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How to Write a Term Paper

Crafting a Thesis

1. Very often a chosen topic is too broad for focused research. You must revise it until you have a working hypothesis, that is, a statement of an idea or an approach with respect to the primary source that could form the basis for your thesis.

2. The following is an example of how to develop first a working hypothesis and then a working thesis related to Beloved:

a. Topic: The role of Sweet Home and of 124 Bluestone Road in women's lives

b. Question: What roles do the houses play in specific characters' lives?

Working Hypothesis: The houses in Beloved both affect and reflect the lives of the women who live in them.

c. Do not commit too soon to any one hypothesis. Use it as a divining rod or a first step that will take you to new information that may inspire you to revise your hypothesis. Be flexible. Give yourself time to explore possibilities. The hypothesis you create will mature and shift as you write and rewrite your paper. New questions will send you back to old and on to new material. Remember, this is the nature of research — it is more a spiraling or iterative activity than a linear one.

d. Test your working hypothesis to be sure it is

1) broad enough to promise a variety of resources.

2) narrow enough for you to research in depth.

3) original enough to interest you and your readers.

4) worthwhile enough to offer information and insights of substance.

e. The following are specific questions asked while refining a hypothesis related to a research paper on Beloved:

1) Am I too broad in considering all women living in Sweet Home and in 124 Bluestone Road? Should I focus only on black women?

2) Should I explore the lives of women of different generations? Would the lives of Baby Suggs, Sethe, Denver, and Beloved, grandmother, mother and daughters, give me an interesting intergenerational point of view?

f. The questions asked above lead to the following hypothesis:

In Beloved, Sweet Home and 124 Bluestone Road affect the lives of Baby Suggs, Sethe, Denver and Beloved.

3. Now it is time to craft your thesis, your revised and refined hypothesis. A thesis is a declarative sentence that

a. focuses on one well-defined idea

b. makes an arguable assertion; it is capable of being supported

c. prepares your readers for the body of your paper and foreshadows the conclusion.

4. Below is a thesis crafted after a careful consideration of the above hypothesis:

In Beloved, the spiritual and physical enslavement of Baby Suggs, Sethe, Denver and Beloved is shaped by chattel slavery and reflected in the houses at Sweet Home and on Bluestone Road.

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