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Creating A Thesis For A Research Paper

The Plan

A strong research paper involves a process of establishing a claim and then proving it with logical reasoning, examples, and research. The thesis statement is a guideline, a unifying element, for every research paper.

  1. Start simply. Write your thesis statement in a single sentence.
  2. Answer a question. A simple guide to an effective thesis statement is an answer to a question: What am I trying to prove?
  3. Narrow your topic. Focus your thesis statement on a limited aspect. For example, narrow a topic from “films” to “action films” to “Avatar” to the “merits and flaws of Avatar.
  4. Be flexible. If your research indicates other, stronger possibilities, it is acceptable to change your thesis statement.
  5. Verify your thesis statement. Obtain your instructor’s approval for your thesis statement before starting extensive research.
  6. Do not “telegraph” a thesis. Avoid using a first-person phrase such as “I am going to prove” or “I hope to show.” An instructor knows this is your paper, and your point should be apparent through a strong thesis “statement” followed by supporting evidence.

Hints for an effective thesis statement

A strong thesis statement usually answers two questions:
How? Why?

Consider the following examples.

Example 1

The process for a college student working on a research paper in the 1960s was very different from the process used by most of today’s college students.

So what? Why would a reader want to continue? How are the research processes different? This is a weak thesis statement.

Example 2

Because of advances in technology, today’s college student has many more resources for research papers than students had in the 1960s.

This statement is an improvement over Example 1 because it at least provides a reason for the differences: “advances in technology.”

Example 3

Because of the advent of the Internet and other electronic sources, the research process utilized by today’s college students for papers differs greatly from that of students in the 1960s.

This thesis statement provides more detail than the other examples and presents an argument that can be supported with specific supporting arguments: “the Internet and other electronic sources.”

Sample introductions and thesis statements

Example 1

Hollywood has a long history of producing adventure films, including everything from King Solomon’s Mines to Jurassic Park. Just as society has evolved, action films also have evolved, becoming more focused on visual effects than dialogue and emphasizing technology over storylines. The recent film Avatar is an excellent example of what is good and bad about modern adventure films. While Avatar has some obvious merits, there are also some significant flaws.

Example 2

King Arthur established the Knights of the Round Table. Alfred the Great provided us with a clear history during the Dark Ages. Richard the Lion-Hearted led the Crusades. The infamous Henry VIII established a new religion, uniting church and state. James I gave us a version of the Bible nearly 400 years ago, and it is still widely used today. Victoria ruled for sixty-three years at the height of British power. Monarchs have ruled and influenced England for centuries; however, perhaps none was as singularly responsible for the country's development as Queen Elizabeth I.

Example 3

The term "sports" evokes many images: tennis, golf, basketball, baseball, football, and bowling, to name a few. During any of these friendly challenges of skill, one can witness players bouncing, hitting, passing, dribbling, throwing, or rolling a ball in order to score points. One sport exists, however, where the object is to deliver blows to the body of another in order to score points. This sport is boxing, a brutal exchange of hooks, swings, and jabs that may eventually knock one athlete unconscious. Because of injuries, short- and long-term neurological damage, and ring deaths, the rules of professional boxing should be changed.

Example 4

We all get them. You may have one or many right now. Their name comes from Latin, and it means poison. They are not even truly alive, but they can certainly cause death. Viruses cause nearly one hundred diseases, yet most people do not understand exactly how they work in the human body.

Example 5

His name is John. In his senior year of high school, he was an honorable-mention All-American in basketball with a 3.2 grade-point average. Naturally, he was heavily recruited by colleges and universities, and his future seemed bright indeed. Within a few years, his brightness had blackened for one reason: drugs.







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