My supervisor JC Browne at the University of Texas at Austin during 1990-1993 made me write the problem statement and the thesis statement for every research paper that I would read for my literature survey. 1. Your thesis statement tells how your thesis solves the problem and plugs the gap that you have identified from literature survey. 2. Your thesis statement precisely specifies what your contribution is that you are defending. ]. It formally specifies the boundary of your research. 4. Your thesis statement (along with your problem statement) becomes the bulwark against which extraneous questions in your defense can be defended. ] can only be defended through your thesis statement or your problem statement as explained below. 5. It anchors your dissertation around a single theme. Each and every statement and paragraph of your thesis should be directed towards explaining and elucidating your thesis statement (or your problem statement). Any sentence or paragraph not doing this should either be thrown out or put in the appendix. It is like the thread holding the beads of a necklace together. Any bead not linked with the thread is not in the necklace and falls away.
Thesis statement in one sentence describes the “epistemology” of your MS/PhD research. Epistemology is “how we know what we know”. The thesis statement describes your originality, contribution and significance in a single sentence. Hence, writing it is hard. 6. A thesis statement must take a stand and state the thesis in a categorical fashion. It must take the form of a “refutable” and “falsifiable” assertion. Falsifiability and refutability of a statement is the demarcation line that differentiates science from pseudo science. All researchers must understand this demarcation line which gained currency through the work of Karl Popper. Difference between a dissertation and a thesis? This is one of the benefits of focus. I found a wonderful description of Thesis Statement in early 2000s that I have been using since to make my research students understand and write thesis statements of their MS/PhD research. What follows is my adaptation of that description for research students. I expect all research students to read the following several times and internalize these things.
Please note that I have retained several statements from the original while I have modified many others to meet the requirements of MPhil and PhD Students. 1. What Is a Thesis Statement? 1.1 A single sentence. 1.2 A declarative sentence. 1.3 States what you want your readers to know, believe, or understand. 1.4 After having read your paper. 2. Why Write a Thesis Statement? 2.1 Why do you need to develop a thesis statement when you write research? 2.2 What’s the value of writing out your thesis statement? 2.3 Seeing the relationship between your thesis statement and your paper. 3.1 Ask and answer the questions “why?” and “how?” of your trial thesis statement. 3.2 Make your thesis statement a positive statement, not a negative one. 3.3 Use the active voice in every clause in your thesis statement. 4.1 Make it clear. 4.2 Make it precise and limited. 4.3 Make it controversial or informative.
4.4 Make it defensible. 1 What Is a Thesis Statement? If you can not write the thesis statement of a research paper that you have read, you have not understood the paper. If you can not succinctly articulate the “thesis statement” of your research, you do not yet have a thesis. I want you to write thesis statements of every paper that you review. I also want you to write the thesis statement of the research paper or dissertation that you are writing. Note a thesis statement is not necessarily a sentence that appears in the first paragraph of a research paper. The thesis statement might appear in the first paragraph, or the last paragraph, or it might not appear in the paper at all. The thesis statement that you write before completing your research is only a “trial thesis statement”. The term “trial” means that you are not yet committed to this thesis statement. ]. You will usually not finalize writing your thesis statement until you have nearly finished writing and revising your paper/dissertation.
The thesis statement (and its problem statement) must accompany any paper that you review or a draft that you prepare. It helps me understand whether you have understood them or not. Some researchers suggest that it is a good idea to have it right at the front. ]. So what is a thesis statement? A thesis statement is a single declarative sentence that states what you want your readers to know, believe, or understand after having read your paper. We will now break down the above definition into its component parts for understanding purposes. 1.1 A thesis statement is a single sentence. A thesis statement is only one sentence, not two or three or more. Because the thesis statement is the essence of what you want to say in your paper; Hence, it should be one sentence. If you can not write the “thesis” (idea) of your research in one sentence, your research does not have a thesis (central theme).