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Thesis vs. Research Paper: Know the Differences

It is not uncommon for individuals, academic and nonacademic to use “thesis” and “research paper” interchangeably. However, while the thesis vs. research paper puzzle might seem amusing to some, for graduate, postgraduate and doctoral students, knowing the differences between the two is crucial. Not only does a clear demarcation of the two terms help you acquire a precise approach toward writing each of them, but it also helps you keep in mind the subtle nuances that go into creating the two documents. This brief guide discusses the main difference between a thesis and a research paper.

research paper or thesis

This article discusses the main difference between a thesis and a research paper. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.

It is not uncommon for individuals, academic and nonacademic to use “thesis” and “research paper” interchangeably. After all, both terms share the same domain, academic writing . Moreover, characteristics like the writing style, tone, and structure of a thesis and research paper are also homogenous to a certain degree. Hence, it is not surprising that many people mistake one for the other.

However, while the thesis vs. research paper puzzle might seem amusing to some, for graduate, postgraduate and doctoral students, knowing the differences between the two is crucial. Not only does a clear demarcation of the two terms help you acquire a precise approach toward writing each of them, but it also helps you keep in mind the subtle nuances that go into creating the two documents.

Defining the two terms: thesis vs. research paper

The first step to discerning between a thesis and research paper is to know what they signify.

  Thesis: A thesis or a dissertation is an academic document that a candidate writes to acquire a university degree or similar qualification. Students typically submit a thesis at the end of their final academic term. It generally consists of putting forward an argument and backing it up with individual research and existing data.

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Research Paper: A research paper is also an academic document, albeit shorter compared to a thesis. It consists of conducting independent and extensive research on a topic and compiling the data in a structured and comprehensible form. A research paper demonstrates a student's academic prowess in their field of study along with strong analytical skills.

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Now that we have a fundamental understanding of a thesis and a research paper, it is time to dig deeper. To the untrained eye, a research paper and a thesis might seem similar. However, there are some differences, concrete and subtle, that set the two apart.

1. Writing objectives

The objective behind writing a thesis is to obtain a master's degree or doctorate and the ilk. Hence, it needs to exemplify the scope of your knowledge in your study field. That is why choosing an intriguing thesis topic and putting forward your arguments convincingly in favor of it is crucial.

A research paper is written as a part of a course's curriculum or written for publication in a peer-review journal. Its purpose is to contribute something new to the knowledge base of its topic.

2. Structure

Although both documents share quite a few similarities in their structures, the framework of a thesis is more rigid. Also, almost every university has its proprietary guidelines set out for thesis writing.

Comparatively, a research paper only needs to keep the IMRAD format consistent throughout its length. When planning to publish your research paper in a peer-review journal, you also must follow your target journal guidelines.

3. Time Taken

A thesis is an extensive document encompassing the entire duration of a master's or doctoral course and as such, it takes months and even years to write.

A research paper, being less lengthy, typically takes a few weeks or a few months to complete.

4. Supervision

Writing a thesis entails working with a faculty supervisor to ensure that you are on the right track. However, a research paper is more of a solo project and rarely needs a dedicated supervisor to oversee.

5. Finalization

The final stage of thesis completion is a viva voce examination and a thesis defense. It includes proffering your thesis to the examination board or a thesis committee for a questionnaire and related discussions. Whether or not you will receive a degree depends on the result of this examination and the defense.

A research paper is said to be complete when you finalize a draft, check it for plagiarism, and proofread for any language and contextual errors . Now all that's left is to submit it to the assigned authority.

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In the context of academic writing, a thesis and a research paper might appear the same. But, there are some fundamental differences that set apart the two writing formats. However, since both the documents come under the scope of academic writing, they also share some similarities. Both require formal language, formal tone, factually correct information & proper citations. Also, editing and proofreading are a must for both. Editing and Proofreading ensure that your document is properly formatted and devoid of all grammatical & contextual errors. So, the next time when you come across a thesis vs. research paper argument, keep these differences in mind.

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Best Edit & Proof expert editors and proofreaders focus on offering papers with proper tone, content, and style of  academic writing,  and also provide an upscale  editing and proofreading service  for you. If you consider our pieces of advice, you will witness a notable increase in the chance for your research manuscript to be accepted by the publishers. We work together as an academic writing style guide by bestowing subject-area editing and proofreading around several categorized writing styles. With the group of our expert editors, you will always find us all set to help you identify the tone and style that your manuscript needs to get a nod from the publishers.

Thesis vs. Research Paper

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You can also avail of our assistance if you are looking for editors who can format your manuscript, or just check on the  particular styles  for the formatting task as per the guidelines provided to you, e.g.,  APA,  MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles. Best Edit & Proof editors and proofreaders provide all sorts of academic writing help, including editing and proofreading services, using our user-friendly website, and a streamlined ordering process.

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Thesis vs. Research Paper

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Academic essay writing is an essential part of college life since writing essays is one of the most common assignments in colleges or universities. Some claim that it is an easy job while others assert it is very challenging. International students, particularly, find the task very compelling. No doubt it is a challenging issue because one has to devote considerable time to studying, reading, and examining the evidence. That requires self-sacrifice to learn how to write an academic essay. Although it seems challenging at first, it will get easier with practice and by following the steps detailed in this article.

research paper or thesis

Imagine a text written without the periods, commas, and colons. It would certainly be difficult to read. In academic writing, an author may be easily misunderstood when ambiguous sentences are used. Inasmuch as the essence of punctuation marks in writing, especially academic essays, cannot be overemphasized, the appropriate use of these punctuation marks is even more critical.

research paper or thesis

After writing your manuscript, you may likely decide on an editor to perform the final checks on your document. Mostly, authors make the mistake of sending their manuscripts to their editors, without providing adequate information about specifications on the service they seek. With such limited information, your editor may produce an unsatisfactory job with limited information at his/her disposal. Thus, to ensure that your editors provide the best possible service, which will prevent journals from rejecting your manuscripts on the grounds of noncompliance to journal requirements, the following information should be provided beforehand.

research paper or thesis

A hypothesis is a testable statement on which scientific research focus. Suppose you wish to investigate a relationship between two or more variables. In that case, you must construct hypotheses before you begin your experiment or data collection.

research paper or thesis

The corpus research suggests that the most often used tenses in academic writing are the simple present, the simple past, and the present perfect. Then, what comes next is the future tense.

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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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Research Paper vs Thesis: What’s the Difference?

When considering the differences between a research paper and a thesis, it is important to understand that both documents are typically used as part of an academic degree program. While the two may be similar in some aspects, there exist several key distinctions between them which should be taken into account when deciding upon which type of document to pursue. This article will explore those points of difference and explain how each document serves its purpose within academia.

1. Introduction to Research Paper vs Thesis

2. similarities between a research paper and a thesis, 3. differences between a research paper and a thesis, 4. structural components of the two documents, 5. purpose, audience and objectives for writing each document type, 6. preparing to write – planning considerations for both types of projects, 7. conclusion: benefits of knowing the difference between research papers & theses.

When it comes to academic writing, research paper and thesis can be seen as two sides of the same coin. Despite their similarities, they have several distinct differences that make them unique entities.

  • It is a piece of scholarly work or an in-depth analysis on a specific topic.
  • It requires thorough background knowledge and review existing literature related to the subject area.
  • Its aim is usually to contribute something new or fill gaps in existing knowledge about the topic.

This type of writing involves greater depth and range than other academic papers require. . It often reflects original thinking with theories tested against available data. . The author has control over what direction he takes his research since there are no limitations set by faculty members when conducting research for this project. .

Both types involve significant amounts of effort and dedication but differ vastly from one another in terms of structure, scope and approach. Therefore while both Research Papers & Theses share some common features – such as being required written works for higher education purposes – they are different documents involving different styles, goals, lengths, formats & approaches which should not be confused with each other.

The are numerous. Both require extensive reading, thought-provoking analysis, and the ability to put together an argument for one’s ideas. They both also involve making claims that have been backed up by evidence.

Both documents share similar structures when it comes to presentation of facts and arguments in support of their main point; each should include an introduction section with background information about the topic being discussed, followed by body paragraphs providing evidence or details related to the main idea. Finally, they end with a conclusion summarizing key points from throughout the document.

Each type of project requires lengthy written work; research papers often range from 10-20 pages while longer thesis projects can reach 100 pages or more! Additionally, length requirements may differ depending on subject area or professor instructions – but generally speaking they’re expected to be comprehensive enough for readers who aren’t familiar with any given topic ahead of time.

Thesis and research paper are two different entities, as they differ in terms of their purpose, structure and content. These differences must be noted by students looking to embark on an academic writing journey.

A thesis typically marks the end of a degree program or course, while a research paper is mainly written for the development of knowledge within an area. A thesis requires independent work which should contribute new findings to its respective field; whereas a research paper explores existing theories or ideas more deeply to reach new conclusions.

