A thesis statement is the central element of any academic paper. It summarizes the main ideas of the paper, gives a roadmap for the project, and prepares readers for what will follow.
At the same time, thesis statements for different types of papers are not the same. Here’s how to write a thesis statement for a research paper.
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Step 1: Formulate your main conclusion
Imagine you want to explain to your best friend what your paper is about. You probably won’t give too many unnecessary details. Instead, you will tell everything in simple words and just one sentence:
- “Social interaction is important for the personal development of adolescents.”
Step 2: Add your main arguments
To prove your main point, you will need some weighty arguments. The main arguments that will be further developed in the project make your thesis statement more persuasive. Here’s what you may say in your paper on social activity of adolescents:
- “Communication with peers helps adolescents achieve a sense of belonging.”
- “Social interaction improves adolescents’ self-esteem and communication skills.”
Step 3: Consider counterarguments
Think of your most skeptical reader. Imagine what he/she could say to ruin your best logical arguments. Show that you understand that the research question is not as easy as it seems.
- “Sometimes communication with peers can have negative effects on adolescents.”
Step 4: Give a plan for your paper
Combine everything you have by this step into a whole. Here’s a rather good example of a thesis statement for a research paper:
- “Even though peers can sometimes have a bad influence on adolescents, communicating with someone of their age helps young people obtain a feeling of belonging, and social interaction as the central component of personal development improves their self-esteem.”
Step 5: Test it with the “so what” question
The last but not least step to writing a good thesis statement for a research paper is checking whether it leaves readers indifferent. Ask yourself whether someone can read your thesis statement and exclaim “so what?” If yes, you’re doing it wrong.
Revisit your thesis statement to add some controversy and counterarguments to it and improve its logic.
Need some practical advice on how to write a thesis statement for a research paper? Then continue reading.
❌ Common problems with thesis statement
To make your thesis statement more effective, avoid these all-too-common mistakes:
- The thesis is too factual. A strong thesis statement should not just repeat the facts. Instead, it should represent your argument or position on the topic. Ask yourself what it is that you will be trying to prove in your paper and revise your thesis statement so that it answers this question clearly.
- The thesis is too vague. You should avoid merely announcing your research paper topic. Make your original and specific take on the subject clear to the reader.
- The thesis is too subjective. Your thesis statement and entire research paper need to be based on thorough research, in-depth analysis, and critical assessment. Don’t be guided by your personal taste or opinions. When you make a judgment, always explain your reasoning.
- The thesis cannot be proven. This one is simple: If your thesis statement cannot be proven, you shouldn’t try to prove it. Avoid making universal, black-and-white judgments that oversimplify complex problems. One clear sign of this problem is using “always “or “never” in your thesis statement.
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- A strong thesis statement gives direction to your research paper and limits what you can write about your topic. It also informs your readers what you are going to discuss in the body of your research paper. All paragraphs of your research paper should explain, support, or argue for the thesis statement.
- A strong thesis statement needs to be proved with evidence—it is not just a statement of facts. You should support the thesis statement of your research paper with detailed evidence. It will motivate your readers to keep reading the academic paper.
- You may want to mention your supporting points in your thesis statement. Doing so will help you keep control of your ideas in the research paper.
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When the thesis statement in your research paper is well developed, it displays several distinct characteristics:
- It is a complete sentence.
- It summarizes your point of view.
- It determines the purpose of your academic paper.
- It says something important about your research paper topic.
- It is specific enough for the academic paper’s assigned length.
- It serves as a guide for you to write your academic research paper.
📝 Steps in developing your thesis statement
Developing a strong thesis statement is very important to your research. Without a thesis, you will not have a direction or focus for your research project.
Take the following steps to develop your thesis statement.
Step 1. Write a description of the subject of your research. Why is it so important?
Step 2. Use your overview to narrow down your research subject and make it clearer.
Step 3. Provide evidence to support your thesis statement.
Step 4. Mention your potential opponent’s evidence (if available) based on your overview.
Step 5. Write the thesis statement in such a way that it clearly and concisely summarizes the information you gathered from the first four steps.
Step 6. As you research, write, arrange your main ideas, and think through other supporting ideas in your research paper, you should refine your working thesis statement in the following ways:
- Narrow it down.
- Make it more consequential or controversial.
- Put it in a specific context.
Still feeling confused? Think of it this way: Your thesis statement is the king, and every element in your research paper structure serves the king.
In other words, your thesis statement should guide all other elements of the research paper. The introductory paragraph of your academic paper should flow into the thesis, which is the last sentence of the introduction. The thesis statement usually consists of one sentence that contains between two and five points, depending on the academic paper’s length.
💡 Some more useful hints for an effective thesis statement
Here is another useful hint.
For your arguments to flow smoothly, order your thesis points in one of the following ways:
- From the strongest argument to the weakest one.
- From a general topic to a more specific one.
- From a simple to complex analysis.
- From causes to effects.
The thesis statement for a research paper (that is an argumentative or persuasive piece of writing) must be debatable.
In other words, the thesis must be something that different people could reasonably have different opinions on. If the thesis of your research paper is something that people generally agree upon or accept as fact, you have no reason to persuade anyone.
The thesis statement can help you make sure that all your research and writing is related to the purpose of your writing. If something you’ve written in your academic paper does not describe or explain evidence to support your thesis, it’s probably just distracting and should be removed.
🔠 A simple formula for writing your thesis statement
Want some final advice on how to write a thesis statement for a research paper? Use this simple formula for writing your thesis:
A specific topic + a specific aspect, feature, or area of interest/debate + debatable claim based on data/evidence = thesis statement.
Example: One of the biggest public health issues today, childhood obesity is primarily caused by genetics rather than diet or lifestyle.