Every good research paper needs a clear and concise thesis statement to present the main topic and preview the paper’s contents. The question is, “How do you format a research paper thesis?” “What is standard, and what do readers and professors expect to see?”
Here we explain how to write a thesis for a research paper. We’ll explain the best format for a research paper thesis and share some examples for different types of papers. We’ll even discuss the difference between a thesis statement, a research question, and a hypothesis.
What is a thesis statement in a research paper?
A thesis statement is a single sentence in a research paper that plainly and succinctly explains the main point the research attempts to prove. For example, if you were researching the effects of exercise on stress, your thesis statement might be:
Due to the neurological effects of exercise, people who exercise regularly report lower stress levels than those who do not exercise.
Notice how the thesis statement gives a complete overview of the topic without saying too much. Thesis statements act only as an introduction to the topic, while the rest of the paper covers the details and explains the finer points.
Understanding what goes into a good thesis statement is a necessary part of knowing how to write a research paper. By previewing what the paper is about, a thesis statement prepares the reader so they know what to expect. Because thesis statements play this role, they usually come at the beginning of a paper, typically in the introduction.
6 tips for formatting a research paper thesis
Although there are no official rules for a research paper thesis statement, some generally accepted best practices can help you write yours. Keep these guidelines in mind when writing your research paper thesis:
It should be clear and concise: A research paper thesis statement should use plain language and explain the topic briefly, without going into too much detail.
It’s a single sentence: A thesis statement is generally only one sentence, which helps keep the topic simple and makes it easier to understand.
It should establish the scope of the topic: After reading the research paper thesis, your reader should know what the paper will—and will not—discuss.
It asserts a claim: Thesis statements should not be ambiguous; they should present a clear assertion that is backed by evidence, which you discuss in the body of the paper.
It’s located at the beginning: A research paper thesis statement should come early in the paper, typically in the first paragraph of the introduction.
It’s reiterated at the end: A thesis statement is usually either repeated or rephrased at the end of the paper in the research paper conclusion as a way to wrap everything up.
A thesis statement can also help you organize your entire research paper. You must decide on a topic before you begin your research, and phrasing your topic as a thesis statement can further refine the direction your research will go in. In this way, your thesis statement can help you write your research paper outline and structure your evidence in a logical sequence to improve the flow of your paper.
Example format of research paper thesis by type
The argumentative style of research paper attempts to convince the reader of a certain point of view using evidence and factual data. Often this style is used for topics that include opposing points of view; however, this is not a prerequisite.
A thesis statement in an argumentative paper clearly defines the author’s position and often uses persuasive language to appeal to the reader.
Example format of research paper thesis: Argumentative
Although washing your hands is an effective way to kill germs, our research finds that washing your hands excessively can actually weaken certain immunities and make the skin vulnerable to new afflictions.
As the name suggests, expository writing aims to expose new information that the reader is likely not familiar with. It is common in both journalism and research papers as a way to educate and inform readers.
Expository research papers often present their main point directly in the thesis statement, sometimes phrasing it as a hook to keep the reader engaged and curious enough to keep reading.
Example format of research paper thesis: Expository
Our research has found that cyberbullies are motivated primarily by recreation and entertainment, unlike offline bullies, who are more likely motivated by rage, revenge, or a misguided reward system.
An analytical style of research takes a focused, methodical approach to a single topic. Analytical research papers are a deep dive into one particular issue, exploring it from multiple angles and accounting for even the smallest details.
The thesis statement for an analytical research paper should briefly mention each key point of the topic without overexplaining or listing too many details.
Example format of research paper thesis: Analytical
Despite Sigmund Freud being regarded as the “father of modern psychology,” a present-day review of his famous theories and practices reveals that most of his ideas are, in retrospect, deeply flawed.
Thesis statement vs. research question vs. hypothesis
Thesis statements are often confused with research questions and hypotheses, all of which aim to encapsulate an entire paper’s idea in a single sentence at the beginning of the document. So what’s the difference between a thesis statement, a research question, and a hypothesis?
A thesis statement is a general overview that’s used not only for research papers but also for essay writing and other nonfiction works. A thesis statement is essentially a summary of the main idea in a paper that introduces the topic to the reader.
A research question is an interrogative sentence that your research attempts to answer. For example, if your research paper is about how long it takes different temperatures of water to reach a boiling point, your research question could be, “What is the optimal temperature for boiling water quickly?” Research questions are mainly for research papers that have a particular emphasis on empirical data.
A hypothesis is a prediction about what will happen that is made before the actual research begins. A hypothesis in a research paper is proven either correct or incorrect based on the research. You can include a hypothesis in addition to your thesis statement or research question.
Thesis statement format FAQs
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is a sentence in a research paper that concisely and clearly explains what the research is attempting to prove.
What are the guidelines for writing a well-formatted thesis statement?
A well-formatted thesis statement has the following qualities:
- It’s clear and concise.
- It’s a single sentence.
- It establishes the scope of the topic.
- It asserts a claim.
- It’s located in the introduction.
- It’s reiterated in the conclusion.
What’s the difference between a thesis statement, a research question, and a hypothesis?
A thesis statement is a general overview used in research papers and other nonfiction writing. A research question is an interrogative sentence that your research attempts to answer, and a hypothesis is a prediction made before the actual research begins about what will happen.