Tips for Inexperienced Students: How to Write a Thesis Statement in a Research Paper


In grade school, most research papers were not built around a true thesis statement. Instead, they simply covered a topic or a main idea and presented the student’s findings from their research. In college, however, the topic of a research paper has evolved so that it is built around a thesis statement. For inexperienced students, part of the difficulty with thesis statements is that they simply don’t have a comprehensive understanding of what a thesis statement actually is.

What is a thesis statement?

Thesis statements are the author of the paper’s position on something, typically a debatable aspect of the topic they are covering. In scientific research papers, for example, the thesis statement is the author’s stance on the scientific outcome of an experiment. In a literary research paper, the thesis statement is the author’s stance about the meaning of a particular text, the writer’s intentions when writing it, or about some aspect of the writer themselves. One useful way to approach a thesis statement is to understand that it is the answer to a question. To choose a simple example, the author of a research paper might have a thesis statement like this: “When water is heated to a certain temperature, it boils.” Obviously, that is a fact, but if it weren’t a known fact, it would be the answer to the question “What happens when water is heated to a certain temperature?” or even “At what temperature does water boil?”

Writing a Thesis Statement

Students preparing to write a thesis statement should first choose the subject they wish to research, and then narrow down that subject significantly until they can formulate detailed questions about the topic. Those questions are often the inspiration for solid thesis statements. It should be noted that a thesis statement should only be a sentence or two long and should be quite specific. So, “What happens in One Hundred Years of Solitude?” is not an acceptable question for forming a thesis statement. “What did blood symbolize in One Hundred Years of Solitude?” might be. The student doesn’t need to know the definite answer to their question to begin researching, but they need to formulate a possible answer. “Blood symbolizes passionate emotion in One Hundred Years of Solitude” could be a workable thesis statement. It could evolve as they research, but it’s a good start.

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