One of the most rewarding types of academic papers that provide invaluable prospects and opportunities to be creative and inventive is a thesis or dissertation. It is an official academic paper that introduces you to the world.
The importance of your thesis lies in the fact that it shows how skillful you are at carrying out research on the topic of interest. In addition, your future employers might make an employment decision depending on how persuasive and profound your research is. Therefore, certain standards have been set by the School of Graduate Studies and Research and the Graduate Faculty so that students will be able to write high-quality dissertations.
How to Create a Thesis
Undoubtedly, one of the most pivotal starting points is to create a powerful thesis statement. Imagine that you are a lawyer who stands in front of the jury. Your opening argument will allow everybody present in the courtroom to understand whether the accused is innocent or guilty and how he/she is going to prove his/her point. Similarly, your thesis statement should inform the readers of what they are going to read about in the paper and how the argument is built. In other words, your thesis statement should explain to the readers what they are going to be convinced of and encourage them to read the paper further.
It is necessary to note that a thesis statement is more than just a question, an opinion or an idea; it is not a piece of factual information. For example, “The role of the USA in World War II” is a topic; “The Second World War started in 1939” is a well-known fact in history; finally, “The Second World War is the worst event of the 20th century” is a personal opinion, which is rather subjective and cannot be relied on. Thus, a powerful thesis statement should be objective and balanced; it should encourage the readers to think and read the whole paper.
Technically, a thesis statement should consist of two components. Firstly, it should inform about the topic of your argument. Secondly, it should be suggestive of how you are going to arrange it and what evidence you are going to present to support your claim.
Creating a Thesis Step-by-Step
First of all, it is necessary to consider the primary sources that you are going to use in the paper. It is important to analyze whether the author is consistent in his/her ideas and see if there is a controversy or ambiguity in the ideas. It is also essential to pay attention to some deeper meaning or reasoning behind the author’s argument. Considering all the points mentioned above will enable you to create a good thesis. Without proper analysis, you are likely to provide just some factual information rather than what is hidden behind it.
Another suggestion is that you should always write your thesis down. By doing so, you will not only ensure that you remember some genius idea of yours, but you will also be able to evaluate your thesis and think about it critically. Surely, it might take you much time and effort to come up with the final version of the thesis, but keeping notes will definitely help you to channel your thoughts in the right direction.
Moreover, it is recommended that your thesis statement should be the last sentence of your introductory paragraph, which is a standard place for it. Intuitively, readers are accustomed to finding the thesis statement there; however, it is not obligatory.
Another good idea is that you should think about some possible counter-arguments to your thesis. Not only will it help you to check the consistency of your thesis, you will also learn what arguments you will need to counter in your paper. Also, if it is not a counter-argument to your argument, it is not an argument at all—it might be an opinion or a fact. Finally, it is important to anticipate counter-arguments to your thesis, so that you will be able to strengthen it and make it more powerful and gripping. Do not make your thesis statement too obvious; instead, try predicting what counter-arguments can be used to refute your thesis and make use of them.
Some Useful Tips and Examples
Firstly, do not confuse a thesis with a question. The aim of an academic paper is to analyze, research, and answer some questions. An argument has nothing to do with a question. “Why did World War II start?” is not an argument and, therefore, cannot be considered a good thesis.
Secondly, it is necessary to distinguish between a thesis and a list. For example, “A large number of political, economic, social, and cultural factors led to the beginning of World War II” is a good way to inform the reader about the sections that you are going to cover in your paper. However, this statement is too general and obvious. It is clear that there is a combination of political, economic, social, and cultural factors that resulted in World War II. Such a statement does not provoke any argument as it is too evident and there is nothing to discuss.
Thirdly, while creating a thesis statement, you should be non-judgmental, thorough, and rational. For instance, “Germany is evil because it started World War II” may sound too moralistic and subjective. First of all, it is difficult to argue such a statement because of the word “evil” which is rather categorical; it is not clear what “evil” means in this context. Secondly, some readers may consider such a thesis rather offensive and biased, which is likely to discourage them from further reading of your paper. Thus, an effective thesis is never biased, confrontational or vague; instead, it is balanced, weighted, and objective.
Furthermore, a good thesis is an arguable, thorough claim. “While the Great Depression of the 1930s was one of the contributing economic factors that led to World War II, the resentments that Germany had after World War I also played an important role” can be considered a good thesis as it enables the reader to expect that the paper will have some sections devoted to the Great Depression and the state of affairs in Germany after World War I. The statement is also suggestive of the idea that the Great Depression was not the only economic factor; therefore, the reader may anticipate the mentioning of some other economic factors. Such a statement is sure to entice the reader to continue with the paper and find out more information about the issues discussed in it.
Finally, an effective thesis should be specific and precise. Abstract ideas and general terms can make a thesis rather vague and unclear; thus, they should be avoided. For instance, “The Great Depression of the 1930s is one of the economic factors that led to World War II” sounds more specific than “A lot of economic factors contributed to the beginning of World War II.”