By Jonathan (Jonny) DuBois
A thesis is firstly an answer to a question. It can be a question asked by your teacher in the form of a writing prompt, or a question that you pose to yourself, or a question you come by in any other number of ways. You don’t have to blatantly pose the question in your paper, but if you find that your paper doesn’t answer anything, then it is not considered a scholarly paper and should be heavily revised, or more likely scrapped.
Imagine that a thesis is a claim that you are trying to prove. For this paper, we’ll consider the claim:
This is your thesis. This is the entire reason for the existence of your paper. When students need to write a paper which for some reason uses the idea that 2^4=16, they will use your paper as research. The thesis should be included in the first paragraph of your paper for the sake of that person using your paper as research. We want them to know without reading the entirety of your paper that your paper is useful to them.
Now no one is going to just take your word from it that 2^4=16. You must logically explain it to them. Reason through the steps that it takes to understand that 2^4=16 in the body of your paper. You can do this in infinitely many ways, but it is important to make those steps easily identifiable by making them the first sentence of each paragraph. These are often called topic sentences, and you can think of them as miniature theses. They will make a claim (that represents a step in your logic) which supports the thesis. There are infinitely many possible ways you could do this. Here is one example:
Topic sentence 1: 2^4 is the same as 2*2*2*2
Now in the body of this paragraph, support the claim that 2^4=2*2*2*2.
Topic Sentence 2: 2*2=4
Topic Sentence 3: 4*2=8
Topic Sentence 4: 8*2=16
Support, support, support.
Now for the conclusion. There are a lot of different ideas on conclusions. Some people will tell you that a conclusion is nothing more than a rewording of your thesis, but there are more effective ways of ending a paper. Try and think of your thesis as a theory posed, your conclusion as a theory proved. Revisit the arguments you’ve made throughout the paper. In math speak: (Topic 1), (Topic 2), (Topic 3), and (Topic 4), therefore (Thesis).