Skip Nav

Formulating a Thesis

Writing Centre

❶It does not announce the topic of your paper or simply restate the paper prompt. In this body paragraph, after the Assertion, include any evidence—a quotation, statistic, data—that supports this first point.

You are here




In other words, each bit of information you find should open the possibility of other research paths. Learn to use several research techniques. You cannot count on a good research paper coming from browsing on one shelf at the library.

A really pertinent book may be hidden in another section of the library due to classification quirks. The Readers' Guide Ref. R4 is not the only source for magazine articles, nor the card catalog for books. There are whole books which are listings of other books on particular topics. There are specialized indexes of magazine articles.

S62 and the Humanities Index Ref. See also Historical Abstracts Ref. Reference Librarians would love to help you learn to use these research tools. It pays to browse in the reference room at the library and poke into the guides which are on the shelves. It also pays to browse the Internet. If you do not already have a general background on your topic, get the most recent good general source on the topic and read it for general orientation.

On the basis of that reading formulate as clearly focused question as you can. You should generally discuss with your professor at that point whether your question is a feasible one. Building a Basic Bibliography: If there is a specialized bibliography on your topic, you will certainly want to consult that as well, but these are often a bit dated.

Building a Full Bibliography: Read the recent articles or chapters that seem to focus on your topic best. This will allow you to focus your research question quite a bit. Use such tools as Historical Abstracts or, depending on your topic, the abstracts from a different field and a large, convenient computer-based national library catalog e. For specific article searches "Uncover" press returns for the "open access" or possibly less likely for history "First Search" through "Connect to Other Resources" in MUSE can also be useful.

Now do the bulk of your research. But do not overdo it. Do not fall into the trap of reading and reading to avoid getting started on the writing. After you have the bulk of information you might need, start writing.

You can fill in the smaller gaps of your research more effectively later. Write a preliminary thesis statement, expressing what you believe your major argument s will be. Sketch out a broad outline that indicates the structure - main points and subpoints or your argument as it seems at this time.

Do not get too detailed at this point. On the basis of this thesis statement and outline, start writing, even pieces, as soon as you have enough information to start. Do not wait until you have filled all the research gaps. If you run into smaller research questions just mark the text with a searchable symbol. It is important that you try to get to the end point of this writing as soon as possible, even if you leave pieces still in outline form at first and then fill the gaps after you get to the end.

Critical advice for larger papers: It is often more effective not to start at the point where the beginning of your paper will be. Especially the introductory paragraph is often best left until later, when you feel ready and inspired. The "second draft" is a fully re-thought and rewritten version of your paper. It is at the heart of the writing process. First, lay your first draft aside for a day or so to gain distance from it.

After that break, read it over with a critical eye as you would somebody else's paper well, almost! You will probably find that your first draft is still quite descriptive, rather than argumentative.

That is perfectly normal even for experienced writers even after 40 years and a good deal of published work! You will be frustrated. But keep questioning your paper along the following lines: What precisely are my key questions? What parts of my evidence here are really pertinent to those questions that is, does it help me answer them? How or in what order can I structure my paper most effectively to answer those questions most clearly and efficiently for my reader?

Remember that it will take several rounds of revision to craft a strong thesis, so keep revising until your thesis articulates a thoughtful and compelling argument. A succesful thesis statement takes a position that requires defending. Your argument should not be an obvious or irrefutable assertion. Rather, make a claim that requires supporting evidence. The Revolutionary War caused great upheaval in the lives of American women. Few would argue with the idea that war brings upheaval. Your thesis needs to be debatable: Your job throughout the paper is to provide evidence in support of your own case.

Here is a revised version:. The Revolution caused particular upheaval in the lives of women. With men away at war, women took on full responsibility for running households, farms, and businesses.

As a result of their increased involvement during the war, many women were reluctant to give up their new-found responsibilities after the fighting ended.

This is a stronger thesis because it says exactly what kind of upheaval the war wrought, and it makes a debatable claim. For example, a counterargument might be that most women were eager to return to the way life was before the war and thus did not try to usurp men's role on the home front.

