How to Write an Academic Essay/Research Paper
1. Define your aim
2. Find a thesis
3. Formulate and structure your argument
4. Clarify your approach
5. Clarify methods and theoretical assumptions
Aim: examine the category gender in a play, novel, poem
Method: formal aspects, narrative strategies, use of different characters, intertextuality, etc.
Theoretical assumption: gender is a constructed category
Aim: examine the concept of tragedy
Method: analysis of structure, generic conventions
Theoretical assumption: generic conventions and structuralist elements shape literary texts
Your thesis is more than a general statement about your main idea. It needs to establish a clear position you will support with balanced proofs. Use the checklist below to help you create a thesis. (This section is adapted from Writing with a Thesis: A Rhetoric Reader by David Skwire and Sarah Skwire):
Make sure you avoid the following when creating your thesis:
??? A thesis is not a title
??? A thesis is not an announcement of the subject
??? A thesis is not a statement of absolute fact (Jane Austen is the author of Pride and Prejudice)
??? A thesis is not the whole essay: A thesis is your main idea/claim/refutation/problem-solution expressed in a single sentence or a combination of sentences.
??? Please note that according to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition, “A thesis statement is a single sentence that formulates both your topic and your point of view” (Gibaldi 56). However, if your paper is more complex and requires a thesis statement, your thesis may require a combination of sentences.
Make sure you follow these guidelines when creating your thesis:
??? A good thesis is unified: Detective stories are not a high form of literature, but people have always been fascinated by them, and many fine writers have experimented with them (floppy). vs. Detective stories appeal to the basic human desire for thrills (concise).
??? A good thesis is specific: James Joyce??™s Ulysses is very good. vs. James Joyce??™s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious.
??? Try to be as specific as possible (without providing too much detail) when creating your thesis: James Joyce??™s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious. vs. James Joyce??™s Ulysses helped create a new way for writers to deal with the unconscious by utilizing the findings of Freudian psychology and introducing the techniques of literary stream-of-consciousness
This handout is partly based on, and some content adapted from, the following online sources: