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Does a research paper have a thesis

May 13, 2018

 Are you writing your first big research paper? Are you a bit overwhelmed and intimidated? If so, you are not alone! But you don't have to be afraid. Once you understand the process and get a clear idea of the expectations, you will gain a sense of control and confidence.

It might help to think of this assignment as an investigative news report. When a news reporter receives a tip about a controversial story line, he or she visits the scene and begins asking questions and exploring the evidence.

The reporter puts the pieces together to create a truthful story.

This is much like the process you'll carry out as you write a research paper. When a student does a thorough job on this type of assignment, he or she collects information about a specific issue or topic, analyzes the information, and presents all the collected information in a report.

Why Do Students Dread These Assignments?

A research paper is not merely a writing assignment; it is an action assignment that must be completed over time. There are many steps to carry out:

What Is a Thesis?

The thesis is a central message that is summed up in a sentence. This thesis tells the purpose of the paper, whether it is answering a question or making a new point.

The thesis statement usually goes at the end of the introductory paragraph.

What Does a Thesis Statement Look Like?

A thesis in a history paper might look like this:

In Colonial Georgia, it was not poverty that caused citizens to abandon young settlements and flee to Charleston, but the insecurity that citizens felt from living so close to Spanish Florida.

This is a bold statement that requires some proof. The student would need to provide quotes from early Georgia and other evidence to argue this thesis.

What Does a Research Paper Look Like?

Your finished paper might look like one long essay or it could look different - it could be divided into sections; this all depends on the type of study being conducted. A science paper will look different from a literature paper.

Papers that are written for a science class will often involve reporting on an experiment a student has conducted or a problem the student has solved. For this reason, the paper might contain sections that are divided by headings and subheadings, like Abstract, Method, Materials, and more.

In contrast, a literature paper is more likely to address a theory about a certain author's point of view or describe a comparison of two pieces of literature. This type of paper would more likely take the form of one long essay and contain a list of references on the last page.

Your instructor will let you know which style of writing you should use.

What Is a Style of Writing?

There are very specific rules for writing and formatting papers, according to standards of research ethics and to the style of paper you're writing.

One common style is the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style, which is used for literature and some social sciences.

Another is American Psychological Association (APA) Style, and that style is used in the social and behavioral sciences. Turabian Style is used for writing history papers, although high school teachers may require MLA for history assignments. Students may not encounter Turabian or APA style requirements until college. The Scientific Journal Style is often used for assignments in the natural sciences.

You will find details about writing and formatting your paper in a "style guide." The guide will give details like:

What Does It Mean to "Cite Sources?"

When you conduct research, you find evidence in books, articles, web sites, and other sources, that you will use to support your thesis. Any time you use a bit of information that you've collected, you must make a visible indication of this in your paper. You will do this with an in-text citation or a footnote. The way that you cite your source will depend on the style of writing you're using, but the citation will contain some combination of the author's name, the title of the source, and a page number.

Do I Always Need a Bibliography?

On the last page of your paper, you will provide a list of all the sources you used in putting together your paper. This list can go by many names: it may be called a bibliography, a reference list, a works consulted list, or a works cited list. Your instructor will tell you which style of writing you are to use for your research paper. You will find all the details you need in your style guide for putting all the right pieces in place.


mla apa chicago

Your Citation

Fleming, Grace. "What Is a Research Paper?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 14, 2017,

Fleming, Grace. (2017, September 14). What Is a Research Paper? Retrieved from

Fleming, Grace. "What Is a Research Paper?" ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2018).

I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people. Isaac Newton We need business to understand its social responsibility, that the main task and objective for a business is not to generate extra income and to become rich and transfer the money abroad, but to look and evaluate what a businessman has done for the country, for the people, on whose account he or she has become so rich. Vladimir Putin

3. Creating a Thesis Statement & Outline

I.What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is usually a sentence that states your argument to the reader. It usually appears in the first paragraph of an essay.

II. Why do I need to write a thesis statement for a paper?

Your thesis statement states what you will discuss in your essay. Not only does it define the scope and focus of your essay, it also tells your reader what to expect from the essay.

A thesis statement can be very helpful in constructing the outline of your essay.

Also, your instructor may require a thesis statement for your paper.

III. How do I create a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is not a statement of fact. It is an assertive statement that states your claims and that you can prove with evidence. It should be the product of research and your own critical thinking. There are different ways and different approaches to write a thesis statement. Here are some steps you can try to create a thesis statement:

1. Start out with the main topic and focus of your essay.

Example: youth gangs + prevention and intervention programs

2. Make a claim or argument in one sentence.

Example: Prevention and intervention programs can stop youth gang activities.

3. Revise the sentence by using specific terms.

Example: Early prevention programs in schools are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement.

4. Further revise the sentence to cover the scope of your essay and make a strong statement.

Example: Among various prevention and intervention efforts that have been made to deal with the rapid growth of youth gangs, early school-based prevention programs are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement.

IV. Can I revise the thesis statement in the writing process?

Sure. In fact, you should keep the thesis statement flexible and revise it as needed. In the process of researching and writing, you may find new information that falls outside the scope of your original plan and want to incorporate it into your paper. Or you probably understand your thoughts more and shift the focus of your paper. Then you will need to revise your thesis statement while you are writing the paper.

V. Why do I need to make an outline when I already have a thesis statement?

An outline is the "road map" of your essay in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the essay.

VI. How do I make an outline?

You list all the major topics and subtopics with key points that support them. Put similar topics and points together and arrange them in a logical order.

Include an Introduction, a Body, and a Conclusion in your outline. You can make an outline in a list format or a chart format.

Next Chapter: 4. Choosing Appropriate Resources

Developing a Research Thesis

A research thesis has most of the same thesis characteristics as a thesis for a non-research essay. The difference lies in the fact that you gather information and evidence from appropriate, valid sources to support your perspective on a topic or stand on an issue. Yet although your sources provide information that informs your thesis, the thesis ideas should be your own, particular to your personal way of thinking about and analyzing a topic.

The thesis focuses your ideas and information for the research paper. Remember that word "focus." Student writers often make the mistake of forgetting the focus and making the research thesis far too broad in order to include a lot of research. Yet depth more than breadth is the hallmark of a sophisticated research paper.

Create a working thesis for the research paper by specifying and ordering your categories of information. For example, the following theses offer the writers' main arguments and focus their research by specifying and ordering the reasons for their stance:

As you can see, a research thesis is your proposed answer to your research question, which you finalize only after completing the research. (It's o.k. to modify and revise the working thesis as you research more about the topic or issue.)

Developing a good working thesis, just like developing a good research question (researchable; neither too broad nor too narrow), is an important research skill.

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