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Writing: Literature Review Basics

The Job of the Conclusion

The job of the conclusion is, quite literally, to conclude ... or to wrap things up so the reader feels a sense of closure.  It accomplishes this by stepping back from the specifics in order to view the bigger picture of the document. In other words, it is reminding the reader of the main argument.

Whereas an introduction started out generally and moved towards discussion of a specific focus, the conclusion takes the opposite approach.  It starts by reminding the reader of the contents and importance of your findings and then moves out gradually to more general topics.

For most written assignments, the conclusion is a single paragraph.  It does not introduce any new information; rather, it succinctly restates your chief conclusions and places the importance of your findings within your field.  Depending upon the purpose of the literature review, you may also include a brief statement of future directions or self-reflection.

Here is an easy checklist for writing a conclusion:

 Is the main argument of the paper accurately restated as the first sentence (but is not copied verbatim?

In a literature review, you basicaly want to answer the question, "What did I find out? What conclusions did I come to?"   Giving the reader a one-sentence answer to this question that provides a summary of your findings is a solid way to begin a conclusion.

What recommendations do you have?

Here you may offer the reader your suggestions on what you think should happen next.  You can make recommendations that are specific to the evidence you have uncovered, or you can make recommendations for future research.  When this area is well done, it links to previous conclusions you have already made and gives the conclusion a finished feeling.

 Did you remind the reader of the importance of the topic and how it can contribute to the knowledge in the field?

Make sure that the paper places its findings in the context of some kind of needed change, relevance, or solution.  If you addressed why the topic was interesting, important, or relevant in your introduction, you can loop back to that here.  Other ways that can be done are to remind the reader of other research you have discussed and how your work builds upon theirs, or what gaps there may yet be to explore.

 

Keep these items in mind as "what not to do":

 

 Is there a sense of closure without using words such as "In conclusion?"

If you have to use the words "In conclusion" or similar ones to launch your conclusion so the reader knows the end is near, you've got a problem.  Make sure the reader has a distinct sense that the paper has come to an end without telling them it is ending. It is important to not leave the reader hanging. 

 Did you avoid presenting any new information?

No new ideas should be introduced in the conclusion. It is simply a review of the material that is already present in the paper. The only new idea would be the suggesting of a direction for future research.

Example

Stigmatization of the mentally ill is caused by the public’s belief in myths about the dangerousness of the mentally ill and exposing those myths can reduce stigmatization. At least one-third of the people sampled in one study said that they would both reject socially and fear violence from someone displaying behaviors associated with different mentally illnesses. Other research discovered that this rejection is associated to lack of contact with the mentally ill and that as contact increased, fear of the mentally ill decreased. The direction of the relationship between fear and rejection seems to be that fear (possibly based upon myths about mental illness) causes rejection. Taken as a whole, it appears that exposing these myths as myths increases the acceptance of the mentally ill and that staged contact with a mentally person to expose myths has an even more powerful effect. Caution must be advised, though; Martin et al.’s (2002) and Alexander and Link’s (2003) studies and the first study of Corrigan et al. (2002) were based upon paper and pencil methodologies. And while Corrigan et al.’s (2002) second study involved staged Myths of violence 6 presentations, it was conducted in a college setting with a college sample. Future research should replicate these findings in more natural settings with different populations.

 

Now let's break that down.

Stigmatization of the mentally ill is caused by the public’s belief in myths about the dangerousness of the mentally ill and exposing those myths can reduce stigmatization.  This opening sentence reminds the reader of "what was I trying to figure out here?"
At least one-third of the people sampled in one study said that they would both reject socially and fear violence from someone displaying behaviors associated with different mentally illnesses. Other research discovered that this rejection is associated to lack of contact with the mentally ill and that as contact increased, fear of the mentally ill decreased. The direction of the relationship between fear and rejection seems to be that fear (possibly based upon myths about mental illness) causes rejection.   Taken as a whole, it appears that exposing these myths as myths increases the acceptance of the mentally ill and that staged contact with a mentally person to expose myths has an even more powerful effect.  Summarizes the key points, or answers the question of "what conclusions did I come to?"
Taken as a whole, it appears that exposing these myths as myths increases the acceptance of the mentally ill and that staged contact with a mentally person to expose myths has an even more powerful effect.  This is why we should care!
Caution must be advised, though; Martin et al.’s (2002) and Alexander and Link’s (2003) studies and the first study of Corrigan et al. (2002) were based upon paper and pencil methodologies. And while Corrigan et al.’s (2002) second study involved staged Myths of violence 6 presentations, it was conducted in a college setting with a college sample. Future research should replicate these findings in more natural settings with different populations. Recommendations for what happens next