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

  in Research   Posted on July 20, 2020

Research takes on many forms but many academic essays, papers, and research projects have one thing in common: a thesis statement. The thesis statement is made up of one or two sentences that concisely summarize the main points or arguments of a piece of writing, such as an academic essay or research paper. The thesis statement fulfills various roles in a piece of writing, not the least of which is to directly address the research question. (What is a Thesis Statement?, 2012)

To help researchers gain a better understanding of a thesis statement, this article sets out to provide the definition and importance of a thesis statement. This article also discusses the steps researchers can take to develop a strong thesis statement.

writing the thesis statement

How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Research Paper Table of Contents

  1. What is a thesis statement
  2. Types of Thesis Statements
  3. Thesis Statement versus Research Hypothesis
  4. Steps to Developing a Thesis Statement
  5. What makes a strong thesis statement?
  6. Examples of Weak and Strong Thesis Statements

What is a thesis statement?

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. Most importantly, a study’s thesis statement clearly makes an assertion and communicates to the reader the position the author has taken on the topic.

Due to its nature as a condensation of the argument or analysis to follow (How to Write a Thesis Statement, n.d.), the thesis statement is commonly placed in the opening paragraphs of a paper. Many authors also place this statement towards the end of the introduction.

formula for constructing a thesis statement

Types of Thesis Statements

There are various forms that a thesis statement can take, depending on the author’s objectives. The most common types of thesis statements are outlined below:

Expository – An expository thesis statement explains an issue or a topic to the reader. Furthermore, this type of thesis statement lists key aspects of the topic to be discussed in the essay or research paper.

Example: Factors that increase the likelihood of childhood anxiety include peer pressure, genetics, and higher intelligence levels.
Topicchildhood anxiety
Key aspects of the topic to be discussedpeer pressure, parental education, and higher intelligence levels

Analytical – An analytical thesis statement is used for essays, research papers, and other pieces of writing that seek to analyze, interpret, or evaluate a topic’s various aspects. Analytical thesis statements typically map out key points of the analysis and include the resulting conclusions (McCombes, 2020).

Example: An analysis of alternatives to traditional fossil fuel energies indicates that solar and hydroelectric power are the best options today.
Specific aspect analyzedalternatives to fossil fuel energy
Topicfossil fuel energy
Conclusionsolar and hydroelectric power are the best options today

Argumentative – Argumentative thesis statements indicate a topic as well as the author’s specific position on the topic. These statements also indicate why the author has chosen to take the said stand. Such thesis statements are typically used to persuade readers.

Example: The result of the Brexit referendum was driven by Britons' worries with existing EU immigration policies, caused by the quickly growing immigrant population and the insufficient integration of immigrants into British society. 
Topicthe result of the Brexit referendum
Positiondriven by Britons' worries with existing EU immigration policies
Reasons for the positionquickly growing immigrant population, the insufficient integration of immigrants into British society

The Importance of the Thesis Statement

Firstly, the thesis statement establishes the purpose of a paper and sets up the author’s primary argument. This means that the thesis statement helps readers set expectations for the statements and supporting research to follow in the paper (McCombes, 2020).

Secondly, by expressly stating the purpose of an essay or research paper, the thesis also helps authors keep their writing focused. By identifying a clear research statement, authors and researchers can more easily organize and develop their arguments.

Lastly, the thesis statement guides the reader through the main argument in a piece of writing. These sentences identify relationships between the pieces of evidence or research that support your argument. (Developing a Thesis Statement, n.d.)

Thesis Statement vs Research Hypothesis

A research project’s thesis statement works similarly to the research hypothesis, in the sense that both address the research question. However, the thesis statement and research hypothesis serve different functions. The thesis statement is a short, direct statement that summarizes the main point or argument of a research paper, study, or academic essay. The thesis statement can be seen in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research methods.

Meanwhile, a research hypothesis is a statement that can be proved or refuted based on the results of the study’s research design. It is more commonly used in experimental research. Depending on the research methodology, the hypothesis proposes or predicts a relationship between two or more variables.

