How to Write a College Thesis Paper

A thesis paper written in college takes the form of a persuasive essay. It tries to answer or explore a challenging intellectual question and should generate discussion and argument in readers. Thesis papers are structured on a strong thesis statement--a sentence that declares the argument and idea that will be explored throughout the paper. A strong introduction is the heart of the paper. It should capture the reader's attention and lay the groundwork for the rest of the paper.

Build a thesis statement that is a concise and clear. This one sentence positions your entire argument, which you then support throughout the rest of the paper. According to the Dartmouth Writer's Program, a good thesis statement will make a claim, control the entire argument and provide structure for your paper.

Research books and articles from accredited sources. These include scholarly journals and books written by experts. This research will support the argument you make throughout your paper. Before using a source in a paper, make sure you understand it. Highlight the main ideas that the author is arguing and find quotes or statements which are relevant to your own paper and which support your own ideas.

Organize your paper before writing it. Plan the subject for each paragraph and organize how each paragraph will support your thesis statement. According to the Dartmouth Writing Program, "Writing papers in college requires that you come up with sophisticated, complex, and even creative ways of structuring your ideas." Select which sources you will cite throughout your paper. Ask yourself how your thesis controls the direction of your outline and whether or not your main points are relevant to your thesis. Make sure the outline is logical, that your argument flows, and that you can find sufficient support for your argument.

Write an introduction that captures the reader's attention. Your introduction should present your thesis statement and introduce any questions you are raising in the assignment. When writing an introduction, consider your intended audience and the style of the discipline. Papers written for the humanities are written in a different style than papers written for the sciences. Consider whether your reader is completely ignorant of the subject you are writing about. Establish the pattern of organization you will follow throughout your paper.

Write the rest of the paper, paying attention to the logic of your argument. A good argument not only states a strong thesis, but acknowledges opposing points of view. Every new paragraph throughout your paper should present new evidence that supports your argument and your thesis.

Write sentences that are concise and authoritative. Style is an important part of the thesis paper. If you follow the basic principles of the sentence, which, according to Dartmouth are: Focus on the subject of your sentence, be concrete, be concise, be coherent, be empathetic, be in control, and write beautifully. If your paper has balance, structure and flowing language, you will sway readers who might not have originally agreed with your thesis.

Conclude the paper with a few sentences that restate your thesis. The idea is to convince the reader that you have made a strong, logical and persuasive argument that is well supported with facts and examples from reputable sources.

Reread your paper and revise as appropriate. Revision is one of the most important parts of writing a thesis paper in college. According to the Dartmouth Writing Program, "real revision is more than making a few changes here and there. Real revision requires that you open yourself up to the possibility that parts of your paper - and even your entire paper - might need to be re-thought, and re-written." Be prepared to develop a critical eye when it comes to your own paper.

  • Don't hand in your paper until you have proofread it several times. Nothing is more frustrating for a professor than when a thesis paper is turned in with silly typos and grammatical errors that should have been caught easily by proofreading. Read your paper several times before you print it out and hand it in Do not rely on "spell check" to catch spelling and grammar errors for you.
About the Author

Ashley Lorelle has been writing professionally since 2005. Her writing has appeared in "Lipstick Royalty Magazine," Copper-Moon Ezine and on her personal blog. She is currently the editor of the literary journal "Figment." Lorelle holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the State University of New York at Albany.

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