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Thesis or No Thesis: Research Papers Explained

Writing research papers is a common task for university students, but the requirements and expectations of such tasks can vary greatly depending on whether or not the student is expected to produce a thesis. This article will provide an overview of these two types of assignments, their key differences, and advice for successfully writing either type. We will cover topics including what constitutes each assignment’s primary purpose; content requirements; time commitments; and ultimately which type might be best suited for your individual needs in terms of academic success.

I. Introduction to Thesis or No Thesis: Research Papers Explained

Ii. advantages and disadvantages of writing a thesis for a research paper, iii. what is required when choosing the option of not writing a thesis, iv. benefits of not writing a thesis in an academic setting, v. factors that may influence the decision on whether to write a thesis or not, vi. key considerations regarding crafting a non-thetical project, vii. conclusion – weighing out pros and cons before making your choice.

Research papers can either require a thesis or not. It all depends on the type of paper and what subject it is focusing on. When considering whether a research paper requires a thesis, there are several key points to consider.

  • The scope of the topic: If you’re writing about an overview of something broad such as cultural differences between two countries, then your research paper may be better suited without one specific argument laid out in a thesis statement.
  • The complexity level: Complex topics usually do need some form of guiding thread which will often take shape with the help of well-crafted arguments from within your thesis statement.
  • Your audience: Your readers will determine how formal or informal your final product needs to be. An academic project might need more rigor than if you were presenting at an industry conference for example.

In conclusion, it’s important to note that no matter what direction you take when deciding does research paper need a thesis—it should ultimately remain focused enough so that any conclusions drawn through researching this particular topic stay firmly grounded.

The choice to write a thesis for a research paper can be both advantageous and disadvantageous, depending on the context. It is important to consider each option carefully before making a final decision.

One of the primary advantages of writing a thesis is that it demonstrates an in-depth knowledge about the topic being studied. Writing an effective thesis requires extensive research into related topics and trends in order to arrive at informed conclusions. Additionally, developing one’s own hypotheses allows for more creative expression when compared with simply summarizing existing data or literature reviews. Finally, having written out these ideas provides readers with tangible evidence regarding your understanding of the subject matter, potentially leading to greater recognition within academia as well as among peers working within similar fields.

  • Disadvantages

Writing a thesis also has certain drawbacks; namely, it may require substantial additional time commitments which could delay other obligations such as work responsibilities or family commitments. Furthermore, does every research paper need its own unique thesis? In some cases no – providing thorough analysis without an explicit statement would suffice – while others may require originality from start-to-finish due to supervisor requirements or academic protocols applicable within specific disciplines/universities etc.. Lastly – another challenge associated with composing powerful statements are potential language barriers encountered by non native speakers who might not be able understand subtle nuances required during proofreading processes prior submission deadlines .

What You Need to Know When the option of not writing a thesis is chosen, certain requirements must still be met. It’s important to understand what those are in order to get an adequate grade and obtain your degree:

  • Courses taken during the program should reflect expertise in one specific field.

Taking courses that offer practical experience or focused study into a particular topic can demonstrate a student’s ability to delve deeply into an area within their major concentration. Furthermore, faculty advisors may require students taking this route submit evidence demonstrating they have attained mastery of subject matter through coursework as well as comprehensive examinations or research papers.

  • Does research paper need a thesis?

Generally speaking, no – though it varies by school and department guidelines. For example, some schools may require all master’s programs involving advanced work include either a project-based capstone such as laboratory experiment write up or written essay outlining the results found over the duration of their studies; whereas other institutions might waive such stipulations if there has been sufficient scholarly engagement with the material throughout prior semesters. Ultimately any decision on whether or not one must produce original research for graduation will depend on how much previous academic rigor has gone towards developing knowledge related to one’s career pursuits outside academia.

For many students, foregoing the thesis requirement can be beneficial in multiple ways. It gives them more time to focus on their studies or pursue other interests without worrying about a looming deadline.

  • No Pressured Deadline: Not having to write and submit a research paper allows for less stress and pressure throughout the academic year. Students who don’t have to worry about such an important piece of work are free from any expectations regarding timely completion.

The freedom that comes with not writing a thesis also enables one to explore new topics they may find interesting as opposed to ones related only what is being taught in class. Developing New Skills: This provides opportunities for growth outside of traditional courses, allowing students experience subjects at length which could potentially result in gaining valuable skills relevant even after leaving academia.

  • More Focus On Coursework: Having no requirements outside of course-related tasks permits greater attention towards classes than if there was another project taking up precious time. This means higher grades across the board as well as possible internships or job offers due better performance overall.

In considering whether to write a thesis, there are several factors that may influence the decision. Firstly, it is important to assess how much interest and enthusiasm you have for your topic of study. Writing a thesis takes considerable effort and dedication over an extended period of time – if your level of passion does not match this then the project could quickly become difficult or unpleasant.

A second factor relates to any career goals or ambitions you may have: in certain fields, such as academia, research-based qualifications can be extremely beneficial when seeking employment opportunities. Depending on these aspirations it might be worth undertaking a dissertation even where less enthusiasm exists initially – though remember not all courses require completion of one in order to graduate! On the other hand does research paper need a thesis? , typically no; often more suitable for shorter assignments due their manageable nature.

Structuring the Content: When crafting a non-thesis project, it is important to structure your content thoughtfully. Begin by outlining key topics and ideas you will cover in the paper. This provides guidance for writing each section and allows you to review potential points of inquiry before diving into research. It also helps ensure that all elements are addressed in an organized fashion.

In contrast to traditional thesis papers, there is no required format or length for a non-thesis paper; however, be sure to consider any guidelines provided by your professor when determining how many pages should be included in yours. Additionally, although there does not need to be one overarching thesis statement at the end of such projects – given their goal of informing readers about multiple viewpoints – individual evidence must still support factual claims made within the text.

  • Does Research Paper Need A Thesis?

The process of making a decision is often one that requires careful consideration. As such, it is necessary to weigh out the pros and cons before committing to any course of action. This paper has presented two viable options for navigating an uncertain future: continuing traditional energy sources or transitioning towards renewable alternatives. The research conducted indicates that while both have their merits, neither option can be seen as wholly preferable over the other in all circumstances.

On one hand, renewable energies offer many benefits including environmental protection and economic development potential with long-term sustainability gains. However, these solutions are limited by cost barriers which must first be surmounted before they become realistic prospects for wider adoption on a global scale.

Conversely, conventional fossil fuels remain entrenched due to proven reliability and scalability in meeting current demand levels worldwide without needing significant investments from governments or private sector stakeholders. Ultimately this research paper does not answer whether there is a definitive winner between these two paths but rather provides insight into how each side could potentially contribute towards solving our climate crisis going forward. In order to make the best choice possible when confronted with this conundrum there should ideally be concerted efforts from multiple sectors working together for mutually beneficial goals regardless of whichever path ultimately gets chosen – no matter if its renewables or non-renewables at play here.

English: In conclusion, it is clear that the decision of whether to pursue a thesis or no thesis research paper depends on individual factors such as the nature and scope of the project at hand. Both methods offer valuable advantages in terms of time management and focus; however, they also present unique challenges which should be considered before embarking upon any undertaking. With an understanding of these key distinctions, students are better equipped to make informed decisions about their own projects and produce work that meets their goals with success.

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Writing a paper: thesis statements, basics of thesis statements.

The thesis statement is the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose. You might hear it referred to as simply a "thesis." Every scholarly paper should have a thesis statement, and strong thesis statements are concise, specific, and arguable. Concise means the thesis is short: perhaps one or two sentences for a shorter paper. Specific means the thesis deals with a narrow and focused topic, appropriate to the paper's length. Arguable means that a scholar in your field could disagree (or perhaps already has!).

Strong thesis statements address specific intellectual questions, have clear positions, and use a structure that reflects the overall structure of the paper. Read on to learn more about constructing a strong thesis statement.

Being Specific

This thesis statement has no specific argument:

Needs Improvement: In this essay, I will examine two scholarly articles to find similarities and differences.

This statement is concise, but it is neither specific nor arguable—a reader might wonder, "Which scholarly articles? What is the topic of this paper? What field is the author writing in?" Additionally, the purpose of the paper—to "examine…to find similarities and differences" is not of a scholarly level. Identifying similarities and differences is a good first step, but strong academic argument goes further, analyzing what those similarities and differences might mean or imply.

Better: In this essay, I will argue that Bowler's (2003) autocratic management style, when coupled with Smith's (2007) theory of social cognition, can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover.

The new revision here is still concise, as well as specific and arguable.  We can see that it is specific because the writer is mentioning (a) concrete ideas and (b) exact authors.  We can also gather the field (business) and the topic (management and employee turnover). The statement is arguable because the student goes beyond merely comparing; he or she draws conclusions from that comparison ("can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover").

Making a Unique Argument

This thesis draft repeats the language of the writing prompt without making a unique argument:

Needs Improvement: The purpose of this essay is to monitor, assess, and evaluate an educational program for its strengths and weaknesses. Then, I will provide suggestions for improvement.

You can see here that the student has simply stated the paper's assignment, without articulating specifically how he or she will address it. The student can correct this error simply by phrasing the thesis statement as a specific answer to the assignment prompt.

Better: Through a series of student interviews, I found that Kennedy High School's antibullying program was ineffective. In order to address issues of conflict between students, I argue that Kennedy High School should embrace policies outlined by the California Department of Education (2010).

Words like "ineffective" and "argue" show here that the student has clearly thought through the assignment and analyzed the material; he or she is putting forth a specific and debatable position. The concrete information ("student interviews," "antibullying") further prepares the reader for the body of the paper and demonstrates how the student has addressed the assignment prompt without just restating that language.

Creating a Debate

This thesis statement includes only obvious fact or plot summary instead of argument:

Needs Improvement: Leadership is an important quality in nurse educators.

A good strategy to determine if your thesis statement is too broad (and therefore, not arguable) is to ask yourself, "Would a scholar in my field disagree with this point?" Here, we can see easily that no scholar is likely to argue that leadership is an unimportant quality in nurse educators.  The student needs to come up with a more arguable claim, and probably a narrower one; remember that a short paper needs a more focused topic than a dissertation.

Better: Roderick's (2009) theory of participatory leadership  is particularly appropriate to nurse educators working within the emergency medicine field, where students benefit most from collegial and kinesthetic learning.

Here, the student has identified a particular type of leadership ("participatory leadership"), narrowing the topic, and has made an arguable claim (this type of leadership is "appropriate" to a specific type of nurse educator). Conceivably, a scholar in the nursing field might disagree with this approach. The student's paper can now proceed, providing specific pieces of evidence to support the arguable central claim.

Choosing the Right Words

This thesis statement uses large or scholarly-sounding words that have no real substance:

Needs Improvement: Scholars should work to seize metacognitive outcomes by harnessing discipline-based networks to empower collaborative infrastructures.

There are many words in this sentence that may be buzzwords in the student's field or key terms taken from other texts, but together they do not communicate a clear, specific meaning. Sometimes students think scholarly writing means constructing complex sentences using special language, but actually it's usually a stronger choice to write clear, simple sentences. When in doubt, remember that your ideas should be complex, not your sentence structure.

