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How to write the conclusions chapter of a book manuscript

While I have read three of the best books in the business on how to write a book (William Germano on how to transform your dissertation into a book, and how to write an academic book that is not your doctoral thesis aka your second book, as well as Rabiner and Fortunato’s guide on how to write a trade academic-ish book), I think that writing a concluding chapter really is a skill in and of itself, and one that apparently is in demand, as my good friend Dr. Giovanni Mantilla (Cambridge University) recently requested advice on how to do that.

I try to write blog posts or Twitter threads upon request, but since this one comes from a good friend, I figured I had to make it a blog post as well.


As I said in my Twitter thread, I purposefully chose 4 books on water and 4 books on waste for three reasons:

(a) I don’t have the time to do a thread on methodology or on sanitation books,
(b) every book author I chose is on Twitter (so they can respond to my tweetage if they so choose!) and,
(c) 8 books should be enough!

These are the books I used:

How can I distinguish (or write) a good concluding chapter?

These are defining characteristics of a good concluding chapter of a book, in my view:

– Tells me, in summary form, what the author learned and also, what I SHOULD HAVE learned had I read the book from beginning to end.
– Shows me the “surprises”, the “plot twists”, the “coda”, the “afterthoughts”. For example: “After doing all this research on waste/water, I am left pondering about where to go from here. I advance a few propositions here”. Or… “When I began this book, I expected X. Lo & behold, I got Y”
– Explains to me why I needed to read the book in the first place.
– Provides a pithy summary of the main lessons the book offers.

These are some examples of good conclusions drawn from waste books.

In my thread, I summarized conclusions from two anthropologists, a historian and a human geographer. For my water books, I chose two authors who are squarely political scientists, one anthropologist and a theologian/ethicist who works in interdisciplinary spaces. Now, for the water books:

I think the best advice I can give someone on how to write a solid conclusions chapter is very much along the same lines of the suggestions I made in my post on how to write a solid conclusion to a paper: summarise what you learned and don’t show that you’ve ran out of gas by the time you’re done with the paper/book manuscript.

I think linking back to the core message of the manuscript is key, as is providing clear signals that the research provided insights that would not have been possible had this book not been researched, written and this argument developed. I find that conclusions usually have fewer citations to scholarly work, and they’re more a narrative by the author, but different people write in different ways.

Hopefully this advice I’ve drawn from my reading of the concluding chapters of OTHERS’ books will be of help to new-ish authors. It will certainly be helpful to me, as I finish my own book manuscript(s).

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. Writing the literature review chapter of a book – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on July 25, 2019

    […] enough, I haven’t. I have written about how to write introductory chapters and concluding chapters for book manuscripts, but I hadn’t written about how to write a literature review chapter […]

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