Purpose Statement Examples Dissertation

Thesis/Purpose Statement


Probably the most daunting task for any writer is to generate an effective thesis statement.  In college, academic writing follows a specific pattern— after a brief opening, you state your position in one clear sentence. Whether your essay is explanatory or argumentative, a strong thesis statement will provide the map, guiding the entire essay. Confusion arises, however, over the difference between a purpose statement and a thesis.

What is the function of a purpose statement?

  • It gives the paper a focus: scope and direction.
  • It foreshadows the development of the argument

Used in many of the sciences for research proposals, in some disciplines, a purpose statement is too blunt or direct, so check with your instructor about using a purpose statement.

Sample purpose statement
This paper will examine the ecological damage caused by Katrina on the Gulf Coast. The focus will be on the economic, political and social relationships effected by the environmental problems.

What is the function of a thesis statement?
A thesis statement:

  • Gives the writer’s declaration of the purpose of the paper.
  • Makes an assertion directly answering the question the paper asks.
  • Offers a provable claim that reasonable people could argue.
  • Provides a map of the arrangement of ideas presented in the essay.

(Note that the thesis statement is more complex than the purpose statement)

Sample thesis statement
      The ecological damage produced by Katrina on the Gulf Coast was caused by the political and social environment of the region.

What are the characteristics of a good thesis statement?

  • It answers a specific question.
  • It is narrow or broad enough to be covered within the assignment parameters.
  • It focuses on one main idea.
  • It is controversial enough that a reasonable person could disagree.

How do I generate a good thesis statement?
After you have completed your research for evidence, you will need to analyze the material to find the possible connections— both similarities and contrasts. Once you have analyzed your evidence, you will have a main idea or a working thesis. Think of the process of creating a thesis like a funnel, beginning with a general subject, narrowed by the purpose, and ending with a specific assertion, claim, or thesis.

How do I generate a thesis if the topic is assigned?
Any assignment can be narrowed down to a single question. Your first task is to select the focal question that your essay will answer. If the assignment is a request for information, such as “Write a report on the benefits of expanding the Marina District in Downtown Toledo,” turn the request into a question— “What are the benefits of building the Marina District in Downtown Toledo?” After you have established the focal question, compose a one- to- two-sentence response based on your educated opinion.

Q: What are the benefits of the Marina District in Toledo?

A: The potential benefits of the development of the Marina District are....

How do I generate a thesis if the topic is not assigned?

Even if your instructor has not posed a specific question, you will need to create a question about the issue you plan to investigate. It is best if you first establish your subject; next consider the purpose of the essay. From this point you should be able to ask a question about the topic to then state a position or thesis.

Brainstorm the topic
What are your concerns? What concerns are facing your field of study?
For example, you are in construction and you are concerned with the slow recovery in New Orleans after Katrina. You begin the thought process like this:

Construction reform.

This is not a thesis; it is a fragment. This is a general subject from which you could take your paper in many directions. Perhaps from your research you have found that there were oversights in the codes for homes constructed in hurricane and flood zones. While everyone will agree that rebuilding flimsy homes is a bad idea, narrowing your topic to who should make the reform and what specific types are needed will assert your position.

Because a majority of the damage caused by Katrina was due to inadequate construction, the federal government needs to establish more stringent building codes before financing reconstruction.

Test your thesis

  1. Does it take a stand and capture the subject?
  2. Does it invite a discussion or can a simple statement respond it to?
  3. Is it specific to your paper?
  4. Is your claim significant?
  5. Are the words and phrases a unified by a single idea?

Test the sample thesis
 Because a majority of the damage caused by Katrina was due to inadequate construction, the federal government needs to establish more stringent building codes before financing reconstruction.

  1. Does it take a stand? Yes, the damage was due to inadequate construction and the federal government needs to step in.
  2. Does it invite discussion? Yes, some reasonable people may feel that it is not the government’s responsibility to enforce codes and that no building could withstand the force of Katrina.
  3. Is the thesis specific? Yes, it focuses on the aftermath of one storm and the steps to be taken before more federal funds should be used.
  4. Is the claim significant? Yes, rebuilding still needs to take place.
  5. Are the words focused on a single idea? Yes, not all issues are being addressed, just one aspect of a condition for rebuilding. Yet the thesis is still broad enough to allow the paper to explore examples of the types of destruction, building codes, and financial needs facing those devastated by Katrina.