Better: Ecologists should work to educate the U.S. public on conservation methods by making use of local and national green organizations to create a widespread communication plan.

Notice in the revision that the field is now clear (ecology), and the language has been made much more field-specific ("conservation methods," "green organizations"), so the reader is able to see concretely the ideas the student is communicating.

Leaving Room for Discussion

This thesis statement is not capable of development or advancement in the paper:

Needs Improvement: There are always alternatives to illegal drug use.

This sample thesis statement makes a claim, but it is not a claim that will sustain extended discussion. This claim is the type of claim that might be appropriate for the conclusion of a paper, but in the beginning of the paper, the student is left with nowhere to go. What further points can be made? If there are "always alternatives" to the problem the student is identifying, then why bother developing a paper around that claim? Ideally, a thesis statement should be complex enough to explore over the length of the entire paper.

Better: The most effective treatment plan for methamphetamine addiction may be a combination of pharmacological and cognitive therapy, as argued by Baker (2008), Smith (2009), and Xavier (2011).

In the revised thesis, you can see the student make a specific, debatable claim that has the potential to generate several pages' worth of discussion. When drafting a thesis statement, think about the questions your thesis statement will generate: What follow-up inquiries might a reader have? In the first example, there are almost no additional questions implied, but the revised example allows for a good deal more exploration.

Thesis Mad Libs

If you are having trouble getting started, try using the models below to generate a rough model of a thesis statement! These models are intended for drafting purposes only and should not appear in your final work.

  • In this essay, I argue ____, using ______ to assert _____.
  • While scholars have often argued ______, I argue______, because_______.
  • Through an analysis of ______, I argue ______, which is important because_______.

Words to Avoid and to Embrace

When drafting your thesis statement, avoid words like explore, investigate, learn, compile, summarize , and explain to describe the main purpose of your paper. These words imply a paper that summarizes or "reports," rather than synthesizing and analyzing.

Instead of the terms above, try words like argue, critique, question , and interrogate . These more analytical words may help you begin strongly, by articulating a specific, critical, scholarly position.

Read Kayla's blog post for tips on taking a stand in a well-crafted thesis statement.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Developing Strong Thesis Statements

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These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.

The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable

An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.

Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:

This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is unambiguously good.

Example of a debatable thesis statement:

This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation's money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.

Another example of a debatable thesis statement:

In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.

The thesis needs to be narrow

Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.

Example of a thesis that is too broad:

There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category "drugs"? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by "society"? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.

Example of a narrow or focused thesis:

In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.

We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:

Narrowed debatable thesis 1:

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.

Narrowed debatable thesis 2:

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.

Qualifiers such as " typically ," " generally ," " usually ," or " on average " also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.

Types of claims

Claims typically fall into one of four categories. Thinking about how you want to approach your topic, or, in other words, what type of claim you want to make, is one way to focus your thesis on one particular aspect of your broader topic.

Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact. Example:

Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur. Example:

Claims about value: These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something. Example:

Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem. Example:

Which type of claim is right for your argument? Which type of thesis or claim you use for your argument will depend on your position and knowledge of the topic, your audience, and the context of your paper. You might want to think about where you imagine your audience to be on this topic and pinpoint where you think the biggest difference in viewpoints might be. Even if you start with one type of claim you probably will be using several within the paper. Regardless of the type of claim you choose to utilize it is key to identify the controversy or debate you are addressing and to define your position early on in the paper.

Developing a Thesis Statement

Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.

Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements . If in doubt, please consult your instructor for assistance.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement . . .

  • Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic.
  • Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper.
  • Is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.
  • Is generally located near the end of the introduction ; sometimes, in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.
  • Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.

Not all papers require thesis statements! Ask your instructor if you’re in doubt whether you need one.

Identify a topic

Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper.

Consider what your assignment asks you to do

Inform yourself about your topic, focus on one aspect of your topic, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts, generate a topic from an assignment.

Below are some possible topics based on sample assignments.

Sample assignment 1

Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II.

Identified topic

Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis

This topic avoids generalities such as “Spain” and “World War II,” addressing instead on Franco’s role (a specific aspect of “Spain”) and the diplomatic relations between the Allies and Axis (a specific aspect of World War II).

Sample assignment 2

Analyze one of Homer’s epic similes in the Iliad.

The relationship between the portrayal of warfare and the epic simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64.

This topic focuses on a single simile and relates it to a single aspect of the Iliad ( warfare being a major theme in that work).

Developing a Thesis Statement–Additional information

Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic, or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. You’ll want to read your assignment carefully, looking for key terms that you can use to focus your topic.

Sample assignment: Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II Key terms: analyze, Spain’s neutrality, World War II

After you’ve identified the key words in your topic, the next step is to read about them in several sources, or generate as much information as possible through an analysis of your topic. Obviously, the more material or knowledge you have, the more possibilities will be available for a strong argument. For the sample assignment above, you’ll want to look at books and articles on World War II in general, and Spain’s neutrality in particular.

As you consider your options, you must decide to focus on one aspect of your topic. This means that you cannot include everything you’ve learned about your topic, nor should you go off in several directions. If you end up covering too many different aspects of a topic, your paper will sprawl and be unconvincing in its argument, and it most likely will not fulfull the assignment requirements.

For the sample assignment above, both Spain’s neutrality and World War II are topics far too broad to explore in a paper. You may instead decide to focus on Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis , which narrows down what aspects of Spain’s neutrality and World War II you want to discuss, as well as establishes a specific link between those two aspects.

Before you go too far, however, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts. Try to avoid topics that already have too much written about them (i.e., “eating disorders and body image among adolescent women”) or that simply are not important (i.e. “why I like ice cream”). These topics may lead to a thesis that is either dry fact or a weird claim that cannot be supported. A good thesis falls somewhere between the two extremes. To arrive at this point, ask yourself what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about your topic.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times . Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Derive a main point from topic

Once you have a topic, you will have to decide what the main point of your paper will be. This point, the “controlling idea,” becomes the core of your argument (thesis statement) and it is the unifying idea to which you will relate all your sub-theses. You can then turn this “controlling idea” into a purpose statement about what you intend to do in your paper.

Look for patterns in your evidence

Compose a purpose statement.

Consult the examples below for suggestions on how to look for patterns in your evidence and construct a purpose statement.

  • Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis
  • Franco turned to the Allies when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from the Axis

Possible conclusion:

Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: Franco’s desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power.

Purpose statement

This paper will analyze Franco’s diplomacy during World War II to see how it contributed to Spain’s neutrality.
  • The simile compares Simoisius to a tree, which is a peaceful, natural image.
  • The tree in the simile is chopped down to make wheels for a chariot, which is an object used in warfare.

At first, the simile seems to take the reader away from the world of warfare, but we end up back in that world by the end.

This paper will analyze the way the simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64 moves in and out of the world of warfare.

Derive purpose statement from topic

To find out what your “controlling idea” is, you have to examine and evaluate your evidence . As you consider your evidence, you may notice patterns emerging, data repeated in more than one source, or facts that favor one view more than another. These patterns or data may then lead you to some conclusions about your topic and suggest that you can successfully argue for one idea better than another.

For instance, you might find out that Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis, but when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from them, he turned to the Allies. As you read more about Franco’s decisions, you may conclude that Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: his desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power. Based on this conclusion, you can then write a trial thesis statement to help you decide what material belongs in your paper.

Sometimes you won’t be able to find a focus or identify your “spin” or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn . Thus, you might begin with something like this:

  • This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression.
  • I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society’s authority.

At some point, you can turn a purpose statement into a thesis statement. As you think and write about your topic, you can restrict, clarify, and refine your argument, crafting your thesis statement to reflect your thinking.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Compose a draft thesis statement

If you are writing a paper that will have an argumentative thesis and are having trouble getting started, the techniques in the table below may help you develop a temporary or “working” thesis statement.

Begin with a purpose statement that you will later turn into a thesis statement.

Assignment: Discuss the history of the Reform Party and explain its influence on the 1990 presidential and Congressional election.

Purpose Statement: This paper briefly sketches the history of the grassroots, conservative, Perot-led Reform Party and analyzes how it influenced the economic and social ideologies of the two mainstream parties.

Question-to-Assertion

If your assignment asks a specific question(s), turn the question(s) into an assertion and give reasons why it is true or reasons for your opinion.

Assignment : What do Aylmer and Rappaccini have to be proud of? Why aren’t they satisfied with these things? How does pride, as demonstrated in “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” lead to unexpected problems?

Beginning thesis statement: Alymer and Rappaccinni are proud of their great knowledge; however, they are also very greedy and are driven to use their knowledge to alter some aspect of nature as a test of their ability. Evil results when they try to “play God.”

Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.

Main idea: The reason some toys succeed in the market is that they appeal to the consumers’ sense of the ridiculous and their basic desire to laugh at themselves.

Make a list of the ideas that you want to include; consider the ideas and try to group them.

  • nature = peaceful
  • war matériel = violent (competes with 1?)
  • need for time and space to mourn the dead
  • war is inescapable (competes with 3?)

Use a formula to arrive at a working thesis statement (you will revise this later).

  • although most readers of _______ have argued that _______, closer examination shows that _______.
  • _______ uses _______ and _____ to prove that ________.
  • phenomenon x is a result of the combination of __________, __________, and _________.

What to keep in mind as you draft an initial thesis statement

Beginning statements obtained through the methods illustrated above can serve as a framework for planning or drafting your paper, but remember they’re not yet the specific, argumentative thesis you want for the final version of your paper. In fact, in its first stages, a thesis statement usually is ill-formed or rough and serves only as a planning tool.

As you write, you may discover evidence that does not fit your temporary or “working” thesis. Or you may reach deeper insights about your topic as you do more research, and you will find that your thesis statement has to be more complicated to match the evidence that you want to use.

You must be willing to reject or omit some evidence in order to keep your paper cohesive and your reader focused. Or you may have to revise your thesis to match the evidence and insights that you want to discuss. Read your draft carefully, noting the conclusions you have drawn and the major ideas which support or prove those conclusions. These will be the elements of your final thesis statement.

Sometimes you will not be able to identify these elements in your early drafts, but as you consider how your argument is developing and how your evidence supports your main idea, ask yourself, “ What is the main point that I want to prove/discuss? ” and “ How will I convince the reader that this is true? ” When you can answer these questions, then you can begin to refine the thesis statement.

Refine and polish the thesis statement

To get to your final thesis, you’ll need to refine your draft thesis so that it’s specific and arguable.

  • Ask if your draft thesis addresses the assignment
  • Question each part of your draft thesis
  • Clarify vague phrases and assertions
  • Investigate alternatives to your draft thesis

Consult the example below for suggestions on how to refine your draft thesis statement.

Sample Assignment

Choose an activity and define it as a symbol of American culture. Your essay should cause the reader to think critically about the society which produces and enjoys that activity.

