How to Write a Thesis-driven Research Paper
What is a thesis-driven research paper? The formal thesis-driven research paper entails significant research and the use of sources located outside the course materials. Unlike a personal essay, which doesn’t require outside research because it details your feelings and opinions on a topic, a thesis-driven research paper requires you to search out the solution to a problem that you have proposed in the paper’s thesis statement and to present what you have learned through research in a well-written, coherent paper. Following are some rules of thumb to make this possible:
• Choose a suitable design and hold on to it: Planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing.
o Generate ideas to sketch a plan: Before beginning a first draft, spend some time generating ideas. Think about your subject while relaxing. Write down inspirations. Talk to others about what you plan to write. Collect information and experiment with ways of focusing and organizing it to best reach your readers.
o Assess the situation: The key elements of the writing situation include your subject, the sources of information available to you, your purpose, your audience, and constraints such as length, document design, and deadlines.
• Make the paragraph the unit of composition:
o How to Write a Good Paragraph:
• Topic Sentence: Generally, begin each paragraph either with a sentence that suggests the topic or with a sentence that helps the transition. An opening sentence should indicate by its subject the direction the paragraph is to take. As readers move into a paragraph, they need to know where they are – in relation to the whole paper – and what to expect in the sentences to come.
• Develop the Main Point: Topic sentences are generalizations in need of support, so once you’ve written a topic sentence, ask yourself, “How do I know this is true?” Your answer will suggest how to develop the paragraph.
• Use the active voice: The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive. For example: Why was the road crossed by the chicken? Compare to: Why did the chicken cross the road? Active voice is direct, bold, clear, and concise. Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. For example: The lab assistant weighed the soil samples. Compare to: The soil samples were weighed by the lab assistant, OR, worse yet, The soil samples were weighed.
o Occasionally, you should prefer passive voice over active:
• Those writing in science and technology often prefer passive voice. This is because they are more interested in what happened, or what was observed, than in who did the observation.
• Political writing sometimes prefers passive voice. In any case when the action is more important than the actor, passive voice is fine.
• Lawyers sometimes prefer passive voice when, for example, defending a criminal defendant: The car was stolen, RATHER THAN Mr. Smith is charged with stealing the car or, worse yet, Mr. Smith stole the car. Lawyers avoid putting their clients’ names in the same sentence as the crime.
• Put statements in positive form: Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language.
o He was not very often on time.
o COMPARE TO: He usually arrived late.
• Use definite, specific, concrete language:
o Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.
• The mayor spoke about the challenges of the future problems concerning the environment and world peace.
• The mayor spoke about the challenges of the future problems of famine, pollution, dwindling resources, and arms control.
• Omit needless words: Good writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentence. This doesn’t mean that all sentences must be short or avoid all detail. Rather, every word should have a purpose. For example, the word “that.” Add the word that if there is any danger of misreading without it. Otherwise, omit it: The value of a principle is the number of things [that] it will explain.
• Use plain English: Avoid legalese or other complex and difficult to understand wording when ordinary English words will work just as well. Use English; not Latin or Greek. Use short (not long) sentences. Keep it simple. Explain – don’t confuse. Long, complicated sentences do not make you appear smarter. Sometimes, in fact, they do just the opposite, demonstrating that you don’t know the topic well enough to paraphrase in simple, concise, understandable language.
o Write sentences that are easy to understand and clear.
o Don’t write a sentence that needs another sentence to explain it.
o Unless a date or location is critical, leave it out.
o Use very few, if any, footnotes – they distract.
o Don’t overdo it: Sparingly use ALL CAPITALS, italics, bold, and underlining. Use either italics or underlines, but never use both. Don’t use several font types. 12 point Times New Roman font is easiest to read.
o Watch the length of your paragraphs: A paragraph should seldom exceed 2/3 of a page. Shorter paragraphs are better. A long paragraph is like a speaker that drones on and on and on and on. . .
