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Getting Started with Library Research

Drafting a Thesis

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is a sentence or a few sentences that concisely introduce and sum up the central argument of a research paper or other research project. Thesis statements are usually drafted for projects in humanities and social science disciplines. (The sciences generally use a hypothesis, which is a question used to drive a lab or field experiment.)

A thesis statement has some defining characteristics:

  • It is focused on one main idea or concept; and the rest of the paper or project points back to that idea or concept.
  • The author generally takes a stance on an issue.
  • Because the author takes a stance, a thesis is usually arguable and the project must leave room to address data that challenges an idea and alternative opinions.
  • A thesis is supported with evidence and data.
  • A thesis statement is broad enough to carry a project, but not so narrow that it cannot be researched or discussed in detail.

How To Develop a Thesis Statement

There is no easy formula for developing a thesis statement. No one comes up with a good thesis without extensive reading and research, not even experienced researchers. Drafting a thesis is a multi-stage process. Most research first takes the form of a broad topic or question that evolves into a well-defined thesis statement as research progresses. Here are some examples of topic ideas and thesis statements:

Topic Thesis
Reality television The writers' strike of 2008 directly increased the rise in popularity of reality television.
Depression and teenagers Overuse of social media contributes significantly to depression among teenagers in the United States.

It is helpful to start the process of creating a thesis statement by choosing a topic that is interesting; without investment in the question, the research process tends to be tedious and more difficult. Conducting background research on a topic to better inform yourself about your topic will help you to learn more about it, find out what research has already been conducted, and develop questions that have not yet been adequately answered. Those questions can form the basis of a thesis. You will start to find initial ideas for research topics, and eventually a thesis statement, by simply analyzing the results of a broad search.

For example, a search on depression and social media and teenagers yields studies that have to do with:

  • treatment of social media addiction
  • sleep disorders
  • racial discrimination
  • dating 
  • body image
  • ...and more

Any of these subtopics may serve to develop and sustain a research question about social media use among teenagers.

The Online Writing and Math Center can help you draft and improve a thesis statement.