  • Ask The phenomenon of drive-in facilities is an interesting symbol of american culture, and these facilities demonstrate significant characteristics of our society.This statement does not fulfill the assignment because it does not require the reader to think critically about society.
Drive-ins are an interesting symbol of American culture because they represent Americans’ significant creativity and business ingenuity.
Among the types of drive-in facilities familiar during the twentieth century, drive-in movie theaters best represent American creativity, not merely because they were the forerunner of later drive-ins and drive-throughs, but because of their impact on our culture: they changed our relationship to the automobile, changed the way people experienced movies, and changed movie-going into a family activity.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast-food establishments, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize America’s economic ingenuity, they also have affected our personal standards.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast- food restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize (1) Americans’ business ingenuity, they also have contributed (2) to an increasing homogenization of our culture, (3) a willingness to depersonalize relationships with others, and (4) a tendency to sacrifice quality for convenience.

This statement is now specific and fulfills all parts of the assignment. This version, like any good thesis, is not self-evident; its points, 1-4, will have to be proven with evidence in the body of the paper. The numbers in this statement indicate the order in which the points will be presented. Depending on the length of the paper, there could be one paragraph for each numbered item or there could be blocks of paragraph for even pages for each one.

Complete the final thesis statement

The bottom line.

As you move through the process of crafting a thesis, you’ll need to remember four things:

  • Context matters! Think about your course materials and lectures. Try to relate your thesis to the ideas your instructor is discussing.
  • As you go through the process described in this section, always keep your assignment in mind . You will be more successful when your thesis (and paper) responds to the assignment than if it argues a semi-related idea.
  • Your thesis statement should be precise, focused, and contestable ; it should predict the sub-theses or blocks of information that you will use to prove your argument.
  • Make sure that you keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Change your thesis as your paper evolves, because you do not want your thesis to promise more than your paper actually delivers.

In the beginning, the thesis statement was a tool to help you sharpen your focus, limit material and establish the paper’s purpose. When your paper is finished, however, the thesis statement becomes a tool for your reader. It tells the reader what you have learned about your topic and what evidence led you to your conclusion. It keeps the reader on track–well able to understand and appreciate your argument.

thesis academic writing or not

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.

Introduction

Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I create a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to  be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:

Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.

You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.

  • Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?

After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:

Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.

This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.

Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

You begin to analyze your thesis:

  • Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.

Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
  • Do I answer the question? Yes!
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”

After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to write a thesis statement + examples

Thesis statement

What is a thesis statement?

Is a thesis statement a question, how do you write a good thesis statement, how do i know if my thesis statement is good, examples of thesis statements, helpful resources on how to write a thesis statement, frequently asked questions about writing a thesis statement, related articles.

A thesis statement is the main argument of your paper or thesis.

The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any piece of academic writing . It is a brief statement of your paper’s main argument. Essentially, you are stating what you will be writing about.

You can see your thesis statement as an answer to a question. While it also contains the question, it should really give an answer to the question with new information and not just restate or reiterate it.

Your thesis statement is part of your introduction. Learn more about how to write a good thesis introduction in our introduction guide .

A thesis statement is not a question. A statement must be arguable and provable through evidence and analysis. While your thesis might stem from a research question, it should be in the form of a statement.

Tip: A thesis statement is typically 1-2 sentences. For a longer project like a thesis, the statement may be several sentences or a paragraph.

A good thesis statement needs to do the following:

  • Condense the main idea of your thesis into one or two sentences.
  • Answer your project’s main research question.
  • Clearly state your position in relation to the topic .
  • Make an argument that requires support or evidence.

Once you have written down a thesis statement, check if it fulfills the following criteria:

  • Your statement needs to be provable by evidence. As an argument, a thesis statement needs to be debatable.
  • Your statement needs to be precise. Do not give away too much information in the thesis statement and do not load it with unnecessary information.
  • Your statement cannot say that one solution is simply right or simply wrong as a matter of fact. You should draw upon verified facts to persuade the reader of your solution, but you cannot just declare something as right or wrong.

As previously mentioned, your thesis statement should answer a question.

If the question is:

What do you think the City of New York should do to reduce traffic congestion?

A good thesis statement restates the question and answers it:

In this paper, I will argue that the City of New York should focus on providing exclusive lanes for public transport and adaptive traffic signals to reduce traffic congestion by the year 2035.

Here is another example. If the question is:

How can we end poverty?

A good thesis statement should give more than one solution to the problem in question:

In this paper, I will argue that introducing universal basic income can help reduce poverty and positively impact the way we work.

  • The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina has a list of questions to ask to see if your thesis is strong .

A thesis statement is part of the introduction of your paper. It is usually found in the first or second paragraph to let the reader know your research purpose from the beginning.

In general, a thesis statement should have one or two sentences. But the length really depends on the overall length of your project. Take a look at our guide about the length of thesis statements for more insight on this topic.

Here is a list of Thesis Statement Examples that will help you understand better how to write them.

Every good essay should include a thesis statement as part of its introduction, no matter the academic level. Of course, if you are a high school student you are not expected to have the same type of thesis as a PhD student.

Here is a great YouTube tutorial showing How To Write An Essay: Thesis Statements .

thesis academic writing or not

  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Academic Writing Style
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise. Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Like specialist languages adopted in other professions, such as, law or medicine, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts within a community of scholarly experts and practitioners.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020.

Importance of Good Academic Writing

The accepted form of academic writing in the social sciences can vary considerable depending on the methodological framework and the intended audience. However, most college-level research papers require careful attention to the following stylistic elements:

I.  The Big Picture Unlike creative or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohesive and possess a logically organized flow of ideas; this means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be narrative links between sentences and paragraphs so that the reader is able to follow your argument. The introduction should include a description of how the rest of the paper is organized and all sources are properly cited throughout the paper.

II.  Tone The overall tone refers to the attitude conveyed in a piece of writing. Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate narrative tone. When presenting a position or argument that you disagree with, describe this argument accurately and without loaded or biased language. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. You should, therefore, state the strengths of your arguments confidently, using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.

III.  Diction Diction refers to the choice of words you use. Awareness of the words you use is important because words that have almost the same denotation [dictionary definition] can have very different connotations [implied meanings]. This is particularly true in academic writing because words and terminology can evolve a nuanced meaning that describes a particular idea, concept, or phenomenon derived from the epistemological culture of that discipline [e.g., the concept of rational choice in political science]. Therefore, use concrete words [not general] that convey a specific meaning. If this cannot be done without confusing the reader, then you need to explain what you mean within the context of how that word or phrase is used within a discipline.

IV.  Language The investigation of research problems in the social sciences is often complex and multi- dimensional . Therefore, it is important that you use unambiguous language. Well-structured paragraphs and clear topic sentences enable a reader to follow your line of thinking without difficulty. Your language should be concise, formal, and express precisely what you want it to mean. Do not use vague expressions that are not specific or precise enough for the reader to derive exact meaning ["they," "we," "people," "the organization," etc.], abbreviations like 'i.e.'  ["in other words"], 'e.g.' ["for example"], or 'a.k.a.' ["also known as"], and the use of unspecific determinate words ["super," "very," "incredible," "huge," etc.].

V.  Punctuation Scholars rely on precise words and language to establish the narrative tone of their work and, therefore, punctuation marks are used very deliberately. For example, exclamation points are rarely used to express a heightened tone because it can come across as unsophisticated or over-excited. Dashes should be limited to the insertion of an explanatory comment in a sentence, while hyphens should be limited to connecting prefixes to words [e.g., multi-disciplinary] or when forming compound phrases [e.g., commander-in-chief]. Finally, understand that semi-colons represent a pause that is longer than a comma, but shorter than a period in a sentence. In general, there are four grammatical uses of semi-colons: when a second clause expands or explains the first clause; to describe a sequence of actions or different aspects of the same topic; placed before clauses which begin with "nevertheless", "therefore", "even so," and "for instance”; and, to mark off a series of phrases or clauses which contain commas. If you are not confident about when to use semi-colons [and most of the time, they are not required for proper punctuation], rewrite using shorter sentences or revise the paragraph.

VI.  Academic Conventions Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references as either footnotes or endnotes is a key feature of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, data, paraphrased, or quoted text that you have used in your paper as a defense against allegations of plagiarism. Even more important, the scholarly convention of citing sources allow readers to identify the resources you used in writing your paper so they can independently verify and assess the quality of findings and conclusions based on your review of the literature. Examples of other academic conventions to follow include the appropriate use of headings and subheadings, properly spelling out acronyms when first used in the text, avoiding slang or colloquial language, avoiding emotive language or unsupported declarative statements, avoiding contractions [e.g., isn't], and using first person and second person pronouns only when necessary.

VII.  Evidence-Based Reasoning Assignments often ask you to express your own point of view about the research problem. However, what is valued in academic writing is that statements are based on evidence-based reasoning. This refers to possessing a clear understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that exist within, and often external to, your discipline concerning the topic. You need to support your arguments with evidence from scholarly [i.e., academic or peer-reviewed] sources. It should be an objective stance presented as a logical argument; the quality of the evidence you cite will determine the strength of your argument. The objective is to convince the reader of the validity of your thoughts through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing. This is particularly important when proposing solutions to problems or delineating recommended courses of action.

VIII.  Thesis-Driven Academic writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or position applied to the chosen topic of investigation, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions applied to investigating the research problem. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how you will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects you believe are most critical, or suggest a method for gathering information or data to better understand the problem.

IX.  Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking Academic writing addresses complex issues that require higher-order thinking skills applied to understanding the research problem [e.g., critical, reflective, logical, and creative thinking as opposed to, for example, descriptive or prescriptive thinking]. Higher-order thinking skills include cognitive processes that are used to comprehend, solve problems, and express concepts or that describe abstract ideas that cannot be easily acted out, pointed to, or shown with images. Think of your writing this way: One of the most important attributes of a good teacher is the ability to explain complexity in a way that is understandable and relatable to the topic being presented during class. This is also one of the main functions of academic writing--examining and explaining the significance of complex ideas as clearly as possible.  As a writer, you must adopt the role of a good teacher by summarizing complex information into a well-organized synthesis of ideas, concepts, and recommendations that contribute to a better understanding of the research problem.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Roy. Improve Your Writing Skills . Manchester, UK: Clifton Press, 1995; Nygaard, Lynn P. Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard . Second edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2015; Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007; Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice. Writing Center, Wheaton College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Strategies for...

Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon

The very definition of research jargon is language specific to a particular community of practitioner-researchers . Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to words and phrases specific to a discipline or area of study. For example, the idea of being rational may hold the same general meaning in both political science and psychology, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research domain of a each discipline may have subtle differences based upon how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.

Given this, it is important that specialist terminology [i.e., jargon] must be used accurately and applied under the appropriate conditions . Subject-specific dictionaries are the best places to confirm the meaning of terms within the context of a specific discipline. These can be found by either searching in the USC Libraries catalog by entering the disciplinary and the word dictionary [e.g., sociology and dictionary] or using a database such as Credo Reference [a curated collection of subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, guides from highly regarded publishers] . It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but you should avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.

