Example of a Thesis Paper

The thesis paper is the standard paper format for writing in the humanities. Thesis papers vary according to the instructor's guidelines, but there are certain elements that are present in all formats. There are various elements of a thesis paper and they have different functions. Put them together effectively for a strong thesis paper that won't have you pulling an all-nighter to meet your deadline.

Grab your Reader's Attention

First impressions are important -- even in writing. A strong introductory paragraph for any thesis paper should begin with an attention-grabber to hook the reader's interest. Strategies for grabbing attention can include asking rhetorical questions, posing a controversial statement, using figures or statistics, borrowing a quotation from a person or text, or conveying humor. The purpose of an attention-grabber is to ensure that readers won't abandon your piece before the main points are introduced. The backbone of a thesis paper is a strong central idea that articulates the main idea or claim. A central idea introduces the reader to your main topic and its importance. This central idea should appear in the introductory paragraph and be positioned directly before the thesis statement.

Elaborate Through a Thesis Statement

Once you have introduced the central idea and what the paper is about, narrow your focus into a thesis statement that explains how you will prove your central idea. Typically, if working within a five-paragraph structure -- consisting of an introduction, three paragraphs and a conclusion -- the thesis statement contains three proofs, which are three ways in which you prove your central idea. For example, if your central idea is that dinosaurs became extinct through a natural disaster on earth, your thesis statement would provide three pieces of evidence to support this claim. The thesis statement typically concludes the introductory paragraph.

Give It Some Body

Introduce the body, or content portion, of your paper, with a topic sentence for each paragraph. A good topic sentence not only introduces the main idea of the body paragraph, but also connects to the central idea and thesis, often repeating a key word or phrase from the thesis. Topic sentences are the glue holding together the proofs introduced in your thesis statement. When moving from one paragraph to the next, create smooth transitions . Without transitional words, phrases or sentences, the thesis paper appears choppy and disconnected. Examples of transition include the phrases "for example," "on the other hand," "in addition to," and "conversely," The reader may lose sight of the central idea and feel overwhelmed by unrelated or random ideas. Transitions, often part of topic sentences, help bring order and cohesion to a paper by linking each paragraph to the one before.

Explain Your Evidence

The bulk of each body paragraph is evidence that supports your argument. This can be personal experience, eye-witness testimony or textual confirmation. The "less is more" theory works best for selecting evidence. It is better to have one or two strong pieces of support that you can develop and explain fully, rather than several underdeveloped examples. This is where the most focused and original writing occurs. As a writer, it is your job to connect the evidence you have presented to the central idea and thesis statement. Don't assume that the reader automatically makes these connections. Show how the evidence supports your central idea. A good writer leaves no gaps for a reader to fill in. Rather, a good writer anticipates the reader's questions and fully explains how the ideas and evidence are related.

Finish Strong

Traditionally, a writer should restate the thesis and central idea in the concluding paragraph. Don't repeat the sentences used in an introduction, put a fresh twist on the ideas they contain instead. Discuss what have you learned or gained insight about through the writing of this paper. Note any new questions it raises on the subject or any conclusions or assumptions you can drawn about the topic. In addition to sharing new insight, a writer should summarize the main points of the paper and bring the piece to a close with a definitive ending. Keep in mind that just as the first sentence of the paper is what determines the attitude of the reader going into the paper, the last sentence is the impression you leave in a reader's mind. So make sure that it's a good one.

Give Credit

If you have adapted, paraphrased or directly quoted any materials other than your own, you must give credit to the source. A bibliography, or works-cited page, must be attached to your thesis paper to recognize the original sources. Depending on the format you are writing in and the formality of the paper, you may have to include in-text citations for material you reference as evidence within you body paragraphs as well. Failing to cite your sources is plagiarism, a very grave offense at any educational institution.

About the Author

Kelly Kaufmann teaches English literature and composition in Pittsburgh, Pa. She has a B.A. from Michigan State University, as well as an M.A.T. in secondary English education from the University of Pittsburgh. Kaufmann is a contributing writer for eHow, where she has published numerous articles in the fields of education, nutrition, and cultural studies.