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Thesis Statements —
Help Writing Your Thesis Statement

 

Excerpts from an article about thesis statements, written by Dr. Wendy Carter for FinishLine, the free newsletter of TA-DA!™, which provides graduate students with tips, tools, and techniques for completing a thesis or dissertation.

What Is a Thesis Statement?

If you’re looking for examples of thesis statements or sample thesis statements, you probably have an academic thesis to write.

  • • An academic thesis is a substantial academic paper written on an original topic of research. A thesis is usually one of the final requirements for a Master’s or Ph.D. degree.
  • • A thesis statement:
    • • Is an initial building block of the thesis, and is "a basic argument” that clearly describes what a thesis is expected to demonstrate
    • • Is a sentence or paragraph that summarizes the argument you plan to make in your thesis, and the supportive evidence you plan to use to back up that argument
    • • Provides a “roadmap” for the reader telling where you plan to go with your thesis 
    • • Must persuade the reader that the claim you make is important to your academic field
    • • Must convince the reader that the claim  is likely to be true based on the evidence provided

A Good Thesis Statement:

Makes a knowledge claim offering a new approach or idea in a particular field, and to explain why it is new. The purpose of any academic thesis is to add to the existing pool of knowledge in a particular area, or to “fill in the gaps of knowledge.” 

Makes an argumentative assertion that summarizes the conclusions you have reached about your topic after reviewing the literature.  This assertion must be:

• Specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your thesis

• Identify the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you provide in the paper

Outlines the scope, purpose and direction of your paper. After finishing your thesis statement, readers should clearly know the essence of your intended project, the boundaries you intend to place on it, and no more. Your thesis statement should not make readers expect more than you are presenting in your final document.

Types of Thesis Statements

Analytical: a statement that breaks down an idea piece by piece and analyzes and evaluates each individual part;

Expository: a statement that explains an idea or concept to an audience.

Argumentative: a statement that claims a position that is open to debate and justifies the truth of that position through concrete examples and evidence.

What type of statement you choose to take will depend upon the nature of your research.  Analyzing why you are writing this thesis can provides important clues regarding the approach you should take.

• Are you proposing a new point of view, or agreeing someone else’s point of view with some disagreement or alternative interpretations? 

• Are you trying to make an existing point of view clearer or better in some way?  Or are you criticizing or dismissing an existing point of view because of its inadequacy or irrelevance?

The answers to these questions can help you pinpoint the type of thesis statement you should write.

What Is the Relationship Between a
Thesis Statement and a Research Question?

The thesis statement is a preliminary answer to the research question you pose.  A strong introductory thesis statement, followed by thorough research in the body of the paper, should convince the reader that you are, indeed, addressing and resolving a pertinent research question. The strategic restatement of the thesis statement in the conclusion should carry a convincing rhetorical effect to the readers that your research problem has been resolved.

Narrow down your thesis statement by brainstorming a list of responses to your research question.  Your task is to turn your working research question into a thesis statement.

The type of questions that can be helpful to ask yourself when writing your thesis statement are:

• What am I analyzing, explaining or describing, or what am I claiming or asserting?

• What are the reasons/evidence I have to support my claim or assertion?

• What did I discover in my analysis?

• How can I categorize my discoveries or organize my explanations?

• In what order should I present my discoveries, and the different parts of my explanations and reasons?

Where Does Thesis Statement Appear in the Thesis

The thesis statement is usually, though not always, expressed in several sentences or in a whole paragraph at your paper's opening. In addition, each result chapter in your document should have an introduction and a thesis statement. This is important because a thesis is such a long document, readers need reminders of the research question your document is designed to resolve.

Finding a Starting Point When Writing a Thesis Statement

Getting started is always tough. However, the first step to writing an effective, strong thesis statement is to begin with your purpose and audience. 

• What purpose do you wish to achieve? 

• What viewpoint do you wish your reader to adopt?

• What do you want to describe or explain? 

Articulating the answers to these questions is the major part of the battle. Begin by getting your thoughts down on paper. Once you do that, the rest will flow much more easily. Don’t attempt to write anything polished when beginning.

Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.

 

Don't wait until your coursework or qualifying/preliminary exams are finished to start writing your thesis or dissertation.

 

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