Theses are generally longer than papers due to thoroughness required in addressing its subject matter but tend to have fewer sections compared with that of conventional scholarly articles; including introductory parts such as abstracts, table contents etc., followed by literature review section which serves as background information before working towards conclusion made from results obtained from experiments conducted throughout its tenure. On the other hand, Research papers require much heavier structuring than that required for theses so usually include multiple headings under each chapter along with transition statements between them – thus making it easier for readers’ comprehension during reading process (Is Research Paper And Thesis Same?, nd) .

In conclusion then it can be said that both types of documents provide rich source material within their respective areas yet cannot quite be referred using same set parameters due to difference in scope available when studying topic at length

The structure of a research paper and thesis differs in many aspects, but at their core they both follow the same general layout. To begin with, each one contains an introduction , which provides context for what follows; this is followed by background information on the topic being explored. The main body then presents all relevant research findings and conclusions while summarizing arguments to support them. Finally, there is a conclusion that reflects upon all discussed material and makes any necessary recommendations or reflections about it.

A key point of differentiation between these two documents lies in their respective objectives. A research paper usually seeks to analyze specific topics within a larger field such as science or sociology; meanwhile, a thesis typically focuses on generating new knowledge through original inquiry – often involving empirical investigation – rather than offering syntheses or summaries of existing literature alone. In addition, while most papers are not as long-form as theses can be (some running up to hundreds of pages), both must adhere to appropriate formatting guidelines along with rigorous methodological requirements established by academic institutions globally. So despite having several structural similarities, these two forms do differ significantly when examined more closely – though whether one is considered ‘better’ will depend upon its individual purpose!

When it comes to documents, each type of writing has its own purpose and objectives. It is essential to understand what they are in order for your writings to be successful.

  • Research Papers:

A research paper requires the student or researcher’s ability to delve into a particular topic and explore all aspects related to it. Through conducting extensive research, one should present their findings in an organized manner with proper citations. Research papers typically require clear evidence backed up by facts as well as accurate references from reliable sources. The main objective of a research paper is not only providing relevant data but also encouraging readers’ further investigation on the subject matter.

Though similar in many ways, there is a distinct difference between a thesis and a research paper – namely that while researching papers do not necessarily need the writer’s original input; this expectation exists when completing any kind of thesis work. Herein lies the primary goal – students must prove their knowledge through analysis beyond just summarizing information found elsewhere i.e., coming up with fresh ideas which may go against accepted wisdom pertaining to chosen topics/themes etc.. Alongside quality content-based material, style plays an important role too– specifically citing source materials properly throughout (including footnotes). A thorough conclusion helps complete said project with panache!

When it comes to writing either a research paper or thesis, there are several planning considerations that should be taken into account.

  • Research Paper:
  • Create an outline of the topics you want to cover.
  • Conduct in depth research on each topic by consulting reliable sources such as journal articles and books.

With the distinction between research papers and theses made clear, it is evident that there are a few distinct benefits to knowing this difference. Firstly, understanding these differences will help students better understand what type of paper their professor or teacher expects them from them. Knowing whether a student needs to write an essay for class or complete a thesis for their degree , they can focus on completing tasks in an organized manner and adhere to expectations without confusion.

  • Is Research Paper And Thesis The Same?

No – while both are academic documents, research papers and theses differ in format, structure, purpose and length. Research papers provide results obtained from sources such as books, articles etc., while theses examine existing knowledge about certain topics with original ideas presented by the author.

To conclude, it is clear that there are many differences between a research paper and a thesis. Both serve different purposes in the academic world; however, both require thorough research and analysis of data to be successful. Ultimately, whether one chooses to write a research paper or pursue an independent study for their degree ultimately depends on the individual student’s goals and resources available at their institution. However, with careful consideration given to each type of project’s unique requirements and constraints, any serious researcher can come away with new knowledge gained from either assignment.

  • Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

Last updated on December 24, 2022 by Surbhi S

thesis-vs-research-paper

On the other hand, a research paper is analytical, argumentative and interpretative in nature. It involves the pursuit of knowledge and intelligent analysis of the information collected. It contains the idea of the author, often supported by expert opinions, research and information available in this regard.

Whether you are writing a thesis or research paper, they are equally challenging and take a lot of time to prepare. In this post, we will update you on all the points of difference between thesis and  research paper.

Content: Thesis Vs Research Paper

  • Key Elements
  • Thesis Statement

How to start a research paper?

Comparison chart, what is thesis.

The thesis is a document containing the research and findings that students submit to get the professional qualification or degree . It has to be argumentative, which proposes a debatable point with which people could either agree or disagree. In short, it is a research report in writing that contains a problem which is yet to be dealt with.

In a thesis, the researcher puts forth his/her conclusion. The researcher also gives evidence in support of the conclusion.

Submission of the thesis is a mandatory requirement of a postgraduate course and PhD degree. In this, the primary focus is on the novelty of research along with the research methodology.

It is all about possibilities, by introducing several anti-thesis. Also, it ends up all the possibilities by nullifying all these anti-thesis.

Key Elements of Thesis

Key-Elements-of-Thesis

  • Proposition : The thesis propagates an idea, hypothesis or recommendation.
  • Argument : Gives reasons for accepting the proposition instead of just asserting a point of view.
  • Maintenance of argument : The argument should be made cogent enough by providing suitable logic and adequate evidence.

Features of An Ideal Thesis

  • An Ideal thesis is expected to add fresh knowledge to the existing theory.
  • It communicates the central idea of the research in a clear and concise manner.
  • An effective thesis is more than a simple statement, fact or question.
  • It answers why and how questions concerned with the topic.
  • To avoid confusion, it is worded carefully.
  • It outlines the direction and scope of your essay.
  • It gives reasons to the reader to continue reading.

Also Read : Difference Between Thesis and Dissertation

What is Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is a sentence of one line, usually written at the end of your first paragraph. It presents the argument to the reader.

It is a blueprint of your thesis that directs the writer while writing the thesis and guides the reader through it.

What is Research Paper?

Research Paper is a form of academic writing. It is prepared on the basis of the original research conducted by the author on a specific topic, along with its analysis and interpretation of the findings.

An author generally starts writing a research paper on the basis of what he knows about the topic and seeks to find out what experts know. Further, it involves thorough and systematic research on a particular subject to extract the maximum information.

In short, a research paper is a written and published report containing the results of scientific research or a review of published scientific papers. Here, the scientific research is the primary research article, while the review of a published scientific paper is the review article.

In case of the primary research article, the author of the research paper provides important information about the research. This enables the scientific community members to:

  • Evaluate it
  • Reproduce the experiments
  • Assess the reasoning and conclusions drawn

On the other hand, a review article is written to analyze, summarize and synthesize the research carried out previously.

When a research work is published in a scientific journal, it conveys the knowledge to a larger group of people and also makes people aware of the scientific work. Research work published as a research paper passes on knowledge and information to many people. The research paper provides relevant information about the disease and the treatment options at hand .

To start writing a research paper, one should always go for a topic that is interesting and a bit challenging too. Here, the key to choosing the topic is to pick the one that you can manage. So, you could avoid such topics which are very technical or specialized and also those topics for which data is not easily available. Also, do not go for any controversial topic.

The researcher’s approach and attitude towards the topic will decide the amount of effort and enthusiasm.

Steps for writing Research Paper

Steps-for-writing-research-paper

The total number of pages included in a Research Paper relies upon the research topic. It may include 8 to 10 pages, which are:

  • Introduction
  • Review of Literature
  • Methodology
  • Research Analysis
  • Recommendations

Also Read : Difference Between Research Proposal and Research Report

Key Differences Between Thesis and Research Paper

  • A thesis implies an original, plagiarism-free, written academic document that acts as a final project for a university degree of a higher level. But, Research Paper is a novel, plagiarism-free long essay. It portrays the interpretation, evaluation or argument submitted by a researcher.
  • The thesis acts as a final project. Whereas a research paper is a kind of research manual of journals.
  • The length of the thesis is around 20,000 to 80,000 words. On the contrary, the length of the research paper is relative to the study.
  • The thesis focuses on the central question or statement of an intellectual argument that entails further research. On the contrary, the research paper is concerned with proving the central argument.
  • The purpose of submitting the thesis is to get the degree or professional qualification. It also presents the knowledge of the candidate in the respective field. Conversely, the aim of publishing research papers is to prove credibility and contribute knowledge in the respective field.
  • While the student submits the thesis to the educational committee or panel of professors who review it. In contrast, scientists and other researchers read and review the research paper.
  • Preparation and completion of thesis is always under the guidance of a supervisor. For submission of the thesis, the university assigns a supervisor to each student, under whose guidance the thesis must be completed. As against, no supervisor is appointed as a guide in case of a research paper.
  • The thesis contains a broader description of the subject matter. In contrast, the research paper contains a narrow description of the subject matter.

Once the research paper is published, it increases the fellowship and job opportunities for new researchers. On the other hand, thesis writing will enable the students to get the desired degree at the end of the course they have opted.

