Having presented your evidence, you use your conclusion to sum it all up. Superficially, the conclusion looks a lot like the introduction; there are no detailed arguments. There may be general statements, quotes, or brief explanations. What makes a conclusion great, like what makes an essay great overall, is to clearly link it to the thesis statement.
In fact, each part of the essay should relate to the thesis statement, but let’s not discuss the thesis statement here. A great conclusion needs a great essay, but an essay can’t be great without a great conclusion. As the arguments are presented, references should be made to the thesis statement. If the essay is written in this way, then you can make the summing arguments in the conclusion very smoothly.
Let’s see how this works.
Let’s say you are writing a literary essay on “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Your thesis is that a unifying theme of the novel is “coming of age.” You might present evidence documenting Scout’s emerging maturity: she begins to see the town in a different light after the trial; she learns about life from her father; she learns the truth about Boo Radley. In each paragraph as you present and reference this evidence, you will make reference to the thesis. You might write: “Another way Scout’s growing maturity is shown is when…”
In the next paragraph you present other evidence and again make reference to the thesis, but use somewhat different words. “Scout’s outlook changes when she realizes…” This way you keep presenting evidence and also tie it back to the thesis statement.
When you have presented all your evidence you are ready for your conclusion. Making reference to the thesis topic all the way through the essay prepares the reader for your conclusion. Now you want to sum up that evidence. Do not present new evidence in your conclusion. Anything you cite in your conclusion was previously presented and explained. Therefore you will not need page references for text evidence. If you are citing outside sources, or paraphrasing outside sources, they will need to be attributed.
Using the “To Kill A Mockingbird” example, your great conclusion might read like this:
Changes that Scout goes through indicate a growing maturity. Not only does she age three years in the course of the novel, but her point of view changes. She sees how Calpurnia and the other black people have real lives separate from her own. She sees how the town’s prejudice against black people corrupts the trial of Tom Robinson. She learns that innocent people can be wrongfully harmed through no fault of their own. All of these changes are ones that indicate a maturing point of view as Scout comes of age in the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.”