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EMPOWER: Choosing Your Topic: Thesis Statement & Outline

Writing a Thesis Statement

notebook and penThis may be much earlier in the research process than you're used to, but experienced researchers find it very helpful to create a thesis statement and even a very brief outline before searching for resources.

A thesis statement:

  • tells you define the point of your research
  • helps organize and develop your argument
  • limits your subject to a particular focus related to a larger topic
  • is supported by the evidence you found in your research
  • points to your conclusion

Like the "scientific method" used in an applied research project, the thesis statement created at this pre-writing stage is like a hypothesis that must be proved or disproved. Count on changing it after you have found enough information to support or refute your statement.

Remember: the research process is NOT truly as linear as it appears.


Outlines will also help you focus your research to only those topics relevant to the paper you hope to write or project you hope to produce.

Of course you need some background knowledge before you can create an outline. See EMPOWER-Starting Your Research to learn what resources to use for background information.

  1. Introduction
    1. Thesis Statement
    2. Transition to body
  2. First supporting topic
    1. Supporting detail or example
    2. Supporting detail or example
    3. Supporting detail or example
  3. Second supporting topic
  4. Third supporting topic
  5. Conclusion
    1. Synthesis or conclusion of thesis
    2. Restate topic and main topics
  • Every paragraph should support the thesis statement.
  • An outline will help you find gaps in your topic.
  • Details in the outline will help you write the essay.
  • Outlines can be written in complete sentences or partial phrases, if that works best for you.
  • The early outline does not need any "supporting details," although it may be helpful to brainstorm ideas at this point.
  • The question words "who," "what," "when,""where," "why," and "how" can help generate ideas for supporting topics and details in the outline.
  • Each supporting topic in your final outline should be represented in your bibliography or works cited page. See EMPOWER-Citing Sources for more about citations

Way to go!

You've completed the tutorial on Choosing a Topic and should be able to:

  • define your purpose
  • select a topic
  • narrow and broaden your topic
  • choose keywords to begin research
  • develop the topic into a research question

If you are using EMPOWER as part of a course, log on to Blackboard and take the Choosing Your Topic quiz.


Go back to the EMPOWER menu to choose another module.