What Is a Thesis: Paper or Statement

So, what is a thesis? Some academic papers are called “a dissertation”, and others - “a thesis”. Some papers have problem statements and hypotheses, and others - thesis statements. To define thesis in all its meanings, we should point out the distinction between thesis statements and thesis papers - the former are a part of academic research papers, be it theses or dissertations, and the latter are actual academic papers that may or may not contain a thesis statement. We’ll define thesis statement and thesis paper in this article. As a little intro, we’re answering the question “What does thesis mean?”. According to the Oxford dictionary, a thesis can be:

  • a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved;
  • a long essay or dissertation involving personal research, written by a candidate for a university degree.

Well, now we should explain the two definitions in detail.

What Is a Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement is the main argument of one’s research paper. Unlike a hypothesis that tries to give an answer to a problem statement and undergoes empirical examination by the author to be either verified or rejected, a thesis statement is already accepted by the author as true, and what they do in their paper is substantiate their claim and explain how they reached the conclusion that it must be true. Even though a thesis statement is a part of a logical scholarly discussion, proving it is not about simply enumerating facts - it’s about using those facts skillfully to build a convincing paper.

To give a thesis statement definition, we should understand its characteristics. A thesis statement is often referred to as just “thesis” and can be called “a claim”. For this reason, the “claim vs thesis statement” question is not correct, because a thesis statement is in itself a claim, “an assertion that something is true” (while it might actually be false). But in the case with a thesis statement, it’s a claim that is substantiated to be proved. A paper can even refute possible counterarguments and show their irrelevance to the thesis statement in its favor. A thesis statement is the core thread running through the paper, having all of its components linked to the main claim, each in its appropriate way. To keep the reader aware of this connection, the statement is mentioned at the beginning of every paragraph or section of the paper that constitutes another set of substantiation points for the thesis.

How to start a thesis statement and where to put it? A thesis statement is usually presented at the end of the Introduction chapter, and it standardly takes just one sentence to make the point. Can a thesis be a question? No, because it really has to be a statement, neither a question nor a generalized outline of the paper’s topic. Hence, a thesis statement cannot be formulated like this: “What is the harm of industrial wastes?”; or like this “The harm of industrial wastes”. An appropriate, assertive thesis must make a clear solid statement: “Industrial wastes cause destruction of the ozone layer, water contamination, and air pollution”. This is a very simple example of a thesis statement showing this point for beginners in academic writing. However, it is not debatable, not arguable enough - which is another important feature of a good thesis statement. A good thesis statement cannot be self-evident (as in the case with the negative effects of industrial wastes). A thesis statement requires to be proved, and that means, others may disagree with it, and you need to present enough evidence of your statement’s validity. Thus your thesis statement becomes arguable, and we define arguable as “not obviously correct”, “capable of being supported by argument or evidence”, ‘open to disagreement”.

What is the purpose of a thesis statement? The type and the purpose of a thesis statement depend on the type of the paper you are writing. Academic papers of all kinds, down to a regular thesis definition essay, are commonly divided into explanatory, analytical, or argumentative (also known as persuasive) - they explain some phenomenon, analyze it, or present and defend a certain point of view, respectively. A thesis statement must be in total accordance with the research you conduct, it cannot go beyond the specifics of the research to a broader topic and claim to touch issues that are not actually touched in the paper. However, in the process of writing a thesis for a research paper, you may find new information, and the course of your research can even take an unexpected turn as a result. You’re going to adjust the thesis statement to your findings. First of all, a thesis statement should have a narrow focus, because the scope of your research will depend on the scope that your thesis statement covers. While a student’s desire to do an expansive broad research is not discouraged, it’s still recommended to make it more narrow for the sake of depth over expansiveness. Making sure that the content of the paper and the main point in the thesis statement match is the most important rule of thumb when it comes to academic papers.

An argumentative thesis statement meaning enables it to have an extra function, making the readers pay attention to an issue and consider a certain point of view on it, even (or especially) when opinions on that issue generally differ. The above-stated types of papers and their matching thesis statements can be alternatively grouped as descriptive (explanatory and analytical) and prescriptive (argumentative ones). At first sight, they don’t really differ: the main approach to any scholarly paper is being rational, logical, using factual evidence, and referring to objective truth. But on top of that, a prescriptive statement often appeals to the readers’ values and calls for a change. It takes analysis and facts of a descriptive paper and puts them into a moral perspective of some kind.

Such types of thesis statements are common in papers that deal with ecological problems, social issues, educational issues,  history - mainly subjects the humanities are concerned with. They ask the readers to change their behaviors, take action, find solutions to urgent problems, review and change their opinion on something,  shift their attention to important aspects of an issue. That’s why, unlike an analysis thesis, a thesis statement of the argumentative - or persuasive - type oftentimes has the word should in it. This component matches the way in which dictionaries define prescriptive: “relating to the imposition or enforcement of a rule or method” (according to the Oxford dictionary), or in simpler words, “a prescriptive approach to something involves telling people what they should do, rather than simply giving suggestions or describing what is done” ( according to the Collins dictionary). A prescriptive thesis statement can be also characterized as pointed. We define pointed as “expressing criticism in a direct and unambiguous way” - something that is not uncommon for a message that criticizes the old ways to bring about the new ones.

Thesis Paper Definition

Let’s get to the thesis paper definition. As stated before, thesis statements are not necessarily used in thesis papers. This depends largely on the field of knowledge that you study. For instance, science disciplines are more likely to use a hypothesis as the central point in a paper instead of a thesis statement. What is thesis paper? Theses and dissertations are the kinds of papers that students write in order to obtain an academic degree. Theses definition does not make them much different from dissertations. Theses are usually written by bachelor or master students, and dissertations are written by doctoral candidates. Beware of the fact that theses and dissertations often switch places on the academic ladder in different countries, where future masters write dissertations and prospective doctors write theses. Using a thesis statement in one or the other does not make any difference. The main differences between the two are their volume and depth of the research - doctoral papers are expected to be more innovative and make a good contribution to the scholarly community.

Parts of a Thesis Paper

What are the parts of a thesis paper? Theses use a standard structure which may have slight variations from paper to paper. How to start a thesis? With an Introduction, which explains one’s choice of the paper’s topic and presents a thesis statement or a problem statement with a hypothesis. It is followed by: Literature Review, which creates a background of relevant knowledge and data, obtained previously by other scholars; Methods, which follow your empirical work step by step; Discussion, which puts the discovered results into context; and Conclusion, as well as Bibliography and often Appendices.

There are other options for completion of a master's degree than writing a thesis. However, with a thesis, you train your argumentative thinking, focus, and research skills. Your ability to take part in a healthy scholarly debate is also stimulated in the process of defending the paper. In your future career, these skills present you as an employee with great potential.