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Conceptualization: Thesis Writing Tips


This is the part two of thesis tips. You can use this on your research paper, case study and term paper.

1.Seek professional advice (supervisor). Make sure both you and your advisor agree on you being ready to graduate, and when you can graduate. It’s preferable if you’ve had the professor in a class previously, so you know how he or she works. But regardless, spend as much time with them as possible to get a sense of how you would work together during the year.

2. Form your group. You chose a committee for your Preliminary Exam, but some of those members may have left Duke, or may be too busy to serve on your committee. You’ll need four committee members besides your advisor. If you are an experimentalist, one of those members will need to be a theorist; if you are a theorist, one will need to be an experimentalist.

3. Make your thesis statement.

DEFINITION: The thesis statement must assert your point, suggest your evidence, and structure your argument, all in one. If you can summarize your paper in one sentence, you’re more likely to have a tightly-constructed, concise, and readable essay. It is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.

Factors in creating a thesis statement:

• Audience. Think of the reader. Usually they are pretty knowledgeable about the general problem, but they haven’t been intimately involved with the details over the last couple of years like you have: spell difficult new concepts out clearly. It sometimes helps to mentally picture a real person that you know who has the appropriate background, and to imagine that you are explaining your ideas directly to that person.

• Proponents. Think about pertinent classes you have taken or may want to consider taking while you are working on your thesis. Theses are very time-consuming, so you may appreciate being able to tie it into your other academic work (both because of the light your research may shed on your other classes and because of the light your classes may shed on your research).

• Situation. For instance, if your project requires lab work, know how much you can reasonably expect to accomplish in the time you have.

Thesis statement is usually:

• Original & Worthwhile (Or Realistic), – Your thesis must show two important things: (1) You have identified a worthwhile problem or question which has not been previously answered; (2) You have solved the problem or answered the question. Credit snowballs for people who are first, even if their work requires substantial modification later. If you solve a real-world problem, more people will care about your solution. Does my thesis pass the ‘So what?’ test? If a reader’s first response is, “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.

• Interesting, – Your reader is not naturally interested, so it is up to you to make her interested. Better yet, think of two different readers, one friendly and one skeptical, both of whom you need to convince.

• Assertive & Substantive, – For instance, you might want to argue that music classes should be mandatory for all students. You may believe this, but can you back it up? First, do a little research. You may find evidence that children who study music at a very young age tend to do well in math and science later in life. Just be sure you back up your stance with facts and not opinions. Avoid red flags, claims (like “software is the most important part of a computer system”) that are really only your personal opinion and not substantiated by the literature or the solution you have presented. Examiners like to pick on sentences like that and ask questions like, “Can you demonstrate that software is the most important part of a computer system?” When writing your thesis statement, remember the distinction between a personal opinion and an argument. If your thesis proposes an uncontestable fact, it is not a thesis—it is a statement of the obvious. You cannot make an argument if you are merely stating an accepted piece of information. A timid, self-evident thesis is weak and unappealing. I can write “X” number of pages showing it to be true.

• Flexible – Your thesis sentence should be flexible, until you are finished with your research and your writing. It is not unusual for writers to revise the thesis sentence several times. As you research your topic, you may be frustrated to find some fascinating research that fits just outside the boundary of your thesis.

• Specific – If your topic is interesting and rich, new issues and new ideas will always emerge, so, focus your ideas tightly as soon as you are able. If you can’t summarize your argument in a single paragraph, your topic is too big. If your ideas are vague, there is an excellent chance that your paper will be confusing. A good thesis deals with restricted bite-sized issues, issues that would otherwise require a lifetime of writing. Just as you need to narrow the subject of a thesis statement, so you will need to narrow the assertion about the subject. When you restrict the scope of your assertions in the thesis your writing will be more focused. State clearly and succinctly the purpose of your paper. Does my thesis pass the how or why test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” Your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader.

• Brief – Be one to two sentences long;

4. Then narrow down your thesis statement. Turn this question into a more exact and precise sentence.

5. Make counter-arguments. Every hypothesis has a weak point, which, if wisely used by opponents, can destroy it all together. To avoid it, try to identify weak points of your proposition and the possible ways how they can be used by your opponents. Then find counterarguments that will rebut your antagonist’s sharp rejoinders. Try to anticipate any objections the readers may have and rebut them at once.

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