Brainstorming and Writing a Thesis Statement

Once you have a narrow enough topic, you will take that topic and make a statement about that topic that you will try to prove.


A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of the paper might be World War II; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • must be a complete sentence somewhere in your first paragraph that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.


A thesis statement is a work in progress.  As you learn more about your topic, your thesis statement may be altered and changed, but this MUST happen towards the beginning of the project.


How do I know if my thesis is strong?

  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough?  Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is, “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my paper  support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s o.k. to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.


Where to Look for Sources for your Research Paper

Where to Look for Sources


Library card catalogues:

Most libraries now offer online catalogues that you can access from anywhere as long as you have a library card.  Try different keywords or phrases to ensure that you find all related material.



Most libraries subscribe to databases.  There are different databases for different fields, so make sure you check out all the databases you can find that related to your research topic.  Databases will offer a variety of substantial articles and books that are all from reputable sources.



Websites can be useful at times.  However, often times, it is harder to weed through the bad material than to just use a library or database.  You must always verify that the information you are looking at is valid. Some helpful hints to assure that the website is valid:


  1. Who is the owner / author of the website?  And what are their credentials in the subject area?
  2. What type of domain does it come from?
  3. Who published or owns the page?
  4. Is there a date on the page?
  5. Are sources documented with footnotes or links?