Writing Effective Thesis & Dissertation Papers: How To
You are about to begin writing your thesis paper. It is a daunting task, at least for some students some of the time. Usually, getting started is the most challenging part, and writing effective thesis that reads like a real thesis may seem impossible. One that does not read like a topic, an opinion, or profusion of mere facts. Writing effective thesis statement is for most learners the trickiest part of writing thesis or dissertation paper.
You seek guidelines for writing effective thesis paper. Hopefully, you’ll have understood the process by the time you are reading the last word.
Write Your Title Page
The specific editorial style you are going to use, for example, APA or MLA, guides you as you write the title page. Please refer to the relevant style manual and learn how to do it. That said, it should include your name, name of the institution as well as the names of your advisors.
Table of Content
Guides readers as they search for specific pieces of information. It lists all subheadings and headings. It also includes page numbers. You can use MS Word to quickly and professionally generate your table of contents.
List of Figures
It carries the page numbers of all the figures you have included in your work. You should also add a short title for each figure.
List of Tables
It lists the page numbers of all the tables you have included.
Writing Effective Thesis Paper: Write Your Abstract
Typically, an abstract is no more than 500 words. That is about two relatively long paragraphs. Concisely tell your readers why the thesis paper matters. An abstract presents your most significant results. Be sure to include numbers where applicable. State the question or questions you are trying to answer as well as the methods you will use to investigate the problem. Also, your abstract needs to state the significant implications of your study. Implications are all about why your work matters. It is advisable to handle this part after you have finished writing your thesis paper. You do not need citations in your abstract.
Writing Effective Thesis Paper: The Introduction Determines Whether Your Paper Succeeds or Fails
The introduction is what makes or breaks a lawyer’s case. And it is what determines whether your readers will continue to the rest of the argument. For that reason, you need to get super focused as you think through this section of your paper. The jury needs to know what a lawyer believes regarding their client’s innocence from the outset.
Does the lawyer believe the accused is guilty? Not guilty? A good lawyer’s opening lines let jury members know where they (lawyer) stands on the matter and how they plan to convince the jury. A well-written thesis introduction should be like the opening lines used by successful lawyers. It should be clear and focused. It should quickly tell the reader what you’ll argue. Most importantly, a perfect introduction tells readers how you intend to convince them.
Learn to Think like a Lawyer, Present Clear, logical, and Convincing Arguments
What comes to mind when someone says they are a lawyer? Smart. Thorough. Logical. Arguments. Those are possibly the ideas that pop up in your mind. Lawyers are all of those qualities, and more. Learning to write a thesis paper that makes your professor smile as they read is pretty much like writing a defense theory.
A good lawyer listens attentively to their client and understands all the fine points related to their case. Then they examine the prosection’s evidence thoroughly. Finally, they prepare an argument that presents a specific position. Their legal and logical reasoning needs to convince the members of the jury. If they fail, their client ends up in jail. Worse, they might get the death sentence. Mistakes can destroy a lawyer’s reputation and career fast. Your argument, too, needs to be logical and convincing if you want to earn an excellent grade.
Writing Effective Thesis Paper: Write Your Thesis Statement
Every thesis paper needs to have a thesis statement. Your thesis statement should be part of your introduction. If there is one area that gives a lot of students trouble, it is writing the thesis statement. Don’t get confused. A thesis statement is not a topic. Nor is it merely a statement of fact. Most importantly, it is not an opinion. Your thesis statement needs to be the most prominent part of your introduction. Getting it wrong is like getting the whole thesis paper wrong. Typically, your thesis statement is the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.
Writing Effective Thesis Paper: Review and Analyze Primary Sources
Let us assume you are a political science student. The first thing you should do is head to the library. Search for material related to what you want to write about. A good example can be the French Revolution. What were the specific causes? What took place? When? Who were the participants? Analyze every bit of information you gather from your primary sources. Can you identify a controversial point of view? Is the author’s argumentambiguous? Have they contradicted themselves? Understand the deeper implications of the author’s argument.
You are doing all this to get a working thesis. Write down your thesis statement as soon as you mentally develop it. Writing it down forces you to think in a clear, logical and concise way.
Use Counterarguments to Refine Your Thesis Statement
Failure to think about what others have said against your thesis is the beginningof failure. Analyze opposing points of view as this helps to clarify your thoughts and strengthen your thesis statement. Also, examining the counterarguments provides you with the views you’ll need to refute when it comes time to write your paper’s body. An argument without counterarguments is no argument. It is most likely an opinion or at best, a statement of fact.
Let us Attempt to Write Your Thesis Statement Now
“Although the economic paralysis and bankruptcy resulting from conflict between the nobility and the Monarchy led to the French Revolution of 1789 – 1799, the Enlightenment of the Frenchplayed a more significant role.”
