One thing that relationships and papers have in common is this: Ending them is much harder than beginning them.
No, I'm not going to talk about the elation and pleasure of starting to write a really good paper. (The analogy breaks down pretty quickly, see.) I'm going to write about conclusions.
In the beginning, the paper can go any old where--especially if, like me, you tend to come up with your "real" arguments mid-draft. But the conclusion is a whole different animal. Wrapping things up in some definitive and comprehensive way requires a kind of certainty that I seldom possess at the draft stage--a problem that may be personal, intellectual, or (the preferred option) rhetorical.
Yes, sometimes I do make gradiose and totalizing claims in my conclusions, and sometimes they sound really good. But sometimes they're just, well, false.
So anyway, I'm thinking about this because I'm trying to finish up (yes, that's right) the conclusion to my dissertation. It is a ghastly process. I refuse to reiterate the details of my individual chapters' arguments. I refuse. So I'm trying to do the whole implications-for-future-research thing, and I think I've got that nailed, but then there's the question of the last sentence. The very last sentence is tripping me up, here. In its current form, it's an absolute monstrosity containing the words "examining," "mechanisms," "highlights," and two separate uses of the word "limitations." I hate it.
On the one hand, the last sentence is what the reader will take away from the whole project--it generates the feel of the work, right, and it's whole after-effect and all that business. The glow.
But, on the other had, who the hell cares.
Okay, that settles it.
Which means that--hey! My dissertation is done.*
(*barring edits. Of course.)