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February 23, 2023 at 2:38 pm

So good and informative. These are quite beneficial insights. Thanks

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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.

research paper or thesis

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

Thesis vs Research Paper

Published 16 October, 2023

research paper or thesis

A thesis and a research paper are two different writing formats used for academic purposes. A thesis is usually an in-depth study of the topic that considers all aspects of the situation, while a research paper provides more specific information on the subject matter or problem. They are both very different in nature and content, as well as length and structure. A thesis is typically more formal and academic in tone while a research paper can be less formal with more of an emphasis on the findings. This blog post will explore some of the differences between writing a thesis and researching for a paper.

Introduction of Thesis

The thesis is basically an academic document that students write for obtaining an academics degree. Students studying in the final year of their graduation need to prepare a thesis before the issuance of a degree from educational institutions. You need to write a thesis under the supervision of a Supervisor who will provide guidance and give feedback on the draft of the thesis. The main purpose of writing a thesis is to gather, analyze and present information in front of mentors from the respective universities. A thesis is broader. Students have to select the topic which should be relevant to the field to the area of specialty. You need to get your thesis to approve by your supervisor. You may have to spend a number of months writing a thesis because it is quite difficult to collect and analyze data. Therefore, it is very much essential for you to follow the proper process. In many of the countries where students call a thesis a Dissertation.

Introduction of Research Paper

A research paper is basically an individual academic document. It is basically a publication of research findings which you need to publish after properly analyzing the data which you have collected by applying different techniques. Basically, research papers are short in length in comparison to the thesis. The research paper only contains descriptions of specific and relevant information. On the other hand, the thesis mainly concentrates on a broader field. A research paper is basically a document that contains the research results which you draw from information that you have collected. It has its own document, there is a specific research methodology that you need to follow. Every academic paper has its own journal in which you can publish. For instance, for the journal of international marketing you need to publish information related to marketing only. Researcher papers are a contribution of the researcher in the field of specialty.

Read Also: How to write a good research paper

Major Differences between research paper and Thesis

Comparison between the structure of the thesis and research paper.

The main difference between the research paper and thesis is related to their structure, shown below:

Structure of Research paper

  • Title page: The research paper begins with the title page. On the title page of the research paper, you need to mention the name of the author, year of publication, and all other relevant information.
  • Abstract: Abstract for a research paper basically contains a detailed overview of a research paper.
  • Introduction: In the research paper introduction , you need to clearly state the topic. Students also need to provide a reason for selecting a particular topic.
  • Methodology: Here, you need to clearly define the research methodology which you are going to use for performing research.
  • Results: in this Section, the author describes the results and research findings which are the outcome of the data analysis.
  • Discussions: You need to have a research discussion on the basis of results and findings.
  • Conclusion: Here, you need to provide a research conclusion or summary of key points. Students should also demonstrate the importance of the study, s it will help you in developing interest of reading among the reader.
  • References: This section contains a list of resources that you are going to use for writing a research paper.

Structure of Thesis

On the other hand, the Thesis begins with a research proposal which you need to submit to the tutor. After getting the approval from the supervisor, you need to follow the below structure

  • Title page: On the title page of the thesis, you need to write the name of the students and instructor, date, and other relevant information related to the subject.
  • Abstract: Abstract in thesis mainly consists of a single-page summary of the complete thesis. It only includes the main point of the Thesis.
  • Introduction: Students need to include background information about the topic in the introduction section. It is also very much essential for students to clearly states the aims and objectives of their study.
  • Literature Review: In the literature section of the thesis, you need to include debates, opinions of different authors about a specific topic.
  • Methods: Here, in this section of the thesis, you need to clearly state the techniques which you are going to use for data collection, analysis, and interpretations. It also contains a description of the research design, questionnaire, etc.
  • Results: It is basically an important part of the thesis. You need to provide a description of the results on the basis of information that you have collected from different sources.
  • Discussion: In this section of the Thesis,  students need to have a discussion on all terms or main ideas.
  • Conclusion: It is basically the end of all chapters in the Thesis. Here, students need to provide a summary of important results.
  • Recommendations: In this section of the Thesis, you need to address gaps in the literature and need to provide suggestions for filing the same.
  • References: Here, you need to include the names of authors and articles which you have used for writing the thesis.
  • Bibliography: It is the section in the Thesis that contains the links which you or another researcher may use for gathering information. You can also include the research questionnaire form in this section.

Thesis and research papers are the two most common types of academic writing. They both have similarities but also distinct differences in their format, content, length, purpose, and audience. It is important to understand these distinctions so you can decide which one fits your needs best for any given project or assignment. If you need help choosing between thesis vs research paper formats, we’re here to guide you through this process with our knowledgeable team members who specialize in different subject areas. You can seek professional help for completing different types of assignments at reasonable costs. My Research Topics is basically a reliable support system for the students for all those students who really need help finishing the assignments.

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Home » Education » What is the Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

What is the Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

The main difference between thesis and research paper is that thesis is a long academic paper that typically serves as the final project for a university degree, while research paper is a piece of academic writing on a particular topic.

In brief, both thesis and research paper are types of academic writing students need to complete in their academic life. While there are many similarities between the two, including the use of academic writing and structure, they are not the same. 

Key Areas Covered

1.  What is a Thesis       – Definition, Features 2.  What is a Research Paper      – Definition, Features 3.  Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper     – Comparison of Key Differences

Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper - Comparison Summary

What is a Thesis

A thesis is a long paper that typically serves as the final project for a university degree. Submitting a thesis is generally required for completing undergraduate honours, masters , and  doctoral degrees . The theses are very long and may contain hundreds of pages. They are also scholarly in nature and allows students to contribute valuable research in their field of study.

Moreover, a major part of a thesis work involves research and writing. It generally has advanced  research design  and analysis. When writing a thesis, the students will have to prove or disapprove a  hypothesis , and their conclusions have to be backed by extensive research and an insightful, learned description of how they got to that conclusion. In some degree programs, students also have to perform an oral defence of the thesis paper in front of a panel of experts.

Components of a Thesis

These are the components you will usually find in a thesis paper.

  • Title Page                       
  • Abstract           
  • Table of Contents           
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables           
  • Introduction           
  • Methods           
  • Discussion             
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations           
  • Acknowledgements
  • References             

What is a Research Paper

A research paper is a type of academic writing that involves research, source evaluation, critical thinking, organization, and composition. Moreover, through a research paper, students can explore, interpret, and evaluate sources related to a particular topic. In fact, primary and secondary sources are very important components of a research paper. But it’s important to note that a research paper is not just a summary of a topic using primary and secondary sources. It’s not just an opinion essay or an expository essay that contains the writer’s opinions and views, either. A research paper is a type of writing that requires evaluating different sources and interpreting the information of these sources through one’s own lens. Furthermore, the main purpose of this type of writing is to offer a unique perspective on a topic analyzing and evaluating what others have already said about it.

Thesis vs Research Paper

In addition, there are different types of research papers. Argumentative research papers and analytical research papers are two of the main types of research papers.

Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

A thesis or dissertation is a long academic paper that typically serves as the final project for a university degree while a research paper is a type of academic writing that involves research, source evaluation, critical thinking, organization, and composition.

In an Academic Context

In an academic context, students may be required to write research papers for assignments and homework, but a thesis is usually the final project.

A thesis tends to be longer than a research paper; in fact, a thesis can take many months, sometimes years, to complete.

Supervision

The thesis is written under the supervision of one or more academic supervisors whereas research papers usually do not have supervisors.

Students have to complete a thesis in order to complete their degree, whereas students write research papers to expand their knowledge.

In brief, the main difference between thesis and research paper is that thesis is a long research paper that typically serves as the final project for a university degree, while a research paper is a piece of academic writing on a particular topic. Moreover, in an academic context, students may be required to write research papers for assignments and homework. But the thesis is usually the final project.

1. Stute, Martin. “ How to Write Your Thesis .” Columbia University. 2. “ Genre and the Research Paper .” Purdue Writing Lab.

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Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper: Unraveling the Distinction in 2023

Are you puzzled in the difference between Thesis and Research Paper? If yes, then have a close look at this blog post to explore everything about the difference between Thesis and Research Paper

In the realm of academia, students and researchers encounter various types of written assignments that require rigorous investigation and analysis. Among these assignments, the thesis and research paper are two common forms of scholarly writing.

While both contribute to the advancement of knowledge and demonstrate a student’s research capabilities, there are distinct differences between them in terms of purpose, scope, originality, structure, evaluation, and length.

Understanding these differences is essential for students embarking on their academic journey or researchers seeking to make meaningful contributions to their respective fields.

By grasping the unique characteristics of a thesis and a research paper, individuals can navigate the academic landscape more effectively, align their research objectives, and tailor their writing to meet the specific expectations of each form of scholarly communication.

In this discussion, we will delve into the dissimilarities between a thesis and a research paper, shedding light on the distinct purposes they serve, the scope of their investigations, the level of originality they demand, the structure they adhere to, the evaluation criteria they face, and the length of time they require for completion.

By examining these aspects, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of how a thesis and a research paper differ, allowing students and researchers to approach these academic assignments with greater clarity and confidence.