If your research aims to prove or disprove a statement or claim, your study must also contain a research statement (Research and Course Guides, 2020). In cases where a research study has a set of hypotheses, it is obligatory to write a thesis statement that would serve to summarize the main contributions stemming from the studied hypotheses.

Steps to Developing a Thesis Statement

Developing a thesis statement is a process that should not be taken lightly, as it is often the result of a lengthy thinking process (Gafarova, 2018). Before the thesis message is formulated, extensive research must be done and evidence supporting the argument or analysis must be collected.

The steps to developing a thesis statement are outlined below:

1. Start with a research question.

A common starting point for developing a thesis statement is with the research question. Once you determine what your research question is, you can start doing more targeted research to help with constructing a thesis statement.

For instance, using one of the thesis statement examples earlier stated, a research question would be, “What are the factors that have resulted in the Brexit referendum?” Having a specific research question in mind can help researchers formulate a strong, sound thesis statement to address this question.

2. Construct a statement that directly addresses the research question.

Once the research question has been identified, preliminary research on the topic can begin. The research should help you construct a tentative thesis statement. At this stage, researchers will most likely have only a simple thesis statement. This rough draft of the thesis statement can serve as a tool for planning and guiding the research and writing process (Developing a Thesis Statement, n.d.).

If your writing is expected to take a position on the issue addressed in your research question, the tentative thesis statement should expressly indicate your stand as well. For instance, based on the example stated above, a working argumentative thesis statement would be:

“Brexit was driven by Britons’ immigration worries.”

3. Support your statement with evidence and reasoning.

At this stage, the research process begins in earnest. The thesis statement serves as a guide and a starting point for the research process. Researchers can use existing research literature to gather the information they need to support their statement or argument.

Throughout the research process, as they discover supporting evidence and facts for their thesis, researchers can also further develop and refine their tentative thesis statement. The final thesis statement should include the key points of your argument, along with your conclusion, if needed.

Based on the example above, the final version of the thesis statement would be:

“The Brexit referendum was a result of Britons’ growing concerns with the EU’s immigration policies, caused by the sudden growth of the immigrant population and this population’s insufficient integration into British society.”

4. Anticipate counterarguments.

This step can prove to be useful if you’re using an argumentative thesis statement. Anticipating potential counter-arguments to your research will help you further refine your thesis statement. Aside from adding a level of complexity to your thesis statement, these counter-arguments also help you develop your key arguments to make them stronger.

The exercise of coming up with counterarguments to your thesis statement also helps you determine the validity of your thesis statement. If your thesis statement doesn’t have a counter-argument, it may be a fact or an opinion, and it may need to be revised (Rodburg, 1999).

What makes a strong thesis statement?

There are several qualities that indicate the strength and soundness of a thesis statement. The following qualities can serve as criteria to keep in mind during the construction of a thesis statement.

1. A strong thesis statement is original and novel.

Generic or formulaic thesis statements should be avoided if only to ensure that you sustain the reader’s interest throughout the study or research. Your thesis statement should be constructed so that it reflects your original ideas. Moreover, strong thesis statements present original or new aspects of the topic or shed light on novel arguments.

One way to ensure the originality of the key points summarized in a thesis statement is to do thorough research on the topic you’re interested in. By analyzing primary and secondary resources, you’ll be able to identify ambiguities, gaps, and contradictions in existing literature (Rodburg, 1999). These gaps and ambiguities can help researchers identify promising research questions and thesis statements to address these questions.

2. A strong thesis statement is clear and specific.

Thesis statements should be constructed so that these are specific and direct to the point. Your thesis message should be clear enough to remove any ambiguity about the purpose of the study or paper. The thesis statement should also clearly state your main argument or your stand on the issue your research discusses. This way, a reader understands exactly what you mean when they read your thesis statement.

