One staple of college life is writing research papers. And while the process may be grueling for some, knowing how to write well is an important skill that many employers highly value. But writing well structured, thought provoking papers does not have to be an impossible task—especially if you follow the 3-point thesis approach.
Before you write, you have to research.
The bulk of your paper writing schedule will be spent researching your topic. Of course, you will need to decide on your topic before you can start your research. The following tips will help you narrow down your topic choices.
Find a topic that interests you.
No matter what course you are writing a paper for, you should find a topic that you find interesting and challenging. Also consider that the amount of interest in your topic is equal to the amount of effort you will be willing to put into researching that topic.
You want to choose a topic that is narrow enough to not be overwhelming but broad enough to find research materials. For example, if you had to write a paper about the Roman Empire, you could narrow your topic down to only the conquests of Gaius Julius Octavius.
Stand on the shoulders of giants.
Base your topic on research or conjecture that has already been developed. Instead of starting from scratch, expand on someone else’s idea or adopt an alternative viewpoint. Not only will this allow you to make new comparisons or arguments for or against a preexisting topic, but will assist you with finding research materials—you can use the same or similar research materials as the person you are basing your argument upon.
Use wikis to keep your research and sources organized.
Wikis are a great way to organize your research notes because of two very important features: linking and information hierarchies. Study Hacks has a great article on how to build a paper research wiki. http://calnewport.com/blog/2009/05/11/how-to-build-a-paper-research-wiki/
Make an outline.
The purpose of an outline is two fold. First, it helps you organize your topic in a logical manner. Second, it can help you gain insights into your topic that you didn’t realize during the research stage. Your outline will consist of three main sections: the introduction, body and conclusion composed in a hierarchical structure.
The first section is the Introduction which includes the thesis statement and points leading up to the thesis statement. Knowing the main points of your thesis statement is very important during this stage because these points will dictate the rest of the paper. When making your outline—and composing your thesis statement—you will want to order the points so that each argument flows into the next.
The next section begins the Body of the paper and consists of the points posed by the thesis statement; supporting evidence in the form of quotations, research data and examples; and your interpretation of how this evidence applies to your argument. Each point will have three to five pieces of supporting evidence depending on the length of your paper.
Be sure to include any citations for your evidence on the outline. This will save you time later when you are plugging the information into your paper.
The last section is the Conclusion and is the inverse of the Introduction. The conclusions begins with a modified version of the thesis statement followed by a few points that address your overall conclusions on the topic.
The 3-Point Thesis Approach
Very similar to the way you wrote papers in middle school, the 3-point thesis paper consists of three parts: an introduction with a thesis statement, a body which is the bulk of the paper, and a conclusion that wraps everything up. With this method, your thesis statement is king and everything else in your paper serves the king.
Your introduction does more than start your paper. It forms the building blocks of the argument upon which your thesis statement is built. Also, this is where you will capture your reader’s attention and pose the questions you paper will attempt to answer.
Every good introduction has a hook. It can be a quote, question or statement that catches the reader’s attention. Your hook should be use as a segue into the thesis statement.
The Thesis Statement
Your thesis statement guides all the other elements of your paper. The introductory paragraph should flow into the argument of the thesis statement—the final sentence of your introduction. The thesis statement consists of a single sentence containing between 2 and 5 points depending on the length of the paper. If your thesis takes more than one sentence to state, revise your thesis.
For a smooth transition from one argument to the next, consider ordering your thesis points in one of the following ways:
- Strongest argument to weakest argument
- General topic to more specific topic
- Simple analysis to complex analysis
- Causes and Effects
The bulk of your paper will be the body. In the body, you set upon the task of proving the points made by the thesis. Use quotations, research data, and relevant examples to support each point you are trying to make.
Organize your evidence so that it transitions into the next piece of evidence smoothly. If you have evidence that applies to more than one thesis point, restate that evidence in the appropriate section of the body. Do not discuss more than one thesis point at a time as this can lead to a paper that is muddled and unfocused.
Take your time to formulate logical correlations between argument and evidence. Your instructors are most interested in how you synthesize and apply supporting evidence to your arguments.
Always cite any supporting evidence that you use, especially quotations.
The conclusion is more than a summary of the paper. Think of the conclusion more like a closing argument based on the points provided in the body. Here you will answer the questions posed in the introduction as well as provide insight into the argument as a whole.
Plan to start early so that you have at least two or three days for revisions. When revising your paper, reading aloud can help you find grammatical errors and confusing wording and language.
A common pitfall for many students is not having a properly formatted bibliography. You might also consider using a website like EasyBibhttp://www.easybib.com/, Bibme http://www.bibme.org/ or OttoBib http://www.ottobib.com/ to automatically format your bibliography. Be sure to cross reference your bibliography with the citation style required by your instructor.
