The word "thesis” comes from the Greek θέσις, meaning "position", and refers to an intellectual proposition.
A proposition laid down or stated, esp. as a theme to be discussed and proved, or to be maintained against attack a statement, assertion, tenet. (OED)
There are three kinds of thesis positions:
A Claim of Fact: something is true
A Claim of Value: something has benefit
A Claim of Policy: something ought to be done this way; think this way; function in a particular manner; behavior
A typical thesis has a title page, an abstract, a table of contents, a body, comprising the various chapters, and a bibliography.
Your proposition or claim is your thesis statement. The body of the paper is the argument that supports your claim/thesis. The evidence that will prove or disprove your claim/thesis will be found when you conduct your research. This will consist of either previously existing evidence, or you must conduct your own studies to provide the evidence to support your thesis, or a combination. Searching the Powell Library Catalog and the online databases indicated above will enable you to find the previously existing evidence.
A thesis begins at the end! You start a thesis by stating your conclusion and then giving supporting evidence to prove it. A thesis is not so much a report on a topic as it is an answer to a question. When you think thesis, think “thesis question” not “thesis topic”. And not just any old question but one that is sufficiently fascinating to take a year or more to answer. To put it in perspective, a report merely gathers and presents previously existing information and opinions. A dissertation presents an original idea with accompanying original research or an original question that is investigated and proven true or false with accompanying supporting evidence.
When selecting a thesis topic or question: ask a question that is specific enough for the length of the paper. if possible, ask a question of interest to you - to which you want to know the answer. If possible, ask a question that would appeal to a wide readership; be sure there are enough sources to substantiate your claim. Note the singularity of the question. Ask “a” question. You need to limit your thesis to exploring only one question.
Throughout the investigative process continually ask and answer “So what?” In the process of developing your thesis you will also want to attempt to answer these questions:
AND you want to ensure that your readers will be able to find the answer to these questions as well! If you cannot find answers to these questions neither will your reader. However, if you do ensure the answers to these questions are included in the body of the paper, you will have accomplished the task and your readers are more likely to accept your claim.
In order to answer these questions, you will need to Plan and Refine your research along the way. “Even if you aren’t sure in the beginning where your research will take you, if you find a good question and answer it with well-planned research you will do well. When it comes time to writing your thesis proposal, it should include a statement of your basic and subsidiary questions, as well as laying out the research you intend to use to find the answers.” [Getting what you came for: the smart student’s guide to earning a master’s or a Ph.D. / Robert L. Peters, rev. ed., N.Y.: Noonday Press, 1997 p.177.]
Read Chapters 2 and 5 of the Turabian Manual. It will greatly enhance your understanding of the ideas expressed above: Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations : Chicago Style for Students and Researchers. Edited by Wayne C Booth, Gregory G Colomb, Joseph M Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T FitzGerald. 9th edition / ed. Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.
Last updated April 2022.