Problems with Opaque Writing

A common criticism of scholars is that they can utilize needlessly complex syntax or overly expansive vocabulary that is impenetrable or not well-defined. When writing, avoid problems associated with opaque writing by keeping in mind the following:

1.   Excessive use of specialized terminology . Yes, it is appropriate for you to use specialist language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of complex or obscure words or writing complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your paper is more about style than substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about. Focus on creating clear, concise, and elegant prose that minimizes reliance on specialized terminology.

2.   Inappropriate use of specialized terminology . Because you are dealing with concepts, research, and data within your discipline, you need to use the technical language appropriate to that area of study. However, nothing will undermine the validity of your study quicker than the inappropriate application of a term or concept. Avoid using terms whose meaning you are unsure of--do not just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or the Credo Reference database [see above].

Additional Problems to Avoid

In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should be aware of. These problems include:

  • Personal nouns . Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. These words can be interpreted as being used only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem. Limit the use of personal nouns to descriptions of things you actually did [e.g., "I interviewed ten teachers about classroom management techniques..."]. Note that personal nouns are generally found in the discussion section of a paper because this is where you as the author/researcher interpret and describe your work.
  • Directives . Avoid directives that demand the reader to "do this" or "do that." Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations or goals leading to specific outcomes. Note that an exception to this can be found in various forms of action research that involve evidence-based advocacy for social justice or transformative change. Within this area of the social sciences, authors may offer directives for action in a declarative tone of urgency.
  • Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms . Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they can be open to interpretation. Your writing should be direct and concise using standard English.
  • Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and developing a narrative that does not have confusing language . By doing so, you  help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the design and purpose of your study.
  • Vague expressions (e.g., "they," "we," "people," "the company," "that area," etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper, be sure to look for and edit any vague or imprecise statements that lack context or specificity.
  • Numbered lists and bulleted items . The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, "The four main problems with hedge funds are:" and then list them as 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing, this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item arranged in separate paragraphs? Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols.
  • Descriptive writing . Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study. In fact, some description or background information may be needed because you can not assume the reader knows the key aspects of the topic. However, the content of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem rather than background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
  • Personal experience. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease] can be an effective way of introducing the research problem or engaging your readers in understanding its significance. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.

NOTE:   Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone.  A quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it or using a different quote to convey the same meaning. Consider inserting the term "sic" in brackets after the quoted text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source had grammar, spelling, or other errors. The adverb sic informs the reader that the errors are not yours.

Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Eileen S. “Action Research.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education . Edited by George W. Noblit and Joseph R. Neikirk. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students' Research Proposals. English Education Department. Yogyakarta State University; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Structure and Writing Style

I. Improving Academic Writing

To improve your academic writing skills, you should focus your efforts on three key areas: 1.   Clear Writing . The act of thinking about precedes the process of writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from the literature they have reviewed before creating their work. Writing detailed outlines can help you clearly organize your thoughts. Effective academic writing begins with solid planning, so manage your time carefully. 2.  Excellent Grammar . Needless to say, English grammar can be difficult and complex; even the best scholars take many years before they have a command of the major points of good grammar. Take the time to learn the major and minor points of good grammar. Spend time practicing writing and seek detailed feedback from professors. Take advantage of the Writing Center on campus if you need help. Proper punctuation and good proofreading skills can significantly improve academic writing [see sub-tab for proofreading you paper ].

Refer to these three basic resources to help your grammar and writing skills:

  • A good writing reference book, such as, Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style or the St. Martin's Handbook ;
  • A college-level dictionary, such as, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ;
  • The latest edition of Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form .

3.  Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor expresses a preference to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or not, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide rules on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to a style of writing helps with the narrative flow of your paper and improves its readability. Note that some disciplines require a particular style [e.g., education uses APA] so as you write more papers within your major, your familiarity with it will improve.

II. Evaluating Quality of Writing

A useful approach for evaluating the quality of your academic writing is to consider the following issues from the perspective of the reader. While proofreading your final draft, critically assess the following elements in your writing.

  • It is shaped around one clear research problem, and it explains what that problem is from the outset.
  • Your paper tells the reader why the problem is important and why people should know about it.
  • You have accurately and thoroughly informed the reader what has already been published about this problem or others related to it and noted important gaps in the research.
  • You have provided evidence to support your argument that the reader finds convincing.
  • The paper includes a description of how and why particular evidence was collected and analyzed, and why specific theoretical arguments or concepts were used.
  • The paper is made up of paragraphs, each containing only one controlling idea.
  • You indicate how each section of the paper addresses the research problem.
  • You have considered counter-arguments or counter-examples where they are relevant.
  • Arguments, evidence, and their significance have been presented in the conclusion.
  • Limitations of your research have been explained as evidence of the potential need for further study.
  • The narrative flows in a clear, accurate, and well-organized way.

Boscoloa, Pietro, Barbara Arféb, and Mara Quarisaa. “Improving the Quality of Students' Academic Writing: An Intervention Study.” Studies in Higher Education 32 (August 2007): 419-438; Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; Candlin, Christopher. Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach . Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style . College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Writing Tip

Considering the Passive Voice in Academic Writing

In the English language, we are able to construct sentences in the following way: 1.  "The policies of Congress caused the economic crisis." 2.  "The economic crisis was caused by the policies of Congress."

The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether you want to focus on “Congress” and what they did, or on “the economic crisis” and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice. When you want your readers to focus on the "doer" of an action, you can make the "doer"' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb. When you want readers to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence by using the passive form of the verb.

Often in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is doing an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action. The passive voice is useful in academic writing because it allows writers to highlight the most important participants or events within sentences by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.

Use the passive voice when:

  • You want to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself;
  • It is not important who or what did the action;
  • You want to be impersonal or more formal.

Form the passive voice by:

  • Turning the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence.
  • Changing the verb to a passive form by adding the appropriate form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of the main verb.

NOTE: Consult with your professor about using the passive voice before submitting your research paper. Some strongly discourage its use!

Active and Passive Voice. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Diefenbach, Paul. Future of Digital Media Syllabus. Drexel University; Passive Voice. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.  

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SciSpace Resources

What is a thesis | A Complete Guide with Examples

Madalsa

Table of Contents

A thesis is a comprehensive academic paper based on your original research that presents new findings, arguments, and ideas of your study. It’s typically submitted at the end of your master’s degree or as a capstone of your bachelor’s degree.

However, writing a thesis can be laborious, especially for beginners. From the initial challenge of pinpointing a compelling research topic to organizing and presenting findings, the process is filled with potential pitfalls.

Therefore, to help you, this guide talks about what is a thesis. Additionally, it offers revelations and methodologies to transform it from an overwhelming task to a manageable and rewarding academic milestone.

What is a thesis?

A thesis is an in-depth research study that identifies a particular topic of inquiry and presents a clear argument or perspective about that topic using evidence and logic.

Writing a thesis showcases your ability of critical thinking, gathering evidence, and making a compelling argument. Integral to these competencies is thorough research, which not only fortifies your propositions but also confers credibility to your entire study.

Furthermore, there's another phenomenon you might often confuse with the thesis: the ' working thesis .' However, they aren't similar and shouldn't be used interchangeably.

A working thesis, often referred to as a preliminary or tentative thesis, is an initial version of your thesis statement. It serves as a draft or a starting point that guides your research in its early stages.

As you research more and gather more evidence, your initial thesis (aka working thesis) might change. It's like a starting point that can be adjusted as you learn more. It's normal for your main topic to change a few times before you finalize it.

While a thesis identifies and provides an overarching argument, the key to clearly communicating the central point of that argument lies in writing a strong thesis statement.

What is a thesis statement?

A strong thesis statement (aka thesis sentence) is a concise summary of the main argument or claim of the paper. It serves as a critical anchor in any academic work, succinctly encapsulating the primary argument or main idea of the entire paper.

Typically found within the introductory section, a strong thesis statement acts as a roadmap of your thesis, directing readers through your arguments and findings. By delineating the core focus of your investigation, it offers readers an immediate understanding of the context and the gravity of your study.

Furthermore, an effectively crafted thesis statement can set forth the boundaries of your research, helping readers anticipate the specific areas of inquiry you are addressing.

Different types of thesis statements

A good thesis statement is clear, specific, and arguable. Therefore, it is necessary for you to choose the right type of thesis statement for your academic papers.

Thesis statements can be classified based on their purpose and structure. Here are the primary types of thesis statements:

Argumentative (or Persuasive) thesis statement

Purpose : To convince the reader of a particular stance or point of view by presenting evidence and formulating a compelling argument.

Example : Reducing plastic use in daily life is essential for environmental health.

Analytical thesis statement

Purpose : To break down an idea or issue into its components and evaluate it.

Example : By examining the long-term effects, social implications, and economic impact of climate change, it becomes evident that immediate global action is necessary.

Expository (or Descriptive) thesis statement

Purpose : To explain a topic or subject to the reader.

Example : The Great Depression, spanning the 1930s, was a severe worldwide economic downturn triggered by a stock market crash, bank failures, and reduced consumer spending.

Cause and effect thesis statement

Purpose : To demonstrate a cause and its resulting effect.

Example : Overuse of smartphones can lead to impaired sleep patterns, reduced face-to-face social interactions, and increased levels of anxiety.

Compare and contrast thesis statement

Purpose : To highlight similarities and differences between two subjects.

Example : "While both novels '1984' and 'Brave New World' delve into dystopian futures, they differ in their portrayal of individual freedom, societal control, and the role of technology."

When you write a thesis statement , it's important to ensure clarity and precision, so the reader immediately understands the central focus of your work.

What is the difference between a thesis and a thesis statement?

While both terms are frequently used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings.

A thesis refers to the entire research document, encompassing all its chapters and sections. In contrast, a thesis statement is a brief assertion that encapsulates the central argument of the research.

Here’s an in-depth differentiation table of a thesis and a thesis statement.

Now, to craft a compelling thesis, it's crucial to adhere to a specific structure. Let’s break down these essential components that make up a thesis structure

15 components of a thesis structure

Navigating a thesis can be daunting. However, understanding its structure can make the process more manageable.

Here are the key components or different sections of a thesis structure:

Your thesis begins with the title page. It's not just a formality but the gateway to your research.

title-page-of-a-thesis

Here, you'll prominently display the necessary information about you (the author) and your institutional details.

  • Title of your thesis
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date
  • Your Supervisor's name (in some cases)
  • Your Department or faculty (in some cases)
  • Your University's logo (in some cases)
  • Your Student ID (in some cases)

In a concise manner, you'll have to summarize the critical aspects of your research in typically no more than 200-300 words.

Abstract-section-of-a-thesis

This includes the problem statement, methodology, key findings, and conclusions. For many, the abstract will determine if they delve deeper into your work, so ensure it's clear and compelling.

Acknowledgments

Research is rarely a solitary endeavor. In the acknowledgments section, you have the chance to express gratitude to those who've supported your journey.

Acknowledgement-section-of-a-thesis

This might include advisors, peers, institutions, or even personal sources of inspiration and support. It's a personal touch, reflecting the humanity behind the academic rigor.

Table of contents

A roadmap for your readers, the table of contents lists the chapters, sections, and subsections of your thesis.

Table-of-contents-of-a-thesis

By providing page numbers, you allow readers to navigate your work easily, jumping to sections that pique their interest.

