Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Draw Conclusions

Because research generates further research, the conclusions you draw from your research are important. They constitute a bond with your fellow researchers to strive always for truth and clarity and to eschew falsehood and deception. As researchers, we depend on the integrity of the research that precedes our own efforts, and we depend on one another to draw valid conclusions. If you do not believe this, think about what the world would be like today if scholars had not questioned the medieval conclusion that the world was flat because ships appear to drop from its edge.

Drawing valid conclusions involves carefully collecting and reviewing evidence and making judgments that will withstand scrutiny. As a writer, you are presenting your conclusions for others to review, so you must be convincing based on the evidence you present in your paper.

To test the validity of your conclusions, you will have to review both the contents of your paper and the way in which you arrived at the content. You may ask yourself questions, such as the ones presented below, to detect any weak areas in your paper, which in turn may lead to weaknesses in your conclusions. Notice that some of the questions relate to your process, others to your sources, and others to how you arrived at your conclusions.

Checklist for Evaluating Your Conclusions
 
  Does the evidence in my paper evolve from a stated thesis? From subtheses? From topic sentences?
  Do all of my sources for evidence agree with each other? Are there conflicts, and have I identified them as conflicts? If I have presented conflicting opinions, have I distinguished them clearly?
  Have I offered enough evidence for every conclusion I have drawn? Are my conclusions based on empirical studies, expert testimony, or data, or all of these? Have I included any unsubstantiated opinions or hearsay as the basis for my conclusions?
  Are all of my sources credible? Is anyone in my audience likely to challenge them?
  Have I presented circular reasoning or illogical conclusions?
  Am I confident that I have covered most of the major sources of information on my topic? If not, have I stated this as a limitation of my research?
  Have I discovered further areas for research and identified them in my paper?
  Have others to whom I have shown my paper perceived the validity of my conclusions?
  Are my conclusions strong? If not, what causes them to be weak? Do I myself believe them to be true?

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