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How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

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Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, 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.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

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

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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McCombes, S. (2023, August 15). How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/thesis-statement/

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What is a thesis | A Complete Guide with Examples

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Table of Contents

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

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

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

What is a thesis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a thesis statement?

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

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

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

Different types of thesis statements

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

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

Argumentative (or Persuasive) thesis statement

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

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

Analytical thesis statement

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

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

Expository (or Descriptive) thesis statement

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

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

Cause and effect thesis statement

Purpose : To demonstrate a cause and its resulting effect.

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

Compare and contrast thesis statement

Purpose : To highlight similarities and differences between two subjects.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 components of a thesis structure

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

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

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

title-page-of-a-thesis

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

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

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

Abstract-section-of-a-thesis

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

Acknowledgments

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

Acknowledgement-section-of-a-thesis

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

Table of contents

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

Table-of-contents-of-a-thesis

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

List of figures and tables

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

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

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

Introduction

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

Introduction-section-of-a-thesis

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

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

Literature review section

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

Literature-review-section-thesis

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

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

Methodology

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

Methodology-section-thesis

Here's a breakdown of what it should encompass:

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

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

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

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

Results (or Findings)

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

Results-section-thesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practical implications (Recommendation) section

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

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

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

The conclusion provides closure to your research narrative.

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

Conclusion-section-thesis

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

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

References (or Bibliography)

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

References-section-thesis

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

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

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

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

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

Appendices-section-thesis

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

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

Glossary (optional)

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

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

Glossary-section-of-a-thesis

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

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

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

Thesis examples

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

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

Checklist for your thesis evaluation

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

Content and structure

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

Clarity and coherence

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

Research quality

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

Originality and significance

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

Formatting and presentation

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

Grammar and language

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

Feedback and revision

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

Overall assessment

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

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

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

Preparing your thesis defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dissertation vs. Thesis

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

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

Here's a table differentiating between the two.

Wrapping up

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

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

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

Good luck with your thesis writing!

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

what is a research paper thesis

Writing Process and Structure

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Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

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

Introduction

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

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

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

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

How do I create a thesis?

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

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

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You begin to analyze your thesis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works consulted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Specific

This thesis statement has no specific argument:

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

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

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

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

Making a Unique Argument

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

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

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

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

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

Creating a Debate

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the Right Words

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

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

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

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

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

Leaving Room for Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

Thesis Mad Libs

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

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

Words to Avoid and to Embrace

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

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

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

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  • Writing Tips

How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Research Paper

How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Research Paper

4-minute read

  • 26th July 2023

A strong thesis statement is the foundation of a successful research paper . The thesis gives focus to your ideas, engages readers, and sets the tone for the rest of the paper. You’ve spent substantial time and effort to craft a well-written and effective study , so you want your thesis statement to accurately reflect the impact of your work.

However, writing a thesis is often easier said than done. So if you’ve already got the arguments, the data, and the conclusions, keep scrolling for our straightforward guide on how to write a thesis statement for a research paper.

What Is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is a clear and succinct assertion that presents the main argument or central idea of a research paper or other academic work. You usually find the thesis, which serves as a road map for the entire piece of writing, at the end of the introductory paragraph. The thesis also highlights the importance and relevance of the research topic , explaining why it’s worth studying and what impact it may have.

A good thesis statement also invites critical discussion and debate. Although your statement should provide a compelling argument , it should also inspire readers to engage with your ideas and potentially challenge or explore alternative viewpoints.

How to Write a Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement should outline the scope and boundaries of the paper and indicate what aspects of the topic you’ll cover. But now that you know what a good thesis statement entails, where should you start? Check out our series of steps below for help on writing an impactful thesis statement that accurately summarizes your research and arguments.

Understand the Purpose of Your Research

Before you can write a thesis statement, you need to understand the purpose and scope of your research. Pinpoint the specific topic or issue you’ll be exploring and the main objective of your paper. You should also familiarize yourself with the existing literature and research related to your topic because these will help you refine your focus and identify gaps in the existing knowledge that your research can address.

Consider the Impact of Your Research

Your thesis statement should answer the question, What is the relevance? – meaning it should tell the reader what the practical implications of your research are, why the research is significant, and what it adds to the broader academic landscape.

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Make a Concise Claim or Argument

Your statement should be clear, specific, and concise, conveying the main point of your research in one or two sentences. It should present a claim or argument that you’ll go on to support and defend in your paper, so avoid purely factual or self-evident statements. Be precise in your wording and tailor your thesis statement to the scope of your research – don’t introduce a new or unrelated topic that you don’t expressly address in your paper. The thesis statement is meant to indicate what the reader can expect to find in your paper, and you must support the thesis with evidence throughout.

Revise and Refine the Statement

Crafting a strong thesis statement may require multiple attempts, so take the time to revise and edit it until you’re satisfied that it meets your requirements.

Example Thesis Statement

Below is an example of a strong thesis statement that clearly emphasizes the main points of a research topic:

In this example, the thesis statement clearly identifies the main topic (technology’s impact on education) and presents a strong argument about technology’s positive effects. The thesis conveys the essential message of the research concisely in one sentence, leaving no doubt about the position of the author and what they’ll address in the paper.

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How to write a thesis statement for a research paper

How to write a thesis statement

The thesis statement is the central argument of your research paper makes and serves as a roadmap for the entire essay. Therefore, writing a strong thesis statement is essential for crafting a successful research paper—but it can also be one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process. In this post, we discuss strategies for creating a quality thesis statement.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is the main argument of an academic essay or research paper . It states directly what you plan to argue in the paper.

A thesis statement is typically a single sentence, but it can be longer depending on the length and type of paper that you’re writing.

How to write a good thesis statement

In this section, we outline five key tips for writing a good thesis statement. If you’re struggling to come up with a research topic or a thesis, consider asking your instructor or a librarian for additional assistance.

1. Start with a question

A good thesis statement should be an answer to a research question. Start by asking a question about your topic that you want to address in your paper. This will help you focus your research and give your paper direction. The thesis statement should be a concise answer to this question.

Your research question should not be too broad or narrow. If the question is too broad, you may not be able to answer it effectively. If the question is too narrow, you may not have enough material to write a complete research paper. As a result, it’s important to strike a balance between a question that is too broad and one that is too narrow.

