Writing a thesis paper can seem daunting, so it helps to have a clear plan. Here are the steps I found most efficient to write a thesis that earned me a college scholarship.

Identify a topic you are passionate about.

Brainstorm ways you could make a call to action about that topic. Read a few books, listen to podcasts, and read any articles you can find on both sides of your subject. It is important to know the views of the opposition before you start so you can make sure you are addressing the issue in a way that would confirm the beliefs of those who agree with you, and change the minds of those who don’t. It helps to make a list of the resources you use in your research so you can have them handy for footnotes later.

Devise your thesis statement.

This should consist of an assertion plus a proof. As you write, always keep your thesis statement in mind to make sure you are staying on topic and successfully proving your point.

Figure out what each body paragraph will be about.

It often helps to follow your thesis statement with a sentence informing readers of how you will be proving your thesis.

Write your introduction.

Once you have figured out how you will be defending your thesis and written a draft of your body paragraphs, you are ready to write your introduction. If you prefer to write your introduction before your body paragraphs, you may want to return to it now to make sure it properly introduced the direction in which you chose to go in your paper. There are five types of introductions: inquisitive where you explain your paper is important or noteworthy, paradoxical where you explain the seemingly contradictory or unlikely aspects of your topic, corrective where you correct a commonly misunderstood aspect of your topic, preparatory where you prepare your reader for the way you will be presenting your topic, and narrative where you tell a story introducing your topic.

Give background information. 

After writing your introduction, you may want to write a few paragraphs where you define your terms and give your reader the necessary background information to understand your argument. In this section, you will want to establish stasis, the point where you and those on the other side of the debate disagree so you and your readers know exactly what you are arguing about. You can trace the history of the problem at hand, and establish your credibility to prepare the reader for your thesis statement.

Anticipate disagreements

You identified the counter-arguments to your thesis in step one, so now it is time to figure out which ones are the most important to rebut in order to prove your thesis statement. Anticipate how people may disagree with your paper, and nip those concerns in the bud!

Write the conclusion

Write your conclusion where you restate your thesis and the main points covered in your body paragraphs. This is your chance to leave a last taste about your subject in your reader’s mouth. Include a call to action so readers will know what they can do to promote what you are arguing for.

Stay ahead of schedule. 

Stay ahead of schedule at every step so you have enough time to take breaks and come back to what you’ve written with fresh eyes. Some people prefer to complete footnotes as they go, while others prefer to mark their sources as they write but put them in the proper format when they finish the section to keep momentum. A general rule of thumb is you want to have a minimum of one footnote on every page. Plagiarism can cause a lot of trouble, so it’s very important to use a footnote anytime you quote or paraphrase someone else’s work.

Enjoy the process!

Though writing a thesis is stressful and time consuming, I really enjoyed learning more about my topic and figuring out the best ways to raise awareness about something I’m passionate about. There are many ways to have a successful thesis and this is just one approach. However you choose to tackle your thesis, when you know what you believe and have an organized strategy to defend it, you will succeed.

Elizabeth Troutman loves Jesus, writing, reading, baking, the Ben Shapiro Show, Parks and Rec, ice cream, and the color pink. She is a freshman at Hillsdale studying Politics and Journalism.

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