The dreaded research paper is part and parcel of student life. And whether you are in high school, college or studying for a postgraduate degree, the research paper will continue to figure in your studies.
Every research paper starts with a central message, which is what a thesis statement is about. A thesis statement concentrates your ideas into one or two sentences – presenting the topic of your paper as well as making a comment about your position relating to the topic.
Your thesis statement plays a crucial role in telling your reader what your paper is about, and also guides your writing to keep your arguments and the research you need to conduct, focused.
When it comes to thesis writing, the following questions will be useful in formulating the thesis statement.
1. What kind of paper are you writing?
Nowadays, there are different types of research papers. Below, you’ll find two of the more common types.
- Analytical – This type poses a question and the thinking involved in answering this specific question. Usually, it breaks down the idea or question into constituent parts to be analyzed throughout the work, and presents it to the reader.
- Argumentative – This makes a claim about a certain topic and justifies it through evidence. The claim could either be a cause-and-effect statement, evaluation, interpretation, opinion, or a policy proposal. The goal of this paper is to convince the reader that the claim is true based on the supporting evidence presented.
To organize your writing, it’s important that you determine what type of paper you are writing first. This way, you have a definite guide to ensure its completion.
2. Where should you place your thesis statement?
You should present your thesis statement in the introduction of your paper. This will help in establishing your position and give your readers a concrete sense of direction. To make a good thesis statement, you have to:
- Avoid using vague words and be as specific as possible.
- Avoid burying your thesis statement later in the paper or in the middle of a paragraph.
- When indicating the main point or topic of your paper, avoid saying “The main idea of my research paper is…”, or anything similar.
- Make sure to cover only what you’ll be discussing in your research paper, and support it with specific evidence.
3. Is your thesis statement straight to the point?
Normally, you will continually refine your thesis statement as you revise your arguments to make it as specific as possible. As you get a better sense of where your arguments are taking you, your thesis statement will evolve and achieve clarity.
Shape your thesis statement in a way that you can get straight to its “meat.” Don’t write about general things that aren’t important as your thesis should be limited to what is attainable in the specified number of pages as well as the given timeframe.
4. Can readers understand your thesis statement?
Being clear in your thesis statement means your readers can understand exactly what you mean. Otherwise, there’d be no point in writing your research paper in the first place. To be as clear as possible when writing, you should avoid:
- Adding technical knowledge unless it’s a technical report
- Using jargon unless you’re confident that your readers are familiar with it
- Using vague words such as “positive,” “interesting” and “exciting”
- Using abstract words such as “morals” or “culture”
Words tell the reader nothing if you don’t correctly explain what you mean by them. Never assume that what the sentence means is obvious.
5. Does your thesis statement reveal your position on the topic at hand?
Your thesis statement should not only announce your topic. It should also reveal what position you have in relation to that topic, and how you plan to evaluate the issue. You must determine what it is you need to say instead of merely stating a general fact.
Thesis Statement Examples
Still unsure on how you should go about crafting the thesis statement? Take a look at some examples below from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill:
- A comparison and contrast statement as to why the North and South fought during the Civil War
Instead of: The North and South fought the Civil War for various reasons, some of which were alike and some were different.
You write: While both sides fought the Civil War over the matter of tyranny and oppression, the North focused on the oppression of slaves while the South fought to uphold its right to self-government.
- An analysis of Mark Twain’s novel entitled “Huckleberry Finn”
Instead of: Mark Twain’s novel entitled “Huckleberry Finn” is a remarkable American novel.
You write: Through the contrasting scenes, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn insinuates that, to realize the true expression of American democratic morals, one must leave “civilized” society and return to nature.
What’s crucial in writing a thesis statement is to use your own words and avoid quoting or plagiarizing others.
A well-crafted thesis statement is a hallmark of quality academic writing and reflects your ideas as a researcher – showing your enthusiasm, commitment and intelligence in producing your paper.