How to Write a Thesis for a Research Paper

How to Write a Thesis for a Research Paper

Every student should know how to write a thesis for a research paper because writing research papers is a must for students pursuing most college and university programs. A thesis is a statement that captures the position that is taken on the main idea or topic of a research paper- It can also be defined as a statement that tells readers of a research paper the significance of a subject matter that is being discussed and how it will be interpreted. Simply put, it is a road map of a research paper since it tells readers what they should expect from the entire paper-

Anybody who knows how to write strong thesis statements for research papers know that writing a thesis is a process that entails a long thinking process. You do not formulate a thesis immediately after reading your research paper writing assignment. Before developing your argument, you need to analyze the assignment, gather and organize supporting evidence and then look for the existing relationships between the already known facts including similarities and contrasts.

You also need to think about the importance of the existing relationships. By the time you complete this thinking, you will have probably developed a working thesis, the main or basic idea on which to base your research paper. The thesis or basic idea should be an argument that can be supported with solid evidence though it can be adjusted in the process of writing.

A  guide on how to write a thesis for a research paper

  • Identify your research paper topic

The topic of a research paper refers to the subject that you are to write a research paper on. Your research writing assignment can suggest different ways of evaluating your topic or it can highlight general concepts that you should analyze or explore in the paper.

To identify a topic for a research paper:

  • Consider what you are required to do by the assignment
  • Learn more about the topic
  • Focus on a single aspect of the topic
  • Ask yourself if the topic is worth your efforts

While identifying the topic of your research paper, always have the entire paper that you will write in mind. This is very important because your thesis may have to change when you generate new ideas, find more evidence, insights or even take a varying perspective or approach towards the topic.

  • Derive the main points from your topic

After identifying the topic of your research paper, you have to derive the main points that you will include in the paper. Summarize them into a single point or the controlling idea of your paper. This idea will be at the core of the main argument in the paper. It will also be the paper’s unifying idea that will link all sub-thesis. The controlling idea can be turned into the purpose statement that tells readers what you will tell them in the paper.


Topic: The role of Franco in the Axis and Allies diplomatic relationships

Purpose statement: The diplomacy of Franco during the World War II will be analyzed in this paper to find out how he contributed to the neutrality of Spain.

Note that while writing a research paper, you can clarify, restrict and refine the argument and then craft a thesis that reflects your writing or thinking.

  • Come up with a draft thesis

To compose a drat thesis, start with a purpose statement that was drafted from the identified topic. For instance;

Topic: The Reform Party and its influence on the Congressional and presidential elections of 1990

Purpose statement: In this research paper, the grassroots, Perot-led, conservative party’s history will be analyzed and how it influenced social and economic ideologies of the mainstream parties.

Thesis: The grassroots, Perot-led, conservative party influenced the social and economic ideologies of the mainstream parties during the congressional and presidential elections of 1990 as it will be illustrated in this paper.

Your thesis should be the main idea or a sentence that gives a summary of the main idea of your research paper. Therefore, before writing a thesis for your research paper, list down your main ideas and then summarize them into one or two sentences.

  • Refine your draft thesis

To get the final thesis, you have to refine the draft thesis to make it arguable and specific.

To do this, you need to:

  • Ask whether the draft thesis that you have composed addresses your assignment
  • Question every part of the draft thesis
  • Clarify vague assertions and phrases
  • Investigate the alternatives of the draft thesis


Assignment: Using an activity of your choice, define how it symbolizes the American culture. Your research paper should make readers think critically regarding the society that engages in and enjoys the chosen activity.

Draft thesis: Some drive-in facilities such as drive-in movies are a symbol of the culture of the Americans and they demonstrate the society’s characteristics and they have changed the movie going activity of American families.

Refined thesis: Although drive-in facilities that include movie theaters, fast-food restaurants, dry cleaners and pharmacies symbolize the business ingenuity of the Americans, they have led to an increase in culture homogenization; desire to depersonalize the existing relationships and the tendency of the Americans to sacrifice in order to enjoy convenience.

Note that the refined thesis is specific and it fulfills the requirements of the assignment which is what people who know how to write a thesis for a research paper focus on.

  • Complete your thesis

Remember that context is very important and therefore consider your lecture notes and course materials. Make sure that your thesis relates to the ideas that your instructor discusses. Always have the assignment or writing prompt in mind because your thesis will be more successful if it responds to your assignment than when it argues ideas that are semi-related. If your research paper evolves, change its thesis too because your thesis should not promise what the paper will not deliver.

More on how to write a thesis for a research paper

  • Before writing a thesis, determine the kind of a research paper that you are required to write. Depending on the assignment or writing prompt, your research paper can be analytical, expository or argumentative-
  • Make sure that your thesis answers the writing question or prompt and that it takes a position that can be opposed or challenged by other scholars. Avoid a statement that simply states mere facts that cannot be disagreed with.
  • Come up with a specific and clear thesis. As you refine your thesis, revise arguments to ensure that your thesis evolves and becomes more defined on the basis of the sense of your argument. Limit your thesis to what you can accomplish in writing a research paper with specific pages-
  • Be flexible as you write your thesis and do not use first person in writing a thesis. Start with a single sentence that captures the identified topic, answer the question, narrow down to the topic, and then verify your thesis.
  • Ensure that you have adequate supporting evidence for your thesis and that it can pass the “why and how” test. After reading your thesis, readers should not respond by “why?” or “how?” questions. A thesis that raises such questions fails to provide guidance to the readers and it is too open-ended.
Sample theses for research papers

Anybody who knows how to write a thesis for a research paper must have used sample theses for research papers at some point. You can know how to write strong thesis with ease by using samples and following the steps highlighted above.

Here are links to examples of theses for research papers:

Note that these samples of theses make claims or arguments. They are not fact statements and therefore they are not indisputable. Additionally, they are not merely stating opinions. They are making claims rather than passing opinions. Basically, a good thesis should have corroborating evidence. It should indicate to the reader why the claim or argument that is being made is reasonable and persuasive.

Get help with your thesis for a research paper

If you are encountering difficulties as you try to write a thesis for your research paper contact us any time for assistance. You can also visit the home page of our website for more details of our writing services. You may also keep reading for more guidelines on how to write a thesis for a research paper as well as sample thesis for research papers on our blog.