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Introduction To A Thesis Statement

What is a Thesis Statement?

The thesis statement is the sentence that states the main idea of a writing assignment and helps control the ideas within the paper. It is not merely a topic. It often reflects an opinion or judgment that a writer has made about a reading or personal experience. For instance: Tocqueville believed that the domestic role most women held in America was the role that gave them the most power, an idea that many would hotly dispute today.

What Makes a Strong Thesis Statement?

  • A strong thesis statement gives direction to the paper and limits what you need to write about. It also functions to inform your readers of what you will discuss in the body of the paper. All paragraphs of the essay should explain, support, or argue with your thesis.
  • A strong thesis statement requires proof; it is not merely a statement of fact. You should support your thesis statement with detailed supporting evidence will interest your readers and motivate them to continue reading the paper.
  • Sometimes it is useful to mention your supporting points in your thesis. An example of this could be: John Updike's Trust Me is a valuable novel for a college syllabus because it allows the reader to become familiar with his writing and provides themes that are easily connected to other works. In the body of your paper, you could write a paragraph or two about each supporting idea. If you write a thesis statement like this it will often help you to keep control of your ideas.

Where Does the Thesis Statement Go?

A good practice is to put the thesis statement at the end of your introduction so you can use it to lead into the body of your paper. This allows you, as the writer, to lead up to the thesis statement instead of diving directly into the topic. If you place the thesis statement at the beginning, your reader may forget or be confused about the main idea by the time he/she reaches the end of the introduction. Remember, a good introduction conceptualizes and anticipates the thesis statement.

Tips for Writing/Drafting Thesis Statements

  • Know the topic. The topic should be something you know or can learn about. It is difficult to write a thesis statement, let alone a paper, on a topic that you know nothing about. Reflecting on personal experience and/or researching will help you know more information about your topic.
  • Limit your topic. Based on what you know and the required length of your final paper, limit your topic to a specific area. A broad scope will generally require a longer paper, while a narrow scope will be sufficiently proven by a shorter paper.
  • Brainstorm. If you are having trouble beginning your paper or writing your thesis, take a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind about your topic. Did you discover any new ideas or connections? Can you separate any of the things you jotted down into categories? Do you notice any themes? Think about using ideas generated during this process to shape your thesis statement and your paper.

What types of information should you include in your introduction? 

In the introduction of your thesis, you’ll be trying to do three main things, which are called Moves:

  • Move 1 establish your territory (say what the topic is about)
  • Move 2 establish a niche (show why there needs to be further research on your topic)
  • Move 3 introduce the current research (make hypotheses; state the research questions)

Each Move has a number of stages. Depending on what you need to say in your introduction, you might use one or more stages. Table 1 provides you with a list of the most commonly occurring stages of introductions in Honours theses (colour-coded to show the Moves). You will also find examples of Introductions, divided into stages with sample sentence extracts. Once you’ve looked at Examples 1 and 2, try the exercise that follows.

Most thesis introductions include SOME (but not all) of the stages listed below. There are variations between different Schools and between different theses, depending on the purpose of the thesis.

Stages in a thesis introduction

  1. state the general topic and give some background
  2. provide a review of the literature related to the topic
  3. define the terms and scope of the topic
  4. outline the current situation
  5. evaluate the current situation (advantages/ disadvantages) and identify the gap
  6. identify the importance of the proposed research
  7. state the research problem/ questions
  8. state the research aims and/or research objectives
  9. state the hypotheses
  10. outline the order of information in the thesis
  11. outline the methodology

Now read the following two examples from past theses, noting which stages are included in each example. How does example 1 differ from example 2?

Read the following sample sentence extracts from Honours theses Introductions. When you have decided what stage of the Introduction they belong to, refer to the stages in a thesis introduction and give each sentence extract a number. Then check the suggested answer to see if your answer agrees with ours.