Whether you are a student embarking on your undergraduate or postgraduate journey, or a researcher striving to contribute to the scholarly discourse in your field, gaining a thorough understanding of the differences between a thesis and a research paper will serve as a valuable guide in effectively formulating research questions, conducting comprehensive investigations, and presenting your findings in a manner that aligns with the expectations of your academic community.

So, let us explore the unique characteristics that set a thesis and a research paper apart, empowering you to navigate the academic landscape and engage in scholarly pursuits with distinction and purpose.

Definition and Purpose of a Thesis

Table of Contents

A thesis is a significant academic document that showcases a student’s in-depth understanding of a particular subject and their ability to conduct independent research.

It is a formal written work that presents original findings, arguments, or theories, aiming to contribute new knowledge to the academic community. A thesis is typically pursued as a requirement for obtaining a higher academic degree, such as a Master’s or Ph.D.

The purpose of a thesis is multifold. Firstly, it serves as a demonstration of the student’s comprehensive understanding of the chosen field of study. It requires an extensive exploration of the existing literature, theories, methodologies, or experiments related to the research topic.

By delving deeply into the subject matter, a thesis allows students to showcase their analytical and critical thinking abilities, as well as their proficiency in synthesizing and evaluating complex information.

Secondly, a thesis aims to contribute to the existing body of knowledge within the specific academic discipline. It demands original research and the identification of a research gap, which the student then strives to fill through their investigations.

By conducting thorough research, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing meaningful conclusions, a thesis can offer new insights, propose novel theories, or develop innovative methodologies. Through their contribution, students endeavor to advance the understanding and knowledge within their field of study.

Lastly, a thesis serves as a requirement for obtaining a higher academic degree. It demonstrates the student’s research capabilities and scholarly competence, validating their readiness to contribute to their chosen field as a qualified professional or researcher.

Successful completion of a thesis signifies the mastery of research skills, the ability to work independently, and the capacity to engage in academic discourse.

Overall, a thesis represents a significant academic achievement, reflecting the culmination of a student’s academic journey and their dedication to expanding knowledge within their field. It serves as a testament to their intellectual capabilities, research prowess, and their potential to make meaningful contributions to their respective disciplines.

Definition and Purpose of a Research Paper

A research paper is a scholarly document that presents the results of a study or investigation conducted by a researcher or a group of researchers. It is a written work that focuses on addressing a specific research question, exploring a hypothesis, or investigating a particular topic within a given academic field. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge by presenting new insights, analyzing data, or providing a critical analysis of existing information.

Research papers are essential in various academic disciplines, including sciences, social sciences, humanities, and more. They serve as a means to communicate research findings, share knowledge, and engage in scholarly discussions.

Through research papers, researchers aim to advance understanding, challenge existing theories or assumptions, or propose new perspectives on a particular subject.

The primary purpose of a research paper is to contribute to the existing knowledge within a specific field of study. Researchers conduct a thorough review of relevant literature and studies to identify gaps or areas that require further investigation.

They formulate a research question or hypothesis and design a methodology to collect and analyze data that can answer the research question or test the hypothesis. The research paper then presents the findings, interpretations, and conclusions derived from the analysis of the collected data.

Research papers also play a crucial role in the dissemination of knowledge. They provide a platform for researchers to share their findings with the broader academic community.

By publishing research papers in academic journals, presenting them at conferences, or sharing them through other scholarly channels, researchers contribute to the ongoing conversations within their field. Other researchers can build upon the findings, validate or challenge the results, and collectively advance knowledge in a collaborative manner.

Moreover, research papers help researchers develop critical thinking skills, enhance their research methodology expertise, and contribute to their academic and professional growth.

Engaging in the research process, from formulating a research question to conducting data analysis, strengthens researchers’ abilities to think analytically, critically evaluate information, and draw meaningful conclusions. Research papers also provide opportunities for researchers to develop their academic writing skills, allowing them to effectively communicate their research findings and insights.

Difference Between Thesis and Research paper (Tabular Form)

Here’s a comparison between a thesis and a research paper in tabular form:

Please note that the specific characteristics may vary depending on the institution and academic discipline. This table provides a general overview of the key differences between a thesis and a research paper.

Difference Between Thesis and Research paper

Thesis and research paper are two distinct academic documents that have several differences. Here are the key dissimilarities between a thesis and a research paper:

Purpose and Objective

Have a close look at the purpose and objective comparison.

A thesis serves the purpose of demonstrating a student’s in-depth understanding of a subject, showcasing their analytical and critical thinking abilities, and contributing new knowledge to the academic community.

It aims to obtain a higher degree, such as a Master’s or Ph.D. For example, a Ph.D. thesis in biology may involve conducting original research to discover a new species or proposing a novel scientific theory.

Research Paper

The primary purpose of a research paper is to contribute to existing knowledge on a subject and engage in scholarly discussions. It focuses on exploring a research question or hypothesis, presenting findings, and analyzing the collected data.

For example, a research paper in economics may investigate the impact of a specific policy on economic growth by analyzing data from various sources.

Scope and Depth

Have a close look at the scope and depth comparison.

A thesis requires extensive research and an exhaustive exploration of the chosen topic. It involves delving deeply into the existing literature, critically analyzing previous studies, and offering an extensive review of relevant theories, methodologies, or experiments.

The scope of a thesis is broader, aiming to cover various aspects of the chosen field. For example, a thesis in history may involve examining multiple historical events, analyzing primary sources, and comparing different historical interpretations.

While a research paper also requires research, its scope of exploration is usually narrower compared to a thesis. Research papers often focus on addressing specific research questions, providing detailed analysis, or presenting findings within a limited context.

The scope of a research paper is more focused on a specific aspect or angle of the topic. For example, a research paper in psychology may investigate the effects of a particular therapy technique on a specific group of individuals.

Originality and Contribution

Have a close look at the originality and contribution comparison.

A thesis demands original research and substantial contribution to the existing body of knowledge in the field. It requires students to identify a research gap, formulate research questions, and conduct extensive investigations to fill that gap.

A thesis should provide novel insights, theories, or methodologies that contribute to the advancement of the field. For example, a thesis in computer science may involve developing a new algorithm or software application to solve a complex problem.

While a research paper also requires originality, its scope of contribution is typically narrower compared to a thesis. Research papers often focus on addressing specific aspects or angles of a topic, providing detailed analysis, or presenting findings within a limited context.

They may offer new perspectives or interpretations but may not be as extensive in terms of contributing to the overall knowledge in the field. For example, a research paper in sociology may present a new analysis of existing survey data to support or challenge existing sociological theories.

Structure and Formatting

Have a close look at structure and formatting comparison.

A thesis follows a specific structure that includes various sections such as a title page, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results and analysis, discussion, conclusion, references, and appendices (if applicable).

This structured format provides a comprehensive framework for presenting the research and analysis conducted. Each section has its purpose and contributes to the overall coherence of the thesis.

A research paper usually has a more flexible structure, depending on the field of study and the specific requirements of the assignment or publication. However, it commonly includes sections like a title, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results and analysis, discussion, conclusion, and references.

The structure may vary based on the specific guidelines or preferences of the intended publication. The flexibility allows researchers to adapt the structure to the needs of their study while maintaining the logical flow of information.

Evaluation and Audience

Have a close look at evolution and audience comparison.

A thesis is primarily evaluated by a committee of professors or experts in the field. The evaluation process involves comprehensive scrutiny of the research methodology, data analysis, theoretical frameworks, and the overall contribution to the field.

The audience for a thesis is typically limited to the academic community, including the student’s advisors, faculty members, and fellow researchers. The evaluation focuses on the originality, quality, and depth of the research conducted.

Research papers cater to a broader audience, including scholars, researchers, and professionals in the respective field. They are often evaluated through peer review processes before being published in academic journals or presented at conferences.

The evaluation criteria for research papers may vary depending on the publication or assignment guidelines, but they generally emphasize the clarity of research objectives, methodology, data analysis, and the significance of the findings. The evaluation focuses on the validity and contribution of the research to the existing knowledge.

Length and Time Frame

Have a close look at length and time frame comparison.

A thesis is typically longer in length compared to a research paper. It requires a more extensive investigation and analysis, resulting in a higher word count. The time frame to complete a thesis is also longer, often spanning several semesters or years.

The extended length and timeframe allow students to engage in thorough research, conduct experiments, gather data, and provide a comprehensive analysis of the chosen topic.

Research papers are generally shorter in length compared to a thesis. They focus on specific aspects or angles of a topic, resulting in a relatively shorter word count. The time frame to complete a research paper is shorter, often within a semester or a few weeks.

The shorter length and timeframe require researchers to narrow down their focus and present a concise analysis of the chosen research question.

Have a close look at purpose and objective comparison.

A thesis serves as a culmination of a student’s academic journey, demonstrating their mastery of a subject area and their ability to conduct independent research. It aims to contribute new knowledge, theories, or methodologies to the academic community, advancing the understanding of the chosen field.

