How To Write A Thesis
Writing a thesis proposal can seem like a daunting task, especially for young writers that have never written a formal proposal before, but luckily there’s several things that can be done to make the endeavor quite a bit easier. And since it’s always best to start at the beginning, we’ll kick things off by looking at one of the first things you should do when preparing your proposal.
Topic Analysis for a Thesis
In simple terms, a topic analysis is an exercise in which the topic of your research is explicitly stated and justified. Of course, this assumes that you have chosen your research topic and that you have done preliminary research into the available literature of that topic. If you have not accomplished these steps, you are nowhere near ready to write a thesis proposal and should seriously consider doing a literature review before moving forward.
Once you have chosen a topic and done the preliminary research, a topic analysis should be the next step in drafting your thesis proposal. Some people might skip this step and move straight to outlining or writing a rough draft of their thesis proposal, but there is one important advantage to writing a topic analysis: it narrows your focus on the most important aspects of your proposal. Rather than getting distracted by the minutiae of a topic that you are enthusiastic about, a topic analysis keeps the focus on what you are doing and why it is important.
Parts of a Topic Analysis
A topic analysis consists of four parts: statement, justification, context, and prediction.
Statement of a Thesis
The statement will be the shortest section, but also one of the most important. In no more than three sentence, the statement should completely explain the specific problem that your research is addressing. The key here is to be specific. A bad statement is very general and does not address any particular problem, for example:
The proposal will be about medieval convents..
A good thesis would be more along the lines of:
The proposal will examine the economic status of medieval convents and attempt to answer the question of how the convent and oaths of celibacy functioned in a medieval marriage economy.
Justification of a Thesis
The justification is almost as important as the statement and explains why the research is important, original, and relevant to modern scholarship in no more than two or three paragraphs. This section is highly reliant on your knowledge of modern scholarship on the subject and should reflect that by putting your research into context. For example:
The scholarship surrounding the subject of the medieval convent’s economic status has fallen behind recent discussions in gender studies. During a roundtable on gender and religion in 2012, the popular medievalist Susan Jurgens said that “even though the convent is understood as a place where women were removed from the marriage economy, the research has done very little to explain how such an institution arose or why it was economically viable in a time where marriages were the easiest way to gain power, resources, and allies”. The proposal will attempt to fill this gap in our understanding and provide a functional explanation for the economic origins of the convent in line with contemporary critical theory.
Context of a Thesis
The context section will go into more detail on this subject by listing the previous research into this topic. This is probably the easiest section to write if you’ve already done a literature review, simply copy over a list of basic information about each author and add some quick notes as to how their research relates to your topic, as well as how your approach differs.
Prediction of a Thesis
The final part will be your predictions, a few paragraphs where you explain possible outcomes of your research and what they would mean to the project. It is very important to be honest in the section and account for possibilities that could weaken or invalidate your research. Be sure to consider your research methods carefully and any assumptions you might be making about your topic.
Once this is all done, you should have a good idea of what your topic is about and how you are going to defend your interest in it. Then you can move on to the next step of writing a thesis proposal, which we’ll discuss next time. Until then, stay safe and keep writing!