Writing a Thesis Driven Paper
Linking Evidence and Claims:
10 on 1 Versus 1 on 10
This handout is taken from Rosenwasser and Stephen, Writing Analytically, Heinle, 2003)
A thesis and a claim are synonyms.“By way of definition, a claim is an assertion that you make about your evidence—an idea that you believe the evidence supports.The primary claim in a paper is the thesis.In analytical writing, the thesis is a theory that explains what some feature of features of a subject mean.The subject itself, the pool of primary material (data) being analyzed, is know as evidence” (75).
“The All-Purpose Organizational Scheme”
- An analytical writer approaches evidence to refine and sharpen his or her thesis, not just to support it,
- A productive thesis changes (evolves0 as it encounters evidence,
- The paper itself should reenact in more polished form for the reader the chains of thought that led the reader to his or her conclusions.
1.Write an introduction.
Begin analytical papers by defining some issue, question, problem or phenomenon that the paper will address.An introduction is not a conclusion.It lays out something that you have noticed that you think needs to be better understood.Use the introduction to get your readers to see why they should be more curious about the thing you have noticed.Aim for half a page.
2.State a working thesis
Early in the paper, often at the end of the first paragraph or the beginning of the second, make a tentative claim about whatever it is you have laid out as being in need of exploration.The initial version of your thesis, know as the working thesis, should offer a tentative explanation, answer, or solution that the body of your paper will go on to apply and develop (clarify, extend, substantiate, qualify, and so on).
3.Begin querying your thesis.
Start developing your working thesis and other opening observations with the question “So what?”This question is shorthand for questions like “what does this observation mean?” and “Where does this thesis get me in my attempts to explain my subject?”
4.Muster supporting evidence for your working thesis.
Test its adequacy by seeing how much of the available evidence it can honestly account for.That is, try to prove that your thesis is correct. But also expect to come across evidence that does not fit your initial formulation of the thesis.
5.Seek complicating evidence.
Find evidence that does not readily support your thesis.Then explore—and explain—how and why it doesn’t fit.
6.Reformulate your thesis.
Use the complicating evidence to produce new wording in your working thesis (additions, qualifications, and so forth).This is how a thesis evolves, by assimilating obstacles and refining terms.
7.Repeat steps 3 to 6.
Query, support, complicate, and reformulate your thesis until you are satisfied with its accuracy.
8.State a conclusion.
Reflect on and reformulate your paper’s opening position in light of the thinking your analysis of evidence has caused you to do.Culminate rather than merely restate your paper’s main idea in the concluding paragraph.Do this by getting your conclusion to again answer the question “So what?’In the conclusion, this question is short-hand for “where does it get us to view the subject in this way? Or “What are the possible implications or consequences of the position the paper has arrived at?”Usually the reformulated (evolved) thesis comes near the beginning of the concluding paragraph.The remainder of the paragraph gradually moves the reader out of your piece, preferably feeling good about what you have accomplished for him or her.
Linking Evidence and Claims
Problem:Making claims that lack supporting evidence.
Solution:Learn to recognize and support unsubstantiated assertions.
Problem:Presenting a mass of evidence without explaining how it relates to the claims.
Solution:Make details speak.Explain how evidence confirms and qualifies the claim.
Analyzing Evidence in Depth: “10 on 1”
How do you move from making details speak and explaining how evidence confirms and qualifies the claim to actually composing a paper?
Phrased as a general rule 10 on 1 holds that it is better to make ten observations or points about a single representative issue or example than to make the same basic point about ten related issues or examples.
In sum, you can use 10 on 1 to accomplish various ends:(1) to locate the range of possible meanings your evidence suggests, (2) to make you less inclined to cling to your first claim inflexibly and open the way for you to discover a way of representing more fully the complexity of your subject, and (3) to slow down the rush to generalization and thus help to ensure that when you arrive t a working thesis, it will be more specific and better able to account for your evidence.
First find 10 examples, do a 1 on 10 as a preliminary step—locating 10 examples that share a trait—and then focus on one of these for in-depth analysis.Proceeding in this way would guarantee that your example was representative.It is essential that your example be representative because in doing 10 on 1 you will take one part of the whole, put it under a microscope, and then generalize about the whole on the basis of your analysis.