Thesis statements always respond to an existing scholarly conversation; so, formulate your research question and thesis in response to a current debate. Are there gaps in the current research? Where might your argument intervene?

2. Be specific

Your thesis statement should be specific and precise. It should clearly state the main point that you will be arguing in your paper. Avoid vague or general statements that are not arguable (see below). The more specific your thesis statement is, the easier it will be to write your paper.

To make your thesis statement specific, focus on a particular aspect of your topic. For example, if your topic is about the effects of social media on mental health, you can focus on a specific age group or a particular social media platform.

3. Make it debatable

A good thesis statement must be debatable (otherwise, it’s not actually an argument). It should present an argument that can be supported with evidence. Avoid statements that are purely factual or descriptive. Your thesis statement should take a position on a topic and argue for its validity.

4. Use strong language

Use strong, definitive language in your thesis statement. Try to avoid sounding tentative or uncertain. Your thesis statement should be confident and assertive, and it should clearly state your position on the topic.

It’s a myth that you can’t use “I” in an academic paper, so consider constructing your thesis statement in the form of “I argue that…” This conveys a strong and firm position.

To help make your thesis more assertive, avoid using vague language. For example, instead of writing, "I think social media has a negative impact on mental health," you might write, "Social media has a negative impact on mental health" or “I argue that social media has a negative impact on mental health.”

5. Revise and refine

Finally, remember that your thesis statement is not set in stone. You may need to revise, and refine, it as you conduct your research and write your paper. Don't be afraid to make changes to your thesis statement as you go along.

As you conduct your research and write your paper, you may discover new information that requires you to adjust your thesis statement. Or, as you work through a second draft, you might find that you’ve actually argued something different than you intended. Therefore, it is important to be flexible and open to making changes to your thesis statement.

The bottom line

Remember that your thesis statement is the foundation of your paper, so it's important to spend time crafting it carefully. A solid thesis enables you to write a research paper that effectively communicates your argument to your readers.

Frequently Asked Questions about how to create a thesis statement

Here is an example of a thesis statement: “I argue that social media has a negative impact on mental health.”

A good thesis statement should be an answer to a research question. Start by asking a question about your topic that you want to answer in your paper. The thesis statement should be a concise answer to this question.

Start your thesis statement with the words, “I argue that…” This conveys a strong and firm position.

A strong thesis is a direct, 1-2 sentence statement of your paper’s main argument. Good thesis statements are specific, balanced, and formed in response to an ongoing scholarly conversation.

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Explicit tips on writing a thesis, how to write a research paper thesis: a quick guide.

We all know that thesis for a research paper is very important. Thesis statement conveys the main debatable idea - the last sentence or two of your introduction . You need to make your thesis clear. If not, you may feel frustrated when your teacher asks what the main ideas of your writing were after all hours you spent developing the research paper.

Always analyze research paper thesis statement examples. Decent research thesis statements have much in common. You need to introduce a good argument, not a fact but a valid debatable point of your essay.

Search a pressing issue, questions within your topic; it is important the evidence discovered actually support your thesis. Coming up with a strong statement for a research work may be a daunting task. One may spend too much time formulating it still changing the wording at some stage of writing. Most likely you will need some assistance.

As Napoleon Bonaparte said, “if you want a thing done well, do it yourself”! It may not work for everyone. We have professional team of experienced writers who will provide you with assistance you need saving you from stress and wasted hours. We will write a paragraph and give you a thesis. If required, we will revise it up to the point where you like it.

Reading examples helps guide you to a clear thesis. It reveals important elements and can explain you the reasons why this is a strong statement. We will present the examples of good and bad theses . Then we will provide important tips on how to change your wording to make it worthy of professional writer.

No : We should avoid consuming food high in sugar.

Yes : People need to decrease the consumption of products high in sugar because this diet can cause health issues like diabetes and heart diseases.

No : A high number of young people cannot afford to pay tuition costs.

Yes : All young people willing to enroll in a college should have an opportunity to do so by having access to the governmental because this helps them get a job and repay the governmental investment in their education.

No : Prohibiting marijuana is a good cause to pursue, but there are some people who need it for medicinal use.

Yes : America should prohibit marijuana in all forms because this is a drug many people abuse. What’s worse, it causes many health issues like cancer.

Thesis statement examples for research paper are helpful. When a reader sees such examples, they analyze the text, information, and opinion expressed in a thesis. A claim you make should not be simple. Focus on what you want to argue and give reasons, keeping in mind that your position should be proven later in the project. Knowing how to write a research paper thesis gives you an upper hand in college. You can ask for writers’ assistance; relax – order your research project from us !

Effective statement makes a great impression on a reader. It gives you credit since you need to possess profound writing skills. We have prepared a quick list of tips you can follow to tailor your perfect assertion.

  • Construct a thesis from a question

Formulate a question then give an answer. Your answer is now a basis for the research paper thesis statement; expand it providing more evidence, ideas which you will later support in your research.

  • Keep in mind the type of research

There is a difference between theses of argumentative, expository, and analytical research. Expository essay should teach you something or clearly explain a point. The goal of an argumentative thesis is to change a reader’s mind on an issue analyzed in the essay. If you need to devise an analytical research, pay attention to the details that you will examine to better understand the whole concept.

  • A powerful thesis takes a side

Never include an opposite opinion in your assertion. Make sure you take a specific side; come up with all possible supporting details that will make your position even stronger.

  • Make sure you can prove your point

The golden rule is to come up with the thesis at the end of your research. This is required to ensure you can find strong evidence to prove your thesis . Avoid too complicated formulations that cover large scopes. If your assertion for a research paper is very subjective and hard to prove, you may want to reconsider your position.

We have prepared a short list of steps you need to follow if you have no idea how to write a research paper thesis.

  • Choose a topic you are interested in
  • It is much easier to find supporting evidence if the question you are researching interests you.
  • Explore the resources, theme
  • The topic should not be broad. Decide on a narrow subject within your topic. A good thesis is never vague since you cannot ensure a good research.
  • Follow a structure
  • Introduction – literature review – methodology – results – discussion – conclusion .
  • It is okay to write, revise, rewrite, adjust your thesis in the process of doing research.

