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The Purpose of a Thesis Paper
A thesis paper is a thorough documentation of the sum of one's professional education. Typically an exhaustive examination of a research question pertaining directly to one's disciplinary focus, the thesis paper is designed to function as a bridge between the academic and the applicable. Also commonly referred to as a dissertation, this research project will center around the advancement, testing and discussion of an original hypothesis pertaining directly to the author's education and his or her career path. Its purpose is to bring new insight into the discourse over a topic, to cultivate the author's research and report capabilities and to prepare this student for a future in a relevant field. The thesis paper is quite often a major cumulative requirement for the attainment of a graduate degree.
Defining a Research Question
As you write your thesis paper, your primary initiative should be to use your education to communicate to others what you have learned while simultaneously furthering your own knowledge. Therefore, you will want to select a research question that is based upon your discipline of education but which contains a fully original and as yet unexplored hypothesis. For example, an individual whose educational focus has been environmental science may want to target his research on the likely implications of new technologies to global warming. In this theoretical context, the opportunity exists for you to compose a dissertation based on accumulated academic knowledge but dependent upon outside experimentation or data-gathering for the establishment of veracity.
Once a research question has been crafted, the author will want to gather sources for research. The way that one gathers, reviews and integrates such sources will have a significant impact on the shape of the research endeavor. It is important for a student to seek out sources which are verifiably credible. Academic and professional journals, up-to-date published texts and course materials gathered throughout your education will be valuable in formulating the assumptions preceding your findings.
The methodology which you develop for testing such assumptions will serve either to reinforce or discount - but either way to expand upon the understanding - of your disciplinary focus. The shape which a research methodology will take is highly variable, dependent upon such factors as the course of study around which it revolves, the nature of the question in need of resolution, the plenteousness or dearth of available research on the topic and the scope of the subject or sample being tested. An effective research methodology will take all of these factors into account in defining the resources needed, the duration of the research process and the means of variable control required to isolate the focus of the thesis.
Reporting Your Findings and Framing Your Discussion
After a complete implementation of the methodology which you have crafted, you will be given the opportunity to articulate the data which you have gathered. This is one of the most important portions of your thesis paper, driven by the results of your research, experimentation, measurement and interpretation. Your findings will be based on the content of your data and your discussion thereof. This section will form the foundation for a conclusion indicating that you have either supported or contradicted your original hypothesis. The Findings and Discussion sections will together explain the ways in which your data either parallel or differ from initial assumptions.
Your Conclusion will be a summation of the resolutions implied by your Findings and Discussion sections. Here, you will ultimately determine whether you have proved, disproved or unresolved the initial question of your thesis. While it is not necessarily required that you arrive at any one of these conclusions above another, it is important that the conclusion at which you do arrive is supported by data.
A good way to ensure that this is accomplished is to offer Recommendations for further exploration of the topic at hand. Here, you may address any unresolved issues, or perhaps new issues that have been raised by the conclusion. You may also account for ways in which the experiment might be further refined in the future.
Defending your Research
Ultimately, you will be expected to defend your dissertation before an academic board. This means that a diligent and lengthy dedication to your topic will be necessary, so that by the arrival of your presentation, you are genuinely and intimately familiar with your work. It is not unusual for a thesis paper to undergo more than a dozen drafts before it is ready for this final review, so by then, you should be prepared to field all manner of inquisition on your topic. The greater the depth of knowledge which you achieve through your research, the more confident, comfortable and competent you will be when you deliver and defend your thesis. These are all virtues will be central in your transition from your education to your profession.
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