A thesis is the backbone to a compelling research paper, yet some college students either struggle with writing one or neglect to include one entirely.

It’s important to remember that high school writing courses vary from school to school and while some college students may simply need a quick refresher, others may be starting from scratch. Share these tips with your students for crafting a strong thesis this semester.

Research paper thesis

A good thesis statement expresses your main idea, perspective or position based on your research. It should not be comprised of an extremely well-known fact.

In the early stages of research, you choose your topic, consider the angles you could take, and think about what would be interesting for your audience. An important part of this step is to do some reading on a variety of sources to ensure your topic is strong and that you can write about it enough to fulfill the assignment.

Research question

After you’ve gathered a few solid sources and done some reading on the matter, it’s time to figure out what research question you’re going to answer.

A thesis takes the research question and turns it into a statement about the angle you’re taking your topic. This also helps you decide which sources support your ideas best and how to organize them.

The thesis should name your topic and also spell out what you are going to cover in your research paper.

Questia.com’s “Planning a Paper” tutorial gives a good example of how to work towards a strong thesis. They’ve taken the research question, “Is it right for employers and college admissions staff to use Facebook as a means of screening candidates?” and turned it into a thesis:

Preliminary Working Thesis:

“Colleges and employers should not access the Facebook accounts of qualified applicants.”

This thesis states the topic but is less clear about the argument the student plans to make. The thesis also lacks specifics, and does not hint at the case the paper will make about the subject.

Revised Working Thesis:

“Colleges and employers who access the Facebook accounts of qualified applicants should disclose their practices, especially to minors.”

A good working thesis makes a comment or claim about the topic. The thesis should present a single idea that will unify your writing, and in your final draft it should guide readers through your paper. And so, your working thesis should take into account the supporting information you’ve gathered.

It’s important to note that your thesis may very well evolve as you conduct more research – and this is okay. If your perspective and knowledge base changes, your thesis should reflect this. A strong thesis will allow you to easily guide your reader through your well-researched paper.

For even more help in writing a strong research paper, visit Questia’s Research Tutorials.

What process do you use when crafting a strong thesis statement? Share your ideas with us below.