What does the reader think upon reading your thesis statement? They might say: I don’t entirely agree with the author of this thesis paper. But I will read on and see how they argue their case. You would like people to agree with your point of view. But it is good enough that people find your paper worth reading, even when they disagree.
What a Thesis Statement is Not
“Political conflict, social antagonisms and enlightenment caused the French Revolution.” Your thesis statement succeeds in letting the reader know what to expect. But, doesn’t it read pretty much like a list? Besides, thisexample states what every educated person already knows. That statement advances no argument. It merely states a fact.
Admittedly, a thesis paper is supposed to discuss, explore and answer specific questions. And keen readers want to feel that your paper tells them something. However, your thesis statement should not directly ask the question. That’s what research questions are for.
“What caused the French Revolution?” Always remember that a question and an argument are two distinct things. And without an argument, your paper will never get anywhere near being captivating. Finding the answers to why the revolution happened is easy for most people. So, you must attempt to present the facts in a way that makes the issue look fresh and interesting.
A statement that is confrontational
Do not write, “Monarchies are inherently evil; that is why the French Revolution happened.” How do you build your thesis paper upon such an ineffective thesis statement? Arguing that will likely prove to be a task you were not ready for. How did you decide that monarchies are evil? Is this your opinion? Is there any authority you can rely on? Academic writing is less about being judgmental and moralistic and more about being rational and factual. Besides, such a thesis statement might end up alienating some of your readers. Not everyone thinks monarchies are evil. In fact, you might just be the only one!
A statement containing general or overused terms
Let us look at this example thesis statement: “The French Revolution happened due to political conflict.” The statement does not advance an argument. Besides, it is obvious to almost everyone that political conflict must have preceded the revolution. Here, you are simply reminding readers what they know already. Your thesis statement, in this case, looks overused, general and uninteresting. The kind of paragraph-one conclusion that has the reader muttering: nothing new here.
A Statement Without an arguable claim
Your paper is supposed to advance a specific point of view. When you state a fact and pretend it is a thesis, discerning readers will quickly notice and stop reading. Let us look at the example we started with:
“Although the economic paralysis and bankruptcy resulting from conflict between the nobility and the Monarchy led to the French Revolution of 1789 – 1799, the Enlightenment of the French played a more significant role.”
The author argues that the French Revolution is more attributable to the Enlightenment than to political conflict between the Monarchy and the nobility. Your reader probably views the French Revolution differently. But you have presented a clear, arguable claim. They would probably say “let me read further and hear what this author has to say.” When that person is your professor of political science, you are beginning to win. They might even think “Here isanother promisingscholar.”
Other Content for Your Introduction
Your introduction also includes:
- Background to the topic at hand (sometimes your professor may ask that you have a separate section for background information)
- A description of an existing gap in current knowledge
- An explanation of the scope of work
- An outline of what your reader can expect in the content that follows
- A statement of the purpose of your paper: What problem is your thesis paper trying to address?
- A demonstration of how your research fills the knowledge gap identified
- Hypothesis/hypotheses or research question(s)
A Hypothesis is Different than a Thesis Statement
Hypothesis writing is another challenging step of the scientific method. Some students get themselves all confused when it comes to writing effective hypothesis. They think a hypothesis and thesis statement are the same. Well, some disciplines may treat the two as though they were interchangeable, but they are different. If your study hopes to prove or disprove something, it needs to have a hypothesis. Typically, hypotheses most commonly appear in quantitative research. A hypothesis is a testable prediction. It is an educated prediction regarding the relationship between two variables. A researcher’s job is to support or falsify the hypothesis using observable evidence.
A Hypothesis Can be a Question or Statement
You learned earlier that a good thesis statement is never a question. In contrast, a hypothesis can either be a question or a statement. Your hypothesis must specify both the dependent variables and independent variables. Dependent variables relate to who or what you expect to get affected. An independent variable represents what or who you predict will affect your study’s dependent variable.
Essentially, the introduction expands on what you stated in your abstract. Typically, it is longer than the abstract. How long? As long as it reasonably needs to be. Generally, the longer the paper, the longer the introduction can be. It can be a page or pages.
Example of a Hypothesis
“Temperature may affect bacterial growth.”
Here, the researcher predicts that bacterial growth gets affected by temperature. You will notice that both bacterial growth and temperature are testable. In other words, the two variables are measurable. Another way to present your hypothesis would be to ask: Does temperature affect bacterial growth? Remember we said a hypothesis is either a statement or question.
No Hypothesis Statement in Qualitative Research – Usually
Hypothesis testing does not usually happen in qualitative research. Typically, qualitative research does not concern itself with hypothesis testing. It simply explores an area of study. Researchers can later use a quantitative approach to test the hypothesis or hypotheses.
You should present your hypothesis statement before you write your thesis statement. Don’t forget we are still at the thesis paper introduction stage. It might look like this article has taken quite a while guiding you on how to write a single part of your thesis. But remember: The introduction is the most important part of your thesis paper. Getting it wrong results in a failed paper that frustrates you in the end. You care about grades, don’t you?