Example 3: The IMO Severe-Weather Criterion Applied to High-Speed Monohulls (School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering)

Example 4: The Steiner Tree Problem (School of Computer Science and Engineering)

What does this tell you about thesis introductions?

Well, firstly, there are many choices that you can make. You will notice that there are variations not only between the different Schools in your faculty, but also between individual theses, depending on the type of information that is being communicated. However, there are a few elements that a good Introduction should include, at the very minimum:

  • Either Statement of general topic Or Background information about the topic;
  • Either Identification of disadvantages of current situation Or Identification of the gap in current research;
  • Identification of importance of proposed research
  • Either Statement of aims Or Statement of objectives
  • An Outline of the order of information in the thesis

Note: this introduction includes the literature review.

Example 5.1 (extract 1): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)

Stage 1Sample sentence extracts (the complete Introduction is 17 pages long)
Give some background (p.1 of 17)

1.1 Fluoride in the environment

Molecular fluorine (F2) is the most electronegative of the elements and therefore is highly reactive. Due to its high reactivity it is never found in its elemental form in nature. It combines directly at both ordinary or elevated temperatures with all other elements except oxygen, nitrogen, and the lighter noble gases (Cotton & Wilkinson, 1980).

Example 5.2 (extract 2): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)

Stage 2Sample sentence extracts
Provide a review of the literature related to the topic (p.2 of 17)The main source of elevated fluoride in plants comes from atmospheric industrial pollution. Because of its extensive industrial use, hydrogen fluoride is probably the greatest single atmospheric fluoride contaminant and is generally considered to be the most important plant pathogenic fluoride (WHO, 1984; Treshow, 1965)… However, fluorides can cause damage to sensitive plant species even at extremely low fluoride concentrations(Hill,1969), accumulate in large amounts within the plant and cause disease if ingested by herbivores(Weinstein, 1977).

Example 5.3

Stages 4 and 5Sample sentence extracts
Outline the current situation; Evaluate the current situation and indicate a gap (p.12 of 17)Doley (1981) summarized several unpublished studies that compared the sensitivity rankings of 24 species according to the responses of photosynthesis and the development of visible injury symptoms. This analysis showed that for nine species, photosynthesis measurements indicated greater sensitivity than was obvious from visible assessment, and for seven species the converse applied. This indicated that, while it may generally be true that physiological responses occur at lower doses than visible injury, this does not always appear to be the case.

Exercise:

Example 5.4 (extract 4): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)

Stage 7Sample sentence extracts
State the research problem(p.4 of 17)In many Australian plant species, young expanding leaves appear much more severely injured by gaseous fluorides than are old leaves. This suggests, either that the young leaf tissues are more sensitive to fluoride than mature tissues, or that sufficient fluoride enters the tissues directly through the cuticle to disrupt normal leaf development before the stomata have fully developed and opened(Doley, 1986a). This question has not been resolved due to the inability to accurately localize low concentrations of fluoride(Doley, 1986a)

Example 5.5 (extract 5): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)

Stage 8Sample sentence extracts
State the research aims and /or research objectives (extract p.16 of 17)Knowledge of the effects of fluoride on the reproductive processes of species within a forest community will help predict potential changes within the community following an increase in atmospheric fluoride due to additional industrial sources, such as aluminium smelters. For these reasons, this project was designed to investigate the reproductive processes of selected species in a woodland near the aluminium smelter at Tomago.

Exercise:

Example 5.6 (extract 6): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)

Stage 11Sample sentence extracts
State the outline of the Methodology (extract p.17 of 17).Germination trials were performed on seeds collected from each species along the fluoride gradient to determine if fluoride has an effect on their viability and hence the regeneration fitness of each species. A density study was used to determine if there were any differences between numbers of mature and immature trees, number of trees producing seed follicles and the number of trees flowering in this season along a fluoride gradient. By using soils collected at various distances away from the smelter the study also investigated differences in germination from the natural soil seed reserve along a fluoride gradient.

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