A thesis statement is a short, direct sentence -- or sometimes 1-3 concise sentences -- that summarize the main point or claim of an essay or research paper. In a thesis statement, the author is making a specific claim or assertion about a topic that can be debated or challenged.
A thesis statement is developed, supported, and explained in the body of the essay or research report by means of examples and evidence. Student essays and papers should contain a thesis statement.
Example of weak thesis statement:
- Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the best American authors in the last half century.
Example of a strong thesis statement:
- Ursula K. Le Guin's ability to subvert cultural and social expectations makes her one of the best authors of the last century.
A research question indicates the direction of your research. It is an open-ended query, not a final claim or conclusion about an idea. A good research question should act as the focus of a study. It helps the author decide on the methodology she will use as well as guide all subsequent stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting.
Example of a weak research question:
- How does science fiction literature affect our understanding of other cultures?
Example of a strong research question:
- Can science fiction literature that focuses on fundamental issues such as gender and race deepen our ability to empathize with cultures different from our own?
These links will provide you with more information.
A thesis statement presents the position that you intend to argue within your paper, whereas a research question indicates your direction of inquiry in your research. In general, thesis statements are provided in course-level papers, whereas research questions are used in major research papers or theses.
The statement or question is a key piece of information within your writing because it describes the parameters of your study.
Your statement should:
- Be specific
- Be appropriate to the type of paper you're writing
- Appear within the first section of your text so that it is immediately clear to your reader what the paper is about
For example: "Royal Roads University is unique amongst post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island because of its history, wildlife, Hatley Castle, and educational programs".
The advantage of a clear thesis statement is that it will also help you to stay on track. At any time during your writing process, you should be able to make a direct connection between what you're writing and your thesis statement. If that connection isn't clear, you may need to either adjust your writing, or revisit your thesis statement. Thesis statements can change during the evolution of a paper; however, make sure you re-examine your outline before you divert too far from your original plan.
Please see the resources below for more information on writing thesis statements:
A research question should:
- Be clear and specific
- State the focus of investigation in the research
- Not be answerable with a yes/no response
For example: How is Royal Roads University different from other post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island?
Please see the resources below for more information on writing research questions:
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