The conclusion chapter is the last chapter in a research paper or thesis. It is usually a rehash of the major highlights of the work, especially the results of the findings discussed in the preceding chapter.
Though there are no hard and fast rules on how to start a conclusion chapter in any field of learning, it is imperative that the student starts as sensibly and strongly as possible because a good start sets the tone for the other segments of the conclusion, including the ending.
Some tips for a good start are discussed below.
Remind the reader of what you are investigating
Research is always driven by a need to solve a problem and/or generate more insight about a topic of interest as well as fill gaps in knowledge. When concluding, it is logical to first remind readers about what your study set out to investigate. This can easily be adapted from the research topic, problem statement, and objectives of the study. Note that the reminder has to be brief since any greater details should be found in the first chapter of the study. Starting with a brief explanation of what you are examining lays a good foundation for the rest of the conclusion. It also helps readers avoid referring back to chapter one.
A priori expectations
Try to shed some light on the theoretical underpinnings of your study as well as your a priori expectations (if any). Many researchers have a particular expectation when formulating their study’s hypothesis. This expectation is usually based on extant theories about the subject matter of interest. Based on theory, the researcher holds his or her position until the hypothesis is tested. Sometimes, the a priori expectation of the researcher is not met (say a non-rejection of the null hypothesis). In such a scenario, he or she has to find creative ways to justify the unexpected outcome.
Data is the cornerstone of quantitative research. Your investigation must include a collection of data on the variables you wish to estimate. Depending on your research design and data collection instrument, you have to select a sampling technique from which a sample is drawn. Note that your sample size needs to be representative enough (valid) if it is to be extended to the wider population. Be sure to find some space to describe your sampling technique and size in the early stages of your conclusion.
Data analysis methods
Collected data needs to be processed and analyzed to resolve the study’s hypothesis, answer the research questions, and solve the stated problem. With the advent of computer software, several applications are available to help researchers process and analyze both quantitative and qualitative data across all fields of learning. It is necessary to include a mention of whatever data analysis techniques as well as the measurement software early in your conclusion chapter.
The results or findings of your study must have been explained extensively in the discussion chapter. It is important that the early phase of your conclusion significantly focuses on the study’s important findings especially with respect to the problem statement or area of interest, the research questions, and hypothesis. This area is of paramount interest to readers because it is the climax of the research and provides a basis on which recommendations and future suggestions can be made. The study’s findings are also a good yardstick for evaluating the usefulness of the study.
Though it is not impossible, it is not easy for all the data collection, measurement, and analysis to yield desired outcomes. Usually, there are shortcomings in one or all the above-mentioned areas which can question the integrity of the research. For instance, in some studies, some of the key variables may turn out results that are not statistically significant. Whatever the nature of the limitations you faced during data collection, measurement, and analysis should be mentioned around the start of your conclusion chapter.
Your study must have been intended to solve an observed educational or societal problem or tried to close a knowledge gap (or both). If you intend to solve a problem, then you have to relate the outcomes of your investigation to the real-world problem. In other words, be sure to explain the practical implications or benefits of your study to both the academic community and society as a whole. For example, if you are investigating the impact of tourism on socio-economic development, your conclusion should be able to articulate how society will benefit from your thesis based on your findings and recommendations.
If you are also trying to close a knowledge gap, it is necessary to make a convincing case for this in your concluding comments. This is because your supervisor and many others that will study your thesis are high-standing intellectuals that will need a compelling argument before accepting whatever ever gap you claim to have closed. A weak argument can thus lead to severe literary criticism and non-acceptance which can erode the significance of your claims.
The conclusion chapter is an important component of a thesis because it is where the researcher summarizes the key highlights or ideas behind his or her study. Like the abstract, a strong conclusion should have the capacity to paint a clear picture of the entire thesis, especially the important findings and their implications.
Though there are no fixed rules for starting a conclusion chapter, it is necessary for the researcher to commence with a reminder of what he or she is investigating. Note that the conclusion chapter is just a rehash of information in previous chapters and hence no new argument or information is expected to be introduced in it.
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