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Dissertation thesis statement

A thesis is a single sentence.

More precisely, it is an active, declarative, defensible sentence.

The thesis is what the dissertation will exert its mass to defend.

The thesis proposal document and the proposal presentation should place the thesis statement toward the front, so that while reading and listening, the committee can determine whether the thesis is defensible, and whether the proposed research, if successful, would constitute a valid defense of the thesis.

When a student doesn't provide an explicit thesis statement, each committee member will infer a thesis statement that aligns with his or her prejudices, and then, some day, the student will have to defend six theses instead of one.

My advice is to make the statement as short as possible: how much fat can you trim from it before it's too general too defend with your work?

The thesis statement answers the question, "What did humanity learn as a consequence of this dissertation?"

It's useful to carefully define each term in a thesis statement after it's given, just to make sure the student and the committee are in total agreement about what the thesis means.

Example: My thesis

My thesis statement was, "Environment analysis of higher-order languages is novel, feasible and useful."

This thesis segmented my dissertation into four parts: related work, theory, experimentation and application.

  1. Related work defends novelty.
  2. Theory and experimentation defend feasibility.
  3. Application defends usefulness.

My thesis statement doesn't say anything about what technical mechanisms I used to prove environment analysis feasible. (I developed abstract frame strings, abstract counting and abstract garbage collection to support my thesis. But, those were just the means. Environment analysis was the end.)

The weakest part of my thesis statement is the claim of usefulness.

Of course, even if I took out that claim, my committee would still ask the questions, "So what?" Putting it in my thesis forced me to explicitly defend against that question.

Source: matt.might.net
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