A thesis is the main point or argument of an information source. (Many, but not all, writing assignments, require a thesis.)
A strong thesis is:
• Arguable: Can be supported by evidence and analysis, and can be disagreed with.
• Unique: Says something new and interesting.
• Concise and clear: Explained as simply as possible, but not at the expense of clarity.
• Unified: All parts are clearly connected.
• Focused and specific: Can be adequately and convincingly argued within the the paper, scope is not overly broad.
• Significant: Has importance to readers, answers the question "so what?"
Research is usually vital to developing a strong thesis. Exploring sources can help you develop and refine your central point.
1. Conduct Background Research.
A strong thesis is specific and unique, so you first need knowledge of the general research topic. Background research will help you narrow your research focus and contextualize your argument in relation to other research.
2. Narrow the Research Topic.
Ask questions as you review sources:
3. Formulate and explore a relevant research question.
Before committing yourself to a single viewpoint, formulate a specific question to explore. Consider different perspectives on the issue, and find sources that represent these varying views. Reflect on strengths and weaknesses in the sources' arguments. Consider sources that challenge these viewpoints.
Example: What role does and should the U.S. government play in regulating carbon emissions?
4. Develop a working thesis.
5. Continue research on the more focused topic.
Is the topic:
6. Fine-tune the thesis.
Your thesis will probably evolve as you gather sources and ideas. If your research focus changes, you may need to re-evaluate your search strategy and to conduct additional research. This is usually a good sign of the careful thought you are putting into your work!
Example: Because climate change, which is exacerbated by high carbon emissions, adversely affects almost all citizens, the U.S. government has the responsibility to help reduce carbon emissions through public policy and regulation.