The dissertation conclusion, which usually comprises approximately ten per cent of the word count, is the final part of your dissertation that will be read fully by your lecturer or marker. It is important, therefore, that is well written so that your work finishes ‘on a high note’.
In the conclusion you need to draw together the various strands that you have discussed in the main body of your text. It may also be necessary, depending upon your subject area, to offer recommendations for improvement to a service area (if, for instance, writing a social work dissertation) or to suggest related areas of interest that would benefit from further study. The latter section also allows you to comment upon the limitations of your research and to therefore once again contextualise your study. Do not, however, dwell on the limitations of your work as the conclusion should be a showcase of what you have done well (not a means by which to highlight all of the areas of academia that you have not examined). New theories or information should not be included in the conclusion.
It is easy to forget to reference in the conclusion. This is a common mistake and it costs marks. Your conclusions should be based on that which you have already written and accordingly you must ensure that your conclusions once more make reference to the accepted academic opinions that you have noted throughout the body of your text. Direct quotation is likely to be very limited. It may be your dissertation and you may have written it in such a way as to show your view but it is your ability to relate your ideas to the views of academics who your marker/lecturer respects that will gain you the best marks.
In many ways the conclusion will mirror the introduction. Remember, however, that whereas in the introduction you stated what the dissertation does, in the conclusion you will reflect upon that which it has done.
Finally, some universities also expect conclusions to contain a reflective section in which you comment on what you have learnt through writing the dissertation. If your university does not specifically request that you include such a section, do not write one. If you do have to write a reflection, remember to add some references and seek guidance from your supervisor as to its length. The majority of marks are awarded for analysis, not for how well you think you may have done something. Include in the reflection something upon which you could have improved; for example, in a nursing dissertation, link your thesis to something that may have occurred during your placement, and suggest perhaps that your communication with your colleagues could have been improved, and so on. Do not dwell on your inadequacies: present a rounded view (just as you should have done throughout the dissertation).