Or, someone could argue that women were already active in running households, farms, and businesses before the war, and thus the war did not mark a significant departure. Any compelling thesis will have counterarguments. Writers try to show that their arguments are stronger than the counterarguments that could be leveled against them. A successful thesis statement is historically specific. It does not make a broad claim about "American society" or "humankind," but is grounded in a particular historical moment.

The Revolution had a negative impact on women because of the prevailing problem of sexism. Sexism is a vague word that can mean different things in different times and places. In order to answer the question and make a compelling argument, this thesis needs to explain exactly what attitudes toward women were in early America, and how those attitudes negatively affected women in the Revolutionary period.

The Revolution had a negative impact on women because of the belief that women lacked the rational faculties of men. In a nation that was to be guided by reasonable republican citizens, women were imagined to have no place in politics and were thus firmly relegated to the home. This thesis is stronger because it narrows in on one particular and historically specific attitude towards women: While such attitudes toward women have a long history, this thesis must locate it in a very specific historical moment, to show exactly how it worked in revolutionary America.

A successful thesis statement is focused and precise. You need to be able to support it within the bounds of your paper. The Revolution led to social, political, and economic change for women. This thesis addresses too large of a topic for an undergraduate paper. The terms "social," "political," and "economic" are too broad and vague for the writer to analyze them thoroughly in a limited number of pages.

The thesis might focus on one of those concepts, or it might narrow the emphasis to some specific features of social, political, and economic change.

The Revolution paved the way for important political changes for women. As "Republican Mothers," women contributed to the polity by raising future citizens and nurturing virtuous husbands. Consequently, women played a far more important role in the new nation's politics than they had under British rule.

This thesis is stronger because it is more narrow, and thus allows the writer to offer more in-depth analysis. It states what kind of change women expected political , how they experienced that change through Republican Motherhood , and what the effects were indirect access to the polity of the new nation.

A successful thesis statement answers the question, "so what? The Revolution had a positive effect on women because it ushered in improvements in female education, legal standing, and economic opportunity. This thesis is off to a strong start, but it needs to go one step further by telling the reader why changes in these three areas mattered.

How did the lives of women improve because of developments in education, law, and economics? What were women able to do with these advantages? Obviously the rest of the paper will answer these questions, but the thesis statement needs to give some indication of why these particular changes mattered.

The Revolution had a positive impact on women because it ushered in improvements in female education, legal standing, and economic opportunity. Progress in these three areas gave women the tools they needed to carve out lives beyond the home, laying the foundation for the cohesive feminist movement that would emerge in the mid-nineteenth century.

This is a stronger thesis because it goes beyond offering a list of changes for women, suggesting why improvements in education, the law, and economics mattered. It outlines the historical significance of these changes:


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

A thesis statement is a sentence in which you state an argument about a topic and then describe, briefly, how you will prove your argument. This is an argument, but not yet a thesis: "The movie ‘JFK’ inaccurately portrays President Kennedy.".

Privacy FAQs

The thesis should provide the research paper with a point, or reason for presenting the evidence uncovered during the investigation of the topic. It is the “case” being made for the consideration of the jury of the author’s peers.

About Our Ads

The thesis statement is one of the (if not the) most important parts of your paper. It should be introduced in the first paragraph and serve as the focus of your analytic argument. Think of the thesis statement as a contract . How to Write a History Research paper. Skip Navigation. Home Menu. Academics; On the basis of this thesis statement and outline, start writing, even pieces, as soon as you have enough information to start. Do not wait until you have filled all the research gaps. Keep on writing. If you run into smaller research questions just mark the text.

Cookie Info

A Handbook for Senior Thesis Writers in History | 7 date Material due 1 September *Thesis Prospectus due (in class) Week of 20 September Annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources. While some might think that an art history thesis is a “feel it and write it” paper, there are certain aspects of it that should be considered during the writing process. We have used such terms as formal analysis, historical research, theory and criticism, and comparison and contrast, to give you ideas on what to write in your thesis’ body.