What is a Research Thesis?

Research Thesis

The research thesis is a full-length report that focuses your ideas, perspectives, and research on a given topic or issue. After writing a research proposal, you will have gathered information, ideas, and evidence to support the findings and results presented in your research thesis, in which you’ll discuss your research topic and present the information gathered from your study.


The purpose of any research thesis is to present your research – your questions, ideas, and findings – to the reader. The author should thus discuss their research question, explore it through appropriate research, and attempt to answer it by presenting the evidence and describing their methods. Since the object of the thesis is to convince the reader that your study, findings and conclusions are valid, the best way to do that is by providing evidence of your findings. To solidify your argument, writing a comprehensive methodology will support your evidence with a detailed description of how the entire research study was planned and carried out.


The research topic should be specific and focused, as opposed to a broader study. Likewise, the language used must be clear and concise; wordiness and overused terminology should be avoided. As a combined body of research, the thesis serves to answer your original research question by presenting your findings and evidence in a clear and comprehensible manner that is familiar with your target audience. Hence, formatting is another element to consider when writing a research paper, and most universities and journals provide a thesis template, as well as strict submission guidelines to follow regarding citations, references, and headings, among other style elements.


The structure of a thesis can be grouped into three: front matter, body, and end matter. To begin with, you’ll want to include your Title, followed by your Abstract. Informative and to the point, the Abstract which presents a concise overview of your study in under 300 words. The first section of your thesis concludes with a Table of Contents, where you’ll list your key headings/sub-headings, and a List of Figures and Tables on two separate pages.

The main body of the thesis is divided into several key elements, through which you’ll write an introduction, describe your methodology, and provide an analysis of your findings. To give an example of a typical research thesis structure, the required sections typically include:

  • Introduction: includes your study’s purpose and problem. Here, you will describe the problem being investigated and it’s purpose – to inform, persuade, or give instructions to the reader. Be specific in describing the problem and your objective to solve it. Also includes a background to state the study’s importance and context, and the criteria defining the success of your study.
  • Theoretical Framework: describe the theoretical basis of your research by introducing and describing the theory validating the existence of your research problem.
  • Materials and Methods: State the key methods, materials, and processes used to obtain your results and conclusions. The methodology should be described to allow its replication.
  • Results: Present your evidence and findings through the data obtained and its estimated accuracy. Tables, graphs, and figures can be used to present key information more effectively.
  • Discussion: Discuss and define your results by identifying any patterns and relationships in the data. State whether the data obtained correlates to any of the theories or predictions made in the Introduction section. If any of the results differ from what you expected, explain why.  Don’t forget to mention whether your results answer the questions and hypothetical outcomes posed in the Introduction section; if they don’t, explain why, and state which questions require further exploration.
  • Conclusions: the conclusion should summarize the major findings of the research study, as well as state how it contributes to the existing research, as well as any pitfalls experienced in any stage of the research. Following this, the author may provide recommendations for any future studies.

After writing the body of the research paper or thesis, you’ll build a detailed list of all the sources referred to in your research in the Bibliography/References section, and then create an Appendix to insert any supplementary information, such as questionnaire copies, interview transcriptions, and extra tables/figures. This section can be split into an appendices section, labeled Appendix A, B, C…


Information relevant to your research study can come from a range of sources. In general, common sources range from journal articles, books, and newspapers to interviews, videos, websites, and podcasts.

Both primary and secondary sources provide information relevant to your study. Primary sources provide first-hand information about the subject of research. Secondary sources include anything referring to the primary source.

For example, when writing about a film, the film itself, and its contents form a primary source, as well as any documentation of it (i.e., images, transcripts, data, objects, videos). Hence, the film itself, any original proof of its existence, are primary sources. Primary source material can be found in books, magazines, articles, essays, journal articles, and reproduced images. Secondary sources comprise anything referring to the primary source (e.g., analysis, interpretations, or assessments of the film), and can be found in articles, reviews, essays, interviews, etc.

In any research paper or thesis, information obtained from external sources must be cited. When using a quotation or any other information, you must include an in-text citation and its respective reference, included in a bibliography or as a footnote. Citations and references indicate precisely where the author obtained the information, and may be useful for readers who wish to conduct further research. All referencing should correspond to a specific style guide set by the publishing journal, institution, or publisher. Common style guides include APA, MLA, or Chicago, and the university or journal you’ll be submit the thesis to should provide templates and guidelines stating which style to follow.

Note that failure to accurately cite information can amount to plagiarism, so it is of utmost importance that you provide accurate quotations along with a citation, or otherwise use effective paraphrasing to describe the idea in an entirely new format.

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