Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How to Write a Thesis: What is a Thesis Anyway?

I had a student ask me what a thesis was the other day. I was actually in shock, but she insisted that this was the first time that she was ever required to write a thesis. She had told me that she didn't think that she had written one before and I assured her that she had.

It really is impossible to get this far in academia without writing a paper on a specific topic.

I asked her to give me an example of any paper that she had written in high school and she told me about a short research paper that she had written on The Grapes of Wrath. I asked her what the main point of her essay was and she told me. That was her thesis.

In the simplest terms, a thesis is the topical argument that you are presenting in your paper. It's as simple as that. However, wording your thesis is the tricky part. When writing a thesis for an academic paper, try to be as specific as possible without going into too much detail. Your body paragraphs will provide your reader with the evidence to back-up your claim.

Your thesis should include the following:
  • It should be something that can be argued, not just a restatement of facts. You are trying to present an idea, not regurgitate information.
  • Remember that your thesis is always tentative while in the process of writing your paper. You can always go back and change it. I've had countless students come to me for tutoring and tell me that they were thinking about rewriting everything because they strayed from their thesis statement! What a waste of time! Go back and change your thesis so that it caters to the evidence that you have provided in your body paragraphs! I won't tell anyone, I swear.
  • It should not be vague. As I said before, make sure that it is straight forward. Your reader should know right from the start what your paper is going to be about.
  • Your thesis should be relative to the page length. Don't tackle a large subject that you won't be able to cover in two pages. Your reader won't be satiated and is going to wonder what you were thinking

    Coming up with an interesting topic to write about is the first step in writing an excellent paper. Follow these steps and you should be on your way to filling up those blank Word pages.

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