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How to Write a Thesis – A Quick Guide

April 27, 2015 - Posted to How to: Writing Dissertation

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There is no graduate course that prepares students for the “ins and outs” of thesis writing. Many departments will publish “guides,” but these really pertain to the structure and formatting of the finished product rather than providing step-by-step instructions on how to write a thesis. In this respect, students are left pretty much on their own to figure out a step-by-step process that makes sense and that will result in a finished product that is scholarly and that meets the expectations of an advisor, or, in some instances, a thesis committee.

Toward a Definition

Institutions, and departments within those institutions, have varying requirements for what they consider a thesis. For example, Harvard requires a thesis as a culminating project for a Bachelors’ degree; most state universities require a thesis for the awarding of a Master’s degree; still other universities define a thesis as a project that is required for the award of  Ph.D. (usually, UK institutions). Still, there are commonalities that define a thesis, so if you are looking for the basic requirements of a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or, in some instances, how to write Ph.D. thesis projects, this guide will explain all of the steps you must take.

Choosing a General Topic Area

Obviously, this is the first step. What specific topic area has become of great interest to you? This is the area in which you should look for a topic. Perhaps, as a biology major you have an interest in invasive plant or animal species; perhaps as sociology major, your interest lies in addiction; maybe you have an interest in marketing tools and strategies as a business major. The point is, you need to pick a topic area in which you have abiding interest, because, if you do not, your thesis will be little more than drudgery. Never choose a topic area that is suggested by your advisor unless you have a passion for it.

Identifying a Research Question in the Topic Area

Choosing a research questions should not be all that difficult, if you ask yourself some pertinent questions. What do you really want to know more about? What chapter in your text or class lecture topic captivated your interest? Now, how can you formulate a research question related to that topic? One of the most critical aspects of understanding how to write thesis works is to establish a scholarly and worthy research question. Perhaps, as a psychology major, you have an interest in bullying. Are you interested more in the bully or the bullied? Perhaps your research question can be phrased as, “What are the personality characteristics of a bully?”

Developing a Hypothesis

Your hypothesis is developed from some preliminary research on the research question. Looking at the research question on bullying, preliminary study may have pointed to certain personality characteristics that you want to pursue – low self-esteem, response to a controlling parent figure, desire to please peer group, etc. Your hypothesis will be built around these, and might be written as, “Adolescent bullies share common personality traits of low self-esteem and an illogical desire to please peer groups and/or parental figures.”

The Thesis Proposal

Many institutions will require a research proposal which must be approved by an advisor or committee. If you are unsure about how to write a thesis proposal, here are a few tips:

  1. Begin with an introduction that presents your research question and hypothesis
  2. Provide a brief summary of the research you have read to date
  3. Explain what you hope to contribute as a result of your research
  4. Summarize your research design and methodology, if you will be conducting original research

Sections of Your Thesis Work

Each section has a purpose, and your institution or department will have a structure/format you are to follow. In general, however, the sections will be as follows:

  1. Introduction – Introduce your research question and hypothesis and explain why it is an important area to be researched.
  2. Review of Literature – Here you will summarize significant, most current, and most relevant research of others that has contributed to this research question of yours.
  3. Your Original Research: If you have conducted your own research, this is where you present your design, methodology, instruments, and the data that you collected.
  4. Discussion/Results: You will either discuss the research of others that you have conducted or the results of your own research, providing a statistical analysis of those results.
  5. Conclusion: What has your research demonstrated? Have you proved your hypothesis? What additional research might others now pursue in order to contribute more to this research question?

Your thesis must be not only a scholarly inquiry, it must be presented in scholarly language and in a composition style that is reflective of excellent structure, grammar, and punctuation. If you are not skilled in grammar and composition, you would be well-served to get some professional help in putting it all together. TrustedDissertations.com has the expertise you need.

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