Crafting a Thesis and Argument

Unless you are fortunate enough to be generating your own data, research theses are probably the most frustrating of all theses to write. When so much of your information has been generated by other people, you may have trouble seeing your way to an original-sounding idea. Never fear.

Often, the most feasible approach is to take a thesis from one of your sources and put a new spin on it. In my research for my sample paper, for example, I found a paper arguing that humorous males are favored as mates, but the paper did not explain why. Several other papers discussed the benefits of laughter but did not apply their findings to the question of mate selection. To create a thesis and a paper, I combined the results from all of these papers and proposed an explanation for the mating advantage of humorous males.

I would not have seen this connection, however, had I not written out the things I had learned from my research on a piece of notebook paper. Something about staring at a physical summary of my new knowledge helped me put the ideas together. A little prewriting can go a long way, especially if you're stumped as I was.

Many published articles conclude with "suggestions for future research," representing questions that the authors have left unanswered. By drawing on other research, you may be able to propose answers to such questions and make them the basis of an argument.

You can organize the body of your paper as you like, but you would be well advised to provide your readers with extensive background before launching into your arguments. Look up a few research papers and read their introductions to get an idea of the sort of thoroughness that is common in the professional community. Also, since you may be drawing on a wide variety of sources, your research paper may need particularly strong transitions as you work up to your final synthesis of ideas.

Research Paper

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