 For any further questions or more a detailed explanation refer to your instructor, The Little Brown Compact Handbook, or the Writing Center.

The purpose statement

The purpose statement is made up of three major components: (1) the motivation driving your dissertation; (2) the significance of the research you plan to carry out; and (3) the research questions you are going to address. Starting the first major chapter of your dissertation (usually Chapter One: Introduction), the purpose statement establishes the intent of your entire dissertation. Just like a great song that needs a great "hook", the purpose statement needs to draw the reader in and keep their attention. This article explains the purpose of each of these three components that make up the purpose statement.

The "motivation" driving your dissertation

Your choice of dissertation topic should be driven by some kind of motivation. This motivation is usually a problem or issue that you feel needs to be addressed or solved. This part of the purpose statement aims to answer the question: Why should we care? In other words, why should we be interested in the research problem or issue that you want to address?

The types of motivation that may drive your dissertation will vary depending on the subject area you are studying, as well as the specific dissertation topic you are interested in. However, some of the broad types of motivation that undergraduate and master's level dissertation students try to address are based around (a) individuals, (b) organisations, and/or (c) society.

  • Individuals face many problems and issues ranging from those associated with welfare, to health, prosperity, freedoms, security, and so on. From a health perspective, you may be concerned with the rise in childhood obesity and the potential need for regulation to combat the advertising of fast food to children. In terms of welfare and freedoms, you may be interested in the introduction of new legislation that aims to protect discrimination in the workplace, and its implications for small businesses.

  • Organisations also have a wide range of problems and issues that need to be addressed, whether relating to people, finances, operations, competition, regulations, and so forth. From a people perspective, you may be interested in how organisations use flexible working options to alleviate employee stress and burnout. In terms of regulations, you may be concerned with the growth in Internet piracy and the ways that organisations are dealing with such a threat.

  • Society is another lens through which you can view problems and issues that need to be addressed. These may relate to a wide range of societal risks or other problems and issues such as factory farming, the potential legalisation of marijuana, the health-related effects of talking on cell phones, and so forth. You may be interested in understanding individuals? views towards the potential legalisation of marijuana; or how these views are influenced by individuals? knowledge of the side-effects of marijuana use.

When communicating the motivation driving your dissertation to the reader, it is important to explain why the problem or issue you are addressing is interesting: that is, why should the reader care? It is not sufficient to simply state what the problem or issue is.

The "significance" of the research you plan to carry out

Whilst the motivation component of your purpose statement explains why the reader should care about your dissertation, the significance component justifies the value of the dissertation. In other words: What contribution will the dissertation make to the literature? Why should anyone bother to perform this research? What is its value?

Even though dissertations are rarely "ground-breaking" at the undergraduate or master's level (and are not expected to be), they should still be significant in some way. This component of the Introduction chapter, which follows the motivation section, should explain what this significance is. In this respect, your research may be significant in one of a number of ways. It may:

  • Capitalise on a recent event

  • Reflect a break from the past

  • Target a new audience

  • Address a flaw in a previous study

  • Expand a particular field of study

  • Help an individual, group, organisation, or community

When writing your purpose statement, you will need to explain the relationship between the motivation driving your dissertation and the significance of the research you plan to carry out. These two factors - motivation and significance - must be intrinsically linked; that is, you cannot have one without the other. The key point is that you must be able to explain the relationship between the motivation driving your dissertation and one (or more) of the types of significance highlighted in the bullets above.

The "research questions" you are going to address

The motivation and significance components of your Introduction chapter should signal to the reader the general intent of your dissertation. However, the research questions that you set out indicate the specific intent of your dissertation. In other words, your research questions tell the reader exactly what you intend to try and address (or answer) throughout the dissertation process.

In addition, since there are different types of research question (i.e., quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research questions), it should be obvious from the significance component of your purpose statement which of these types of research question you intend to tackle [see the section, Research Questions, to learn more].

Having established the research questions you are going to address, this completes the purpose statement. At this point, the reader should be clear about the overall intent of your dissertation. If you are in the process of writing up your dissertation, we would recommend including a Chapter Summaries section after the Research Questions section of your Introduction chapter. This helps to let the reader know what to expect next from your dissertation.

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