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How to Write a College Thesis Paper

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❶Not Helpful 7 Helpful In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.

How to Write a Thesis Statement

Step One: The Structure
Language & Lit
Step Two: Title Page

A verbal "road map" or verbal "table of contents" guiding the reader to what lies ahead. Is it obvious where introductory material "old stuff" ends and your contribution "new stuff" begins? Remember that this is not a review paper.

Break up the introduction section into logical segments by using subheads. Methods What belongs in the "methods" section of a scientific paper? Information to allow the reader to assess the believability of your results. Information needed by another researcher to replicate your experiment.

Description of your materials, procedure, theory. Calculations, technique, procedure, equipment, and calibration plots. Limitations, assumptions, and range of validity. Desciption of your analystical methods, including reference to any specialized statistical software.

The methods section should answering the following questions and caveats: Could one accurately replicate the study for example, all of the optional and adjustable parameters on any sensors or instruments that were used to acquire the data? Could another researcher accurately find and reoccupy the sampling stations or track lines? Is there enough information provided about any instruments used so that a functionally equivalent instrument could be used to repeat the experiment?

If the data are in the public domain, could another researcher lay his or her hands on the identical data set? Could one replicate any laboratory analyses that were used? Could one replicate any statistical analyses? Could another researcher approximately replicate the key algorithms of any computer software?

Citations in this section should be limited to data sources and references of where to find more complete descriptions of procedures. Do not include descriptions of results. Results The results are actual statements of observations, including statistics, tables and graphs.

Indicate information on range of variation. Mention negative results as well as positive. Do not interpret results - save that for the discussion.

Lay out the case as for a jury. Present sufficient details so that others can draw their own inferences and construct their own explanations.

Break up your results into logical segments by using subheadings Key results should be stated in clear sentences at the beginning of paragraphs. Describe the nature of the findings; do not just tell the reader whether or not they are significant. Writing for an Audience Who is your audience? Researchers working in analogous field areas elsewhere in the world i. Researchers working in your field area, but with different techniques.

Researchers working on the same interval of geologic time elsewhere in the world. All other researchers using the same technique you have used.

If your study encompasses an active process, researchers working on the same process in the ancient record. Conversely, if your study is based on the rock record, people studying modem analogs.

People writing a synthesis paper on important new developments in your field. People applying earth science to societal problems i. Potential reviewers of your manuscript or your thesis committee. Planning Ahead for Your Thesis. Writing for an Audience. Writing for an International Audience. Abstract A good abstract explains in one line why the paper is important. It then goes on to give a summary of your major results, preferably couched in numbers with error limits.

The final sentences explain the major implications of your work. A good abstract is concise, readable, and quantitative. Absrtracts generally do not have citations. Information in title should not be repeated. Use numbers where appropriate. Answers to these questions should be found in the abstract: What did you do? Why did you do it? What question were you trying to answer? How did you do it? What did you learn? Why does it matter?

Point out at least one significant implication. Table of Contents list all headings and subheadings with page numbers indent subheadings it will look something like this: How do you do this?

Physical separation into different sections or paragraphs. Don't overlay interpretation on top of data in figures. Careful use of phrases such as "We infer that ".

Don't worry if "results" seem short. Easier for your reader to absorb, frequent shifts of mental mode not required. Ensures that your work will endure in spite of shifting paradigms. Discussion Start with a few sentences that summarize the most important results. The discussion section should be a brief essay in itself, answering the following questions and caveats: What are the major patterns in the observations?

Refer to spatial and temporal variations. What are the relationships, trends and generalizations among the results? What are the exceptions to these patterns or generalizations? What are the likely causes mechanisms underlying these patterns resulting predictions? Is there agreement or disagreement with previous work? Interpret results in terms of background laid out in the introduction - what is the relationship of the present results to the original question?

What is the implication of the present results for other unanswered questions in earth sciences, ecology, environmental policy, etc? There are usually several possible explanations for results. Be careful to consider all of these rather than simply pushing your favorite one. If you can eliminate all but one, that is great, but often that is not possible with the data in hand. In that case you should give even treatment to the remaining possibilities, and try to indicate ways in which future work may lead to their discrimination.

A special case of the above. Avoid jumping a currently fashionable point of view unless your results really do strongly support them. What are the things we now know or understand that we didn't know or understand before the present work? Include the evidence or line of reasoning supporting each interpretation. What is the significance of the present results: This section should be rich in references to similar work and background needed to interpret results. Is there material that does not contribute to one of the elements listed above?

If so, this may be material that you will want to consider deleting or moving. Break up the section into logical segments by using subheads. Conclusions What is the strongest and most important statement that you can make from your observations? If you met the reader at a meeting six months from now, what do you want them to remember about your paper? Refer back to problem posed, and describe the conclusions that you reached from carrying out this investigation, summarize new observations, new interpretations, and new insights that have resulted from the present work.

Include the broader implications of your results. Do not repeat word for word the abstract, introduction or discussion. Recommendations Include when appropriate most of the time Remedial action to solve the problem. Further research to fill in gaps in our understanding. Directions for future investigations on this or related topics. Simpson and Hays cite more than double-author references by the surname of the first author followed by et al.

Pfirman, Simpson and Hays would be: Nature , , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commonly asked questions about ozone.

Harper Collins Publishers, New York, pp. Child Review of ciliary structure and function. Biochemistry and Physiology of Protozoa , Vol. Hutner, editor , Academic Press, New York, Bonani A high altitude continental paleotemperature record derived from noble gases dissolved in groundwater from the San Juan Basin, New Mexico.

