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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions



Chapter 34. THESIS PAPER

Introduction to Arguing a Thesis

See also "Basics," Advanced," and "Samples" in this chapter.




This introductory page of the "Thesis Paper" chapter offers a simple, brief summary.  For more, go to "Basics" and to "Sample Papers" by students. If you understand this type of paper already or want to explore it in more depth, you might prefer to read "Advanced Methods."  All five web pages of this chapter are listed in the right-hand column--simply click on the page you want to see. 


Definition of a Thesis Paper

A thesis paper is a single, main argument and several reasons why it is true.  It is not emotional, but rather fair and balanced.  It may be strongly worded, but it should imply or show that you have considered opposing sides, too.  It is like a business proposal in that it argues for something, but it is organized in a non-business format by simply showing several important reasons why it is true.  It is like a debate, but only one side of the debate. 

Some examples of thesis arguments are almost any newspaper editorial, politician's speech for or against something, or even any high school or college paper that goes beyond being just a report of the facts and tries to argue something from the paper's beginning.  Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is an example of a thesis argument. 


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Writer's Goal or Assignment

The goal of writing a thesis paper is, usually, to complete an academic assignment asking you to argue one point of view.  To do so, you should write using a thesis structure (one argument with three or four reasons why it is true) using three or four body sections. (If your instructor allows it, you also may have a brief first section, after the introduction, that reports on the issue's history or background.) Offer your three or four main reasons briefly and clearly; then devote most of your paragraphing to giving supporting information from experts and/or, if you are writing an argument from personal experience, your detailed examples.  

In your introduction and conclusion, clearly indicate the type of paper you are writing and your overall argument.  Also include, in the introduction and conclusion, interesting quotations, stories, and/or facts.

If you are writing a research paper, each body section must include quotations, paraphrases, and/or illustrations and other visual materials from your required and optional sources.  These source materials should support your own points of discussion in your paper, should be  substantial in quality and quantity, and should come from authoritative sources.  Also attach a bibliography appropriate to your field, discipline, or profession.


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Summary/Outline of the Visual Structure

Here is a typical structure or organization for a thesis paper.  More development of this structure is shown in the "Basics" section.

Organization of a Thesis Paper

Unique Title 


and introductory details


Body Section 1: first reason and supporting details

Body Section 2: second reason and supporting details

Body Section 3: third reason and supporting details

(Optional Body Section 4: fourth reason and supporting details)


and concluding details



Jones, A.J. Book One, et al.

Smith, B.K. Book Two, et al.


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Focusing Methods

A "focus" in writing helps you at any given moment to concentrate on writing.  Here are several helpful, important focuses people use to develop a thesis paper. 


[Below, substitute the proper info for the type of paper for the stuff on analyses as given here:]

SUBJECT: Remember that the previous chapter, "Thesis Worksheet," has a very helpful chart.  It can guide you, step by step, through the process of choosing a subject.

If helpful, brainstorm a list of subjects.  Choose one carefully.  Will it appeal to you throughout your writing time?  Do you have enough details or examples to support what you are saying, or can you find them easily?  Can you write about your subject fully and logically? 

What are the problem and the solution your paper will represent?  Will your audience find your paper and its solution reasonable, appropriate, and interesting?   Can you represent the opposite side fairly (and then show why it is wrong)?  (If you wish to develop two or more sides of an argument, switch to "Dialogic Argument."  If you are disagreeing with a reading or speech, switch to "Disagreement.")

FIRST & SECOND DRAFTS: Start with one or two methods that work best for you, but develop the others in later drafts.

  1. Free-write: write as much as you can quickly on what you know or have collected about your subject or its parts. 

  2. Gather details: write descriptions or a list of the proofs you have for your opinions--facts, quotations, and/or experiences.

  3. Write for your audience: visualize it.  What beliefs or arguments is it willing to consider, and in what style and tone?

  4. Organize: make an outline using the structure above or whatever structure your instructor suggests.

  5. Research: if required, mix research of your paper with the above methods to develop a first draft before, during, or after your research.

STYLE, TONE, and WRITER'S ROLE: Develop (in early or late drafts) an academic style and tone of calm, reasoned, fair, balanced logic.  In your role as a writer, it may be acceptable to argue strongly or even with irony or humor (ask your instructor), but you must show clearly that you are also being emotionally fair, balanced, and logical.  

AUTHENTICITY: Be as real and meaningful as you can to your audience, your content, and yourself.  First, respect your audience: try as fully as you can to answer its questions using a pattern and style it expects.  Second, find the heart of the meaning in your argument and its main supports, and write about them with as much balance and fullness as possible.  Third, make the subject your own by going to the core of its most important meanings to you.  then provide logical reasons that your audience can understand and respect as fair and balanced.


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Section F. Argument


Chapter 34. Thesis:







Student Response


Related Chapters:


Disagreement w/Reading 

Literary Thesis

Professional Proposal

Magazine/Nwsltr. Article

IMRaD/Science Report

Case Study

 Related Links in

Prizewinning Student Papers

12. How to Write Theses

14. Online Readings

16. Research Writing

20. Major/Work Writing



Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
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