Answered By: Judith Jablonski
Last Updated: May 11, 2016     Views: 2219

A thesis statement is a short, direct sentence -- or sometimes 1-3 concise sentences -- that summarize the main point or claim of an essay or research paper. In a thesis statement, the author is making a specific claim or assertion about a topic that can be debated or challenged. 

A thesis statement is developed, supported, and explained in the body of the essay or research report by means of examples and evidence. Student essays and papers should contain a thesis statement.

Example of weak thesis statement:

  • Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the best American authors in the last half century.

Example of a strong thesis statement:

  • Ursula K. Le Guin's ability to subvert cultural and social expectations makes her one of the best authors of the last century.

A research question indicates the direction of your research. It is an open-ended query, not a final claim or conclusion about an idea. A good research question should act as the focus of a study. It helps the author decide on the methodology she will use as well as guide all subsequent stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting.

Example of a weak research question:

  • How does science fiction literature affect our understanding of other cultures?

Example of a strong research question:

  • Can science fiction literature that focuses on fundamental issues such as gender and race deepen our ability to empathize with cultures different from our own?

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