Writing a Thesis Statement

hello and welcome as you continue to develop your skills in a research and writing I wanted to take this episode of the ten minute teacher to help you in developing your thesis statement as I shared in a previous video good theological research and writing is about the thinking process and where that process begins is in the ability to ask good questions and to honestly question everything kate turabian and our students guide to writing college papers says this a researchers most valuable asset is the ability to be puzzled by seemingly obvious things like the shape of coffee rings or that the hair on your head keeps growing while the body hair doesn’t cultivate the ability to question the commonplace and you’ll never lack for research projects questioning the obvious is also the first step in critical thinking which is a skill much prized in the workplace so if you want to be successful not just in academics but in your workplace or any environment the ability to question everything to develop questions out of stuff that seems obvious to everybody else is your first key to success so let’s take for example this story out of Genesis 34 in which the sons of Jacob are confronting Chesham and Haymore because they’ve deceitfully taken their sister Dinah into a marriage relationship and they are really they’ve defiled her and they’ve defiled Israel by the way they’ve taken her so they they basically have this plan of tricking them so that they can conquer them and punish them for what they’ve done and to do that they plan this idea that well hey your people are uncircumcised but if you want to take our women as your wives you have to be circumcised first so really then this brings up the question of circumcision and what is it about circumcision that made Israel so different than the nations around them and that’s where you begin to find your research question by asking what intrigues you what causes your friends to ask questions what ideas claims or facts make you think wow I didn’t know that or how can that be possibly true questions ultimately lead you to important topics so that leads us to step two we need to pick a topic first you want to pick something meaningful a topic that matters to you and you want to narrow down your topic to a very specific idea so in this example which is better a study of the Old Testament or the book of Genesis well book of Genesis well what about the book of Genesis or the life of Abraham well the life of Abraham is better it gets more specific we keep going the life of Abraham versus the call of Abraham how about the call of Abraham vs. God’s use of circumcision in the call of Abraham so you see how very quickly we went from a very broad topic to a very specific one each one improving the potential quality of a research project so after you’ve kind of narrowed down an idea the next best thing is to consult at least to reference works about your topic so in my case I’m gonna open up the anchor Yale Bible Dictionary excellent resource and in it I find this article by David Noll Friedman who says this in the ancient Near East circumcision was widely practiced in two distinct forms certain classes of Egyptian men especially priests slit the foreskin to let it hang free many men from Western Semitic groups in Syria and Palestine removed the foreskin altogether the origins of the practice are irretrievable so he’s saying hey there’s all these groups that used circumcision and knowing where it started no one will ever be able to solve that question essentially so now that I’ve researched and a couple of reference works the next idea is then I have to pick a topic that has a clear issue or problem to do that effectively I’m really going to discover the issues at stake how does your topic fit into the big picture of history or culture or religion what topics are similar to your topic what are some of the subcategories of your topic what do your friends think about this topic is it interesting to them or a what-if question what if this happened or what if this topic were considered today in a different cultural context all these what-if questions get you really thinking about the deeper issues so next you’ll want to do a two to three hundred word summary write about what you’ve learned write about the basic issues surrounding the topic but understand you’re not making any attempt to solve quote-unquote hit any issues that are coming up in your mind you’re not trying to solve these questions you’re only trying to demonstrate your own understanding of the issues once you’ve done that you can move on to step three which is to formulate your research question next you want to formulate two or three possible research questions and how did you this well of course when a narrow your topic down to a specific question I recommend avoiding things like the standard who what when and where instead really focus on why and how these tend to be a lot more intriguing and these generate topics that are far more interesting for research you also want to consider turning your question into a problem by asking a so what question and so by finding a question and then turning it into a problem again it engages not only your mind as a researcher but it will help engage the mind of the reader so moving on from our story in Genesis a good topic might be circumcision in the call of Abraham and a question you might ask one possible one is did other people groups in the Middle East practice circumcision if so why did God choose circumcision as a sign for Abraham so in other words if this is well as a common practice as one of our books seem to suggest why did God use something that’s common as a symbol to set people apart here are some examples of things that would make a bad research question anything that the answer is too easily found in a single source if you can find the answer to a question by opening up your first book it’s not going to be a good research question anything that there’s only one irrefutable answer we’re not looking to research something that only has one answer that everybody agrees is the answer look for something that is controversial or has different opinions that way you can really dig in and explore your topic also if your research question has too many resources that means your question is really too broad so if you’re finding thousands of possible articles and resources that all addressed this question chances are you’ve picked something far too broad to be considered you want to find something that has a good amount of resources but not so many that everybody else has thought to ask those same questions this brings us the step 4 writing of your thesis so what is a thesis then it’s a concise statement of your topic that clearly defines both the purpose and the scope of your paper so here’s an example thesis statement given our earlier study this paper will examine God’s use of circumcision in the call of Abraham as a unique sign of divine covenant in the Near Eastern culture so here we have the topic God’s use of circumcision in the call of Abraham we have the purpose a unique sign of divine covenant and the scope which limits the study is within the context of Near Eastern culture another way to kind of visually represent this and it helps if you maybe write this down for yourself as you’re writing out your thesis statement is to put each of those key phrases into a topic purpose and scope statement you also find as you’re writing out these statements a useful formula from turabian section 2.4 says for example friedman claims and then you write what they claim but this researcher will show what you know that shows what you’re gonna explore so that’s a good formulaic example and there’s others within turabian another way to make sure you have a good thesis statement is to find an issue in blank that raises a question about a specific aspect of blank whenever you’re looking at who’s the answer will help explain a larger theme feature or quality of blank again you fill in these things so if you can write this sense and fill that in in a way that makes sense to say a friend so fill this in with your ideas share it with a friend and if it makes sense to them it’s probably a good thesis statement step 5 then is to write a basic outline and in your basic outline identify the main points that flow from your thesis statement one of the main problems you need to solve you want to write a preliminary three or four point outline as a starting point for your research okay and that’s it for the first five steps for developing your thesis statement but you may say I’m still confused or I’m still struggling with this whole process well here’s kind of a little exercise you could do that may help get your creative juices flowing and this is a little teaching exercise choose a task that is familiar to your making coffee saddling a horse making a paper airplane whatever you understand write a set of instructions to teach someone else this task and then I want you to go and teach someone else to do your task as that person tried to follow your instructions what came up how would you improve those instructions and as you do that you’ll kind of get your mind thinking about that process of teaching others to understand something that’s understandable to you and that’s exactly the same process of writing a research paper you’re taking something that you understand because you’ve researched and you’re trying to show somebody else how you came to a conclusion all right now it’s a great time to head to the library and begin your research

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