Literature Review and Background information: Are They Part of the Introduction?
After you have written your introduction, you can now proceed to the literature review writing section. The social and hard sciences prefer to have researchers separate the background or literature review and the introduction. Humanities students usually present their literature review or background information as part of the introduction.
No hard and fast rules guide how you are supposed to present these sections. Also, there is no widely accepted convention as to whether your paper should have either literature review or background information or both. It is best to ask your academic advisor for clarifications on how to treat the introduction, background, and literature review.
Writing Effective Thesis: Background Chapter
Let’s assume your paper will have a separate background information chapter. What content do you include there? Use this space to present pre-requisite information critical to the understanding of your thesis paper. It should not be lengthy. After all, you are writing for people with at least a rudimentary knowledge regarding your area. Describe the historical developments that led you to your research questions or thesis. Clarify key terms and describe the scope of your area. Will you be relying on disciplines other than yours? Tell the reader about the aspects of those disciplines you will include.
Writing Effective Thesis Paper: Literature Review Chapter
You have reviewed a ton of relevant material from various sources and developed specific ideas. The literature review chapter organizes your ideas into a conceptual structure from which the body of your thesis grows. Here, you should organize and link ideas together. Your intended audience should be able to see how the ideas interact as well as their relative importance. What fundamental concepts, theories, and models have you derived from your sources analysis? What are the counterarguments? Which ideas support the main ones?
At this point, you have collected various sources of reliable data. You need to have used primary sources — usually peer-reviewed journal articles and books. If you cannot find these in your school’s library, use online databases like ProQuest. Essentially, this chapter focuses less on presenting “literature” and more on analysis of existing knowledge. It identifies a knowledge gap and tells the reader why addressing that information gap matters.
Citations and Formatting
You must not write a single claim that you cannot support using credible evidence. Your preferred editorial style guides how you format your paper, write in-text citations, references, or bibliography page. Whether you are using APA, MLA, OSCOLA, Chicago, Harvard, or any other style, be sure you can correctly apply it. You can use reliable resources like Purdue Online Writing Lab to learn how to format your thesis paper and write citations. Needless to say, your work must not have plagiarism issues. Use any appropriate software package to ensure your document is authentic. Failure to do that can have others accuse you of academic dishonesty.
Writing Effective Thesis Paper: Methodology Chapter
The method chapter of your thesis presents a description of the precise steps you took to address the hypothesis or research question. Its purpose is to help even the most “naïve” reader replicate your study. Fundamentally, this chapter attempts to establish links between your research problem, method, and findings.
Qualitative studies are somewhat unstructured. However, you must not avoid being as detailed and specific as you would be in a quantitative study. You must describe your sample and how you solicited participants. If the participants are not people, you can use the term “subjects.” Additionally, the reader needs to know which instruments or tools you used. Did you use questionnaires, extended interviews, behavioral observations, or archival data? Also, describe how you selected the research materials relied on. Explain the procedures followed, too.
Do Not Merely Restate the Problem or Present the Literature Review Again
Most people tend to restate the problem and re-present the literature review in this section. Understand that the method chapter is supposed to describe the directions for carrying out a piece of research. If your study is quantitative, you must include a data analysis section that clearly outlines your procedure(s). Where you have used specialized equipment, tell the reader about the nature and type of such equipment. In that case, you may have to include an apparatus section.
Admittedly, though, a quantitative study can be a little more challenging than a qualitative one.Always use the past tense when writing the method section and the rest of the thesis.
Writing Effective Thesis: Results/Findings Section
Use figures and text to present your findings. The results section presents the facts of your research. Also, comment on the significance of your study’s key findings. Sometimes you can combine the results section with the discussion section. You can choose to have them under the same heading. Check with your advisor regarding the treatment of these two sections.
Writing Effective Thesis: Discussion
At this point, you have thought through your research findings and know what they mean. So, explain what they mean. The discussion section allows you to interpret your results for the benefit of readers. It also describes the results you expected and those you did not expect. Additionally, you must explain every unexpected result. Most importantly, your discussion section relates your specific findings to previous theory or research. At this point, state the limitations of your study. Also, comment on any research questions you did not answer. Essentially, tell the reader whether or not you proved your hypothesis.
Writing Effective Thesis: Conclusion Chapter
Take care how you write this section. It is as important as your introduction. Strive to craft it in a way that makes a strong impression on the reader. Here, tell the reader whether you achieved the aims of your research. Focus on the most significant points or results, and present them concisely. Your conclusion needs to be in alignment with your introduction and body.
Do you feel that you can handle a thesis paper like the competent researcher and writer you are? What stops you from writing effective thesis paper? Nothing. Let the confidence you have gained drive out every trace of doubt and intimidation.
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