What is a research paper thesis

The thesis is the foundation of all research papers. The thesis establishes a paper’s content, the argument or analysis being made, and serves to outline the progression of discussion and support. Most beginning writers find it difficult to formulate a topic and supporting details into a final thesis statement to begin a paper. However, instead of trying to have your thesis “set in stone” from the beginning, start with a thesis that is friendlier to adjustments as you consider the ideas you will write about and what support you will use: a working thesis. A working thesis is similar to a final thesis: It is a statement that asserts one specific topic of argument or analysis as a focus and sets the tone or position you are taking on that topic. A working thesis also states the broad details of support you are using to justify your position. These details appear in the same order in your thesis statement as they will arise in the body of your paper. A working thesis is different from a final thesis in that it is meant to evolve throughout the course of your writing. The defining characteristic of a working thesis is that it is flexible. What makes it a “working” thesis is that it is subject to change as your ideas develop.

Where should the thesis statement be?

After you have selected which evidence to use in support of your argument or analysis and you have drafted your paper, you may return to your working thesis and find it does not properly fit the actual topic and details in your paper. In this case you should revise it to state exactly what the main focus and supporting ideas in the paper are. Remember when revising that each paragraph in your paper serves to support your thesis. If any information in your supporting paragraphs is irrelevant to your thesis, you need to either omit that paragraph or adjust your thesis to incorporate it. You cannot, however, just include the idea in your paper without preparing your reader for it within the thesis sentence.

After writing your first draft, decide if your working thesis needs revision by asking yourself these guideline questions: • Does my thesis sentence clearly state my argument or analysis? • Are my supporting points emphasized? • Does it present the structure of my paper? D. At the end of revisions, when you feel you have experimented enough with your working thesis to clearly and strongly state your topic of discussion and support, picture yourself as another reader and ask: “Does this thesis statement explain to me exactly what the paper’s topic, argument or analysis, and supporting points are?” If you find it does, you have a solid thesis.

A research thesis has most of the same thesis characteristics as a thesis for a non-research essay. The difference lies in the fact that you will be gathering information and evidence from appropriate, valid sources to support your perspective on a topic or stand on an issue. Yet although your sources provide information that informs your thesis, the thesis ideas should be your own, particular to your personal way of thinking about and analyzing a topic. The thesis focuses your ideas and information for the research paper. Remember that word “focus.” Student writers often make the mistake of forgetting the focus and making the research thesis far too broad in order to include too much research. Yet depth more than breadth is the hallmark of a sophisticated research paper.

Some research paper thesis examples are:

“The history of the Soviet Union indicates many of the problems involved with centralized economic planning and the bureaucratized society that will inevitably develop”  or “ Karl Marx was the first important thinker to argue that capitalism causes exploitation”. 

As you can see, a research thesis is your proposed answer to your research question, which you finalize only after completing the research. (It’s okay to modify and revise the working thesis as you research more about the topic or issue.) Developing a good working thesis, just like developing a good research question (researchable: neither too broad nor too narrow) is an important research skill. Can you come up with the examples of thesis statement?


Brunsvold, Libby. “Thesis Statement.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. 14 Oct. 2003. St. Cloud State University. 5 Mar. 2004. . Gocsik, Karen. “Developing Your Thesis.” Dartmouth College Composition Center. 1997. Trustees of Dart