The primary objective is to obtain a higher degree, such as a Master’s or Ph.D., and showcase expertise in a specialized area of study.

The primary purpose of a research paper is to communicate the results of a specific study or investigation to the academic community. It aims to contribute to existing knowledge by presenting new findings, interpretations, or analyses on a specific research question or topic.

Research papers can be standalone publications or part of a broader research project, providing insights and contributing to ongoing scholarly discussions.

Have a close look at scope and depth comparison.

A thesis requires a comprehensive and in-depth exploration of a subject, often involving extensive literature review, data collection, and analysis. It typically covers a broader scope within the chosen field, aiming to provide a holistic understanding of the topic and its various aspects.

A thesis often requires a more extensive examination of theoretical frameworks, methodologies, and relevant literature, presenting a well-rounded analysis.

Research papers often focus on a specific aspect or angle of a topic, narrowing down the scope of the study. The depth of exploration in a research paper is more limited compared to a thesis, as it emphasizes detailed analysis and findings related to the specific research question.

While research papers may include literature review and references, the analysis is usually more targeted and specific to the research question being addressed.

Have a close look at originality and contribution comparison.

A thesis requires a higher level of originality and contribution to the field. It should offer new insights, theories, methodologies, or empirical evidence that expand existing knowledge and advance the field of study.

A thesis often addresses a research gap or poses new research questions, aiming to fill a void in the existing body of knowledge.

While research papers also require originality, their contribution is typically more limited in scope. Research papers often build upon existing theories, methodologies, or data, offering new interpretations or perspectives within a specific context.

They may present incremental findings, replication studies, or comparative analyses that deepen understanding in a focused area of study.

A thesis follows a structured format that varies across institutions and disciplines. It typically includes sections such as a title page, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results and analysis, discussion, conclusion, references, and appendices (if applicable).

The structure ensures logical flow, provides context, and allows for comprehensive presentation of research and analysis.

Research papers also have a flexible structure, but they commonly include sections like a title, abstract, introduction, literature review, methodology, results and analysis, discussion, conclusion, and references. The specific structure may vary based on publication guidelines or the nature of the study.

The structure aims to present the research question, methodology, findings, and analysis in a coherent and understandable manner.

Have a close look at evaluation and audience comparison.

Theses are primarily evaluated by a committee of professors or experts in the field. The evaluation process involves rigorous scrutiny of the research methodology, data analysis, theoretical frameworks, and overall contribution to the field.

The audience for a thesis is typically limited to the academic community, including the student’s advisors, faculty members, and fellow researchers.

Research papers are evaluated through peer review processes before publication or presentation. The evaluation criteria may vary depending on the specific guidelines or intended publication, but they generally assess the clarity of research objectives, methodology, data analysis, and the significance of the findings.

The audience for research papers includes scholars, researchers, and professionals in the respective field, aiming to contribute to ongoing scholarly discussions and inform future research.

Theses are typically longer in length compared to research papers. The word count for a thesis can vary significantly, ranging from tens of thousands to over a hundred thousand words, depending on the level of study and institution’s requirements.

The time frame to complete a thesis is longer, often spanning several semesters or years, allowing for thorough research, data collection, analysis, and the writing process.

Research papers are generally shorter in length compared to theses. The word count for research papers varies depending on the specific requirements of the publication or assignment, but it is typically more concise compared to a thesis.

The time frame to complete a research paper is shorter, often within a semester or a few weeks, necessitating focused research, analysis, and writing within a more limited timeframe.

In conclusion, the difference between a thesis and a research paper lies in their purpose, scope, originality, structure, evaluation, and length. A thesis represents the culmination of a student’s academic journey, aiming to obtain a higher degree and contribute new knowledge to the academic community.

It requires extensive research, in-depth exploration of the chosen topic, and a broader scope that covers various aspects of the field. A thesis demands originality and substantial contribution, often addressing research gaps and presenting novel insights or methodologies.

On the other hand, a research paper focuses on presenting specific findings, interpretations, or analyses within a narrower scope. While it also requires originality, its contribution is usually more limited, building upon existing theories or data to offer new perspectives or interpretations.

Research papers have a flexible structure, adapting to the requirements of the publication or assignment, while the thesis follows a specific and comprehensive format.

Theses are primarily evaluated by a committee of experts in the field, targeting the academic community, while research papers undergo peer review processes for publication and cater to a broader audience of scholars, researchers, and professionals.

Furthermore, the length and time frame differ between the two. Theses are generally longer, spanning several semesters or years, allowing for thorough research and analysis, while research papers are shorter and completed within a semester or a few weeks, requiring focused research and concise presentation of findings.

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for students and researchers to navigate their academic endeavors effectively. Whether one aims to pursue advanced degrees or contribute to scholarly discussions, recognizing the unique characteristics of the thesis and research paper helps in formulating research objectives, selecting appropriate methodologies, and presenting research outcomes in a manner suitable to their intended audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main objective of a thesis.

The main objective of a thesis is to demonstrate a student’s in-depth understanding of a subject, showcase their analytical and critical thinking abilities, and contribute new knowledge to the academic community.

Can a research paper be considered a thesis?

No, a research paper and a thesis are distinct academic documents. While both involve research and analysis, a thesis is more comprehensive, requires a higher level of originality, and aims for a higher academic degree.

How long does it take to complete a thesis?

The duration to complete a thesis can vary depending on the program and the nature of the research. It often takes several semesters or years to conduct the necessary research, collect data, analyze findings, and write the thesis.

Who evaluates a thesis?

A thesis is typically evaluated by a committee of professors or experts in the field. They assess the research methodology, data analysis, theoretical frameworks, and the overall contribution to the field.

What is the audience for a research paper?

The audience for a research paper includes scholars, researchers, and professionals in the respective field. Research papers are often published in academic journals or presented at conferences to engage in scholarly discussions.

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A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking. This statement should be both specific and arguable. Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

After you've landed on a satisfactory topic, your next step will be to solidify the position you would like to take and write a clear and succinct thesis statement which will lay the foundation for the rest of your paper.

For the sake of example, let's say that you've chosen to argue the merits of eating locally grown foods. You want to focus on the positive effects that this will have on one's health, the local economy, and on global ecology. You also want to dispel the myth that eating locally is more expensive, and therefore, the exclusive purview of the upper middle class.

An example of a thesis statement outlining your position might look like this:

The locavore movement that has gained popularity in the United States over the past several years offers a way to increase health, support the local economy, and promote global ecology by making some simple changes to the way that you and your family eat. Although frequently criticized for being far more expensive than eating factory-farmed foods, the truth is that the costs of home gardening and the prices for which you can purchase food at your local farmer's market are often far less expensive alternatives than buying from a chain grocer, not to mention safer and more nutritious.

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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.

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The Difference Between A Research Paper And A Thesis

A research paper is an increasingly common form of academic writing. Because research papers involve extensive research and information collection, written research papers are often the product of decades of research. Therefore, research papers demand extensive use of logic and language. A study paper, such as all fantastic academic writing, necessitates that a writer establish her or his thesis: that a statement is true, based on facts and evidence gathered from an assortment of sources. Research papers additionally require that students and academics find reliable information regarding a given subject (that is, for many papers, to perform a detailed research).

In developing your research papers, the first step in the composing process is considering what you want to achieve. As you choose what you wish to put in your paper, you are probably going to be confronted with a challenging decision concerning how to arrange the facts and proof so which you can support your own arguments. One of the easiest ways to organize your study papers–and, thus, your essay–is to organize it in accordance with the methodology used in your study. This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many students procrastinate the business of the facts and proof until the last minute, when the composing process has already stretched far into the night.

Most research papers come in two formats: a written composition and a student essay. The article includes the main body of this papernonetheless, the student essay contains only a few paragraphs regarding your own personal research and the specific results you are trying to attain.(This limited attention makes the student composition less intimidating to read; consequently, many students choose to write their essays using just one or two specific anecdotes.) This”articles” or”segment” of your newspaper will contain your unique benefits and conclusions regarding your subject; in short, your”dry run”.

Before starting to write your cps test research papers, you must decide what format you prefer for different types of research papers. Would you prefer the careful organization of the facts and proof –or would you like to compose at a faster pace? It’s crucial to understand which kind of format best suits your requirements before beginning the assignment. As stated before, it is normally not a good idea to select just 1 method; the best strategy is to use different methods throughout the entire assignment. This permits you to get acquainted with all of the various kinds of formatting.

As you begin your study papers, you must first choose whether you want to use a technique that guides you through the a variety of research papers’ various kinds, or you would like your assignment to be a very simple story. As part of the business of your facts and proof, click test cps planning approaches are crucial; nonetheless, when it concerns the growth of a particular story, you should just allow the ideas flow freely. The last thing you want is to spend an whole day precisely the identical research question. You may also consider seeking skilled assistance if needed; there are many books and other resources available to assist students develop a productive research question and organize their debate.

