How to Write a Thesis-driven Research Paper
What is a thesis-driven research paper? The formal thesis-driven research paper entails significant research and the use of sources located outside the course materials. Unlike a personal essay, which doesn’t require outside research because it details your feelings and opinions on a topic, a thesis-driven research paper requires you to search out the solution to a problem that you have proposed in the paper’s thesis statement and to present what you have learned through research in a well-written, coherent paper. Following are some rules of thumb to make this possible:
• Choose a suitable design and hold on to it: Planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing.
o Generate ideas to sketch a plan: Before beginning a first draft, spend some time generating ideas. Think about your subject while relaxing. Write down inspirations. Talk to others about what you plan to write. Collect information and experiment with ways of focusing and organizing it to best reach your readers.
o Assess the situation: The key elements of the writing situation include your subject, the sources of information available to you, your purpose, your audience, and constraints such as length, document design, and deadlines.
• Make the paragraph the unit of composition:
o How to Write a Good Paragraph:
• Topic Sentence: Generally, begin each paragraph either with a sentence that suggests the topic or with a sentence that helps the transition. An opening sentence should indicate by its subject the direction the paragraph is to take. As readers move into a paragraph, they need to know where they are – in relation to the whole paper – and what to expect in the sentences to come.
• Develop the Main Point: Topic sentences are generalizations in need of support, so once you’ve written a topic sentence, ask yourself, “How do I know this is true?” Your answer will suggest how to develop the paragraph.
• Use the active voice: The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive. For example: Why was the road crossed by the chicken? Compare to: Why did the chicken cross the road? Active voice is direct, bold, clear, and concise. Passive voice occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. For example: The lab assistant weighed the soil samples. Compare to: The soil samples were weighed by the lab assistant, OR, worse yet, The soil samples were weighed.
o Occasionally, you should prefer passive voice over active:
• Those writing in science and technology often prefer passive voice. This is because they are more interested in what happened, or what was observed, than in who did the observation.
• Political writing sometimes prefers passive voice. In any case when the action is more important than the actor, passive voice is fine.
• Lawyers sometimes prefer passive voice when, for example, defending a criminal defendant: The car was stolen, RATHER THAN Mr. Smith is charged with stealing the car or, worse yet, Mr. Smith stole the car. Lawyers avoid putting their clients’ names in the same sentence as the crime.
• Put statements in positive form: Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, noncommittal language.
o He was not very often on time.
o COMPARE TO: He usually arrived late.
• Use definite, specific, concrete language:
o Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract.
• The mayor spoke about the challenges of the future problems concerning the environment and world peace.
• The mayor spoke about the challenges of the future problems of famine, pollution, dwindling resources, and arms control.
• Omit needless words: Good writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentence. This doesn’t mean that all sentences must be short or avoid all detail. Rather, every word should have a purpose. For example, the word “that.” Add the word that if there is any danger of misreading without it. Otherwise, omit it: The value of a principle is the number of things [that] it will explain.
• Use plain English: Avoid legalese or other complex and difficult to understand wording when ordinary English words will work just as well. Use English; not Latin or Greek. Use short (not long) sentences. Keep it simple. Explain – don’t confuse. Long, complicated sentences do not make you appear smarter. Sometimes, in fact, they do just the opposite, demonstrating that you don’t know the topic well enough to paraphrase in simple, concise, understandable language.
o Write sentences that are easy to understand and clear.
o Don’t write a sentence that needs another sentence to explain it.
o Unless a date or location is critical, leave it out.
o Use very few, if any, footnotes – they distract.
o Don’t overdo it: Sparingly use ALL CAPITALS, italics, bold, and underlining. Use either italics or underlines, but never use both. Don’t use several font types. 12 point Times New Roman font is easiest to read.
o Watch the length of your paragraphs: A paragraph should seldom exceed 2/3 of a page. Shorter paragraphs are better. A long paragraph is like a speaker that drones on and on and on and on. . .