Most university graduate degree programs require, among other things, a written thesis. The thesis of a book or research paper is its main idea or proposition. The totality of a thesis serves to defend the ideas or arguments that are at its core and can sometimes run 100 pages or more. What follows are key writing elements that colleges and universities generally expect in such a research paper.
The first step in writing a thesis or any research work is to produce a working thesis title and statement. According to the Writing Tutorial Services of Indiana University, a thesis statement is "a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow." Furthermore, the school defines a "strong" statement as one that assumes a distinct perspective, prompts argumentation, posits a single point and is focused.
The thesis preparation guide of the graduate school at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, provides a typical format and style for this type of academic paper. However, students at other institutions are advised to read thoroughly the thesis guidelines for their particular institutions. The first pages would include a flyleaf (blank page), a title-only page and a full title page. On the title page, the statement, "A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (or whatever the degree may be)" would appear followed by the author's name along with previous degrees attained and institutions attended. Authors may also include an acknowledgment or thank you statement in these preceding pages.
Academic papers always include an abstract statement that appears before the main body of the work. An abstract is longer than a thesis statement but serves the same purpose, which is to give a brief synopsis of the paper's main idea. Most take up about a half page of double-spaced type. Many good examples of how to compose an abstract can be found on academic paper databases such as Ebsco or ProQuest. University library systems have access to these databases.
Generally, there is a page with the names of the professors on a graduate student's thesis defense committee with lines provided for the signatures of each. The professors sign these pages following the student's successful oral defense of the thesis. An optional page may follow, which claims copyright for the work.
Table of Contents
A table of contents is necessary due to the length of most theses. Each chapter title is basically a one-sentence statement of one of the papers subsidiary points. This and the other pages that precede the body of the thesis ordinarily are numbered with Roman numerals.
The body of a thesis is the elaboration or explication of its main idea. In addition to the title, the author may include subheads within each chapter. All the pages of the thesis body are numbered in Arabic numerals and are placed 3/4 inches from the top and no more than 1 inch from the side. A thesis is double-spaced like any other academic paper. The University of Arkansas specifies a 10-point Arial or 12-point Times New Roman for the body type of a thesis. Margin requirements for right, top and bottom are 1 inch. One and a half inches are required for the left margin because generally at least one copy of the thesis is bound.
A bibliography or list of reference works must be included in a thesis. These can be placed at the end of each chapter or at the conclusion of the thesis. Information needed in the bibliography is the author, book or publication title, publishing year, and publisher's name. There are other optional pages that may be included in a thesis such as prefaces and indexes.
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