Following these tips will help you focus on the correct way to formulate a solid thesis for your research work. Along with that, it is recommended to consult experts in the field. Order from us – ensure your thesis is professionally composed, provable, debatable. Our writers are experts in thesis writing. They will help you devise the most appropriate and effective thesis for your paper.

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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

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.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college

Research Paper Writing Guides

Research Paper Thesis

Last updated on: Jan 15, 2024

How to Write a Research Paper Thesis: A Detailed Guide

By: Donna C.

20 min read

Reviewed By: Jared P.

Published on: Jan 6, 2024

How to Write a Thesis for a Research Paper

Have you ever had trouble making a thesis for your research paper? It's a common challenge, often leaving writers uncertain about where to begin and how to structure their thoughts.

A thesis statement is what your research paper revolves around. The argument, evidence, and facts stated in the thesis are carried out throughout the research paper. 

Having said that, the importance of creating a thesis statement that stands out, cannot be denied. But, not everyone is competent enough to craft effective thesis statements. 

Fear not! 

We've streamlined the process for you, breaking it down into manageable steps. From brainstorming your topic to crafting a clear thesis, we’ll help you write the optimal thesis. 

Let’s get going! 

How to Write a Thesis for a Research Paper

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What is a Research Paper Thesis?

To understand the question, “What is a thesis for a research paper?” we’ll look at the standard definition : 

“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.”

Think of it as the roadmap for your readers that guides them throughout the entire research paper. 

Usually, thesis statements consist of one or, at most, two sentences . A good thesis isn't just about summarizing; it's about making a clear point and an arguable claim. 

The thesis takes place in the research paper introduction. It is a good practice to include the thesis at the end of the introduction paragraph.

For example, If you're exploring how technology affects learning, a strong thesis statement could be: 

Now that you know what a research paper thesis is, let’s discuss some characteristics of a good thesis statement in the context of research. 

Elements of a Good Research Paper Thesis

A solid research paper thesis is like a well-built foundation for your research work. Here are the key elements that make it strong:

A good thesis is crystal clear, leaving no room for confusion. It conveys the main point clearly and makes sure that the readers grasp the essence of the argument.

Specificity

It goes beyond generalities, providing specific aspects about the focus of the paper. Specificity adds depth and helps in guiding the research process.

Arguability

A strong thesis statement takes a stance on an issue and presents an arguable claim. It sparks curiosity and encourages discussion rather than stating an obvious fact.

Conciseness

Keeping it short and to the point is key. A good thesis doesn’t go off-track—it gets straight to the heart of your message in a sentence or two.

Alignment with Paper Content

A good thesis aligns seamlessly with the content, reflecting the direction and purpose of the research.

Incorporation of Main Ideas

It serves as a preview of the main ideas in the research. A good thesis introduces the key concepts that will be explored and substantiated throughout the research.

A relevant thesis statement connects directly to the research and questions that the author aims to answer. It avoids unnecessary information that might divert from the main focus.

Guidance for Research

An effective thesis summarizes the point and provides a roadmap for your research. It outlines the direction of the research and sets expectations for the reader.

Adaptability

A good thesis remains flexible. As the research progresses, it can be refined to accommodate new insights or changes in the direction of the paper.

Now, let’s see what are the different types of research paper theses.

Different Research Paper Thesis Types

Depending on different types of research papers, the thesis can take any of the following forms:

Argumentative Thesis

An argumentative thesis takes a firm stance on a controversial issue and aims to persuade the reader to adopt the same position on the topic. Your goal is not just to present information but to convince others that your perspective is valid. 

Including supporting evidence and well-structured arguments play an important role in an argumentative thesis.  

Analytical Thesis

An analytical thesis approaches a complex topic by breaking it down into its fundamental components. It aims to understand how these parts interact and contribute to the overall understanding of the subject. 

Explanatory Thesis

An explanatory thesis aims to clarify a concept, process, or phenomenon by offering detailed information. It helps explain a topic without picking sides or breaking it into pieces. 

These are the most common types of research paper theses. Although there are some other types as well. 

  • Comparative Thesis: Examines similarities and differences between two or more subjects, presenting an analysis of their relationships. 
  • Cause and Effect Thesis: Identifies a relationship between events, asserting that one event leads to another and explaining the consequences. 
  • Descriptive Thesis: Paints a vivid picture of a subject, providing detailed information to create a clear and rich understanding.
  • Problem-Solution Thesis: Highlights an issue and proposes specific solutions to address the identified problem. 
  • Exploratory Thesis: Explores a subject with an open mind, aiming to understand different aspects and perspectives without necessarily forming a definite conclusion.

Now that you have a better understanding of what a research paper thesis is, we’ll get straight to the writing steps. 

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How to Write a Thesis for a Research Paper? 

Follow these steps, and you’ll be writing compelling research thesis statements in no time.

Step 1. Brainstorm Your Topic

If you haven’t yet decided on the research paper topic, the first step is to brainstorm ideas. 

  • Start with identifying your key research areas and interests. 
  • Once you pick a general idea, dig deeper. 
  • Think about what makes you curious about the topic.

For example, if you’ve chosen climate change, your brainstorming might lead you to questions like:

  • How does climate change affect wildlife in specific regions?
  • What are the human activities contributing to climate change?

Topic brainstorming helps you create a roadmap and aids you in pinpointing areas within the broader topic that you’re most interested in. 

Step 2. Conduct Preliminary Research

After brainstorming, the next step is to conduct research and explore what others have discovered about your topic. 

You can read books, articles, and reliable sources. Gather information to understand the current state of knowledge on your topic.

Doing preliminary research helps build the foundation of your research thesis. You’ll have a better insight and understanding of your topic if you know it’s background.  

Step 3. Choose a Clear Research Question

Now, it's time to narrow down your focus to a specific and well-defined research question. 

Make sure your question is relevant and it aligns with your interests and the assignment.

Here’s how you should narrow down your research questions: 

  • Get Specific 

After looking at the overall topic, narrow it down to a specific aspect. 

For example, Instead of saying “climate change,” think about something like “How does cutting down trees (deforestation) add to climate change?” It's like getting focused on one part of the bigger picture.

  • Make it Matter 

Your question should be important. Ask yourself why it's a big deal to you and why it matters for your assignment. 

For example, instead of just wondering about technology and people, ask, “How do smartphones affect our work every day?” This makes your question relevant and calculated.

