A conclusion is the place where you tie all the different parts of your dissertation together to draw conclusions about what the research has shown (hence the name).
It typically makes up about 10% of the total word count (so for a 10,000-word dissertation, a 1,000-word conclusion would be about right).
The conclusion needs to sum up all the most important points of your whole dissertation, so you need to be very selective about the content that goes into it.
You will notice that a conclusion and an introduction have quite a few similarities. Think of your conclusion as a ‘mirror image’ of your introduction – where an introduction talks about what you are going to do, a conclusion talks about what you have done.
The main thing you want to avoid in your conclusion is filling it with brand new information. Its purpose is to sum up everything that has gone before it, so if you are adding in new sources and ideas now, you have not done enough in your main body.
It is easy to forget to reference in the conclusion. This is a common mistake, and it costs marks. The only references in the conclusion should be sources you have already used and analysed in the main body of the dissertation.
Sometimes, your university will ask you to include distinct sections within your conclusion. The most common requests are recommendations and reflective sections.
Many conclusion sections will be expected to contain recommendations. Who these are directed at depends on the subject of your dissertation – it could be a business, a profession or simply other researchers – but regardless, these should be clear and concise, backed up by the data you’ve collected and the gaps in research that you found.
Even if your university has not specifically asked for a recommendations section, it is a good idea to discuss how others could look deeper into the topic in your conclusion, as it shows you have understood the limitations of your research and know how it could be developed later.
Not all conclusions will require a reflective section. It tends to be most common in vocational disciplines (e.g., nursing or education). We do not recommend that you include a reflective section unless your university has specifically asked for it.
If you have been asked to complete a reflection, the main thing to remember is to give equal weight to your own strengths and weaknesses.
Your tutor will not want to hear you state that you are perfect, but nor will they want you to rip your own work apart. They want to see that you can critically identify the good parts of your work and the parts which could be improved.
They will also want you to talk about how and why things happened the way they did.
Checklist: Writing a Dissertation Conclusion
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