The most important difference between a research paper and a thesis is that a study paper requires extensive research on the subject at hand. A thesis, on the other hand, is generally required after spending several weeks on a subject independently. The structure of the two differs; however, there are similarities too.

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  • Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples

Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples

Published on October 26, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A research question pinpoints exactly what you want to find out in your work. A good research question is essential to guide your research paper , dissertation , or thesis .

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

Table of contents

How to write a research question, what makes a strong research question, using sub-questions to strengthen your main research question, research questions quiz, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research questions.

You can follow these steps to develop a strong research question:

  • Choose your topic
  • Do some preliminary reading about the current state of the field
  • Narrow your focus to a specific niche
  • Identify the research problem that you will address

The way you frame your question depends on what your research aims to achieve. The table below shows some examples of how you might formulate questions for different purposes.

Using your research problem to develop your research question

Note that while most research questions can be answered with various types of research , the way you frame your question should help determine your choices.

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research paper or thesis

Research questions anchor your whole project, so it’s important to spend some time refining them. The criteria below can help you evaluate the strength of your research question.

Focused and researchable

Feasible and specific, complex and arguable, relevant and original.

Chances are that your main research question likely can’t be answered all at once. That’s why sub-questions are important: they allow you to answer your main question in a step-by-step manner.

Good sub-questions should be:

  • Less complex than the main question
  • Focused only on 1 type of research
  • Presented in a logical order

Here are a few examples of descriptive and framing questions:

  • Descriptive: According to current government arguments, how should a European bank tax be implemented?
  • Descriptive: Which countries have a bank tax/levy on financial transactions?
  • Framing: How should a bank tax/levy on financial transactions look at a European level?

Keep in mind that sub-questions are by no means mandatory. They should only be asked if you need the findings to answer your main question. If your main question is simple enough to stand on its own, it’s okay to skip the sub-question part. As a rule of thumb, the more complex your subject, the more sub-questions you’ll need.

Try to limit yourself to 4 or 5 sub-questions, maximum. If you feel you need more than this, it may be indication that your main research question is not sufficiently specific. In this case, it’s is better to revisit your problem statement and try to tighten your main question up.

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If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Methodology

  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

As you cannot possibly read every source related to your topic, it’s important to evaluate sources to assess their relevance. Use preliminary evaluation to determine whether a source is worth examining in more depth.

This involves:

  • Reading abstracts , prefaces, introductions , and conclusions
  • Looking at the table of contents to determine the scope of the work
  • Consulting the index for key terms or the names of important scholars

A research hypothesis is your proposed answer to your research question. The research hypothesis usually includes an explanation (“ x affects y because …”).

A statistical hypothesis, on the other hand, is a mathematical statement about a population parameter. Statistical hypotheses always come in pairs: the null and alternative hypotheses . In a well-designed study , the statistical hypotheses correspond logically to the research hypothesis.

Writing Strong Research Questions

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, November 21). Writing Strong Research Questions | Criteria & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/research-process/research-questions/

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How to create a helpful research paper outline

Last updated

21 December 2023

Reviewed by

You need to structure your research paper in an orderly way that makes it easy for readers to follow your reasoning and supporting data. That's where a research paper outline can help.

Writing a research paper outline will help you arrange your ideas logically and allow your final paper to flow. It will make the entire process more manageable and help you work out which details to include and which are better left out.

  • What is a research paper outline?

Write your research paper outline before starting your first draft. The outline provides a map of how you will structure your ideas throughout the paper. A research paper outline will help you to be more efficient when ordering the sections of your thesis, rather than trying to make structural changes after finishing an entire first draft.

An outline consists of the main topics and subtopics of your paper, listed in a logical order. The main topics will become the sections of your research paper, and the subtopics reveal the content you want to include or discuss under the main topics.

Under each subtopic, you can also jot down items you don't want to forget to include in your research paper, such as:

Topic ideas

Paragraph ideas

Direct quotes

Once you start listing these under your main topics, you can focus your thoughts as you plan and write the research paper using the evidence and data you collected and any additional information.

  • Why use an outline?

If your research paper does not have a clear, logical order, readers may not understand the ideas you're trying to share, or they may lose interest and not bother to read the whole paper. An outline helps you structure your research paper so readers can easily connect the content, ideas, and theories you're trying to prove or maintain.

  • Are there different kinds of research paper outlines?

Different kinds of research paper outlines might seem similar but have different purposes. You can select an outline type that provides a clear road map and thoroughly explores each point. 

Other types will help structure content logically or with a segmented flow and progression of ideas that align closely with the theme of your research.

  • The 3 types of outlines

The three outline formats available to research paper writers are:

Alphanumeric or topic outlines

Sentence or full-sentence outlines

Decimal outlines

Let’s look at the differences between each type and see how one may be more beneficial than another, depending on the nature of your research.

This type of research paper outline allows you to segment main headings and subheadings with an alphanumeric arrangement.

The alphanumeric characters of Roman numerals, capital letters, numbers, and lowercase letters define the hierarchy of main topic headings, subtopic headings, and third- and fourth-tier subtopic headings. (e.g., I, A, 1, a)

This method uses minimal words to describe the main and subtopic headings. You'll mostly use this type of research paper outline to focus on the organization of the content while allowing you to review it for unrelated or irrelevant information.

Full-sentence outlines

You will format this type of research paper outline as an alphanumeric outline, using the same alphanumeric characters. However, it contains complete sentences rather than a few words for each main and subtopic heading.

This formatting method allows the writer to focus on looking for inaccuracies and inconsistencies in each point before starting the first draft.

Instead of using alphanumeric characters to define main headings, subheadings, and third- and fourth-tier subheadings, the decimal outline uses a decimal numbering system.

This system shows a logical progression of the content by using 1.0 for the main section heading (and 2.0, 3.0, etc., for subsequent sections), 1.1 for the subheading, 1.1.1 for a third-tier subheading, and 1.1.1.1 for the fourth-tier subheading.

The headings and subheadings will be just a few words, as in the alphanumerical research paper outline. Decimal outlines allow the writer to focus on the content's overall coherence, increasing your writing efficiency and reducing the time it takes to write your research paper.

  • How to write a research paper outline

Before you begin your research paper outline, you need to determine your topic and gather your information. Let’s look at these steps first, then dive into how to write your outline.

1. Determine your topic

You'll need to establish a topic or the main point you intend to write about.

For example, you may want to research and write about whether influencers are the most beneficial way to promote products in your industry. This topic is the main point around which your essay will revolve.

2. Gather information

You'll need evidence, data, statistics, and facts to prove or disprove that influencers are the best method of promoting products in your industry.

You'll insert any of these things you collect to substantiate your findings into the outline to support your topic.

3. Determine the type of essay you'll be writing

There are many types of essays or research papers you can write. The kinds of essays include:

Argumentative: Builds logic and support for an argument

Cause and effect: Explains relationships between specific conditions and their results

Analytical: Presents a claim on what is being analyzed

Interpretive: Informative and persuasive explanations on how something is perceived

Experimental: Reports on experimental results and the reasoning behind the results

Review: Offers an understanding and analysis of primary sources on a given topic

Definition: Defines what a term or concept means

Persuasive: Uses logic and reason to show that one idea is more justified than another

Narrative: Tells a story of personal experience from the author’s point of view

Expository: Shows an objective view of a subject by exploring various angles

Descriptive: Describes objects, people, places, experiences, emotions, situations, etc.

Once you understand the essay format you are writing, you'll know how to structure your outline. 

4. Include basic sections

You'll begin to structure your outline using basic sections. Your main topic headings for these sections may include an introduction, multiple body paragraph sections, and a conclusion.

Once you establish the sections, you can insert the subtopics under each main topic heading.

5. Organize your outline

For example, if you're writing an argumentative essay taking the position that brand influencers (e.g., social media stars on Instagram or TikTok) are the best way to promote products in your industry, you will argue for that particular position.

You'll organize your argumentative essay outline with a main topic section supporting the position. The subtopics will include the reasoning behind your arguments, and the third-tier subtopics will contain the supporting evidence and data you gathered during your research.

You'll add another main topic section to counter and respond to any opposing arguments. Once you've organized and included all the information in this way, this will provide the structure to start your argumentative essay draft.

6. Consider compare-and-contrast essays

A compare-and-contrast essay is a form of essay that analyzes the differences between two opposing theories or subjects. If you have multiple subjects that are the same or different in just one aspect, you can write a point-by-point outline exploring each subject in terms of this characteristic.

The main topic headings will list that one characteristic, and the subtopic headings will list the subjects or items that are the same or different in relation to this characteristic.

Conversely, if you have multiple items to compare, but they have many characteristics that are similar or different, you can write a block method outline. The main topic headings will contain the items to be compared, while the subtopic headings will contain the aspects in which they are similar or different.

7. Consider advanced organizers for longer essays

An advanced organizer is a sentence that introduces new topics by connecting already-known information to new information. It can also prepare the reader for what they may expect to learn from the entire essay, or each section or paragraph.