List of figures and tables

Research often involves data, and presenting this data visually can enhance understanding. This section provides an organized listing of all figures and tables in your thesis.

List-of-tables-and-figures-in-a-thesis

It's a visual index, ensuring that readers can quickly locate and reference your graphical data.

Introduction

Here's where you introduce your research topic, articulate the research question or objective, and outline the significance of your study.

Introduction-section-of-a-thesis

  • Present the research topic : Clearly articulate the central theme or subject of your research.
  • Background information : Ground your research topic, providing any necessary context or background information your readers might need to understand the significance of your study.
  • Define the scope : Clearly delineate the boundaries of your research, indicating what will and won't be covered.
  • Literature review : Introduce any relevant existing research on your topic, situating your work within the broader academic conversation and highlighting where your research fits in.
  • State the research Question(s) or objective(s) : Clearly articulate the primary questions or objectives your research aims to address.
  • Outline the study's structure : Give a brief overview of how the subsequent sections of your work will unfold, guiding your readers through the journey ahead.

The introduction should captivate your readers, making them eager to delve deeper into your research journey.

Literature review section

Your study correlates with existing research. Therefore, in the literature review section, you'll engage in a dialogue with existing knowledge, highlighting relevant studies, theories, and findings.

Literature-review-section-thesis

It's here that you identify gaps in the current knowledge, positioning your research as a bridge to new insights.

To streamline this process, consider leveraging AI tools. For example, the SciSpace literature review tool enables you to efficiently explore and delve into research papers, simplifying your literature review journey.

Methodology

In the research methodology section, you’ll detail the tools, techniques, and processes you employed to gather and analyze data. This section will inform the readers about how you approached your research questions and ensures the reproducibility of your study.

Methodology-section-thesis

Here's a breakdown of what it should encompass:

  • Research Design : Describe the overall structure and approach of your research. Are you conducting a qualitative study with in-depth interviews? Or is it a quantitative study using statistical analysis? Perhaps it's a mixed-methods approach?
  • Data Collection : Detail the methods you used to gather data. This could include surveys, experiments, observations, interviews, archival research, etc. Mention where you sourced your data, the duration of data collection, and any tools or instruments used.
  • Sampling : If applicable, explain how you selected participants or data sources for your study. Discuss the size of your sample and the rationale behind choosing it.
  • Data Analysis : Describe the techniques and tools you used to process and analyze the data. This could range from statistical tests in quantitative research to thematic analysis in qualitative research.
  • Validity and Reliability : Address the steps you took to ensure the validity and reliability of your findings to ensure that your results are both accurate and consistent.
  • Ethical Considerations : Highlight any ethical issues related to your research and the measures you took to address them, including — informed consent, confidentiality, and data storage and protection measures.

Moreover, different research questions necessitate different types of methodologies. For instance:

  • Experimental methodology : Often used in sciences, this involves a controlled experiment to discern causality.
  • Qualitative methodology : Employed when exploring patterns or phenomena without numerical data. Methods can include interviews, focus groups, or content analysis.
  • Quantitative methodology : Concerned with measurable data and often involves statistical analysis. Surveys and structured observations are common tools here.
  • Mixed methods : As the name implies, this combines both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

The Methodology section isn’t just about detailing the methods but also justifying why they were chosen. The appropriateness of the methods in addressing your research question can significantly impact the credibility of your findings.

Results (or Findings)

This section presents the outcomes of your research. It's crucial to note that the nature of your results may vary; they could be quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of both.

Results-section-thesis

Quantitative results often present statistical data, showcasing measurable outcomes, and they benefit from tables, graphs, and figures to depict these data points.

Qualitative results , on the other hand, might delve into patterns, themes, or narratives derived from non-numerical data, such as interviews or observations.

Regardless of the nature of your results, clarity is essential. This section is purely about presenting the data without offering interpretations — that comes later in the discussion.

In the discussion section, the raw data transforms into valuable insights.

Start by revisiting your research question and contrast it with the findings. How do your results expand, constrict, or challenge current academic conversations?

Dive into the intricacies of the data, guiding the reader through its implications. Detail potential limitations transparently, signaling your awareness of the research's boundaries. This is where your academic voice should be resonant and confident.

Practical implications (Recommendation) section

Based on the insights derived from your research, this section provides actionable suggestions or proposed solutions.

Whether aimed at industry professionals or the general public, recommendations translate your academic findings into potential real-world actions. They help readers understand the practical implications of your work and how it can be applied to effect change or improvement in a given field.

When crafting recommendations, it's essential to ensure they're feasible and rooted in the evidence provided by your research. They shouldn't merely be aspirational but should offer a clear path forward, grounded in your findings.

The conclusion provides closure to your research narrative.

It's not merely a recap but a synthesis of your main findings and their broader implications. Reconnect with the research questions or hypotheses posited at the beginning, offering clear answers based on your findings.

Conclusion-section-thesis

Reflect on the broader contributions of your study, considering its impact on the academic community and potential real-world applications.

Lastly, the conclusion should leave your readers with a clear understanding of the value and impact of your study.

References (or Bibliography)

Every theory you've expounded upon, every data point you've cited, and every methodological precedent you've followed finds its acknowledgment here.

References-section-thesis

In references, it's crucial to ensure meticulous consistency in formatting, mirroring the specific guidelines of the chosen citation style .

Proper referencing helps to avoid plagiarism , gives credit to original ideas, and allows readers to explore topics of interest. Moreover, it situates your work within the continuum of academic knowledge.

To properly cite the sources used in the study, you can rely on online citation generator tools  to generate accurate citations!

Here’s more on how you can cite your sources.

Often, the depth of research produces a wealth of material that, while crucial, can make the core content of the thesis cumbersome. The appendix is where you mention extra information that supports your research but isn't central to the main text.

Appendices-section-thesis

Whether it's raw datasets, detailed procedural methodologies, extended case studies, or any other ancillary material, the appendices ensure that these elements are archived for reference without breaking the main narrative's flow.

For thorough researchers and readers keen on meticulous details, the appendices provide a treasure trove of insights.

Glossary (optional)

In academics, specialized terminologies, and jargon are inevitable. However, not every reader is versed in every term.

The glossary, while optional, is a critical tool for accessibility. It's a bridge ensuring that even readers from outside the discipline can access, understand, and appreciate your work.

Glossary-section-of-a-thesis

By defining complex terms and providing context, you're inviting a wider audience to engage with your research, enhancing its reach and impact.

Remember, while these components provide a structured framework, the essence of your thesis lies in the originality of your ideas, the rigor of your research, and the clarity of your presentation.

As you craft each section, keep your readers in mind, ensuring that your passion and dedication shine through every page.

Thesis examples

To further elucidate the concept of a thesis, here are illustrative examples from various fields:

Example 1 (History): Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807 by Suchait Kahlon.
Example 2 (Climate Dynamics): Influence of external forcings on abrupt millennial-scale climate changes: a statistical modelling study by Takahito Mitsui · Michel Crucifix

Checklist for your thesis evaluation

Evaluating your thesis ensures that your research meets the standards of academia. Here's an elaborate checklist to guide you through this critical process.

Content and structure

  • Is the thesis statement clear, concise, and debatable?
  • Does the introduction provide sufficient background and context?
  • Is the literature review comprehensive, relevant, and well-organized?
  • Does the methodology section clearly describe and justify the research methods?
  • Are the results/findings presented clearly and logically?
  • Does the discussion interpret the results in light of the research question and existing literature?
  • Is the conclusion summarizing the research and suggesting future directions or implications?

Clarity and coherence

  • Is the writing clear and free of jargon?
  • Are ideas and sections logically connected and flowing?
  • Is there a clear narrative or argument throughout the thesis?

Research quality

  • Is the research question significant and relevant?
  • Are the research methods appropriate for the question?
  • Is the sample size (if applicable) adequate?
  • Are the data analysis techniques appropriate and correctly applied?
  • Are potential biases or limitations addressed?

Originality and significance

  • Does the thesis contribute new knowledge or insights to the field?
  • Is the research grounded in existing literature while offering fresh perspectives?

Formatting and presentation

  • Is the thesis formatted according to institutional guidelines?
  • Are figures, tables, and charts clear, labeled, and referenced in the text?
  • Is the bibliography or reference list complete and consistently formatted?
  • Are appendices relevant and appropriately referenced in the main text?

Grammar and language

  • Is the thesis free of grammatical and spelling errors?
  • Is the language professional, consistent, and appropriate for an academic audience?
  • Are quotations and paraphrased material correctly cited?

Feedback and revision

  • Have you sought feedback from peers, advisors, or experts in the field?
  • Have you addressed the feedback and made the necessary revisions?

Overall assessment

  • Does the thesis as a whole feel cohesive and comprehensive?
  • Would the thesis be understandable and valuable to someone in your field?

Ensure to use this checklist to leave no ground for doubt or missed information in your thesis.

After writing your thesis, the next step is to discuss and defend your findings verbally in front of a knowledgeable panel. You’ve to be well prepared as your professors may grade your presentation abilities.

Preparing your thesis defense

A thesis defense, also known as "defending the thesis," is the culmination of a scholar's research journey. It's the final frontier, where you’ll present their findings and face scrutiny from a panel of experts.

Typically, the defense involves a public presentation where you’ll have to outline your study, followed by a question-and-answer session with a committee of experts. This committee assesses the validity, originality, and significance of the research.

The defense serves as a rite of passage for scholars. It's an opportunity to showcase expertise, address criticisms, and refine arguments. A successful defense not only validates the research but also establishes your authority as a researcher in your field.

Here’s how you can effectively prepare for your thesis defense .

Now, having touched upon the process of defending a thesis, it's worth noting that scholarly work can take various forms, depending on academic and regional practices.

One such form, often paralleled with the thesis, is the 'dissertation.' But what differentiates the two?

Dissertation vs. Thesis

Often used interchangeably in casual discourse, they refer to distinct research projects undertaken at different levels of higher education.

To the uninitiated, understanding their meaning might be elusive. So, let's demystify these terms and delve into their core differences.

Here's a table differentiating between the two.

Wrapping up

From understanding the foundational concept of a thesis to navigating its various components, differentiating it from a dissertation, and recognizing the importance of proper citation — this guide covers it all.

As scholars and readers, understanding these nuances not only aids in academic pursuits but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the relentless quest for knowledge that drives academia.

It’s important to remember that every thesis is a testament to curiosity, dedication, and the indomitable spirit of discovery.

Good luck with your thesis writing!

Frequently Asked Questions

A thesis typically ranges between 40-80 pages, but its length can vary based on the research topic, institution guidelines, and level of study.

A PhD thesis usually spans 200-300 pages, though this can vary based on the discipline, complexity of the research, and institutional requirements.

To identify a thesis topic, consider current trends in your field, gaps in existing literature, personal interests, and discussions with advisors or mentors. Additionally, reviewing related journals and conference proceedings can provide insights into potential areas of exploration.

The conceptual framework is often situated in the literature review or theoretical framework section of a thesis. It helps set the stage by providing the context, defining key concepts, and explaining the relationships between variables.