Be clear about your question and try not to make it confusing. Craft a question that's easy to understand. If your assignment doesn't come with a set question, make one up. 

Ask yourself, “What do I want to find out about my topic?” Your self-made question becomes your guide for exploring.

Step 4. Answer the Research Question

After you’ve crafted your research question, comes the time to compose your answer. What you need to do is to think about why this is your response and how you will convince readers.

  • First Answer, or Working Thesis:

This is your starting answer, kind of like a rough draft.

For example,  If your question is “How does cutting down trees affect climate change?” your first answer could be something like:

  • Get Your Direction:

Think of this answer as a compass. It helps you know where you're going in your research project. It's the beginning of your thesis statement, which is the big idea that leads your whole research paper.

Remember, it's okay if this answer changes later as you learn more. It's like starting with a map and adjusting your path as you find new stuff. The point is to start with a thoughtful and informed beginning for your research project.

Step 5. Include Evidence and Reasoning

After making your first educated guess (working thesis), it's time to collect evidence that supports your idea. This is like finding puzzle pieces that fit with your initial thoughts.

If your working thesis is “ Cutting down trees lets out carbon, adding to the warming of the Earth ,” find data that shows how deforestation releases carbon. This data is like your evidence that makes your thesis more convincing.

Use real-life examples and expert opinions to strengthen your thesis. 

For instance, if case studies show the environmental impact of deforestation or if reputable scientists have published articles supporting your point, include them. 

  • Include data showing the correlation between deforestation rates and increased carbon emissions.
  • Provide examples of regions where deforestation has led to changes in climate patterns.
  • Reference scholarly articles written by environmental experts that discuss the impact of deforestation on global warming.

This step elevates your working thesis to a solid thesis statement by grounding it in concrete evidence and expert perspectives. It transforms your idea into a well-supported argument that has the potential to engage readers from the get-go. 

Step 6. Refine Your Answer

Now that you've presented your initial answer backed by evidence and reasoning, it's time to fine-tune it. 

  • Take a step back and look at your initial answer or working thesis . Does it still hold up in light of the evidence you've gathered? Consider if any adjustments or clarifications are needed.
  • Also, try to look at your answer from different angles and perspectives . Acknowledge alternative perspectives and see if there are valid counterarguments. This step adds depth and meaning to your thesis.
  • Refine your answer to capture the complexity of your topic. Your thesis should not oversimplify; it should reflect the richness of your research project.
  • Make sure that your thesis remains well-supported by the evidence you've gathered.

For example, if your working thesis is “Cutting down trees lets out carbon, adding to the warming of the Earth,” after evaluating, you might refine it to: 

Step 7. Finalize Your Thesis Statement

Now comes the final step of the thesis writing process. In the last stage, summarize your refined answer into a powerful single sentence or, if required, two sentences. 

It should capture the main point of your research project and set the tone for your entire paper.

The final version of the refined answer we discussed would look something like this in the form of a final thesis statement . 

One thing to note here is that you shouldn’t exceed the number of sentences used to more than 2. 

Comparing a Strong and a Weak Thesis Statement

Some thesis statements are strong, precise, and accurately address the scope of the research study. On the other hand, some statements lack these aspects in one way or the other. 

It could be beneficial for you to look at some examples of strong and weak thesis statements for an even better understanding. Take a look at the comparison table below:

By now, you should have a clear idea about what elements are required to craft a strong and adequate thesis statement. 

Research Paper Thesis - Examples

Here are some great research paper thesis statement examples for you. Go through them, and you’ll have a practical understanding of what makes a perfect research paper thesis.

Research Paper Thesis Example

See this effective research paper thesis example that brilliantly addresses the argument and the research direction.

Research Paper Thesis Template

Here is a good research paper thesis template that you can follow:

Thesis Statement Outline PDF

How to Write Thesis for a Research Paper APA Format - Example

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to write a thesis statement for a research paper in APA format:

Middle School Research Paper Thesis 

Research report thesis , history research paper thesis, thesis statement for a psychology research paper, thesis paragraph for a research paper.

Having read these examples, you should be able to give your research paper an edge with compelling thesis statements. 

Thesis Statement vs. Research Question vs. Hypothesis

It is vital to understand the difference between your thesis, research question, and the hypothesis of the research paper. Look at the table below to know the key differences between them. 

Things to Avoid in a Research Paper Thesis

There are some things that you avoid performing at all costs for a great thesis.

So, for an effective research paper thesis, you should avoid

  • vague or overly broad statements. 
  • making statements without proper evidence
  • ambiguous and complex language that might confuse your readers. 
  • using a personal bias to overshadow your thesis
  • overly simplistic statements
  • stating the obvious without adding any fresh perspective 

To sum it up,

Learning how to create a thesis for a research paper can take some time. But, after a bit of research and getting help from experts, you can engage readers will well-written statements. 

With our comprehensive and step-by-step guide, we aim to help you understand everything about creating a thesis statement. From the initial topic brainstorming to the final statement, we’ve covered every writing step in detail.However, if you’re still stuck somewhere, and you’re unsure how to move forward, don’t worry; we have a solution for that as well.

Our paper writing service online has a pool of experienced writing specialists who can take your research paper worries away in a breeze. Experts at our service are up for any challenge you throw at them.

Just visit our website, let us know what you require, and we’ll solve your writing-related woes at the best and most affordable rates! 

Donna C.

Donna writes on a broad range of topics, but she is mostly passionate about social issues, current events, and human-interest stories. She has received high praise for her writing from both colleagues and readers alike. Donna is known in her field for creating content that is not only professional but also captivating.

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Your instructor may ask you to provide a thesis statement, rather than a research question. The main difference between a thesis statement and a research question is that a thesis statement makes a claim upfront that you will attempt to validate in your paper. A thesis statement:

  • States your position on a topic
  • Is not always required when writing a research paper
  • Is often your research question reworded as a statement with a position

For more information on writing thesis statements, see UMGC's Online Guide to Writing and Research: Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea .

