March, 2006Volume 2, Issue 3

In This Issue:

Writing a Thesis Statement

If you’re reading this newsletter, you’re most likely in the preparatory stages of writing an academic thesis: a substantial academic paper written on an original topic of research, usually presented as one of the final requirements for the Master’s or Ph.D. degree.

 It is important to note that an “academic thesis” should not be confused with a “thesis statement”.  A thesis statement is "a basic argument” that clearly articulates what the Master’s thesis/dissertation is expected to demonstrate.

One of the initial building blocks to your immense writing project is to prepare a thesis statement: a sentence or paragraph that summarizes the argument you plan to make in your thesis/dissertation, as well as the supportive evidence you plan to use to back up that argument.  In short, it provides a “roadmap” for the reader of where you plan to go with your thesis/dissertation.  Most importantly, it must convince the reader that the claim is important to your academic field, and that it is likely to be true based on the evidence provided.

A good thesis statement should:

Make a knowledge claim that purports to offer a new approach or idea in a particular field, and to explain why it is new.  The purpose of any academic thesis/dissertation is to add to the existing pool of knowledge in a particular area, or to “fill in the gaps of knowledge.”  As such, your knowledge claim should clearly state why the information/knowledge that you have to offer is new within your field, and should also convince the reader that your claim is likely to be true based on the evidence provided.

Make an argumentative assertion that summarizes the conclusions you have reached about your topic after reviewing the literature.  This assertion should be focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.  It should also identify the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are providing.

Outline the scope, purpose and direction of your paper.  After finishing your thesis statement, the reader should clearly know the essence of your intended project, and also the boundaries you intend to place on it.  Your thesis statement should not make the reader expect more than you are prepared to present in your final document.

Keep in mind that your thesis or dissertation topic should address an unresolved problem or knowledge gap in your subject area that needs to be explored and that concerns society as a whole.  Your thesis or dissertation topic should be unique in that it should add something new to the existing literature.  Merely digging up answers that already exist does nothing to contribute to an academic or professional field of knowledge.  Simply put, a thesis or dissertation topic should be based on new knowledge and new solutions to existing problems—not on simply churning up old answers.  However, conducting research on questions that have already been answered is considered part of the literature review and is a useful exercise to find out if someone has already conducted research on your proposed research topic.

Types of thesis statements

There are three basic forms that your thesis statement can take:

Analytical: a statement that breaks down an idea piece by piece and analyzes and evaluates each individual part;

Expository: a statement that explains an idea or concept to an audience.

Argumentative: a statement that claims a position that is open to debate and justifies the truth of that position through concrete examples and evidence.

What type of approach you choose to take will depend upon the nature of your research.  Analyzing why you are writing this thesis/dissertation can provides important clues regarding the approach you should take.  For example, are you proposing a new point of view, or agreeing someone else’s point of view with some disagreement or alternative interpretations?  Are you trying to make an existing point of view clearer or better in some way?  Or are you criticizing or dismissing an existing point of view because of its inadequacy or irrelevance?

The answers to these questions can help you pinpoint the type of statement you should write.

What is the relationship between a thesis statement and a research question?

The thesis statement is a preliminary answer to the research question you have posed.  A strong introductory thesis statement, followed by thorough research in the body of the paper, should convince the reader that you are, indeed, addressing and resolving a pertinent research question.  The strategic restatement of the thesis statement in the conclusion should carry a convincing rhetorical effect to the reader that your research problem has been resolved.

You will find that you are able to narrow down your thesis statement by brainstorming a list of responses to your research question.  Your task is to turn your working research question into a thesis statement.

The type of questions that can be helpful to ask yourself when drafting your thesis statement are:

• What am I analyzing, explaining or describing, or what am I claiming or asserting?

• What are the reasons/evidence I have to support my claim or assertion?

• What did I discover in my analysis?

• How can I categorize my discoveries or organize my explanations?

• In what order should I present my discoveries, and the different parts of my explanations and reasons?

Where should my thesis statement appear in the document?

The thesis statement is usually, though not always, the last sentence of your paper's opening paragraph. The thesis can be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.  It tells your readers what to expect and focuses their attention on what is to come.

Because a thesis/dissertation is such a lengthy document, it is important to continually remind the reader of the research question your document is designed to resolve.  Hence, each result chapter in your dissertation should have an introduction and a thesis statement.  In particular, as in any paper, the last paragraph of the introduction should guide the reader through the material to be presented, and should make the reader aware of the logic, organization, and goals of the text to follow.