A thesis statement should be concise, clear, and specific. It should state the main argument or point of your research. Start by pinpointing the central question or issue your research addresses, then condense that into a single statement, ensuring it reflects the essence of your paper.

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The Quintessence of Basic and Clinical Research and Scientific Publishing pp 769–781 Cite as

Writing a Postgraduate or Doctoral Thesis: A Step-by-Step Approach

  • Usha Y. Nayak 4 ,
  • Praveen Hoogar 5 ,
  • Srinivas Mutalik 4 &
  • N. Udupa 6  
  • First Online: 01 October 2023

467 Accesses

1 Citations

A key characteristic looked after by postgraduate or doctoral students is how they communicate and defend their knowledge. Many candidates believe that there is insufficient instruction on constructing strong arguments. The thesis writing procedure must be meticulously followed to achieve outstanding results. It should be well organized, simple to read, and provide detailed explanations of the core research concepts. Each section in a thesis should be carefully written to make sure that it transitions logically from one to the next in a smooth way and is free of any unclear, cluttered, or redundant elements that make it difficult for the reader to understand what is being tried to convey. In this regard, students must acquire the information and skills to successfully create a strong and effective thesis. A step-by-step description of the thesis/dissertation writing process is provided in this chapter.

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Usha Y. Nayak & Srinivas Mutalik

Centre for Bio Cultural Studies, Directorate of Research, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka, India

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Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara University, Dharwad, Karnataka, India

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Nayak, U.Y., Hoogar, P., Mutalik, S., Udupa, N. (2023). Writing a Postgraduate or Doctoral Thesis: A Step-by-Step Approach. In: Jagadeesh, G., Balakumar, P., Senatore, F. (eds) The Quintessence of Basic and Clinical Research and Scientific Publishing. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1284-1_48

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An Overview of the Writing Process

How to write a thesis statement.

Whether you are writing a short essay or a doctoral dissertation, your thesis statement will arguably be the most difficult sentence to formulate. An effective thesis statement states the purpose of the paper and, therefore, functions to control, assert and structure your entire  argument . Without a sound thesis, your argument may sound weak, lacking in direction, and  uninteresting to the reader.

Start with a question — then make the answer your thesis

Regardless of how complicated the subject is, almost any thesis can be constructed by answering a question.

Question mark drawn in yellow chalk on black pavement

  • Thesis: “Computers allow fourth graders an early advantage in technological and scientific education.”
  • Thesis: “The river comes to symbolize both division and progress, as it separates our characters and country while still providing the best chance for Huck and Jim to get to know one another.”
  • Thesis: “Through careful sociological study, we’ve found that people naturally assume that “morally righteous” people look down on them as “inferior,” causing anger and conflict where there generally is none.”

Tailor your thesis to the type of paper you’re writing

N ot all essays persuade, and not all essays teach. The goals of your paper will help you find the best thesis.

  • Ex. “This dynamic between different generations sparks much of the play’s tension, as age becomes a motive for the violence and unrest that rocks King Lear.”
  • Ex. “The explosion of 1800’s philosophies like Positivism, Marxism, and Darwinism undermined and refuted Christianity to instead focus on the real, tangible world.”
  • Ex. “Without the steady hand and specific decisions of Barack Obama, America would never have recovered from the hole it entered in the early 2000’s.”

Ensure your thesis is provable

Hand holding a camera lens in front of a blurry field of sunflowers; through the lens they are clear

Good Theses Examples:

  • “By owning up to the impossible contradictions, embracing them and questioning them, Blake forges his own faith, and is stronger for it. Ultimately, the only way for his poems to have faith is to temporarily lose it.”
  • “According to its well-documented beliefs and philosophies, an existential society with no notion of either past or future cannot help but become stagnant.”
  • “By reading “Ode to a Nightingale” through a modern deconstructionist lens, we can see how Keats viewed poetry as shifting and subjective, not some rigid form.”

Bad Theses Examples:

  • “The wrong people won the American Revolution.” While striking and unique, who is “right” and who is “wrong” is exceptionally hard to prove, and very subjective.
  • “The theory of genetic inheritance is the binding theory of every human interaction.” Too complicated and overzealous. The scope of “every human interaction” is just too big
  • “Paul Harding’s novel Tinkers is ultimately a cry for help from a clearly depressed author.” Unless you interviewed Harding extensively, or had a lot of real-life sources, you have no way of proving what is fact and what is fiction.”

Get the sound right

hand holding white megaphone

Example thesis statements with good statement language include:

  • “Because of William the Conqueror’s campaign into England, that nation developed the strength and culture it would need to eventually build the British Empire.”
  • “Hemingway significantly changed literature by normalizing simplistic writing and frank tone.”

Know where to place a thesis statement

Because of the role thesis statements play, they appear at the beginning of the paper, usually at the end of the first paragraph or somewhere in the introduction. Although most people look for the thesis at the end of the first paragraph, its location can depend on a number of factors such as how lengthy of an introduction you need before you can introduce your thesis or the length of your paper.

Limit a thesis statement to one or two sentences in length

Thesis statements are clear and to the point, which helps the reader identify the topic and direction of the paper, as well as your position towards the subject.

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Academic Integrity - Referencing, Citation & Avoiding Plagiarism: Writing Dissertations or Theses

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Dissertations or Theses

planning

A dissertation or thesis is a research project that asks a question(s) and sets out to answer that question(s) through research and inquiry. It is completed in an structured, critical and academically rigorous fashion ( GradCoach , 2021).

This eight step guide is designed to help you get started when undertaking an undergraduate or masters dissertation or thesis. It also includes a wealth of links to other resources where further help can be found.

Eight Step Dissertation or Thesis Guide

  1. make a plan.

planning

Breaking down a large task, such as a dissertation, will make your project seem more manageable and allow you to better take control of your time. Make a list of all the task you have to do from beginning to submission. Working backwards can sometimes help with this. Then, order these by date for when they should be completed. Print out the planning template in the 'Further Reading' section below to make a start.

Print out your dissertation action plan and put it somewhere prominent so you can actively check your progress and make any changes necessary. Regularly spend time tracking your process and thinking ahead. In your action plan, you do not need to do each section of the dissertation in sequence. Different parts such as methodology, results, literature review can be worked on and drafted at the same time to get a head start on the writing process. These can then be revised and completed for their deadline.

Begin to set up a filling system for research you have found, your notes, sections of your thesis, course materials. This filing system should be for both print and online materials. Review this throughout your project. Make back-ups of your thesis/dissertation and all necessary files as you go and save to the cloud or somewhere else safe. Accidents can happen, so this can avoid unnecessary pain.

  2. Pick a Topic

planning

Read, read, and read more. Choosing a topic will require dedicated reading time. As you read, create a list of possible topics that you can narrow down.  Your research will need to advance the research knowledge in some way. This maybe small, such as applying a new theory or looking at a slightly different population.

Chose an area that will interest you for the duration of the dissertation or even beyond. Review lectures and previous assignments from every year of your course. Review current journals from the Library in your area. Go to UCD Connect  and select eJournals. Try to identify a gap in the literature. This will require dedicated reading time to become familiar with the area.

Look at the research interests of your possible supervisors. Go to UCD Research to do this. Review any previous dissertations available from your school. Note the Library does not hold undergraduate or masters dissertations. Include choosing a topic in the first draft of your project plan, otherwise you may spend too long on this part.

Questions to ask of potential topics

  • Life experience – do you have any personal connection or life experience with the topic, to make it interesting and easy to relate to?
  • Can this topic be researched in the allowed timeframe?
  • Is there adequate research literature to draw on? Spend some time on OneSearch and Library Databases for your subject area.
  • Will the supervisor for that topic be someone you can work with?
  • Do you have the adequate skills and resources to carry out research in this area?
  • Scope of topic - is the topic too broad? Make sure it is focused clearly so that you can frame a specific research question or thesis statement. Alternatively, if it is too narrow, there may not be enough literature for you to draw from. Think Goldilocks and her perfect bowl of porridge.
  • Ethics approval – will this topic require ethics approval? This can take time and may make the dissertation unmanageable in the time frame. Discuss this with your supervisor before any choice on such a topic.

Research Question, Thesis Statement, Hypothesis

Depending on the guidelines provided by your school you will need to go on to develop a research question, a thesis statement and perhaps a hypothesis.

A research question (s) needs to clearly capture what gap in the research you want to answer. It needs to be broad enough to sustain your dissertation and specific enough that you can answer it clearly and within the timeframe. Once decided, you may find our "Approaching your Research Question" of use. 

A thesis statement serves as the main argument that drives your paper forward. It shows the emphasis of your argument and indicates its methodology. It focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should present the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in relation to the topic. Your thesis statement should tell your reader what the paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument focused ( UCD Writing Centre , 2021).

The hypothesis is formulated before you start. It states what you expect to happen. Your research then tests this hypothesis to see if there is evidence to support it or not ( Cottrell , 2019, p.355).

  3. Structure

planning

Each discipline and perhaps topic will have a particular structure. Ensure you check your dissertation or thesis guidelines for this. If not present, discuss with your supervisor. It is very important to get advice on this before you start. Some headings that appear in many disciplines would be the following

  • Literature Review
  • Themed Chapters
  • Methodology
  • References and Bibliography

For detailed examples of dissertation structures in different disciplines go to the University of Leeds ' Final Chapter '.

  4. Literature Review

planning

A literature review is an overview of the research relating to your research topic. It allows you to demonstrate what has been written on the topic and where your research fits in to that area. You can use it to acquaint yourself fully with the research area, theories, methodologies, key researchers, and anything else of note. It will provide a framework for your research and the evidence needed to support your research question and methodology.

  • Use UCD Library’s OneSearch and Databases from UCD Connect  to search the literature. Consult the Library’s Subject Guides  for Databases in your subject area.
  • Make an appointment for help searching the literature with your liaison librarian .
  • Use the Library’s video tutorials on how best to search library resources.
  • Collect your references as you search (see below). This is essential.
  • Begin by searching and reading abstracts to identify a set of articles of interest. Gather a number of these, then identify which ones you want to read in detail.
  • Follow up on any citations or references in those articles to track the beginnings of the research idea.
  • Read literature review articles in your subject area to see the writing style and to find out who the main researchers are on your topic.
  • Read actively and critically . Take organized and attractive notes you can easily consult.
  • Use your notes for the basis of your literature review. As you take notes, practice capturing the content of the researcher’s work or themes of interest in two or three lines, that could be included in your literature review. Make sure that you are not simply describing or summarising the literature; you should analyse, compare, synthesise, and critically evaluate what you read. Avoid just highlighting text in articles or books, as this is not memorable after the first reading. Date every set of notes you make, and file for easy retrieval.
  • Visit UCD Writing Centre for help. They can work with you to get the best out of your writing.

UCD Writing Centre has an excellent video on writing a Literature Review. UCD Library also has a guide dedicated to Literature Review .

  5. Referencing and Citation

planning

Begin your Reference List or Bibliography as soon as you begin your research.

If you do this using EndNote or another reference management software, this is easy and can be done as you search. See our EndNote guide for details.

