (or what you’re about to write), and that can help you with the next item.
The ultimate conclusion of your paper is of great importance. This is where you bring everything together and prove to your audience that you made your point. This is probably best shown by example. Say you were writing a paper about L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. Your thesis could be something to the effect of “Jonnie’s journey from the mountains to the city ruins represents the human race’s coming loss of innocence” or something like that (don’t take that too seriously—I just made it up). You then support it with examples from the book, other works that Hubbard has published, or whatever else you can use to prove your point. Your conclusion statement, then, would be something like “taking into account Point A, Point B, and Point C, it becomes clear that Jonnie’s journey to the city foreshadows his people’s coming loss of innocence in the forthcoming war.” As you can see, the conclusion statement is really just a reformation of the thesis statement that takes into account the evidence that you’ve provided to support it.
And there you go. You’re now ready to write a college paper. Go to it!