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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.

what is a research paper 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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How to Formulate Research Questions

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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Thesis vs. Research Paper

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Thesis vs. Research Paper

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what is a research paper thesis

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what is a research paper thesis

Writing a thesis or dissertation is considered the final phase of your Ph.D. journey. You must cover three to five years of study and research into your thesis. A doctoral thesis or dissertation is a long essay of knowledge and research on a specific niche that poses interesting questions and answers with your reasoning. Ph.D. candidates should carefully choose the study topic according to their expertise. This article explains how to write an impeccable Ph.D. thesis for outstanding results in 6 helpful steps.

what is a research paper thesis

We may have qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods in dissertations. This blog will elaborate on quantitative dissertations, qualitative dissertations, and mixed methods dissertations by addressing their similarities and differences.

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What Is a Thesis Paper?

Mary Dowd

When Do You Write a Thesis Paper?

How to write a thesis statement, dissertation vs. thesis, what types of theses are there.

Writing a thesis paper in college or graduate school is daunting but is also deeply satisfying when you are really into the subject you are exploring. Basically, a thesis paper is a long essay that poses an interesting research question and persuasively answers it. Along with an introductory paragraph providing background information on a topic you are examining, you will write a thesis statement that includes your own personal stance on the topic.

For instance, you could tackle an issue like gun control or legalizing marijuana and logically present evidence to support your opinion. Instructors want more from students than regurgitation of other writers’ work. Writing is about finding your own voice and expressing original ideas supported by credible facts and verifiable data. A thesis paper also helps you sharpen your critical thinking skills. You may even find the research process fun and exciting once you get started.

A thesis paper is a comprehensive research paper often written in consultation with a faculty adviser. Most thesis papers are written at the graduate level.

A thesis is the main idea of an academic paper that expresses the writer’s position on a topic. In other words, if you are writing about the death penalty, you would state your viewpoint upfront and introduce the arguments you will be presenting in defense of your stance. Having a clear, unmistakable thesis shows strength and confidence in your beliefs.

The thesis is typically located at the end of the introductory paragraph of the thesis paper. All research papers need a thesis to grab the reader’s attention and signal where the paper is heading. Length can vary from a one-page English composition essay to a Ph.D. dissertation that is hundreds of pages long. Everything included in the paper should directly and succinctly relate to the thesis. Extraneous material weakens a paper and detracts from the point you are trying to argue.

One of the biggest mistakes students make is jumping into a writing assignment before narrowing their topic, writing a thesis and developing an outline. A thesis that is too broad is unmanageable. A good thesis is clear and precise. An outline helps to ensure that the paper is cohesive and easy to follow. Ironically, a paper can take three times as long to write if you make it up as you go instead of developing major talking points when you first sit down at the computer.

The research process is easier to comprehend when you remind yourself that the goal is to test theories, find new knowledge, introduce different perspectives and gain deeper insight. Reviewing literature will help you formulate questions and figure out what you hope to achieve with your study. Your research questions will then lead you to a testable hypothesis. Next, you will write a thesis statement. The thesis statement presents a claim, proposal or opinion that can be supported or refuted with rational arguments.

Controversial subjects can be very interesting to research, but you must keep your emotions in check and objectively assess the credibility of sources. Academic research is scholarly and rational in tone and style. A thesis statement that is bombastic or judgmental is difficult to prove or disprove. For example, a thesis statement asserting that human genetic modification is evil and morally wrong is a matter of somebody’s emotional opinion that may or may not be swayed by facts. A better approach to such a topic would be to make the claim that further study is needed on the ethics and health implications of human genetic engineering.

At the master’s level, you write a thesis after taking core classes during the first half of your program. As part of your studies, you will submit several shorter papers that will help you develop the research skills and writing proficiency needed to write the long thesis required for graduation. Reading journal articles, attending professional conferences and meeting individually with professors can help you identify a topic, develop a thesis statement and organize the chapters of your paper.

The thesis paper is the culmination of your learning. A well-constructed thesis shows that you can comprehend and apply the theories, principles, practices and ethical codes of your field of study. The thesis paper is typically wrapped up and submitted the semester you intend to graduate. The thesis must be approved by your department before you will receive a master’s degree even if you have perfect grades in all your course work.

At the doctoral level, writing a dissertation is a serious undertaking done in stages throughout the program. You may even be asked to identify tentative topics for a dissertation at the time of application to the doctoral program. Graduate faculty look for students who share their particular research interests. Similarly, you will likely apply to schools conducting the type of research you hope to experience. You will also need to ask qualified instructors and professionals to serve on your thesis committee to monitor and evaluate your progress on the dissertation.

You start by drafting a thesis proposal outlining the who, what, when, how and why of your proposed research project. Once that is approved, you complete a review of the literature, conduct original research, analyze your results, discuss findings and make recommendations for future study. As you might guess, all that can take months or years to finish. If your dissertation committee says your study is too broad, believe them and adjust accordingly if you want to graduate with your cohort.

A thesis statement is a sentence or two in the beginning of a paper that poses a research question, offers a hypothesis, presents supporting evidence, acknowledges counterarguments and draws conclusions. Writing a thesis statement is difficult for most people. A critical first step is identifying a topic with which you will not get bored over the course of several months or the next few years. Practice the steps of thesis writing until you get a thesis statement that sounds doable.

​ Example: ​

  • ​ Topic ​: Standardized tests in the schools
  • ​ Your opinion on topic ​: Standardized tests narrow the curriculum
  • ​ Supporting argument ​: Art education budgets are being slashed to fund STEM programs
  • ​ Supporting argument: ​ Children no longer receive a well-rounded education
  • ​ Counterargument ​: Schools can still offer art
  • ​ Thesis statement ​: Even though schools can still offer art, standardized tests have narrowed the curriculum as evidenced by art education budgets being slashed to fund STEM programs, thus depriving students of a well-rounded education.

You may want to choose a topic related to your career goals to help you develop skills and competencies that will be advantageous in a job search. Conduct exploratory research to see how much has been written about your topic already. Ask faculty for suggestions. Avoid longitudinal studies unless you are sure you can collect and analyze data without having to extend your intended graduation date.

When crafting a thesis statement, you must honestly ask yourself if your research findings would matter to anyone. Your research will be dismissed or even ridiculed if professionals in your field do not care what your findings might show. The introduction of your paper should pique the reader’s curiosity and reinforce a desire to read your thesis paper in its entirety. Place the thesis statement in the last paragraph of the introduction. People expect to find it there.