If you are manually creating your references, create a References Master List as you begin searching. Copy full reference details of each source, formatted in the required reference style. Use the Academic Integrity Guide for different style formats such as Harvard, APA, MLA etc.

In your notes, ensure you cite each source you are referring to with an author and page number. This will save an enormous amount of time and agony at the end of your dissertation. See our guide on Note Taking .

  6. Writing Up

planning

  • Have a clear naming system for versions of your thesis so that you do not over-write any work. For example ‘Methodology Draft 1’ or ‘Methodology 210201’.
  • Start multiple sections at the same time. This will allow flexibility in your work in case of writers block, and better distribute your writing time across sections. 
  • Try to avoid perfectionism. Do not spend a long time perfecting one element, such as the literature review, at the expense of other elements such as your results, discussion or conclusion.
  • Getting parts of sections down on paper in some form is good writing practice. You can start with headings and fill in notes underneath. It is better to have written multiple drafts of your thesis to give you time to formulate your ideas and stand back from your writing while not against a deadline.
  • Date every piece of writing you draft, whether notes or thesis content. Never delete something you have written, just file it for possible re-use.
  • If you are carrying out quantitative or qualitative research, write up the results as you get them. Write up the methodology also, while it is fresh in your mind. This can be redrafted and polished off at a later stage. Remember to include all necessary references and citations.
  • Write the introduction last. This ensures you have covered everything in the body of your dissertation that has been set out in the introduction.
  • Leave enough time for the conclusion so that you are not under time pressure, and cannot give your dissertation the finish it deserves. You can even start drafting this before you have all your results, just to get a format created that can be worked on.
  • Keep reading. Do not stop reading once your literature review is completed. Continue to look for new articles on your subject area, that you might need to acknowledge in your dissertation.
  • Talk to other students, friends and family members about your thesis. Explain the ideas and methodology. This will help you clarify the content and address weaknesses.

UCD Writing Centre have offer one to one sessions, workshops and resources to help with writing. Use this excellent service as much as you can.    

  7. Editing and Proofing

planning

Ensure you have included editing and proofing in your dissertation action plan. Taking a break of a day or two from your piece can be helpful to allow you see it with fresh eyes.

Ask fellow students, friends and family to review your work for spelling, grammar or other mistakes. Return the favour if possible. Asking anyone else to write your work is not acceptable and would be plagiarism. See our advice on avoiding plagiarism .

Do not just work on screen. If you can, print out draft versions rather than working onscreen completely. This can really help with editing.

Read your work out loud. This has been proven as one of the best methods in editing - for spotting lack of punctuation, overly long sentences, grammatical mistakes, repetitive words, and much more.

  8. Submission

planning

Before submission, return to the requirements for the dissertation provided by your programme or school. Check off every aspect of the requirements to ensure you have included all elements requested. Double check the submission date.

If you are required to submit a printed and bound version of your dissertation or thesis, ensure you have left adequate time to get this completed.

Further Reading

Allison, B. and Race, P. (2004) The student's guide to preparing dissertations and theses. London: Routledge Falmer. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/ygr634tv . Cottrell, S. (2019) The study skills handbook . 5th edn. London: Macmillan International Higher Education.  https://tinyurl.com/yhumjxgc . Gradcoach, Jansan, D. (2021) What exactly is a dissertation (or thesis)? Available at: https://gradcoach.com/what-is-a-dissertation/ . Greetham, B. (2019) How to write your undergraduate dissertation. 3rd edn. London: Red Globe Press.  https://tinyurl.com/yk6y5kt3 . Joyner, R. L., Rouse, W. A. J. D. and Glatthorn, A. A. (2018) Writing the winning thesis or dissertation: A step-by-step guide. Thousand Oaks: Corwin. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/yhkldw85 . McMillan, K. and Weyers, J. D. B. (2012) The study skills book. Harlow: Pearson. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/ygk8a9ps . The University Library, University of Leeds (2021) Final chapter . Available at: https://resources.library.leeds.ac.uk/final-chapter/index.html . Thomas, G. (2017) Doing research. London: Palgrave. Available at: https://tinyurl.com/yfwkxjty . UCD Library, University College Dublin (2021a) Academic integrity guide . Available at: https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity . UCD Library, University College Dublin (2021b) Active reading and note-taking . Available at: https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity/activereadingandnotetaking . UCD Library, University College Dublin (2021c) Critical thinking . Available at: https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity/criticalthinking . UCD Library, University College Dublin (2021d) Library contacts for Colleges and Schools . Available at: https://www.ucd.ie/library/contact/clls/ . UCD Library, University College Dublin (2021e) Literature Review . Available at: https://libguides.ucd.ie/litreview/intro . UCD Library, University College Dublin (2021f) Subject Guides . Available at: https://www.ucd.ie/library/students/ . UCD Research (2021). UCD Research: People . Available at: https://people.ucd.ie/ . UCD Writing Centre (2021) UCD Writing Centre . Available at: https://www.ucd.ie/writingcentre/ .

Your ideas : This guide was written by Jenny Collery , if you have ideas for additional content, please contact Jenny.

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  • What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

Published on 15 September 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on 5 December 2023.

Structure of a Thesis

A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a PhD program in the UK.

Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Indeed, alongside a dissertation , it is the longest piece of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .

Thesis template

You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.

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Table of contents

Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, frequently asked questions about theses.

You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.

  • A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarise the central points of your academic essay .
  • A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement to complete a PhD program.
  • In many countries, particularly the UK, a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.
  • In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.

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The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:

  • Your discipline
  • Your theoretical approach

Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.

In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section ,  results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .

Thesis examples

We’ve compiled a short list of thesis examples to help you get started.

  • Example thesis #1:   ‘Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the “Noble Savage” on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807’ by Suchait Kahlon.
  • Example thesis #2: ‘”A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man”: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947’ by Julian Saint Reiman.

The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:

  • Your full title
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date.

Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.

Read more about abstracts

A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.

Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.

Read more about tables of contents

While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the ‘Insert Caption’ feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetised list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialised or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetise the terms you want to include with a brief definition.

Read more about glossaries

An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:

  • Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
  • Define the scope of your work
  • Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
  • State your research question(s)
  • Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed

In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.

Read more about introductions

A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:

  • Selecting relevant sources
  • Determining the credibility of your sources
  • Critically evaluating each of your sources
  • Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:

  • Addressing a gap in the literature
  • Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
  • Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
  • Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
  • Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyses the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
  • Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
  • Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
  • The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.

Your results section should:

  • State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Explain how each result relates to the research question
  • Determine whether the hypothesis was supported

Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.

Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.

For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasise what your research specifically has contributed to your field.

Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.

Read more about conclusions

In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.

Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.

Read more about appendices

Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!

Consider using a professional thesis editing service to make sure your final project is perfect.

Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.

After your defense, your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5-7% of your overall word count.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation, you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimising confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation, such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

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George, T. (2023, December 05). What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/thesis-ultimate-guide/

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Other students also liked, dissertation & thesis outline | example & free templates, how to write a thesis or dissertation conclusion, how to write a thesis or dissertation introduction.

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Avoid These Words and Phrases in Your Academic Writing

WriteOn

When writing an academic essay, thesis, or dissertation, your professor or advisor usually gives you a rubric with detailed expectations to guide you during the process. While the rubric will identify the major requirements for the paper, it will probably not tell you what words or phrases you need to avoid. Whether you want to earn a stellar grade on your next paper or you're hoping to get published in an academic journal, keep reading to discover words and phrases you need to avoid in your academic writing.

"A great deal of"

I encounter the phrase a great deal of in most academic papers that I edit. Avoid using this vague phrase, because your academic writing should be specific and informative. Instead of saying a great deal of, provide exact measurements or specific quantities.

"A lot"

Similar to the previous phrase (a great deal of), a lot is too vague and informal for an academic paper. Use precise quantities instead of this overly general phrase.

"Always"

Avoid using the word always in your academic writing, because it can generalize a statement and convey an absolute that might not be accurate. If you want to state something about all the participants in your study, use specific language to clarify that the statement applies to a consistent action among the participants in your study.

It is almost a cliché to tell you to avoid clichés, but it is an essential piece of writing advice. Clichés are unoriginal and will weaken your writing. In academic writing, using clichés will erode your credibility and take away from all the research and hard work you have put into your project.

What qualifies as a cliché? According to Dictionary.com , A cliché is an expression, idea, or action that has been overused to the point of seeming worn out, stale, ineffective, or meaningless. Your words should be original, carry meaning, and resonate with your readers, and this is especially important for academic writing. Most clichés have been used so frequently in so many different contexts that they have lost their meaning. To eliminate clichés, scan your paper for any phrases that you could type into an internet browser and find millions of search results from all different topic areas. If you are unsure if your favorite phrases are overused clichés, consult this Cliché List for a comprehensive list.

Contractions

Academic writing should be formal and professional, so refrain from using contractions. Dictionary.com offers the following advice regarding contractions: Contractions such as isn't, couldn't, can't, weren't, he'll, they're occur chiefly, although not exclusively, in informal speech and writing. They are common in personal letters, business letters, journalism, and fiction; they are rare in scientific and scholarly writing. Contractions occur in formal writing mainly as representations of speech. When you proofread your paper, change any contractions back to the original formal words.

Double negatives

Double negatives will confuse your readers and dilute the power of your words. For example, consider the following sentence:

"He was not unwilling to participate in the study."

The word not and the prefix un- are both negatives, so they cancel each other out and change the meaning of the sentence. If you want to convey that someone reluctantly participated in the study, express that clearly and explicitly.

"Etc."

The abbreviation etc. is short for the Latin word et cetera , which means and others; and so forth; and so on. Dictionary.com specifies that etc. is used to indicate that more of the same sort or class might have been mentioned, but for brevity have been omitted. I discourage writers from using etc. in academic writing, because if you are writing an academic paper, you are writing to share information or scholarly research, and you are not conveying any new information with the abbreviation etc. Instead of writing etc., explicitly state the words or list that you are alluding to with your use of etc. If you absolutely must use etc. , make sure you only use it if readers can easily identify what etc. represents, and only use etc. at the end of lists that are within parentheses.

"For all intents and purposes" and "for all intensive purposes"

These two phrases are often used interchangeably, but you should avoid both of them in your academic writing. Avoid the second phrase in all of your writing: For all intensive purposes is an eggcorn (a word or phrase that is mistakenly used for another word or phrase because it sounds similar). For all intents and purposes is generally a filler phrase that does not provide any new information, so you can usually omit it without replacing it.

An idiom is an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements. Idioms include phrases such as he kicked the bucket, and they are particularly problematic in academic writing, because non-native English speakers might not understand your intended meaning. Below are three of the idioms I encounter most frequently when editing academic papers:

  • All things being equal : All things being equal is usually an unnecessary or redundant phrase that you can simply omit without replacing with anything else.
  • In a nutshell : Instead of saying in a nutshell, use a more universal phrase such as in summary or in conclusion.
  • On the other hand : Idioms such as on the other hand are informal and will weaken your paper. Instead of writing the phrase on the other hand, consider using conversely.

