How to Write a Thesis-driven Research Paper
What is a thesis-driven research paper? The formal thesis-driven research paper entails significant research and the use of sources located outside the course materials. Unlike a personal essay, which doesn’t require outside research because it details your feelings and opinions on a topic, a thesis-driven research paper requires you to search out the solution to a problem that you have proposed in the paper’s thesis statement and to present what you have learned through research in a well-written, coherent paper. Following are some rules of thumb to make this possible:
• Choose a suitable design and hold on to it: Planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing.
o Generate ideas to sketch a plan: Before beginning a first draft, spend some time generating ideas. Think about your subject while relaxing. Write down inspirations. Talk to others about what you plan to write. Collect information and experiment with ways of focusing and organizing it to best reach your readers.
o Assess the situation: The key elements of the writing situation include your subject, the sources of information available to you, your purpose, your audience, and constraints such as length, document design, and deadlines.
• Make the paragraph the unit of composition:
o How to Write a Good Paragraph:
• Topic Sentence: Generally, begin each paragraph either with a sentence that suggests the topic or with a sentence that helps the transition. An opening sentence should indicate by its subject the direction the paragraph is to take. As readers move into a paragraph, they need to know where they are – in relation to the whole paper – and what to expect in the sentences to come.
• Develop the Main Point: Topic sentences are generalizations in need of support, so once you’ve written a topic sentence, ask yourself, “How do I know this is true?” Your answer will suggest how to develop the paragraph.
• Use the active voice: The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive. For example: Why was the road crossed by the chicken? Compare to: Why did the chicken cross the road? Active voice is direct, bold, clear, and concise. Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. For example: The lab assistant weighed the soil samples. Compare to: The soil samples were weighed by the lab assistant, OR, worse yet, The soil samples were weighed.
o Occasionally, you should prefer passive voice over active:
• Those writing in science and technology often prefer passive voice. This is because they are more interested in what happened, or what was observed, than in who did the observation.
• Political writing sometimes prefers passive voice. In any case when the action is more important than the actor, passive voice is fine.
• Lawyers sometimes prefer passive voice when, for example, defending a criminal defendant: The car was stolen, RATHER THAN Mr. Smith is charged with stealing the car or, worse yet, Mr. Smith stole the car. Lawyers avoid putting their clients’ names in the same sentence as the crime.
• Put statements in positive form: Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language.
o He was not very often on time.
o COMPARE TO: He usually arrived late.
• Use definite, specific, concrete language:
o Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.
• The mayor spoke about the challenges of the future problems concerning the environment and world peace.
• The mayor spoke about the challenges of the future problems of famine, pollution, dwindling resources, and arms control.
• Omit needless words: Good writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentence. This doesn’t mean that all sentences must be short or avoid all detail. Rather, every word should have a purpose. For example, the word “that.” Add the word that if there is any danger of misreading without it. Otherwise, omit it: The value of a principle is the number of things [that] it will explain.
• Use plain English: Avoid legalese or other complex and difficult to understand wording when ordinary English words will work just as well. Use English; not Latin or Greek. Use short (not long) sentences. Keep it simple. Explain – don’t confuse. Long, complicated sentences do not make you appear smarter. Sometimes, in fact, they do just the opposite, demonstrating that you don’t know the topic well enough to paraphrase in simple, concise, understandable language.
o Write sentences that are easy to understand and clear.
o Don’t write a sentence that needs another sentence to explain it.
o Unless a date or location is critical, leave it out.
o Use very few, if any, footnotes – they distract.
o Don’t overdo it: Sparingly use ALL CAPITALS, italics, bold, and underlining. Use either italics or underlines, but never use both. Don’t use several font types. 12 point Times New Roman font is easiest to read.
o Watch the length of your paragraphs: A paragraph should seldom exceed 2/3 of a page. Shorter paragraphs are better. A long paragraph is like a speaker that drones on and on and on and on. . .
Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper
This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
Contributors: Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-02-09 01:03:40
The following sections outline the generally accepted structure for an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that these are guidelines and that your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
You may also use the following Purdue OWL resources to help you with your argument paper:
The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:
- What is this?
- Why am I reading it?
- What do you want me to do?
You should answer these questions by doing the following:
- Set the context –provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the claims you make and support
- State why the main idea is important –tell the reader why he or she should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and convincing essay people will want to read and act upon
- State your thesis/claim –compose a sentence or two stating the position you will support with logos (sound reasoning: induction, deduction), pathos (balanced emotional appeal), and ethos (author credibility).
For exploratory essays, your primary research question would replace your thesis statement so that the audience understands why you began your inquiry. An overview of the types of sources you explored might follow your research question.
If your argument paper is long, you may want to forecast how you will support your thesis by outlining the structure of your paper, the sources you will consider, and the opposition to your position. You can forecast your paper in many different ways depending on the type of paper you are writing. Your forecast could read something like this:
First, I will define key terms for my argument, and then I will provide some background of the situation. Next, I will outline the important positions of the argument and explain why I support one of these positions. Lastly, I will consider opposing positions and discuss why these positions are outdated. I will conclude with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.
When writing a research paper, you may need to use a more formal, less personal tone. Your forecast might read like this:
This paper begins by providing key terms for the argument before providing background of the situation. Next, important positions are outlined and supported. To provide a more thorough explanation of these important positions, opposing positions are discussed. The paper concludes with some ideas for taking action and possible directions for future research.
Ask your instructor about what tone you should use when providing a forecast for your paper.
These are very general examples, but by adding some details on your specific topic, a forecast will effectively outline the structure of your paper so your readers can more easily follow your ideas.
Your thesis is more than a general statement about your main idea. It needs to establish a clear position you will support with balanced proofs (logos, pathos, ethos). Use the checklist below to help you create a thesis.
This section is adapted from Writing with a Thesis: A Rhetoric Reader by David Skwire and Sarah Skwire:
Make sure you avoid the following when creating your thesis:
- A thesis is not a title: Homes and schools (title) vs. Parents ought to participate more in the education of their children (good thesis).
- A thesis is not an announcement of the subject: My subject is the incompetence of the Supreme Court vs. The Supreme Court made a mistake when it ruled in favor of George W. Bush in the 2000 election.
- A thesis is not a statement of absolute fact: Jane Austen is the author of Pride and Prejudice.
- A thesis is not the whole essay: A thesis is your main idea/claim/refutation/problem-solution expressed in a single sentence or a combination of sentences.
- Please note that according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, "A thesis statement is a single sentence that formulates both your topic and your point of view" (Gibaldi 42). However, if your paper is more complex and requires a thesis statement, your thesis may require a combination of sentences.
Make sure you follow these guidelines when creating your thesis:
- A good thesis is unified:
NOT: Detective stories are not a high form of literature, but people have always been fascinated by them, and many fine writers have experimented with them
BETTER: Detective stories appeal to the basic human desire for thrills (concise).
- A good thesis is specific:
NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses is very good. vs.
BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious.
- Try to be as specific as possible (without providing too much detail) when creating your thesis:
NOT: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious. vs.
BETTER: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious by utilizing the findings of Freudian psychology and introducing the techniques of literary stream-of-consciousness.
_____ The thesis/claim follows the guidelines outlined above
_____ The thesis/claim matches the requirements and goals of the assignment
_____ The thesis/claim is clear and easily recognizable
_____ The thesis/claim seems supportable by good reasoning/data, emotional appeal