Generally, students in a master’s degree program write a paper called a thesis, whereas doctoral students write a dissertation. Master’s degree programs and thesis papers are typically shorter than Ph.D. programs and doctoral dissertations. Expected length varies considerably by program and school. Some schools call the dissertation a doctoral thesis.

Both types of papers entail fretting over a topic, reading tons of articles, proper attribution of sources, seemingly endless writing and thesis committee oversight. The purpose of the thesis is to help students develop skills, expertise and a reputation in their field. When writing a master’s thesis, graduate students analyze and synthesize journal articles, books, interviews, government reports and copious amounts of data. Students may also be required to present and defend their findings to peers and faculty.

Students hoping to teach, research or work in public policy enroll in a combined master's/Ph.D. program or directly enter a doctoral program after finishing their master’s degree. The dissertation probes deeper into the subject matter. The goal of the dissertation is to add new information to what is currently known in the literature about the topic. Evidence of scholarship and original thinking must be demonstrated orally and in writing to the student’s academic department before the dissertation committee will sign off on the document.

The topic of either paper should be intriguing to you and other academic types in your field. Look for any gaps in the literature that your research might help close. Manage expectations and buffer perfectionism knowing that dissertations do not morph into bestsellers. Even if you dedicate your paper to your parents, don’t expect them to read past the introduction of a paper on enterotoxin-positive spores, for instance. On the other hand, peers may be fascinated by your claims, choice of methodology, statistical computation and conclusions.

Choosing an unwieldy topic can indefinitely prolong thesis completion. Many doctoral students finish their courses but not their dissertation and are considered ABD, which stands for “all but dissertation.” Also, use your best judgment when tapping sources. Consider the implications and inferences of an author’s claim. Separate fact from opinion, especially when writing about a topic with emotional hot buttons.

Research terminology can be a little confusing because certain words like "thesis" can be used to describe a master’s-level thesis paper or a doctoral dissertation. Further complicating matters, there are different types of theses. Most often, the word "thesis" refers to a long research paper organized around a central idea. Supporting research can include everything from lab results, statistical data and predictive models to field notes, photographs and diaries, depending on the type of observation used in your study. A research thesis paper offers a critical assessment and interpretation of quantitative or qualitative sources. Guidelines for the length of the paper may be specified in a graduate student handbook or obtained from faculty.

Some programs offer graduate students the option of producing an artistic thesis instead of the more traditional research paper in partial fulfillment of a Master of Arts degree. The artistic thesis is comprised of a creative work such as a student-produced film, screenplay, novel, poems, paintings or dance performance. Students may also be required to submit a research essay along with their creative work explaining the genre or their technique.

Another type of thesis is the project thesis, also called a capstone project. Graduate programs that focus on applied research frequently offer this alternative for students who prefer experiential learning in real-world settings. Students working on a project thesis undertake research and then apply theory to practice with the goal of innovative problem solving. For instance, students in social work, education or public administration could design and launch a pilot program that takes a different approach to addressing community issues like homelessness and food insecurity. Graduate students may also be required to submit a thesis essay grounded in research that describes their project, goals, outcomes and effectiveness.

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  • Harvard University Harvard College Writing Center: Developing A Thesis
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Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.

what is a research paper thesis

  • Aims and Objectives – A Guide for Academic Writing
  • Doing a PhD

One of the most important aspects of a thesis, dissertation or research paper is the correct formulation of the aims and objectives. This is because your aims and objectives will establish the scope, depth and direction that your research will ultimately take. An effective set of aims and objectives will give your research focus and your reader clarity, with your aims indicating what is to be achieved, and your objectives indicating how it will be achieved.

Introduction

There is no getting away from the importance of the aims and objectives in determining the success of your research project. Unfortunately, however, it is an aspect that many students struggle with, and ultimately end up doing poorly. Given their importance, if you suspect that there is even the smallest possibility that you belong to this group of students, we strongly recommend you read this page in full.

This page describes what research aims and objectives are, how they differ from each other, how to write them correctly, and the common mistakes students make and how to avoid them. An example of a good aim and objectives from a past thesis has also been deconstructed to help your understanding.

What Are Aims and Objectives?

Research aims.

A research aim describes the main goal or the overarching purpose of your research project.

In doing so, it acts as a focal point for your research and provides your readers with clarity as to what your study is all about. Because of this, research aims are almost always located within its own subsection under the introduction section of a research document, regardless of whether it’s a thesis , a dissertation, or a research paper .

A research aim is usually formulated as a broad statement of the main goal of the research and can range in length from a single sentence to a short paragraph. Although the exact format may vary according to preference, they should all describe why your research is needed (i.e. the context), what it sets out to accomplish (the actual aim) and, briefly, how it intends to accomplish it (overview of your objectives).

To give an example, we have extracted the following research aim from a real PhD thesis:

Example of a Research Aim

The role of diametrical cup deformation as a factor to unsatisfactory implant performance has not been widely reported. The aim of this thesis was to gain an understanding of the diametrical deformation behaviour of acetabular cups and shells following impaction into the reamed acetabulum. The influence of a range of factors on deformation was investigated to ascertain if cup and shell deformation may be high enough to potentially contribute to early failure and high wear rates in metal-on-metal implants.

Note: Extracted with permission from thesis titled “T he Impact And Deformation Of Press-Fit Metal Acetabular Components ” produced by Dr H Hothi of previously Queen Mary University of London.

Research Objectives

Where a research aim specifies what your study will answer, research objectives specify how your study will answer it.

They divide your research aim into several smaller parts, each of which represents a key section of your research project. As a result, almost all research objectives take the form of a numbered list, with each item usually receiving its own chapter in a dissertation or thesis.

Following the example of the research aim shared above, here are it’s real research objectives as an example:

Example of a Research Objective

  • Develop finite element models using explicit dynamics to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion, initially using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum.
  • Investigate the number, velocity and position of impacts needed to insert a cup.
  • Determine the relationship between the size of interference between the cup and cavity and deformation for different cup types.
  • Investigate the influence of non-uniform cup support and varying the orientation of the component in the cavity on deformation.
  • Examine the influence of errors during reaming of the acetabulum which introduce ovality to the cavity.
  • Determine the relationship between changes in the geometry of the component and deformation for different cup designs.
  • Develop three dimensional pelvis models with non-uniform bone material properties from a range of patients with varying bone quality.
  • Use the key parameters that influence deformation, as identified in the foam models to determine the range of deformations that may occur clinically using the anatomic models and if these deformations are clinically significant.

