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Writing Basics

Crafting an effective Conclusions section

 

Andrés Pagán, Associate Editor

October 2022


Many authors prioritize writing the Abstract, Results, and/or the Discussions sections when drafting a manuscript. However, writing an effective Conclusions section is nearly as important in helping readers internalize the overall message of an article. Conclusions are often the last paragraph of a manuscript and the final word given by the authors. However, whereas journals may give clear guidelines on how to structure other sections of a manuscript, there is often less direction on how to craft an appropriate Conclusions. Below are a few suggestions to help write an effective Conclusions section.

How long should it be?
The primary function of a Conclusions section is to concisely encapsulate the overall findings of a study. Therefore, the first thing to keep in mind when drafting a Conclusions is writing with brevity. Recently, an analysis that randomly sampled over 47,000 Conclusions from research papers found that the majority of them ranged from 3 to 8 sentences long. While journals rarely impose word limits on the Conclusion section, one or two paragraphs of 5 to 8 sentences is often enough to communicate concise, yet effective, Conclusions.

What to include?
Unlike a Highlights section, the Conclusion section should not simply summarize key points of the study. Instead, authors should aim to integrate a) how the research objectives were accomplished, b) the overall findings of the study, and c) the study’s major contributions to the field. If not given in the Discussion section, the Conclusions may also include suggestions for future research or a call to action. Importantly, the Conclusions should only include takeaways that were supported by the work done in the study and should not introduce new arguments or results.

Considerations on tone and style
Finally, whereas the other sections of a manuscript should be more restrained in tone when conveying the impact of the study, in the Conclusions section it is appropriate to include a bold closing statement reiterating the importance of the work completed. In some cases, the closing statement may even be provocative, however, even with bold statements, authors should strive to maintain an optimistic or neutral tone. An excellent example of impactful closing remarks in the Conclusions can be found in Hassani et al.’s recent paper investigating the role of artificial intelligence in society:

“In conclusion, AI is here to stay, evolve and develop further as a result of the capabilities of the human mind. AI was created by humans and it is now up to humans to determine how to exploit the many opportunities of AI whilst minimizing the threats to our existence.”

Remember, the Conclusions section provides the authors one final opportunity to drive home the importance of their work with an impactful and strong synthesis of the study’s aspects. Keeping in mind the above suggestions can help one craft a more effective and memorable Conclusion.

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