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Home » Writing Centre » Structure » Thesis Statements

Thesis statements/Research questions/Problem statements

A thesis statement presents the position that you intend to argue within your paper, whereas a research question indicates your direction of inquiry in your research. In general, thesis statements are provided in course-level papers, whereas research questions are used in major research papers or theses. 

Thesis statements

The statement or question is a key piece of information within your writing because it describes the parameters of your study.

Your statement should:

  • Be specific
  • Be appropriate to the type of paper you’re writing
  • Appear within the first section of your text so that it is immediately clear to your reader what the paper is about

For example: “Royal Roads University is unique amongst post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island because of its history, wildlife, Hatley Castle, and educational programs”. 

The advantage of a clear thesis statement is that it will also help you to stay on track. At any time during your writing process, you should be able to make a direct connection between what you’re writing and your thesis statement. If that connection isn’t clear, you may need to either adjust your writing, or revisit your thesis statement. Thesis statements can change during the evolution of a paper; however, make sure you re-examine your outline before you divert too far from your original plan.

Please see the resources below for more information on writing thesis statements:

  • Creating a document plan (14:34 section of the Introduction to Academic Writing video; see slide 4 in the video)
  • Thesis statement: How to write a strong thesis sentence for your essay  (Youtube video)
  • Thesis statements: Problems and solutions (Youtube video)
  • Using thesis statements (University of Toronto) 
  • How to write a thesis statement (University of Indiana-Bloomington)

Research question(s)

A research question should:

  • Be clear and specific
  • State the focus of investigation in the research
  • Not be answerable with a yes/no response

For example: How is Royal Roads University different from other post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island?

Please see the resources below for more information on writing research questions:

  • Identifying your research question (RRU Library) 
  • ” Research questions and hypotheses ” (John Creswell; excerpt originally published in 2009 in “Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches”)
  • Developing a researchable question (SAGE Research Methods; requires RRU login)

Problem statements

A problem statement concisely details a vision and method that will be used to solve a problem.  

A problem statement should:

  • Be clear and specific
  • Discuss potential problems for the writer/researcher
  • Not offer a solution

Please see the resources below for more information on writing problem statements:

  • Problem Statements: A brief introduction  (Purdue OWL)
  • How to: Write a Problem Statement  (University of Sheffield)
  • Tips on Writing a a Problem Statement (

To search for additional information, please visit WriteAnswers and search the FAQs. If you’re a RRU student, you can also use the WriteAnswers contact form to send your questions directly to the Writing Centre. We’ll send you a private reply as soon as we can, which is typically within one business day of receiving the message.

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Tips on Writing a
Thesis Statement

What is a Thesis Statement?

The thesis statement is the sentence that states the main idea of a
writing assignment and helps control the ideas within the paper. It is
not merely a topic. It often reflects an opinion or judgment that a
writer has made about a reading or personal experience. For instance:
Tocqueville believed that the domestic role most women held in America
was the role that gave them the most power, an idea that many would
hotly dispute today.

What Makes a Strong Thesis Statement?

  • A strong thesis statement gives direction to the paper and
    limits what you need to write about. It also functions to inform your
    readers of what you will discuss in the body of the paper. All
    paragraphs of the essay should explain, support, or argue with your
  • A strong thesis statement requires proof; it is not merely a
    statement of fact. You should support your thesis statement with
    detailed supporting evidence will interest your readers and motivate
    them to continue reading the paper.
  • Sometimes it is useful to mention your supporting points in your
    thesis. An example of this could be: John Updike’s Trust Me is a
    valuable novel for a college syllabus because it allows the reader to
    become familiar with his writing and provides themes that are easily
    connected to other works. In the body of your paper, you could write a
    paragraph or two about each supporting idea. If you write a thesis
    statement like this it will often help you to keep control of your

Where Does the Thesis Statement Go?

A good practice is to put the thesis statement at the end of your
introduction so you can use it to lead into the body of your paper. This
allows you, as the writer, to lead up to the thesis statement instead of
diving directly into the topic. If you place the thesis statement at the
beginning, your reader may forget or be confused about the main idea by
the time he/she reaches the end of the introduction. Remember, a good
introduction conceptualizes and anticipates the thesis statement.

