conclusions – practice getting to the point(s)

It’s coming to the end of the academic year in the northern hemisphere and lots of doctoral researchers are also coming to the end of their thesis writing. They are writing their conclusion and perhaps even thinking about what might come in a viva.

It’s essential now to get very clear on the big points that you want to make at the end of the thesis and in the viva. But it’s often hard to make the claims forcefully. Or perhaps they are too forceful. Or perhaps they are not strongly related enough to the actual research that you’ve carried out.

You need to get back to the bare bones of the research. Strip away all of the detail that you’ve been immersed in for ages. No fat. No fluff. No padding. No artificial additives. You need to focus on the core of what you have to offer to your field. ( You need to find the contribution in other words.)

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Stripping away all of the additives                                        photo Meredith Taylor

In order to get ready for writing the crunchy conclusion, for paring your research down to its essentials, it’s helpful to practice. Prepare yourself beforehand. It doesn’t have to be a long arduous process.

Here’s a few writing prompts that might help you to get your head clear. These prompts go to the main points you can justify making.

Simply choose one starter that seems to fit your work, and then do some timed writing – about 20 minutes should be enough – starting with your chosen prompt. Fill in the blanks and you’re away. Don’t stop to think to0 much and don’t try to be too clever. Just write as quickly as you can about the absolutely most important things about your research.

The evidence from my research strongly suggests that….

 Based on my research, the assumption that … appears to be justified/unjustified because….

 My research supports the view that….

 Contrary to popular opinion, my research suggests that….

 While x and y have argued…. my research shows….

 The sum of a, b and c points to….

 The literature on x argues that… I add to this the …

Once you’ve done this then you can read what you’ve written, critically considering what you’ve got. You can think about how this pithy stuff might be written in your conclusion, and how it might be presented in the viva to knock the examiners’ socks off.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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