HOW DO I FORMULATE AND DEVELOP MY THESIS?

4.1 What is a thesis and why is it so important?
4.2 What are the characteristics of a good thesis?
4.3 How will my thesis be judged?
4.4 What are the different stages in thesis development? How should my thesis evolve?

4.1 WHAT IS A THESIS AND WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

Your thesis is essentially the answer you give to the issue or problem you posed in your Historia question. It is what all the facts and arguments in your essay are meant to support and demonstrate. In its final form, it is the "bottom line" product of your inquiry; as such, it should be the central focus of your essay.

At this point, the basic challenge confronting you in all phases of life is growing up and attaining maturity. Intellectually, the hallmark of maturity is the ability to move beyond the mere repetition of facts by taking a point of view and trying to persuade the reader of the legitimacy of this point of view. Your thesis is precisely the thing you are trying to convince the reader to accept.

Thesis formulation and development, therefore, lies at the heart of the Historia project.

 

4.2 WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD THESIS?

Since questions and answers should fit like hands in gloves, many of the characteristics of a good thesis dovetail with those of a good Historia question. If your Historia question is a good one, your thesis should fall naturally into place.

Essentially, a good thesis is a clear and comprehensive statement in a complete sentence, that expresses an insightful, interesting point of view that requires both research and thinking for support.

a. A Good Thesis is Clear and Comprehensive Statement:

Your thesis statement should be as clear and complete as possible; but obviously you cannot include every nuance and fine point in a single sentence. Such a detailed unfolding of your point of view will be the purpose of your essay.

b. A Good Thesis is in the Form of a Complete Sentence:

Your thesis should be cast in the form of a complete, declarative sentence because it should be a fully formed idea. Try to limit it to one sentence, although this sentence may get a little complicated.

c. A Good Thesis Expresses a Point of View:

Your thesis (to be a thesis) must present a point of view on a meaningful historical issue. Mere topical fragments, or even complete descriptions of topics are not theses (e.g., "Columbus," or "Columbus's Voyages of Discovery"). Nor are fragmentary or complete statements of an issue or problem ("Columbus: Hero or Oppressor?") A phrase like the latter might be an appropriate title for your essay, but remember: your thesis is a statement of your answer to your Historia question. If, in response to your supposed thesis, someone can justifiably ask, "Well, what about it?" then your statement is not really a thesis. Your thesis should contain within it the answer to the question, "What about it?"

d. A Good Thesis is Sophisticated:

The more interesting, subtle, finely shaded, and sophisticated your thesis is, the better it may be (but not necessarily—for it may be highly sophisticated but totally indefensible). Complete originality is totally unrealistic; simply because your thesis has been held by others before you, does not disqualify it as a good Historia thesis. But try to avoid "a la carte" thinking, in which you simply choose from a menu of ready-made "pre-thought" positions and arguments. Try to mix the intellectual ingredients in a somewhat unique way. There is a point at which obviousness and unoriginality almost disqualify a point of view from being a Historia thesis. If there is absolutely no disagreement on an issue, then it would be difficult to make it the subject of a good Historia essay. The main test is whether there are competing theses held by other reputable writers; if not, your thesis may be too commonplace and obvious for a good Historia essay.

e. A Good Thesis Requires Research and Thought:

If you asked a good Historia question, this criterion is almost automatically fulfilled. A statement of pure subjective opinion (unsupportable, even in theory, by any factual evidence) would not qualify as a good thesis; on the other hand, a bald, unadorned statement of commonly accepted facts would equally fail to fulfill even the minimum qualities of a thesis (e.g., "Columbus made many voyages of discovery").

 

4.3 HOW WILL MY THESIS BE JUDGED?

Your thesis will be judged on its intellectual merits as embodied in the above criteria.- It is not necessary for your teacher to personally agree with your thesis in order for him/her regard it favorably from a purely intellectual point of view. If your thesis is well supported with relevant, accurate facts and logically valid arguments, it will be granted intellectual respect. A thesis may be interesting and provocative to a reader, expanding the reader's grasp of the subject, without the reader actually agreeing with the substance of the thesis.

But you should realize that not all theses are created equal. By their relationship to available evidence, some theses are, on their face, more plausible than others. If you choose to pursue a farfetched thesis, your essay will likely suffer because such a thesis will be difficult to support.

 

4.4 WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT STAGES IN THESIS DEVELOPMENT? HOW SHOULD MY THESIS EVOLVE?

a. The Preliminary Thesis or Hypothesis:

Although you may not know very much about your topic at this point, a preliminary "hunch" can serve to focus and guide your research, even if hardly a trace of this early hypothesis survives until the final draft.

b. The Evolution of the Preliminary Thesis:

As you proceed through the process, your preliminary thesis may change in a couple of different ways. It can radically change direction (you can switch sides—or take a side you didn't even know existed at the outset); or, your position can evolve (you can modify it slightly, qualify it, add depth and detail to it). Like a juror, try to keep an open mind until all the evidence is in.

c. The Thesis in your Rough Draft:

Before you begin writing your rough draft, you should, based on your critical, reflective analysis of the evidence, decide on your thesis. Waffling on your thesis will produce a confused draft.

d. The Thesis in your Final Draft:

Between your rough and final draft you should sharpen and polish your thesis, filling in details and nuances that you may have discovered when composing the rough draft.

 


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