Tips for Writing/Drafting Thesis Statements

  • Know the topic. The topic should be something you know or
    can learn about. It is difficult to write a thesis statement, let alone
    a paper, on a topic that you know nothing about. Reflecting on personal
    experience and/or researching will help you know more information about
    your topic.
  • Limit your topic. Based on what you know and the required
    length of your final paper, limit your topic to a specific area. A
    broad scope will generally require a longer paper, while a narrow scope
    will be sufficiently proven by a shorter paper.
  • Brainstorm. If you are having trouble
    beginning your paper or writing your thesis, take a piece of paper and
    write down everything that comes to mind about your topic. Did you
    discover any new ideas or connections? Can you separate any of the
    things you jotted down into categories? Do you notice any themes? Think
    about using ideas generated during this process to shape your thesis
    statement and your paper.



CRLS Research Guide

Writing A Thesis Statement

Tip Sheet 13

Ask these questions:

What is it?

A thesis statement is a strong statement that you can prove with evidence. It is
not a simple statement of fact. A thesis statement should be the product of your
own critical thinking after you have done some research. Your thesis
statement will be the main idea of your entire project. It can also be thought of
as the angle or point of view from which you present your material. 

When do I write it?

You will develop a thesis statement about your research topic after
you have written a Statement of Purpose and done some actual research
into the topic. You will then present your thesis statement in your introduction,
prove it with evidence in the body of your paper, project, or presentation, and
finally restate it along with a summary of your evidence in your conclusion.

How do I write it?

  • Look again at your Statement of Purpose
  • Look at the kinds of information you have been finding while taking notes.
  • Decide what kind of statement you have enough evidence to prove.
    (Be sure that you have done enough research to make a strong argument. You may be

  • Write that as your thesis statement.

There are many ways to approach writing a thesis statement.

Just make sure that it is not simple a fact and that you can support it with good
evidence from reliable sources.

Here are some ways to approach it:

  • Define a problem and state your opinion about it
  • Discuss the current state of an issue or problem and predict how it might resolve
  • Put forth a possible solution to a problem
  • Look at an issue/topic from a new, interesting perspective
  • Theorize how the world might be different today if something had/had not happened
    in the past

  • Compare two or more of something similar and give your rating about them (cars,
    authors,computers, colleges, books)

  • Put out your ideas about how something was influenced to be the way it is or was
    (music, art, political leadership, genocide)

What does it look like?

Let’s look at some of the examples from the Statement
of Purpose tip sheet and turn them into some possible thesis statements.
These are all totally hypothetical (made up).

Statement of Purpose

Possible thesis statement

“I want to learn about what has influenced the music of 50 cent.”

The music of 50 cent has been heavily influenced by (you fill in the blank).

“I want to find out some ways to stop teen gang activity.”

Teen gang activity in the United States can be stopped by a combined approach which
consists of supervised youth programs, more job availability, and closer family


Teenage gang activity can only be stopped with early education in the public school

“I want to know how close we are to a cure for AIDS.”

Although much research has gone into finding a cure for the AIDS virus, we are no
closer to a real cure than we were when the disease first became known.


After years of research , scientists are on the verge of discovering a cure for
the AIDS virus.

“I want to know why Christians and Muslims fought so hard with
each other during the middle ages.”

Even though Christians and Muslims were supposedly fighting for religious dominance
in the medieval world, their motives were strongly affected by the desire for land
and economic power.


Medieval Christians and Muslims were fighting exclusively for deeply held religious

You can see that there is more than one way to write a thesis statement, depending
on what you find out in your research and what your opinion is.


Tip Sheet 14: Making An Outline

If you have found enough evidence to support your thesis, you may be ready
to make an outline and proceed to your first draft.

Tip Sheet 6: Finding Sources

If, after looking at your notes,
you do not think you have enough examples or evidence to
support your thesis statement (you should have at least three
examples for each subtopic) look for more now and take
notes on them.

Then go to Tip Sheet 14: Making an Outline.

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