It’s worth noting that researchers sometimes use research questions instead of research objectives, or in other cases both. From a high-level perspective, research questions and research objectives make the same statements, but just in different formats.

Taking the first three research objectives as an example, they can be restructured into research questions as follows:

Restructuring Research Objectives as Research Questions

  • Can finite element models using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum together with explicit dynamics be used to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion?
  • What is the number, velocity and position of impacts needed to insert a cup?
  • What is the relationship between the size of interference between the cup and cavity and deformation for different cup types?

Difference Between Aims and Objectives

Hopefully the above explanations make clear the differences between aims and objectives, but to clarify:

  • The research aim focus on what the research project is intended to achieve; research objectives focus on how the aim will be achieved.
  • Research aims are relatively broad; research objectives are specific.
  • Research aims focus on a project’s long-term outcomes; research objectives focus on its immediate, short-term outcomes.
  • A research aim can be written in a single sentence or short paragraph; research objectives should be written as a numbered list.

How to Write Aims and Objectives

Before we discuss how to write a clear set of research aims and objectives, we should make it clear that there is no single way they must be written. Each researcher will approach their aims and objectives slightly differently, and often your supervisor will influence the formulation of yours on the basis of their own preferences.

Regardless, there are some basic principles that you should observe for good practice; these principles are described below.

Your aim should be made up of three parts that answer the below questions:

  • Why is this research required?
  • What is this research about?
  • How are you going to do it?

The easiest way to achieve this would be to address each question in its own sentence, although it does not matter whether you combine them or write multiple sentences for each, the key is to address each one.

The first question, why , provides context to your research project, the second question, what , describes the aim of your research, and the last question, how , acts as an introduction to your objectives which will immediately follow.

Scroll through the image set below to see the ‘why, what and how’ associated with our research aim example.

Explaining aims vs objectives

Note: Your research aims need not be limited to one. Some individuals per to define one broad ‘overarching aim’ of a project and then adopt two or three specific research aims for their thesis or dissertation. Remember, however, that in order for your assessors to consider your research project complete, you will need to prove you have fulfilled all of the aims you set out to achieve. Therefore, while having more than one research aim is not necessarily disadvantageous, consider whether a single overarching one will do.

Research Objectives

Each of your research objectives should be SMART :

  • Specific – is there any ambiguity in the action you are going to undertake, or is it focused and well-defined?
  • Measurable – how will you measure progress and determine when you have achieved the action?
  • Achievable – do you have the support, resources and facilities required to carry out the action?
  • Relevant – is the action essential to the achievement of your research aim?
  • Timebound – can you realistically complete the action in the available time alongside your other research tasks?

In addition to being SMART, your research objectives should start with a verb that helps communicate your intent. Common research verbs include:

Table of Research Verbs to Use in Aims and Objectives

Last, format your objectives into a numbered list. This is because when you write your thesis or dissertation, you will at times need to make reference to a specific research objective; structuring your research objectives in a numbered list will provide a clear way of doing this.

To bring all this together, let’s compare the first research objective in the previous example with the above guidance:

Checking Research Objective Example Against Recommended Approach

Research Objective:

1. Develop finite element models using explicit dynamics to mimic mallet blows during cup/shell insertion, initially using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum.

Checking Against Recommended Approach:

Q: Is it specific? A: Yes, it is clear what the student intends to do (produce a finite element model), why they intend to do it (mimic cup/shell blows) and their parameters have been well-defined ( using simplified experimentally validated foam models to represent the acetabulum ).

Q: Is it measurable? A: Yes, it is clear that the research objective will be achieved once the finite element model is complete.

Q: Is it achievable? A: Yes, provided the student has access to a computer lab, modelling software and laboratory data.

Q: Is it relevant? A: Yes, mimicking impacts to a cup/shell is fundamental to the overall aim of understanding how they deform when impacted upon.

Q: Is it timebound? A: Yes, it is possible to create a limited-scope finite element model in a relatively short time, especially if you already have experience in modelling.

Q: Does it start with a verb? A: Yes, it starts with ‘develop’, which makes the intent of the objective immediately clear.

Q: Is it a numbered list? A: Yes, it is the first research objective in a list of eight.

Mistakes in Writing Research Aims and Objectives

1. making your research aim too broad.

Having a research aim too broad becomes very difficult to achieve. Normally, this occurs when a student develops their research aim before they have a good understanding of what they want to research. Remember that at the end of your project and during your viva defence , you will have to prove that you have achieved your research aims; if they are too broad, this will be an almost impossible task. In the early stages of your research project, your priority should be to narrow your study to a specific area. A good way to do this is to take the time to study existing literature, question their current approaches, findings and limitations, and consider whether there are any recurring gaps that could be investigated .

Note: Achieving a set of aims does not necessarily mean proving or disproving a theory or hypothesis, even if your research aim was to, but having done enough work to provide a useful and original insight into the principles that underlie your research aim.

2. Making Your Research Objectives Too Ambitious

Be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have available. It is natural to want to set ambitious research objectives that require sophisticated data collection and analysis, but only completing this with six months before the end of your PhD registration period is not a worthwhile trade-off.

3. Formulating Repetitive Research Objectives

Each research objective should have its own purpose and distinct measurable outcome. To this effect, a common mistake is to form research objectives which have large amounts of overlap. This makes it difficult to determine when an objective is truly complete, and also presents challenges in estimating the duration of objectives when creating your project timeline. It also makes it difficult to structure your thesis into unique chapters, making it more challenging for you to write and for your audience to read.

Fortunately, this oversight can be easily avoided by using SMART objectives.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea of how to create an effective set of aims and objectives for your research project, whether it be a thesis, dissertation or research paper. While it may be tempting to dive directly into your research, spending time on getting your aims and objectives right will give your research clear direction. This won’t only reduce the likelihood of problems arising later down the line, but will also lead to a more thorough and coherent research project.

