Basic Rules of Thesis Writing


Writing a thesis can be a daunting task.  However, knowing some of the basic rules of thesis writing can make this challenge much more manageable.

Usually, before the thesis can be written, much research needs to be done into the subject of your paper.  If it is a literature or arts paper, then this step usually involves reading or viewing the works, as well as the papers of others who have written on the same works.  You will then have to form your own opinions on the subject and discuss your ideas in the thesis, while also citing the texts and opinions of others.  However, if you are writing a math or science thesis, then your research would usually involve conducting experiments, as well as exploring the results of those who have studied in the same field.

Once the research is completed, it’s time to write the paper.  A thesis paper usually consists of three basic sections:  an introduction, the development, and a conclusion.

In the introduction, establish the topic of your paper, giving a brief description of your overall subject; tell your reader the points that you intend to talk about.  Usually, the introduction needs to be no more than a paragraph.  At the end of this introductory paragraph, summarize your argument in one or two sentences; this is known as the thesis statement. The thesis statement can be a statement on your opinion of a work of literature or film, or it can summarize your hypothesis, depending on the subject of your paper.

The introduction is followed by the body of your paper, in which you develop your argument using specific examples and citing quotations from other sources.  Make sure to structure this section logically, demonstrating your ideas clearly to your reader.  A particularly lengthy thesis will ordinarily be divided into chapters.  Depending on your subject, these chapters could contain a survey of existing literature on your topic, or give the reader insight into your hypotheses and methods, detailing your research.

The body of your work should build to a logical conclusion, in which you summarize the main points of your paper in a final paragraph.  Sometimes, in lengthier works, the conclusion is contained in a concluding chapter that sums up your ideas and offers suggestions for future research.

Once the first draft of your thesis is written, it is time to go over your work and edit it.  Make sure that your material flows smoothly and is logically organized and consistent.  Also, don’t forget the basics.  Make sure your thesis conforms to your chosen formatting and citation guide, like APA, MLA, Chicago, and so on.  If your paper or thesis contains figures or tables, then ensure that these are properly referenced within the text. Also, ensure that they have captions (normally above the table and beneath the figure); the captions should clearly and concisely describe the figure so the reader could understand the full significance of what is shown.

There are many online resources to help you check your citation formatting styles, such as:

The Purdue website also provides clear and concise instructions on the best way to format your paper according to the latest editions of the style guides.  It also offers tips on how to write and structure a thesis paper:

Finally, don’t forget to use your spell check and grammar check.  This might sound apparent, but you’d be surprised how many people forget this simple step.  There are many free online dictionaries, so remember to use them.  Also remember that your Word processor software doesn’t always know how to spell a word; in this case, dictionaries are especially useful.  If in doubt, it’s always worth hiring a professional editor for all your final proofreading needs!

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