Incorporating advanced organizers makes it easier for the reader to process and understand the information you are trying to convey. If you choose to use advanced organizers, depending on how often you want to use them throughout your paper, you can add them to your outline at the end of the introduction, the beginning of a section, or the beginning of each paragraph. 

  • Do outlines need periods (full stops)?

If you're constructing alphanumerical or decimal topic outlines, they do not need periods because the entries are usually not complete sentences. However, outlines containing full sentences will need to be punctuated as any sentence is, including using periods.

  • An example research paper outline

Here is an example of an alphanumerical outline that argues brand influencers are the best method of promoting products in a particular industry:

I.  Introduction

    A.  Background information about the issue and the position being argued.

    B.  Thesis statement: Influencers are the best way to promote products in this industry.

II.  Reasons that support the thesis statement

    A.  Reason or argument #1

           1.  Supporting evidence

           2.  Supporting evidence

    B.  Reason or argument #2

    C.  Reason or argument #3

          1.  Supporting evidence

          2.  Supporting evidence

III. Counterarguments and responses

       A.  Arguments from the other point of view

       B.  Rebuttals against those arguments

IV.  Conclusion

  • How long is a thesis outline?

There is no set length for a research paper outline or thesis outline. Your outline can be as long as it needs to be to organize your thoughts constructively.

You can start with a short outline containing an introduction, background, methodology, data and analysis, and conclusion. Or you can break these sections into more specific segments according to the content you want to share.

Why make writing a research paper more complicated than it needs to be? Knowing the elements of an outline and how to insert them into a cohesive structure will make your final paper understandable and interesting to the reader.

Understanding how to outline a research paper will make the writing process more efficient and less time-consuming.

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The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe

A look at some passages of Claudine Gay’s scholarly work under scrutiny for plagiarism

Posted: December 21, 2023 | Last updated: December 21, 2023

Harvard University said Wednesday that a newly disclosed review found more instances of inadequate citation in president Claudine Gay’s writings, hours after a congressional committee announced an inquiry into how the Ivy League school handled allegations of plagiarism against her.

The university said the review discovered additional “examples of duplicative language without appropriate attribution” in Gay’s 1997 doctoral dissertation, which she completed in Harvard’s government department. Gay “will update her dissertation correcting these instances of inadequate citation,” the university said.

Earlier this month, a top oversight board at Harvard said it had become aware in late October “of allegations regarding three articles.” An independent review found “no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct,” but revealed “a few instances of inadequate citation.” Gay is requesting four corrections to two of her academic articles “to insert citations and quotation marks that were omitted from the original publications,” the board said.

Here’s a look at some of the passages that have come under scrutiny.

A Globe review of a passage from Gay’s d issertation found her language matched, nearly verbatim, the language from a 1996 paper from Harvard academics Bradley Palmquist and Stephen Voss, with only minor changes of word choice and punctuation. The language was not set between quotation marks and their paper did not appear to be cited anywhere in a full-text PDF of the thesis reviewed by the Globe.

On Thursday, the New York Times published several examples of Gay’s work that appear to track closely with the writing of other scholars, without proper attribution.

Gay is accused of lifting two sentences in the acknowledgments of her dissertation from acknowledgments in the 1996 book “Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation,” by Harvard political scientist Jennifer L. Hochschild, the Times reported.

"Sandy Jencks showed me the importance of getting the data right and of following where they lead without fear or favor. "

"His example of iconoclasm about what the right answer is combined with passion for finding the right answer drove me much harder than I sometimes wanted to be driven. "

"I am also grateful to Gary: as a methodologist, he reminded me of the importance of getting the data right and following where they lead without fear or favor; as an advisor, he gave me the attention and the opportunities I needed to do my best work."

"Finally, I want to thank my family, two wonderful parents and an older brother. From kindergarten through graduate school, they celebrated my every accomplishment, forced me to laugh when I’d lost my sense of humor, " drove me much harder than I sometimes wanted to be driven, and gave me the confidence that I could achieve."

A 1993 paper that Gay wrote as a graduate student at Harvard contains language similar to that of David Covin, then a professor at California State University, Sacramento, the Times reported.

In her paper analyzing the role of race in Brazilian society, Gay described the “expulsion of four young black athletes from the volleyball team of the Tiete Yacht Club because of their color,” the Times said.

Covin had previously written of “the dismissal of four Black male children from the volleyball team of the Tiete Yacht Club in May, 1978, because of their color,” the Times reported.

The 1993 paper also contained similarities to an article written 21 years earlier by Thomas E. Skidmore in the Journal of Latin American Studies, according to the Times.

The newspaper said Skidmore, who died in 2016, wrote: “The Brazilian adage that ‘we are becoming one people’ rests on an implicit assumption that this final amalgam will be, at worst, a light mulatto phenotype and at best a moorish Mediterranean physical type. The ideal of whitening differs so categorically from white European and North American phobias about race mixture …”

Gay’s paper stated:

“The Brazilian concept of ‘whitening,’ symbolized in the popular saying ‘we are becoming one people,’ represents an ideology entirely different from white European and North American phobias about race mixture prevalent at the turn of this century.”

On Wednesday, Harvard said that the 1993 paper, published in the journal Origins, was “initially included in the scope of the independent review,” an independent panel and a Harvard Corporation subcommittee ultimately “considered the article outside its purview due to the age of the article and because articles included in that journal generally do not include citations or quotations.”

A 2017 paper by Gay, published in the Urban Affairs Review, contains similarities to a 2006 paper from political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and James M. Snyder Jr., the Times said.

Gay’s paper analyzes whether politicians direct housing investment toward their own constituents, the Times reported.

In their paper, Ansolabehere and Snyder wrote: “Theoretical arguments predict an interaction between partisanship of voters and party control of state government. Democratic counties are expected to receive more transfers when the state is under Democratic control …,” the Times reported.

Gay wrote: “Theory predicts an interaction between county partisanship and party control, such that the more Democratic a county, the more LIHTC allocations it should receive when the state is under Democratic control …”

Gay cited Ansolabehere and Snyder’s paper but not in that particular passage, according to the Times.

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, also flagged various passages in a report posted Dec. 11 , including some from Gay’s 2017 paper, “A Room for One’s Own? The Partisan Allocation of Affordable Housing.”

The Beacon said the paper “borrowed language” from two sources: a 2010 book by Alex Schwartz, “Housing Policy in the United States,” and a 2011 paper by Matthew Freedman and Emily Owens, “Low-Income Housing Development and Urban Crime.”

The Low-income Housing Tax Credit has evolved from an esoteric financial instrument to the single most important source of equality for low-income rental housing in the United States, Created by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the tax credit replaced virtually all previous tax incentives for investing in rental housing of any kind.

What began as a modest item in the internal Revenue Code has evolved over time into the nation's single largest subsidy for affordable housing, replacing nearly all previous tax incentives for investing in rental housing of any kind.

As an instrument for low-income housing development, we construct a county-level measure that captures the incentives developers have to build or rehabilitate affordable housing in certain tracts.

I also construct a county-level measure that captures the financial incentives developers have to build or rehabilitate affordable housing in the most impoverished places (Hollar and Usowski 2007).

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report, and Mike Damiano of the Globe Staff contributed. This breaking story will be updated.

Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, on campus on Dec. 13.

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Harvard president will update dissertation after more plagiarism allegations

A review concluded that inadequate citations did not constitute research misconduct.

research paper or thesis

Harvard University’s president, Claudine Gay, will request additional corrections to her scholarship, school officials announced Wednesday, as scrutiny intensified on her academic work amid plagiarism allegations and a congressional inquiry.

Gay will submit three updates to her 1997 dissertation, according to university officials, adding quotations and citations to properly credit other scholars’ work.

The review concluded that her inadequate citations did not constitute research misconduct.

Still, it was another sign of the intensifying pressure on the Harvard president, as a congressional committee announced an inquiry into the university’s handling of plagiarism allegations on Wednesday.

Gay was already under fire for her recent congressional testimony on campus antisemitism. Earlier this month, Gay and two other university presidents faced outrage after testimony before a House panel during which they would not say that calls for the genocide of Jews violated their universities’ codes of conduct. Gay later apologized and clarified her remarks, the campus newspaper the Harvard Crimson reported. The University of Pennsylvania’s president, Liz Magill, announced her resignation soon after the hearing.

Harvard’s top governing board announced its unanimous support for Gay last week. The board also said at the time it had reviewed plagiarism allegations and cleared her of any serious wrongdoing, although she asked for corrections to add missing quotation marks and citations to two published articles. The Harvard Corporation said last week that political scientists who reviewed the works found “a few instances of inadequate citation” but “no violation of Harvard’s standards for research misconduct.”

Harvard president to remain after anger over testimony on antisemitism

But questions continued — including allegations of plagiarism in her dissertation that had not been considered in the school’s review.

Last week saw an outpouring of support for Gay. Hundreds of faculty members signed onto a letter urging the school to defend its independence and resist political pressures — including calls to remove the president. On Thursday, one faculty member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, said they were troubled by the idea that Gay might be held to a different — and lower — standard than students are.

