As an online student, much of your success hinges on your writing and research skills. If you can’t express your strongest arguments through your writing, you may feel you’re headed for disaster. That’s one reason why it’s so easy to experience stress when it comes time to prepare your thesis.
Your thesis will vary in its complexity and presentation depending on your degree program, but Michelle Lekkerkerk, Lead Technology Writing Consultant at the University of Arizona Global Campus' Writing Center, said that across all disciplines, a powerful and effective thesis will include these three characteristics:
A good thesis statement will make an arguable claim.
When writing a thesis, you need to develop an interesting viewpoint that you can support and defend. This perspective must be more than a mere observation. "America is violent" is an observation. "Americans are violent because they are fearful" (the position that Michael Moore takes in his 2002 movie “Bowling for Columbine”) is an argument. Why? Because this sentence suggests a perspective. It makes an arguable claim. A good thesis sentence will inspire (rather than diminish) other points of view; it will encourage discussion and debate. For example, one might argue that America is violent because of its violent entertainment industry (video games, movies, etc.), or because of the lack of gun regulation, or even because of the collapse of the family unit. In general, your thesis should compel others to join in and take a stand or at least think closely about their view of your claim.
A good thesis statement will control the content of the entire paper.
Your thesis statement determines what you are going to say in your paper, and it also determines what you cannot say. In general, every paragraph in your paper exists in order to support your thesis. Accordingly, if one of your paragraphs seems irrelevant to your thesis you have two choices: get rid of the paragraph, or rewrite your thesis. You don’t really have another option. You simply can't stick the idea in your paper without preparing the reader for it in your thesis. Think of your thesis as a contract between you and your reader. If you introduce unrelated or new ideas that the reader is not ready for, you have violated that contract with your reader.
A good thesis will provide a structure for your paper.
A good thesis signals to the reader not only what your argument is, but also how your argument will be presented in your paper. In other words, your thesis sentence should either directly or indirectly suggest the structure of your paper to your reader. Say, for example, that you are going to argue that “Online education is beneficial because of A, B, and C.” In this case, the reader understands that you have three important points to cover and that these points will appear in a certain order. If you don’t follow that order, the reader will feel betrayed, irritated, and confused - and you don’t want that!
Students who need help preparing their thesis papers will find a number of resources at the Global Campus' Writing Center:
Written by Jason R. Latham and Michelle Lekkerkerk.
Jason R. Latham is the Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education, and Michelle Lekkerkerk is the Lead Technology Writing Consultant for the Writing Center.