How To Construct the Central Argument of a Doctoral or PhD Thesis
A carefully constructed argument is as vital to a successful academic or scientific thesis as methodology and evidence are. Indeed, the argument of a thesis or dissertation encompasses all other aspects of the text and also allows the author to share thoughts as original and engaging as the research and results from which the argument has grown. Although the argument of a thesis can only be finally determined after the research has been completed and the evidence collected, it generally initiates that research, develops slowly as the work progresses and tends to influence the questions that are asked as well as the ways in which they are answered. For the purposes of a successful thesis or dissertation, what your study means and why that meaning is important must be developed into a sustained and logical argument that focuses closely on your particular research while providing a larger intellectual or scientific context in which to consider your investigations.
A basic scholarly argument begins with an introduction to the problem or topic that provides background information, an appropriate context, the current situation, a taste of previous literature and trials, and so on. Depending on the nature of your research, you may or may not need to review every publication related to your topic or consider every current concern, but in most cases you should certainly provide enough background information to demonstrate to your supervisory committee that you understand the importance of your study and are familiar with the sources, methods and concerns necessary to conduct your research successfully.
Next, you should explain how you have approached the problem by describing and justifying your methods, and then report the findings discovered through that methodology. The more creative part of an argument usually comes in the discussion of the evidence obtained and the conclusions drawn from it. You are free to interpret your research as you wish, but logical argumentation must be maintained, while conclusions and implications should be reasonable in relation to your methods and findings. Careful explanations of your thinking are vital, especially when it differs significantly from what is found in previous scholarship in the area, so keep a close eye on how each and every paragraph and section analyses your results and develops your thoughts for your readers. Remember that what may seem obvious to you, steeped in your own research as you are, may not seem obvious to your supervisory committee, and there is a very fine line between underwriting and overwriting when an author is working to explain sophisticated interpretations.
Devising a cogent and valuable argument about academic or scientific research and communicating it in a thesis or dissertation requires logical analysis of your findings, keen reflection upon their implications and insightful conclusions that are plausible and valid. Even when a sound and engaging scholarly argument has been formed in the mind, it can be incredibly difficult to present that argument effectively in prose, so careful writing is necessary to produce a clear and well-developed argument that will make an original contribution to knowledge and successfully earn a degree.
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