Formulating a Thesis
Having formulated the problem and made it into your working title. And having properly investigated your problem, you now have the basis for a thesis.

What is a Thesis? To put it simply, the thesis is the tentative answer to a problem: a proposition.


The thesis of our imaginary author investigating the parallels between West Africa and Jamaica might, after having weighed the evidence, come to the conclusion that those parallels not only exist but that they are significant in some way. The nature of that significance would constitute her thesis.

Let us stop for just a minute and see what we have got. We have a broad panoramic topic. Within that topic we have chosen a focus, a specific goal. We have found a reason to investigate that refined topic by asking a question. And lastly we have proposed an answer to our question: Topic>Focus>Problem>Thesis.


Now this order is not carved in stone. It is usually only at school or university where you have the luxury of finding a topic. Often the order is that you have a problem and start from there. In that case you have to place your problem firmly within the topic it belongs to. Otherwise you risk making a mistake of category. Occasionally people come up with a thesis first and then have to go looking for the problem. Whatever part of the equation you have in hand, you must make the effort of getting the algebra right.


Just getting things straight

Sometimes we use the word thesis to describe a substantial essay on a particular theme. That is because the word thesis has always been so useful to essays, that in some people’s minds the two have become the same thing. But what the word thesis really means is: a proposition set down for argument.  If the problem you have formulated is written down as a question, your thesis is best written down as a proposed answer to that question. But that is not an iron rule. To propose, by the way, means to place before, or: to offer for consideration or adoption, or... -and I rather like this one-  to design in the mind.