Furthermore, thesis statements should provide a specific or focused argument that you can prove within the scope and boundaries of your research. By making sure that the thesis statement is clear and specific, you can avoid misunderstanding on the readers’ part.

Aside from being clear and specific, a thesis statement must be coherent. This is particularly true for theses that are more than a sentence long. All the parts of a thesis statement should add up to one coherent thought or argument, and this argument should relate to the rest of your study or research.

3. A strong thesis statement is contentious.

An important factor to keep in mind when creating a thesis statement is that a thesis statement needs to be contentious or debatable. Thesis statements are not simple statements of fact; they make an argument or an assertion about a topic. Strong theses are claims that need to be supported by evidence and analysis (McCombes, 2020).

One way to test if a thesis statement is strong or valid is to see if you can come up with counter-arguments to your own thesis statement. As stated above, a thesis statement with no corresponding counter-argument may merely be a statement of fact.

Examples of Weak and Strong Thesis Statements

To further illustrate what strong thesis statements are like, the table below lists down examples of weak thesis statements versus strong thesis statements.

Weak thesis statementsStrong thesis statementsExplanation
There are various factors that encouraged the spread of the locavore movement in the United States.While the locavore movement promotes global ecology, the health benefits of a locavore diet played a key role in the locavore movement's increasing popularity in the United States.The strong thesis statement makes a definite, arguable claim: that the health benefits of the locavore diet played a more important role in the spread of the locavore movement, compared to the movement's ability to promote global ecology.
There are negative and positive aspects of using nuclear energy as a primary alternative to fossil fuels.Because nuclear energy produces radioactive waste and the potentially disastrous effects of nuclear reactor accidents, nuclear energy is too dangerous to be considered the primary alternative to fossil fuels.The second thesis statement is considered a strong thesis statement because it indicates the author's stand on the issue of the use of nuclear energy. The phrase "negative and positive aspects" is also too vague.
Developing countries should focus on several key areas to control the spread of COVID-19.An analysis of first-world countries' response to the COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on three key areas that developing areas should focus on in their pandemic response efforts: proper data and information management, a greater use of local resources, and the establishment of institutions for disaster and risk management.An example of an expository thesis statement, this strong thesis statement summarizes the main points that will be discussed in the study. The thesis statement also neatly lays out different categories of information that readers can expect to see in the study or paper.

Recommendations for Writing a Thesis Statement

Researchers can use the following recommendations to ensure that they properly construct and use the thesis statement for their research papers.

  • The research statement should be placed early in the paper. This statement should be located towards the end of the introduction or in the second paragraph of the paper. Properly placed, the thesis statement clearly establishes the researcher’s stand and gives the reader a sense of direction.
  • The thesis statement should make an argument or claim. These statements don’t merely let the reader know about the topic to be discussed. Thesis messages reveal the researcher’s position on the topic, along with the main justifications for his position.
  • The thesis message should be sufficiently specific and clear. It should focus on one main argument and use clear language, covering only the information to be discussed in the research paper or study. Broad or generic thesis statements should be avoided.

References:

  1. Developing a thesis statement. (n.d.). The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin – Madison. https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/process/thesis/
  2. Gafarova, T. (2018). How to write strong thesis statements. World Science, 8, 40-42. https://www.academia.edu/36550013/HOW_TO_WRITE_STRONG_THESIS_STATEMENTS
  3. McCombes, S. (2020, January 10). Writing a thesis statement in 3 steps. Scribbr. https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/thesis-statement/
  4. Research and course guides: PSC 352: Introduction to comparative politics (Nicoletti): Develop a thesis/Hypothesis. (2020, June 23). Homepage Research and Course Guides at Missouri Southern State University. https://libguides.mssu.edu/c.php?g=185296&p=1223659
  5. Rodburg, M. (1999). Developing a thesis. https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/developing-thesis
  6. Thesis statements. (n.d.). The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
  7. What is a thesis statement? (n.d.). Study.com. https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-a-thesis-statement.html