Tables where more than pages. Calculations where more than pages. You may include a key article as appendix. If you consulted a large number of references but did not cite all of them, you might want to include a list of additional resource material, etc.

List of equipment used for an experiment or details of complicated procedures. Figures and tables, including captions, should be embedded in the text and not in an appendix, unless they are more than pages and are not critical to your argument. Order of Writing Your thesis is not written in the same order as it is presented in. The following gives you one idea how to proceed. Here is another approach. Write up a preliminary version of the background section first. This will serve as the basis for the introduction in your final paper.

As you collect data, write up the methods section. It is much easier to do this right after you have collected the data. Start with a question -- then make the answer your thesis. Regardless of how complicated the subject is, almost any thesis can be constructed by answering a question. Tailor your thesis to the type of paper you're writing. Not all essays persuade, and not all essays teach.

The goals of your paper will help you find the best thesis. Breaks down something to better examine and understand it. Teaches or illuminates a point. Makes a claim, or backs up an opinion, to change other peoples' minds. Take a specific stance to make your thesis more powerful. You should address a single issue in great detail so that your points can be fully supported in the body of the paper.

Make the argument you've never seen before. The best theses find a novel, exciting way to approach the topic. They're fresh and dynamic, which makes your essay fresh and dynamic. Ensure your thesis is provable. Do not come up with your thesis and then look it up later. The thesis is the end point of your research, not the beginning. You need to use a thesis you can actually back up with evidence. Ultimately, the only way for his poems to have faith is to temporarily lose it.

The scope of "every human interaction" is just too big "Paul Harding's novel Tinkers is ultimately a cry for help from a clearly depressed author. State your thesis statement correctly. Someone should be able to argue an alternate position , or conversely, support your claims. Get the sound right. You want your thesis statement to be identifiable as a thesis statement. You do this by taking a very particular tone and using specific kinds of phrasing and words.

Use words like "because" and language which is firm and definitive. Example thesis statements with good statement language include: Know where to place a thesis statement. Because of the role thesis statements play, they appear at the beginning of the paper, usually at the end of the first paragraph [5] or somewhere in the introduction.

Although most people look for the thesis at the end of the first paragraph, its location can depend on a number of factors such as how lengthy of an introduction you need before you can introduce your thesis or the length of your paper. Limit a thesis statement to one or two sentences in length. Pick a topic that interests you. This must be the first step in writing your paper and your thesis statement because all direction of the paper will depend on what topic you are writing about.

Unfortunately, you must ignore this step if the topic is decided for you. The goal of this step is to find a particular narrow subject in your topic which you can make an argument about. For example, take the topic of computers. There are many aspects of computers that can be expanded on such as hardware, software, and programming. However, vague topics like these do not make good theses. But something more narrow, such as the effects of Steve Jobs on the modern computer industry, allows for a much clearer focus.

Know the type, purpose, and audience of the paper. These are usually assigned by the instructor, but even if you get to choose them, you must understand that these will affect your thesis statement considerably.

If you are writing a persuasive paper, your purpose will be to prove something to a specific group. If you are writing a descriptive paper, your purpose will be to describe something to a specific group. Each of these must be expressed in your thesis somehow.

Follow a rigid structure. Knowing the basic formulas will not only keep your thesis within the acceptable length but it will also help you see how your entire argument should be organized. Your thesis should contain two parts: A clear topic or subject matter A brief summary of what you will say Another way of looking at a thesis is as a formula, or a pattern, that comfortably holds your ideas: Because [reason s ], [something] [does something].

Although [opposing evidence], [reasons] show [Something] [does something]. The last example includes a counter-argument, which complicates the thesis but strengthens the argument.

In fact, you should always be aware of all counter-arguments against your thesis. Write down your thesis. You will be able to think about your thesis logically , clearly, and concisely.

There are two schools of thought on thesis timing. Some people say you should not write the paper without a thesis in mind and written down, even if you have to alter it slightly by the end. The other school of thought says that you probably won't know where you're going until you get there, so don't write the thesis until you know what it should be.

Do whatever seems best to you. Analyze your thesis statement once you think you have a final, or working, version. The point is to make sure you avoid making any mistakes that can weaken your thesis. To get a better idea of what to do and what to avoid, consider the following pointers: Never frame your thesis as a question.

A thesis is not a list. Keep it concise and brief. Never mention a new topic that you do not intend to discuss in the paper. Do not write in the first person. Using sentences such as, "I will show Do not be combative.


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Perhaps the thesis and dissertation, more than any other type of proposal or paper, are two papers that require a strict structure. Before starting to write a thesis paper every candidate should learn the main parts that every thesis should include.

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Once you have a working thesis, write it down. There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration. And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely.

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Thesis length Write for brevity rather than length. The goal is the shortest possible paper that contains all information necessary to describe the work and support the interpretation. Avoid unnecessary repetition and irrelevant tangents. Whether you’re writing an argumentative paper, an informative essay, or a compare/contrast statement, you need a thesis. Without a thesis, your argument falls flat and your information is unfocused.

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As you write the essay, you will probably begin to characterize these differences more precisely, and your working thesis may start to seem too vague. Maybe you decide that both sides fought for moral reasons, and that they just focused on different moral issues. Thesis paper writing is a very responsible and time-consuming commitment; many students spend minimum one year at best, and sometimes even a couple of years, to get their research accepted by the committee and get their degree.