6.6 Writing a PhD Thesis Conclusion

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Many students continue to believe that the conclusion of an essay is a mere summary and this is bad enough but to make this mistake with a thesis could be fatal. That is why an entire section of this guide is being devoted to the writing of your conclusion.

Ideally, your thesis should conclude by not only summarising your argument and providing a synthesis of thought but also indicating areas of possible future research.

Before beginning your conclusion, ask yourself the following:

  • What do I hope to be the conclusion to my argument and have I achieved it?
  • Is my thesis convincing?
  • What are the limits of my research?
  • How might future areas of research be suggested by this?

You should jot down brief answers to all of these before you begin to construct your conclusion and the responses should inform the writing of it, so let’s look at each of them in turn.

What do I hope to be the conclusion to my argument and have I achieved it?

It is to be hoped that your response to this would be a resounding ‘yes’ but you may well need to go back over areas strengthening arguments and filling gaps.

Is my thesis convincing?

Again, the answer should be positive but you should play ‘devil’s advocate’ here and try to pre-empt all and any questions that might come up challenging the points you have made (there will be more advice on this in the section on your viva).

What are the limits of my research?

You need to pay particular attention to this, as displaying awareness of the limits of the research you have conducted does not in any way weaken your argument. In fact, the reverse is true because you will find that writing about your research parameters reinforces the strength of what you have achieved, as well as placing your research precisely where you believe they belong.

How might future areas of research be suggested by this?

This is where a conclusion to a Ph.D. thesis is very different from a conclusion in other academic work. Usually, you would be told not to introduce new evidence at this point but in a Ph.D. thesis, it can be a very good idea because it shows that your research is strong enough to carry over to a new area based on the knowledge gained.

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