Last impressions count too! The importance of conclusions

Warns against ending your academic article with your study's limitations


We all know that first impressions count and set anchoring effects. This is true both in real-life interactions and in academic articles. But even so, last impressions are still important. At the end of a meeting, you recap the agreements you made, reinforce how nice it was to meet your counterpart, and maybe what you enjoyed in particular. You do not usually end a meeting with a reminder of all the things you didn’t agree about, or end a social occasion with all the things that you disliked.

So why do so many academics end a paper with limitations? Of course you need to duly note your study’s limitations, but do that as part of the discussion section, not the concluding section. Ending a paper with limitations – even when paired with suggestions for future research – will leave any reader disappointed. They might well ask themselves, why did I bother to read this paper if there is so much wrong with it?

How to end your paper effectively?

Conclude your paper with a short 1-2 paragraph conclusion that briefly summarizes the entire study. End the paper on a strong note recapping its key contributions. The last sentence or the last 2-3 short sentences of the paper need to be able to be read on their own and provide a powerful take-away. I haven't always followed my own advice, but here are some articles where I did.

We thus argue that a fair and inclusive cross-disciplinary comparison of research performance is possible, provided we use Google Scholar or Scopus as a data source, and the recently introduced hI, annual—a h-index corrected for career length and co-authorship patterns—as the metric of choice. [Harzing & Alakangas, 2016]

Consequently, we recommend that studies in International Business focus first and foremost on home and host country context and resist the temptation to use (cultural) distance as a catchall concept, thus avoiding an illusion of causality, which ultimately hinders the potential of International Business research to provide useful guidance to managers on key International Business phenomena. [Harzing & Pudelko, 2016]

Given the particular challenges of international survey research we described above, many areas in the field of international management still remain largely under-researched, even though they provide ample opportunities to advance our knowledge. However, we hope that by identifying some of the key issues in international survey research and offering various solutions, we have been able to encourage and promote such future research. [Harzing, Reiche & Pudelko, 2013]

In this article we have provided the first large-scale empirical analysis of the language barrier and its solutions. Our conclusions mirror Feely & Harzing’s (2003:50) conceptual article in that it is important to ‘‘understand the language barrier well and to mix and match the solutions into a blend that is right for the company context’’. Most importantly though, MNCs should take the language barrier seriously. Only then will MNCs be able to progress in tackling the language barrier and increase their competitiveness on a global scale. [Harzing, Köster & Magner, 2011]

References used as examples in this post

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