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Thesis Statement

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When you start to plan your dissertation, the first step that you must take is to choose a subject area. After you have chosen a subject area which interests you and done some background reading, you will need to develop a focus for your subject area. This is usually in the form of a thesis statement, hypothesis or research question(s).
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WHAT IS A THESIS STATEMENT?
? The THESIS STATEMENT is sentence or two in your text that contains the focus of your work (essay or dissertation) which tells the reader what the work is going to be about. Your thesis statement will usually be introduced in the introduction section of your dissertation.

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? The use of a ‘hypothesis/thesis statement’ is the foundation of the ‘hypotheticodeductive’ approach. ? This means that you state a problem at the beginning of your dissertation then undertake research to find evidence to contradict or support your hypothesis/ thesis statement. ? So, you will complete the following stages in your dissertation:
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1. Develop a theory about a topic that interests you. 2. narrow down/focus that theory into a more specific ‘hypothesis’ that you can test by doing research 3. Review the literature/existing research regarding your ‘hypothesis’ 4. Design a suitable methodology to test your ‘hypothesis’ 5. Confirm or contradict your ‘hypothesis’ by analyzing the data that you have collected
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Structure of the hypothesis sentence: sentence:
? To + illustrate/ demonstrate/ show/ indicate + that (clause), e.g. ? A. Hypothesis -- I believe that recruiting new staff via the internet is more cost effective than other methods. ? B. Hypothesis statement -- The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate that recruiting new staff via the internet is more cost effective than other methods.
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? Research questions – sometimes students are asked or may prefer to pose a research question instead of a thesis statement. How would the above thesis statement be written as a research question? ? Look at the following thesis statement/ hypothesis and discuss with a partner whether it is a good thesis statement. If so, why? If not, why not? ? This dissertation will suggest that there are many problems in higher education.
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CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:
1. Can we write a good dissertation about problems in higher education in the UK? ? (At best, such a piece of work would be vague and scattered in its approach) 2. Can we write a good dissertation about problems in higher education in Hampshire? 3. (Well, we’re getting there, but that is still an awfully big topic, something we might be able to do for a book or Ph.D)
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4. Can we write about problems within the universities’ student community in Hampshire? ? (Now we’re narrowing it down to something useful, but once we start writing we would find that we are leaving out so much information, so many ideas that even most casual brainstorming would produce, that we’re not accomplishing much.) 5. What if we wrote about the problem that since there are so many middle class students in the universities’ student community in Hampshire, fewer places were available for students from poorer backgrounds?

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? (Now we have a focus that we can probably write about and it would have a good argumentative edge to it. To back up such a thesis statement would require a lot of work, however, and we might be better off if we limited the discussion the University of Portsmouth and the University of Southampton as an example of how difficult it is for poorer students to gain access higher education. It’s not a matter of being lazy; it’s a matter of limiting our discussion to the work that can be accomplished within a certain number of pages.)
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? THE PRINCIPLE TO REMEMBER IS THAT WHEN YOU TRY TO DO

TOO MUCH, YOU END UP DOING LESS OR NOTHING AT ALL!

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WHY SHOULD YOUR WORK CONTAIN A THESIS STATEMENT?
1. to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two 2. to better organise and develop your argument 3. to provide your reader with a ‘guide’ to your argument In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your work explores.

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HOW TO GENERATE A THESIS STATEMENT IF THE TOPIC IS NOT ASSIGNED = THE DISSERTATION?

? When you write your dissertation, your lecturer/supervisor does not give you a question to answer or to discuss. This is done by you. Therefore, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you would like to explore. In this situation, your task is to work out what question you would like to write about. A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:

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? ?

? ?

take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the general topic for the dissertation express one main idea (although it is also possible to have more than one) assert your conclusions about a subject
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? Let’s look at how to generate a thesis statement for social policy dissertation ? 1. BRAINSTORM THE TOPIC ? Let’s say that your topic of interest focuses on the problems posed by drug addiction. You find that you are interested in the problems of crack babies, babies born to mothers addicted to crack cocaine. You start out with a thesis statement like this:
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? Crack babies ? This fragment is not a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about crack babies.

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? 2. NARROW THE TOPIC ? Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that not only do these babies have a difficult time surviving premature births and withdrawal symptoms, but their lives will be even harder as they grow up because they are likely to be raised in an environment of poverty and neglect. You think there should be programmes to help these children. You change your thesis to look like this: ? Programmes for crack children.
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? This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one main idea: programmes. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which people could disagree, because while most people might agree that something needs to be done for these children, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should not that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader does not know your conclusions on the topic.
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? 3. TAKE A POSITION ON THE TOPIC ? After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that in addition to programmes for crack babies, the government should develop programmes to help crack children cope and compete. You revise your thesis to look like this: ? More attention should be paid to the environment crack children grow up in. ? This statement asserts your position, but the term more attention and environment are vague.
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? 4. USE SPECIFIC LANGUAGE ? You decide to explain what you mean about ‘the environment’, so you write: ? Experts estimate that half of crack babies will grow up in home environments lacking rich cognitive and emotional stimulation. ? This statement is specific, but it still isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of instead of making an assertion.
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? The thesis statement often begins with expressions like: ? This report examines… ? This essay will discuss… ? This article demonstrates … ? We recommend that you adopt this strategy, especially if you are an inexperienced writer.
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? 5. MAKING AN ASSERTION BASED ON CLEARLY STATED SUPPORT ? You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this: ? Because half of crack babies are likely to grow up in homes lacking good cognitive and emotional stimulation, the federal government should finance programmes to supplement parental care for crack children.
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SUMMARY OF STEPS FOR WRITING YOUR THESIS STATEMENT

? STEP ONE: BRAINSTORM THE TOPIC ? STEP TWO: NARROW THE TOPIC ? STEP THREE: TAKE A POSITION ON THE TOPIC ? STEP FOUR: USE SPECIFIC LANGUAGE ? STEP FIVE: MAKE AN ASSERTION BASED ON CLEARLY STATED SUPPORT.
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