We normally use the word "conclusion" to refer to that last section or paragraph or a document. Actually, however, the word refers more to a specific type of final section. If we were going to be fussy about it, this section should be called "Final Sections."
There seem to be at least four ways to end a report: a summary, a true conclusion, an afterword, and nothing. Yes, it is possible to end a document with no conclusion (or "final section") whatsoever. However, in most cases, that's a bit like slamming the phone down without even saying good-bye. More often, the final section is some combination of the first three ways of ending the document.
One common way to wrap up a report is to review and summarize the high points. If your report is rather long, complex, heavily detailed, and if you want your readers to come away with the right perspective, a summary is in order. For short reports, summaries can seem absurd--the reader thinks "You've just told me that!" Summaries need to read as if time has passed, things have settled down, and the writer is viewing the subject from higher ground.
This report has shown that as the supply of fresh water decreases,
desalting water will become a necessity. While a number of different
methods are in competition with each other, freezing methods of
desalination appear to have the greatest potential for the future.
The three main freezing techniques are the direct method, the indirect
method, and the hydrate method. Each has some adavantage over the
others, but all three freezing methods have distinct adavantages over
other methods of desalination. Because freezing methods operate at
such low temperatures, scaling and corrosion of pipe and other
equipment is greatly reduced. In non-freezing methods, corrosion is a
great problem that is difficult and expensive to prevent. Freezing
processes also allow the use of plastic and other protective coatings
on steel equipment to prevent their corrosion, a measure that cannot
be taken in other methods that require high operating temperatures.
Desalination, as this report has shown, requires much energy,
regardless of the method. Therefore, pairing desalination plants with
nuclear or solar power resources may be a necessity. Some of the
expense of desalination can be offset, however, by recovering and
Summary-type of final section.
A "true" conclusion is a logical thing. For example, in the body of a report, you might present conflicting theories and explored the related data. Or you might have compared different models and brands of some product. In the conclusion, the "true" conclusion, you'd present your interpretation, your choice of the best model or brand--your final conclusions.
Solar heating can be an aid in fighting high fuel bills if planned
carefully, as has been shown in preceding sections. Every home
represents a different set of conditions; the best system for one home
may not be the best one for next door. A salesman can make any system
appear to be profitable on paper, and therefore prospective buyers
must have some general knowledge about solar products.
A solar heating system should have as many of the best design features
as possible and still be affordable. As explained in this report, the
collector should have high transmissivity and yet be durable enough to
handle hail storms. Collector insulation should be at least one inch
of fiberglass mat. Liquid circulating coils should be at least one
inch in diameter if an open loop system is used. The control module
should perform all the required functions with no added circuits. Any
hot water circulating pumps should be isolated from the electric drive
motor by a non-transmitting coupler of some kind.
Homeowners should follow the recommendations in the guidelines section
carefully. In particular, they should decide how much money they are
willing to spend and then arrange their components in their order of
importance. The control module designs vary the most in quality and
therefore should have first priority. The collector is the second in
importance, and care should be taken to ensure compatibility. Careful
attention to the details of the design and selection of solar heating
devices discussed in this report will enable homeowners to install
efficient, productive solar heating systems.
A "true"-conclusions final section. This type states conclusions based on the discussion contained in the body of the report.
One last possibility for ending a report involves turning to some related topic but discussing it at a very general level. Imagine that you had written a background report on some exciting new technology. In the final section, you might broaden your focus and discuss how that technology might be used, or the problems it might bring about. But the key is to keep it general--don't force yourself into a whole new detailed section.
VII. CONCLUSION: FUTURE TRENDS
Everyone seems to agree that the car of the future must weigh even
less than today's down-sized models. According to a recent forecast
by the Arthur Anderson Company, the typical car will have lost about
1,000 pounds between 1978 and 1990 [2:40]. The National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration estimates the loss of another 350 pounds
by 1995. To obtain these reductions, automobile manufacturers will
have find or develop composites such as fiber-reinforced plastics for
the major load-bearing components, particularly the frame and
Ford Motor Company believes that if it is to achieve further growth in
the late 1980's, it must achieve breakthroughs in structural and
semistructural load-bearing applications. Some of the breakthroughs
Ford sees as needed include improvements in the use of continuous
fibers, especially hybridized reinforced materials containing glass
and graphite fibers. In addition, Ford hopes to develop a high speed
production system for continuous fiber preforms. In the related area
of composite technology, researchers at Owens Corning and Hercules are
seeking the best combination of hybrid fibers for structural
automotive components such as engine and transmission supports, drive
shafts, and leaf springs. Tests thus far have led the vice president
of Owen Corning's Composites and Equipment Marketing Division, John B.
Jenks, to predict that hybrid composites can compete with metal by the
mid-1980's for both automotive leaf springs and transmission supports.
With development in these areas of plastics for automobiles, we can
look forward to lighter, less expensive, and more economical cars in
the next decade. Such developments might well provide the needed
spark to rejuvenate America's auto industry and to further decrease
our rate of petroleum consumption.
Afterword-type final section. The main body of the report discussed technical aspects of using plastics in main structural components of automobiles. This final section explores the future, looking at current developments, speculating on the impact of this trend.
In practice, these ways of ending reports combine. You can analyze final sections of reports and identify elements that summarize, elements that conclude, and elements that discuss something related but at a general level (afterwords).
Here are some possibilities for afterword-type final sections:
- Provide a brief, general look to the future; speculate on future developments.
- Explore solutions to problems that were discussed in the main body of the report.
- Discuss the operation of a mechanism or technology that was discussed in the main body of the report.
- Provide some cautions, guidelines, tips, or preview of advanced functions at the end of a set of instructions.
- Explore the economics, social implications, problems, legal aspects, advantages, disadvantages, benefits, or applications of the report subject (but only generally and briefly).
Revision Checklist for Conclusions
As you reread and revise your conclusions, watch out for problems such as the following:
- If you use an afterword-type last section, make sure you write it at a general enough level that it doesn't seem like yet another body section of the report.
- Avoid perfunctory conclusions that have no real reason to be in the report.
- Keep final sections brief and general.
|Interested in courses related to this page or a printed version? See the resources page.
||Return to the main menu of this online textbook for technical writing.
Information and programs provided by firstname.lastname@example.org.