In-text ampersands ("&")

Do not use ampersands in place of the word and in sentences. Most style guides dictate that you use an ampersand for parenthetical in-text citations, but you need to spell out the word and in your paper. An ampersand within the text of your paper is too informal for an academic paper.

"I think"

You do not need to include the phrase I think when explaining your point of view. This is your paper, and it should contain your original thoughts or findings, so it is redundant to include the phrase I think. Doing so will weaken your writing and your overall argument.

"Never"

Similar to the word " always, " avoid using the word never in your academic writing. Always and never will overgeneralize your statements. If you absolutely must use never in your academic writing, make sure that you specify that it applies only to the participants in your study and should not be applied to the general population.

"Normal"

Avoid using subjective terms such a normal in your academic papers. Instead, use scientific or academic terms such as control group or standard. Remember that what you consider normal might be abnormal to someone else, but a control group or standard should be objective and definable.

Passive voice

Passive voice is one of the most frequent issues that I correct when editing academic papers. Some students think passive voice provides a more formal tone, but it actually creates more confusion for your readers while also adding to your word count. As the UNC Writing Center explained , The primary reason why your instructors frown on the passive voice is that they often have to guess what you mean. Most style guidelines (APA, MLA, Chicago) also specify that writers should avoid passive sentences. Whether you're writing your first draft or proofreading for what feels like the hundredth time, you can change passive sentences by making sure that the subject of your sentence is performing the action.

One way to look out for passive voice is to pay attention anytime you use by or was. These two words do not always indicate passive voice, but if you pay attention, they can help you spot passive voice. For example, the following sentence uses passive voice:

"The study was conducted in 2021."

If your style guideline allows you to use personal pronouns, specify a subject and reword the sentence to say:

"We conducted the study in 2021."

If your style guideline dictates that you avoid personal pronouns, you can make the sentence active by saying:

"The researchers conducted the study in 2021."

There are exceptions to most writing tips, but not this one: You should never use profanity in your academic writing. Profanity is informal, and many people might find it offensive, crude, or rude. Even if you enjoy creating controversy or getting a rise out of your readers, avoid profane words that might offend professors or other readers.

Academic writing can feel overwhelming, but hopefully this list of words and phrases to avoid in academic writing will help you as you navigate your next big assignment. Although there are exceptions to some items on this list, you will grow as a writer if you learn to avoid these words and phrases. If you consult your professor or advisor's rubric, adhere to style guidelines, and avoid the words or phrases on this list, you might even have fun the next time you have to stay up all night to finish an academic paper.

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Words and Phrases to Avoid in Academic Writing

Published on February 6, 2016 by Sarah Vinz . Revised on September 11, 2023.

When you are writing a dissertation , thesis, or research paper, many words and phrases that are acceptable in conversations or informal writing are considered inappropriate in academic writing .

You should try to avoid expressions that are too informal, unsophisticated, vague, exaggerated, or subjective, as well as those that are generally unnecessary or incorrect.

Bear in mind, however, that these guidelines do not apply to text you are directly quoting from your sources (including interviews ).

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Table of contents

Too informal, too exaggerated, too subjective, generally incorrect, other interesting articles.

Academic writing is generally more formal than the writing we see in non-academic materials (including on websites). It is also more formal than the ways in which we normally speak. The following words and phrases are considered too informal for a dissertation or academic paper.

Informal sentence starts

Some words are acceptable in certain contexts, but become too informal when used at the beginning of a sentence. You can replace these with appropriate  transition words  or simply remove them from the sentence.

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thesis academic writing or not

Using vague terms makes your writing imprecise and may cause people to interpret it in different ways. Always try to be as specific as possible.

Academic writing is usually unadorned and direct. Some adverbs of frequency (such as always and never ) and intensifiers (words that create emphasis, such as really ) are often too dramatic. They may also not be accurate – you’re making a significant claim when you say something is perfect or never happens.

These terms do sometimes add value, but try to use them sparingly.

Some words and phrases reveal your own bias. For instance, if you state that something will obviously happen, you are indicating that you think the occurrence is obvious – not stating a fact.

Expressing your opinion is appropriate in certain sections of a dissertation and in particular types of academic texts (such as personal statements and reflective or argumentative essays ). In most cases, though, take care when using words and phrases such as those below – try to let the facts speak for themselves, or emphasize your point with less biased language.

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Certain words and phrases are often used incorrectly, even by native speakers of a language. If you’re exposed to such mistakes often enough, you may start to assume they are correct – but it’s important that you don’t let them creep into your writing.

You should also bear in mind that some of these mistakes relate to things we all frequently mishear (for instance, we often think the speaker is saying would of instead of would have ).

In general, you should also try to avoid using words and phrases that fall into the following categories:

  • Jargon (i.e., “insider” terminology that may be difficult for readers from other fields to understand)
  • Clichés (i.e., expressions that are heavily overused, such as think outside of the box and at the end of the day )
  • Everyday abbreviations (e.g., approx. , ASAP, corona, stats, info )
  • Slang (e.g., cops , cool )
  • Gender-biased language   (e.g., firemen , mankind )
  • Generally unnecessary (e.g., redundant expressions that do not add meaning, such as compete with each other instead of simply compete)

Reflective reports and  personal statements  sometimes have a less formal tone. In these types of writing, you may not have to follow these guidelines as strictly. The preface or acknowledgements of a dissertation also often have a less formal and more personal voice than the rest of the document.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Vinz, S. (2023, September 11). Words and Phrases to Avoid in Academic Writing. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-writing/taboo-words/

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Sarah's academic background includes a Master of Arts in English, a Master of International Affairs degree, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect formulation or wording and derives much satisfaction from helping students take their academic writing up a notch.

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Is a Thesis Statement Capitalized? When to Capitalize or not

  • by Judy Jeni
  • January 27, 2024

Capitalization in Thesis Writing

What do you know about writing a thesis statement? To start with, a thesis is a claim or argument which you defend through your research. But what is the writing format of the thesis? Is a thesis capitalized?

It’s the first few lines, probably one to three sentences, in the introduction of an essay that clearly states what the reader will read on. Besides, it is what will give your writing focus and direction. For this, the statement is brief, concise, and debatable.

Is Thesis Capitalized?

A thesis is not capitalized because it will not appear professional or academically presentable. Only words that are allowed to be capitalized should be.

Remember, a word can only be capitalized if it falls under the rules of capitalization in English grammar. If you write your thesis in capital letters, it will not look like an academic piece of writing.

Let us guide you on how to write thesis statements in an essay by teaching you the steps to write a good essay. This is important even if it seems obvious.

Can you Capitalize Thesis Statements?

A thesis statement should not be capitalized because it is against basic academic writing standards. You write your thesis statement in typical prose keeping in mind the capitalization rules.

From my experience, capitalizing a thesis statement looks odd and sounds like informal shouting, which is not academically sound.

Instead of capitalizing, just write your thesis statement in a clear way using normal font. You only need to keep in mind that your thesis has clearly stated your topic and the main idea of your topic.

capital and small letters

Also, give a reason that supports your opinion and, if possible, include an opposing viewpoint to your main idea.

If you are unsure whether to capitalize or not, always be guided by what your institution has provided—the guide you were given to follow.

In addition, ask yourself if it’s necessary to capitalize.

Another reason why you do not need to capitalize is the length factor. A good thesis statement should be one sentence long , which should fit well into the introduction paragraph. Capitalizing it will make it look odd.

Words to Capitalize in Thesis or Research Writing

list of what to do

By capitalization, we refer to capitalizing the first letter of a word and not every letter of the word. In research and academic writing, capitalization is a controversial topic.

Although there is a general rule of thumb concerning this, there are different opinions for the same.

To be on the safe side, only capitalize when necessary. If otherwise done, capitalization can look awkward. What are the words to capitalize in your thesis or general research writing?

1. The First Word of Each Sentence

A sentence begins with a capital letter, always!

2. Proper Nouns

A proper noun is a naming word—for example, names of people, companies, places, organizations, etc. In a sentence, John and Rachel visited the University of Pennsylvania, the Department of Social Sciences.

3. The First Word in a Quote

Use capital letters for the first word in a quote when the quote is a complete sentence. However, if the quoted sentence is partial, do not capitalize it.

4. Adjectives of Proper Nouns

Capitalize adjective words derived from proper nouns—for example, American writer.

5. Religious Names

These are the names of the Bible, the Quran.

6. Titles before Names

Examples; Mr. Smith, Miss Walter, Mrs. Jones.

7. Planet Names

Even though it is unusual to capitalize sun, moon, and earth, other planets’ names are capitalized. Like Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn.

Instances when to Capitalize Words in Academic Writing

when to capitalize in academic writing

Capitalization is a rule in English grammar, and every rule in grammar has a motive. Capitalization shows the importance of a specific word by distinguishing it from the rest, giving a particular meaning.

The following are instances when you should capitalize words in academic writing

Capitalize Words According to Their Meaning

Capitalize the word Internet when you use it as a noun. For example, “We searched the Internet to write our project.” However, the same word is not capitalized when used as an adjective; for example, “My neighbor is an internet provider.”

The word Department is capitalized when it is used to refer to a specific department. For instance, the English Department, but not when used generally like; the government departments.

Capitalize Days and Months

Use capital letters on days of the week, months, and holidays. However, do not capitalize seasons; they are not proper nouns.

Words in a Title

Capitalize the first word and all other words in titles of books, articles, etc. However, exclude conjunctions and short prepositions.

Titles and Positions

People’s titles and positions are capitalized when they precede their names. Conversely, do not capitalize titles when they are not used to address a person directly. For example, the governor will be in office today to sign the papers.

The Word “I.”

The word “I” is capitalized even when used along with its contractions. Examples include I’ll and I’ve, among others.

Time Periods and Events

Capitalize words depicting periods and events

Signature Line of a Letter

Capitalize the titles of the signature line of a letter. For example, Faithfully, Sincerely. At times, words are capitalized according to personal preference and writing style.

For instance, titles such as chancellor, president, queen, king, and prime minister are not written in the capital letter when used alone. However, when a specific name accompanies such titles, they are always capitalized.

When Not to Capitalize

  • Do not capitalize the first word of items in a list following a colon. For example, I have one true love: my only son.
  • Do not capitalize when writing plural nouns. For example, “Seven presidents attended the event.”

Check out some examples of social media thesis statements to explore this issue more and get more insights on the tips of writing good thesis statements.

Judy Jeni

IMAGES

  1. HOW TO WRITE A THESIS: Steps by step guide

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  2. How to Write a Thesis Statement: Fill-in-the-Blank Formula

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  3. Thesis vs. Dissertation vs. Research Paper

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  4. How to Write an Effective Thesis Statement

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  5. Thesis Writing Format with Example and Rules

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  6. How to Create a Master's Thesis Outline: Sample and Tips

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VIDEO

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  23. Words and Phrases to Avoid in Academic Writing

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  24. Is a Thesis Statement Capitalized? When to Capitalize or not

    A thesis is not capitalized because it will not appear professional or academically presentable. Only words that are allowed to be capitalized should be. Remember, a word can only be capitalized if it falls under the rules of capitalization in English grammar. If you write your thesis in capital letters, it will not look like an academic piece ...

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