Working on your bibliography as you gather your research materials will be a time saver when you are writing your paper.
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Thesis Statement Guide Development Tool
Follow the steps below to formulate a thesis statement. All cells must contain text.
1. State your topic.
2. State your opinion/main idea about this topic.
This will form the heart of your thesis. An effective statement will
- express one major idea.
- name the topic and assert something specific about it.
- be a more specific statement than the topic statement above.
- take a stance on an issue about which reasonable people might disagree.
- state your position on or opinion about the issue.
3. Give the strongest reason or assertion that supports your opinion/main idea.
4. Give another strong reason or assertion that supports your opinion/main idea.
5. Give one more strong reason or assertion that supports your opinion/main idea.
6. Include an opposing viewpoint to your opinion/main idea, if applicable. This should be an argument for the opposing view that you admit has some merit, even if you do not agree with the overall viewpoint.
7. Provide a possible title for your essay.
Thesis Statement Guide Results
Thesis Statement Model #1: Sample Thesis Statement
Parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch.
Thesis Statement Model #2: Thesis with Concession
Notice that this model makes a concession by addressing an argument from the opposing viewpoint first, and then uses the phrase "even though" and states the writer's opinion/main idea as a rebuttal.
Even though television can be educational, parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch.
Thesis Statement Model #3: Thesis with Reasons
Here, the use of "because" reveals the reasons behind the writer's opinion/main idea.
parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch because it shortens children's attention spans, it inhibits social interaction, and it isn't always intellectually stimulating.
Thesis Statement Model #4: Thesis with Concession and Reasons
This model both makes a concession to opposing viewpoint and states the reasons/arguments for the writer's main idea.
While television can be educational, parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch because it inhibits social interaction, shortens children's attention spans, and isn't always intellectually stimulating.
Remember: These thesis statements are generated based on the answers provided on the form. Use the Thesis Statement Guide as many times as you like. Your ideas and the results are anonymous and confidential. When you build a thesis statement that works for you, ensure that it addresses the assignment. Finally, you may have to rewrite the thesis statement so that the spelling, grammar, and punctuation are correct.
Thesis Statement Guide: Sample Outline
Use the outline below, which is based on the five–paragraph essay model, when drafting a plan for your own essay. This is meant as a guide only, so we encourage you to revise it in a way that works best for you.
Start your introduction with an interesting "hook" to reel your reader in. An introduction can begin with a rhetorical question, a quotation, an anecdote, a concession, an interesting fact, or a question that will be answered in your paper. The idea is to begin broadly and gradually bring the reader closer to the main idea of the paper. At the end of the introduction, you will present your thesis statement. The thesis statement model used in this example is a thesis with reasons.
Even though television can be educational , parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch because it shortens children's attention spans, it inhibits social interaction, and it is not always intellectually stimulating
First, parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch because it shortens children's attention spans.
Notice that this Assertion is the first reason presented in the thesis statement. Remember that the thesis statement is a kind of "mapping tool" that helps you organize your ideas, and it helps your reader follow your argument. In this body paragraph, after the Assertion, include any evidence–a quotation, statistic, data–that supports this first point. Explain what the evidence means. Show the reader how this entire paragraph connects back to the thesis statement.
Additionally, it inhibits social interaction.
The first sentence of the second body paragraph should reflect an even stronger Assertion to support the thesis statement. Generally, the second point listed in the thesis statement should be developed here. Like with the previous paragraph, include any evidence–a quotation, statistic, data–that supports this point after the Assertion. Explain what the evidence means. Show the reader how this entire paragraph connects back to the thesis statement.
Finally, the most important reason parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch is it is not always intellectually stimulating.
Your strongest point should be revealed in the final body paragraph. Also, if it's appropriate, you can address and refute any opposing viewpoints to your thesis statement here. As always, include evidence–a quotation, statistic, data–that supports your strongest point. Explain what the evidence means. Show the reader how this entire paragraph connects back to the thesis statement.
Indeed, while television can be educational, parents should regulate the amount of television their children watch.
Rephrase your thesis statement in the first sentence of the conclusion. Instead of summarizing the points you just made, synthesize them. Show the reader how everything fits together. While you don't want to present new material here, you can echo the introduction, ask the reader questions, look to the future, or challenge your reader.
Remember: This outline is based on the five–paragraph model. Expand or condense it according to your particular assignment or the size of your opinion/main idea. Again, use the Thesis Statement Guide as many times as you like, until you reach a thesis statement and outline that works for you.