Finding a starting point

Getting started is always tough, but the first step to writing an effective thesis statement is to begin with your purpose and audience.  What purpose do you wish to achieve?  What do you want to describe or explain?  What viewpoint do you wish your reader to adopt?
Articulating the answers to these questions is the major part of the battle.  Don’t attempt to write anything polished when beginning; just try to get your thoughts down on paper.  Once that’s accomplished, the rest will flow much more easily.

Email Question of the Month:


My advisor doesn’t really know much about my research topic but he is the one providing my funding.  What should I do?


Overall, you have just described a popular dilemma that many graduate students face.  You can either select another topic that is more in-line with your advisor’s expertise or you can stick with the topic that you are currently interested in.  
Understand that an advisor’s role is to provide you with expert advice on your particular topic.  If your advisor is unable to provide you with the help that you need perhaps you need to solicit the expert help from others on your committee.  If you have not selected a committee yet, now would be a good time to do so.  You should find someone on the faculty who is an expert in your particular area.  Then discuss with your advisor the possibility of adding this person to your committee.  If you are a research assistant you might have to work your dissertation research around your work obligations thereby extending the time it takes to complete your degree.  You might also consider finding a new advisor and possibly new funding.

What TA-DA!™ Users Have to Say...

If you're still wondering whether or not TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished™ can help you — don’t take our word for it. Take a few moments to read what some of our customers have told us.
See how TA-DA!™ helped them...

Ph.D. Doctoral Students

  •   How it (TADA) Helped: In many ways but I will mainly highlight two areas for now. 1. The TADA Calender. The main problem I faced before was how to get down and do my work. But with the TADA Calender, I have made a committment and I everyday I have the motivation to fulfill this commitment. 2. The 12 Minutes Tasks. I was never even aware of some of those requirements. Now I feel more confident since each day I know exactly what is expected of me and I can make an exact plan of how to accomplish them.

Dear colleagues in Thesis/Dissertation writing. Anybody wanting to have a peace of mind and confidence in whatever she/he does during the whole Thesis/Dissertation writing, you have no choice but to buy the TADA CD. I won't explain what wonders it will do to you, but buy it and experience it." Connie, U.K.

  •   TA-DA gave me the incentive to "get the lead out" and finish. The 12 minutes a day has lead to approximately two to three hours. I have really got a lot done, just knowing that the twelve minutes does wonders for the psyche.
Maryjane, Fayetteville, NC

  •   The commitment to a deadline and to working 12 minutes a day actually reduces stress. I can always do 12 minutes--even if I'm tired, sick, uninspired or grumpy. Facing a deadline makes it feel like I will actually get done! "I have to do my 12 minutes" we say in our house these days. I've been progressing steadily on my dissertation by committing to 12 minutes, and my husband has covered huge amounts of material for an upcoming professional exam. My friend has committed to completing the annulment papers she has procrastinated on for 10 years, and my father-in-law has started studying Spanish 12 minutes a day. Thanks!
Christine, Seattle, WA

  •   It helped me to set goals for my chapters and give me some practical strategies for finishing. Also I believe it's good to list your finish date. It gives you something to strive for rather than letting the thesis become nebulous.
Martha; Albany, CA

  •   TA-DA explains the dissertation process and lifts the curtain to a process that seems impossible to accomplish. It provides strategy for selecting the committee and provides timelines that enable accomplishment of the dissertation within a specific time frame.
Randall; USMC Jacksonville, NC

  •   The program helped me to understand the dissertation concept much better. I am a visual individual; the tutorial was a great help.
Deborah; U.S. Army

  •   Provides helpful suggestions for how to proceed as well as suggesting disciplined and reasonable timelines for completion.
Lawrence; Philadelphia, PA

Master’s Thesis Students…

  •   It has helped with the fact that my graduate school does not have a formal format for the proposal. The Journal has helped a lot.
Talia; Naranjito, Puerto Rico

  •   This is a great tool for those who will be starting either their Master's Degree or Dissertation. I highly recommend it.
Teresa; Naguabo, Puerto Rico

  •   Requesting that I set a goal date for finishing, kept me focused and it was the first step in accomplishing the task. Also, I kept remembering the words; a good thesis is a done thesis.
Gladys; NY, NY

  •   It guided me to a fair start. Gracias!
Jess; San Francisco, CA



Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.

About the Author: As a single mother, professor Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters' degrees and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive resource tool on CD—TADA! Thesis and Accomplished. To learn more and sign up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at Privacy is our policy. TADA™ Finishline does not give out or sell our subscribers' names or e-mail addresses.

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Inside This Issue:

Writing a Thesis Statement

Email Q & A of the Month

What TA-DA!™
Users Say

Next FinishLine Features:

Public Speaking and Getting Comfortable with Visual Aids






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