- Special projects (requires login)
“In this paper, I will argue…” This phrase is your friend, as its twin, “In conclusion, in this paper, I have shown…”
They both say ‘I’. Let’s just get that out of the way. You can say ‘I’. It is your paper, after all, and your claim.
That’s what goes after these phrases to complete the sentence. The heart of any academic paper is its thesis statement. A thesis statement is an answer to a research question. Since this question is a research question, then, by definition, a thesis statement is also a claim that must be supported with an argument.
There’s a lot of other ways people use this term ‘thesis’, so be careful. Some people say that a thesis statement is the ‘main point’ of the paper. Yeah, OK, that’s true. But that’s not a good definition of a thesis statement. When people focus on ‘main point’, they tend to assume that an essay is a recitation of facts, or it is just summarizing things people mostly agree on. In this approach to writing essays, people talk about the ‘main point’ as if it were an objective, absolute truth. No one needs to say it. No one needs to argue for it. And so in this mindset, an essay is more like a test. Well, obviously, an essay is not just a test. Actually, in a good essay, you, as the author, are saying something new, and so you should not assume that your view is the only possible view. Having a point is good. When you arrive a point, you should ask yourself, “OK what question am I answering…?” When you know that, you will know how to assert your point and stick up for it. Remember what Kanye West once said:
Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time! (West quoted in ArtisanNewsService 2009)
It would have been better if he made it clear that he was answering the question: “Why is Beyonce’s album the best?” But that’s kind of the spirit you need to be in to write a research paper.
Many students feel that they cannot say anything ‘new’. They learned all this stuff from others scholars’ arguments, so how can they argue anything other than what their sources argued? Easy. It is a new idea, and a new claim, because you are the one who is arguing it, and not someone else. Your perspective and your thinking is your own, and is thus unique. You do have something new to say. You’ve been influenced by the arguments of others, sure, and you’ll cite them, but you will now explain what that means to you, and that’s never been done before. It’s your thesis statement.
ArtisanNewsService. 2009. Taylor Swift VMA Award Moment Ruined by Kanye West. Youtube. http://youtu.be/1z8gCZ7zpsQ?t=43s.