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  • Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

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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Dr. Owenga says

February 23, 2023 at 2:38 pm

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

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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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Critical Writing Program: Decision Making - Spring 2024: Researching the White Paper

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Research the White Paper

Researching the White Paper:

The process of researching and composing a white paper shares some similarities with the kind of research and writing one does for a high school or college research paper. What’s important for writers of white papers to grasp, however, is how much this genre differs from a research paper.  First, the author of a white paper already recognizes that there is a problem to be solved, a decision to be made, and the job of the author is to provide readers with substantive information to help them make some kind of decision--which may include a decision to do more research because major gaps remain. 

Thus, a white paper author would not “brainstorm” a topic. Instead, the white paper author would get busy figuring out how the problem is defined by those who are experiencing it as a problem. Typically that research begins in popular culture--social media, surveys, interviews, newspapers. Once the author has a handle on how the problem is being defined and experienced, its history and its impact, what people in the trenches believe might be the best or worst ways of addressing it, the author then will turn to academic scholarship as well as “grey” literature (more about that later).  Unlike a school research paper, the author does not set out to argue for or against a particular position, and then devote the majority of effort to finding sources to support the selected position.  Instead, the author sets out in good faith to do as much fact-finding as possible, and thus research is likely to present multiple, conflicting, and overlapping perspectives. When people research out of a genuine desire to understand and solve a problem, they listen to every source that may offer helpful information. They will thus have to do much more analysis, synthesis, and sorting of that information, which will often not fall neatly into a “pro” or “con” camp:  Solution A may, for example, solve one part of the problem but exacerbate another part of the problem. Solution C may sound like what everyone wants, but what if it’s built on a set of data that have been criticized by another reliable source?  And so it goes. 

For example, if you are trying to write a white paper on the opioid crisis, you may focus on the value of  providing free, sterilized needles--which do indeed reduce disease, and also provide an opportunity for the health care provider distributing them to offer addiction treatment to the user. However, the free needles are sometimes discarded on the ground, posing a danger to others; or they may be shared; or they may encourage more drug usage. All of those things can be true at once; a reader will want to know about all of these considerations in order to make an informed decision. That is the challenging job of the white paper author.     
 The research you do for your white paper will require that you identify a specific problem, seek popular culture sources to help define the problem, its history, its significance and impact for people affected by it.  You will then delve into academic and grey literature to learn about the way scholars and others with professional expertise answer these same questions. In this way, you will create creating a layered, complex portrait that provides readers with a substantive exploration useful for deliberating and decision-making. You will also likely need to find or create images, including tables, figures, illustrations or photographs, and you will document all of your sources. 

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay. It usually comes near the end of your introduction. Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you're writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across.

  2. How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Research Paper in 2024: Steps and

    A thesis statement comprises one or two declarative sentences that summarize the main point of a paper or a piece of writing such as an essay. A thesis statement identifies the topic to be discussed, as well as the purpose of the paper itself.

  3. 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:

  4. What is a thesis

    A thesis is a comprehensive academic paper based on your original research that presents new findings, arguments, and ideas of your study. It's typically submitted at the end of your master's degree or as a capstone of your bachelor's degree. However, writing a thesis can be laborious, especially for beginners.

  5. Developing a Thesis Statement

    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.

  6. Thesis

    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. Thesis Statements

    A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel. makes a claim that others might dispute.

  8. Academic Guides: Writing a Paper: Thesis Statements

    The thesis statement is the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose. You might hear it referred to as simply a "thesis." Every scholarly paper should have a thesis statement, and strong thesis statements are concise, specific, and arguable. Concise means the thesis is short: perhaps one or two sentences for a shorter paper.

  9. How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Research Paper

    A thesis statement is a clear and succinct assertion that presents the main argument or central idea of a research paper or other academic work. You usually find the thesis, which serves as a road map for the entire piece of writing, at the end of the introductory paragraph.

  10. How to write a thesis statement for a research paper

    1. Start with a question. A good thesis statement should be an answer to a research question. Start by asking a question about your topic that you want to address in your paper. This will help you focus your research and give your paper direction. The thesis statement should be a concise answer to this question.

  11. Thesis for a Research Paper (How to Write Guide with Examples)

    Thesis statement conveys the main debatable idea - the last sentence or two of your introduction. You need to make your thesis clear. If not, you may feel frustrated when your teacher asks what the main ideas of your writing were after all hours you spent developing the research paper. Always analyze research paper thesis statement examples.

  12. The Ultimate Guide to Writing 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.

  13. 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.

  14. How to Write a Thesis for a Research Paper

    Step 7. Finalize Your Thesis Statement. Now comes the final step of the thesis writing process. In the last stage, summarize your refined answer into a powerful single sentence or, if required, two sentences. It should capture the main point of your research project and set the tone for your entire paper.

  15. UMGC Library: Research Tutorial: What Is a Thesis Statement?

    The main difference between a thesis statement and a research question is that a thesis statement makes a claim upfront that you will attempt to validate in your paper. A thesis statement: States your position on a topic; Is not always required when writing a research paper; Is often your research question reworded as a statement with a position

  16. 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.

  17. PDF The Structure of an Academic Paper

    Thesis statement The thesis is generally the narrowest part and last sentence of the introduction, and conveys your position, the essence of your argument or idea. See our handout on Writing a Thesis Statement for more. The roadmap Not all academic papers include a roadmap, but many do. Usually following the thesis, a roadmap is a

  18. What Is a Thesis Paper?

    A thesis paper is a comprehensive research paper often written in consultation with a faculty adviser. Most thesis papers are written at the graduate level. What Is a Thesis Paper? A thesis is the main idea of an academic paper that expresses the writer's position on a topic.

  19. Aims and Objectives

    One of the most important aspects of a thesis, dissertation or research paper is the correct formulation of the aims and objectives. This is because your aims and objectives will establish the scope, depth and direction that your research will ultimately take. An effective set of aims and objectives will give your research focus and your reader ...

  20. Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

    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. On the other hand, a research paper is analytical, argumentative and interpretative in nature.

  21. What is the Difference Between Thesis and Research Paper

    Conclusion. 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 ...

  22. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    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

  23. Researching the White Paper

    The research you do for your white paper will require that you identify a specific problem, seek popular culture sources to help define the problem, its history, its significance and impact for people affected by it. You will then delve into academic and grey literature to learn about the way scholars and others with professional expertise ...

  24. A s h l e y A s s i g n m e n t s on Instagram: "#essay #

    Page couldn't load • Instagram. Something went wrong. There's an issue and the page could not be loaded. Reload page.