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How to do a term paper: crafting your thesis

A great thesis is the first building block of a great term paper. Getting the thesis written and perfected comes before any of the other parts of writing. The thesis is a statement that shows what you plan on either proving or disproving. It is essential to provide a claim of what your paper will be about.

Characteristics of a good thesis:

  • It should neither be too narrow nor too broad.
  • The thesis should be narrow enough to fully cover the subject matter in the scope of the term paper yet not so narrow that you aren’t able to find sufficient research and data to back up your claims
  • An argumentative thesis should describe the reasons why something should be changed
  • An analytical thesis should give a clear message as to what should be analyzed
  • An explanatory thesis would identify whoever or whatever the subject is, and what you plan to explain about them
  • It is specific and stated clearly
  • It should identify the most important points which you want to establish in the body of the term paper

Where to look for thesis ideas:

  • Notes you have taken in your class throughout the year
  • Chapters in your textbook. Were there topics you would have liked to explore further? Were there issues you had specific questions about?
  • Get ideas from your instructor if necessary.
  • Look online for ideas that other students have used in the past; just be careful not to repeat anything. Your thesis should have a new twist if using an old topic.
  • Current events; new research; newsworthy articles can all give you some ideas to build a thesis on.

How to write a great thesis

  • Be willing to invest both time and effort into the thesis statement. It’s definitely worth it.
  • The thesis should be declared at the beginning of the paper, preferably in the introduction. This makes it clear to the reader exactly what the paper will be all about and what direction it will take.
  • Be bold in your thesis. Remember there are hundreds of other students competing for your teacher’s attention, and you want yours to be memorable and stand out.
  • Stick to facts while at the same time opening a new window on the subject; explore a new perspective.
  • Be specific; this is crucial. It will guide the writing of your paper so you don’t end up wandering off on a tangent.


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