Jennifer Hochschild, a professor of government and African and African American studies, has been supportive of Gay’s presidency. She said she is troubled by the number of incidences of alleged plagiarism but that the individual cases are trivial — she sees no substantive theft of ideas.

“Plagiarism is not a kind of a single on-off switch. There’s variations in the degree of malfeasance. It sounds like a — God forbid — ‘You know, it depends on the context,’” she said, referring to a phrase the university presidents repeated during congressional testimony. “We’ve learned we’re not supposed to say that anymore, right?”

“There’s a lot of attack which is just mean-spirited and completely hypocritical,” she said. “But it’s politically very powerful — and it has enough truth behind it that one can’t just shrug it off.”

“It makes us look like we have a double standard.”

According to university officials, after questions from the New York Post in October about some of Gay’s published work, Gay asked the Harvard Corporation to conduct an independent review. The inquiry was not led by the research integrity units at the university or its Faculty of Arts and Sciences — to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, according to school officials, since those offices report to the president. Instead, a subcommittee of the board and a panel of three political scientists unaffiliated with Harvard considered the allegations.

The initial review included works questioned by the New York Post, as well as all of Gay’s published work from 1993 to 2019. It did not include her 1997 dissertation.

But even as the board was meeting to deliberate, new plagiarism allegations surfaced, including an article in the Washington Free Beacon and social media posts from Christopher Rufo, an activist affiliated with conservative organizations, and journalist Christopher Brunet.

On Wednesday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee launched a review of plagiarism allegations against Gay, demanding documents regarding the claims and the university’s responses, a list of disciplinary actions taken by the university for violations of academic integrity since 2019, and others.

In a letter to Penny Pritzker, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, the committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) wrote, “ Our concern is that standards are not being applied consistently, resulting in different rules for different members of the academic community. If a university is willing to look the other way and not hold faculty accountable for engaging in academically dishonest behavior, it cheapens its mission and the value of its education.”

The university released a detailed timeline of how the university has responded to plagiarism allegations Wednesday. And it announced new findings: The subcommittee of the Corporation found “one replica of a missing citation or quotation mark that had already been identified in a published paper and that has since been corrected, along with two other examples of duplicative language without appropriate attribution.”

Gay will correct those inadequate citations in her dissertation, school officials said.

The review announced last week did not find evidence of “intentional deception or recklessness” in Gay’s work, a required element for a determination of research misconduct, according to Harvard’s policy. But it found instances that did not comply with the university’s standards on using sources.

Those included instances where quotation marks were missing but authors were cited in the same paragraph or an adjacent paragraph, and cases where authors’ names should have been cited.

Those inadequate citations were regrettable, the review concluded — but did not constitute research misconduct.

An anonymous complaint was filed with the research integrity office at the school’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday, the Washington Free Beacon reported . Those allegations included the issues already reviewed and four new accusations that the board’s subcommittee has determined to be meritless, school officials said.

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COMMENTS

  1. What Is 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 master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

  2. How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Research Paper: Steps and

    A research project's thesis statement works similarly to the research hypothesis, in the sense that both address the research question. However, the thesis statement and research hypothesis serve different functions. The thesis statement is a short, direct statement that summarizes the main point or argument of a research paper, thesis paper ...

  3. Thesis vs. Research Paper: Know the Differences

    Defining the two terms: thesis vs. research paper The first step to discerning between a thesis and research paper is to know what they signify. Thesis: A thesis or a dissertation is an academic document that a candidate writes to acquire a university degree or similar qualification.

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    Step 1: Start with a question Step 2: Write your initial answer Step 3: Develop your answer Step 4: Refine your thesis statement Types of thesis statements Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about thesis statements What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay.

  5. How to Format a Thesis for a Research Paper

    A thesis statement is a single sentence in a research paper that plainly and succinctly explains the main point the research attempts to prove. For example, if you were researching the effects of exercise on stress, your thesis statement might be:

  6. Thesis

    Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim.

  7. Research Papers

    Develop a Research Question and Thesis You'll probably start with a fairly broad topic idea, such as women in World War II. Read widely in related literature to find out what questions have been asked about your subject and how others have answered them. Once you have an understanding of what others have said about the topic, narrow it.

  8. How to Write a Research Paper

    A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research. Research papers are similar to academic essays, but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research.

  9. Research Paper vs Thesis: What's the Difference?

    1. Introduction to Research Paper vs Thesis 2. Similarities between a Research Paper and a Thesis 3. Differences between a Research Paper and a Thesis 4. Structural Components of the Two Documents 5. Purpose, Audience and Objectives for Writing Each Document Type 6. Preparing to Write - Planning Considerations for Both Types of Projects 7.

  10. Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

    While both thesis and research papers are academic writings, there is a difference between the two. A thesis refers to a scholarly research report that a scholar writes and submits for fulfilling academic requirements and obtaining a higher degree. It opens up various lines of enquiry into a range of possibilities like an antithesis.

  11. 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 . . .

  12. Thesis Versus Research Paper

    Published 16 October, 2023. A thesis and a research paper are two different writing formats used for academic purposes. A thesis is usually an in-depth study of the topic that considers all aspects of the situation, while a research paper provides more specific information on the subject matter or problem. They are both very different in nature ...

  13. The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Research Paper

    What is a research paper? A research paper is a type of academic writing that provides an in-depth analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a single topic, based on empirical evidence. Research papers are similar to analytical essays, except that research papers emphasize the use of statistical data and preexisting research, along with a strict code for citations.

  14. What is the Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

    The main difference between thesis and research paper is that thesis is a long academic paper that typically serves as the final project for a university degree, while research paper is a piece of academic writing on a particular topic.

  15. Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper: Unraveling the

    Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper: Unraveling the Distinction in 2023 By Calltutors Team Are you puzzled in the difference between Thesis and Research Paper? If yes, then have a close look at this blog post to explore everything about the difference between Thesis and Research Paper

  16. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement 1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience. An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.

  17. Writing a Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that asserts the position a paper will be taking. This statement should be both specific and arguable. Generally, the thesis statement will be placed at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. The remainder of your paper will support this thesis.

  18. Strong Thesis Statements

    Using Research and Evidence Organizing Your Argument Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion Purdue OWL General Writing Academic Writing Establishing Arguments Developing Strong Thesis Statements Developing Strong Thesis Statements The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable

  19. Thesis Statements

    Thesis Statements. A thesis is the main claim you are making in an argument, similar to the hypothesis in a scientific experiment. It is what you are trying to prove or persuade your audience to believe or do. It's helpful to develop a working thesis to guide your composition process. "Working" is the operative word here; your ideas are ...

  20. The Difference Between A Research Paper And A Thesis

    The most important difference between a research paper and a thesis is that a study paper requires extensive research on the subject at hand. A thesis, on the other hand, is generally required after spending several weeks on a subject independently. The structure of the two differs; however, there are similarities too. By admin Published On ...

  21. Prize-Winning Thesis and Dissertation Examples

    It can be difficult to know where to start when writing your thesis or dissertation. One way to come up with some ideas or maybe even combat writer's block is to check out previous work done by other students on a similar thesis or dissertation topic to yours.

  22. Writing Strong Research Questions

    A good research question is essential to guide your research paper, dissertation, or thesis. All research questions should be: Focused on a single problem or issue. Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources. Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints. Specific enough to answer thoroughly.

  23. Thesis Generator

    If written properly, your thesis can act as a "roadmap" for your paper, where each main idea presented in your thesis essentially becomes the topic of your body paragraph. ... It is usually a few words or a phrase that summarizes the subject of your paper. For your thesis statement, try to make your topic as specific as possible. 2 State ...

  24. How to Create a Research Paper Outline: Tips and Examples

    1. Determine your topic. You'll need to establish a topic or the main point you intend to write about. For example, you may want to research and write about whether influencers are the most beneficial way to promote products in your industry. This topic is the main point around which your essay will revolve. 2.

  25. 15 Thesis Statement Examples for Research Papers to Inspire You

    Yes! Show me examples. Looking for a few more reminders about how to write a thesis statement before you start working? Check out these posts: How to Write a Thesis Statement in 5 Simple Steps How to Make a Thesis Statement the Easy Way (Infographic) How to Turn a Good Thesis Statement Into a Great One

  26. PDF A Sample Research Paper/Thesis/Dissertation on Aspects of Elementary

    years of effort that went into the production of this paper. A special thanks also to Howard Anton [1], from whose book many of the examples used in this sample research paper have been quoted. Another special thanks to Prof. Ronald Grimmer who provided the previous thesis template upon which much of this is based and for help with graphics ...

  27. A look at some passages of Claudine Gay's scholarly work under ...

    A 2017 paper by Gay, published in the Urban Affairs Review, contains similarities to a 2006 paper from political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and James M. Snyder Jr., the Times said.

  28. Harvard president updates disseration after plagiarism allegations

    5 min. Harvard University's president, Claudine Gay, will request additional corrections to her scholarship, school officials announced Wednesday, as scrutiny intensified on her academic work ...