A carefully constructed argument is as crucial in your dissertation as the evidence and the methodology. It not only guides the reader but also the researcher, giving direction to your research and keeping the paper organized.

In this article, we will discuss how to construct an argument in your PhD thesis.

Why Is the Thesis Argument Important?

Your dissertation argument allows you to share your original thoughts and explain the purpose of your research. A well-constructed thesis argument sets the foundation for the rest of your research, helping you describe your evidence and methodology in the right context.

What Should You Consider Before Writing a PhD Thesis Argument?

Researchers write the thesis argument at the end of the research, after they have collected the evidence. However, in practice, the thesis argument is conceptualized at the beginning, nurtured as the work progresses and improved throughout the research process.

To write an effective dissertation argument, you must communicate the purpose and importance of your research in a logical and sustained manner. Not only must you focus on your specific research, but also provide a broader scientific and intellectual context within your investigation.

Usually, a thesis or dissertation argument begins with an introduction of the topic or the problem, giving readers relevant context and background information. Likewise, it informs readers about the current state of affairs and insight into previous findings.

Depending on the type of your research, you may or may not have to review all published literature related to your topic of interest. In any case, learning relevant background information certainly helps you demonstrate your expertise in front of the supervisory committee. It communicates that you are aware of the importance of your study.

Likewise, communicating your knowledge of previous literature showcases that you understand the relevant methods, sources, and concerns required to investigate an issue successfully.

How to Construct an Argument in Your PhD Thesis

Identify an Argument

When writing a thesis argument, you must create a series of propositions related to your material.  These propositions or arguments are usually centered on the main proposition and supported by relevant use cases and examples.

Before you start writing your thesis argument, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does my analysis on the topic diverge or converge from existing research?
  • Does my research uncover anything unexpected?
  • Does my research support one or more arguments in an existing critical debate on the topic?
  • How can I integrate and connect different ideas into a single compact argument while ensuring it’s relevant to my topic?
  • What are the challenges I am experiencing in collecting material, comparing literature, or providing conclusions regarding them? What do these challenges tell me about the nature of research literature I am dealing with?
  • Does my analysis contradict existing research in any way? How can I back my contradictory findings, investigate them further or relate them with existing literature? How can I bring out those contradictions, account for them or investigate them further?

Write Summary Statements

Once you can reduce your argument to one or two sentences, you can move forward. Imagine that you must explain the central idea of your PhD thesis to a supervisor or another student.

Summarizing your train of thoughts to a couple of statements helps you convey relevant and accurate information. First, express your main argument in one or two sentences and then express sub-points consisting of four to five more sentences. Sub-points provide your readers with greater details.

Ideally, you should write down a draft of summary sentences before you begin writing. Doing so would help you organize your argument once you start writing.

With that said, you can always change your arguments as you write. In such a case, you can revisit your argument summary and your thesis plan to ensure they match your current thinking.

Remember, it’s natural for people to modify their initial argument as they gain more insights by gathering evidence and studying other peer-reviewed theses. It’s not uncommon for researchers to develop arguments radically different from what they started with.

Constructing a thesis argument is a continuous process. Researchers refine their summary arguments with time, leading to changes in the first draft of the overall thesis. Consequently, changes in the first draft may inspire you to modify the thesis argument further, which may eventually lead to more changes to the thesis draft.

Thesis Argument Example

Imagine you are researching on violence in prisons. Your goal is to suggest ways to reduce prison violence. Therefore, you read existing literature on the causes of prison violence and ways to minimize it.

You read existing literature on prison conditions and inmate behavior. You find that prisoners facing life sentences have few incentives to behave orderly, since there are no further repercussions for worse behavior. You also find that rehabilitation programs divert the attention of lifetime inmates by engaging them with constructive activities.

At this point, you can form an argumentative thesis with the argument that prisoners serving life sentences should be engaged with effective rehabilitation programs to reduce prison violence. You then summarize your thesis argument as follows:

“Prisons should allocate funds for rehabilitation programs and admit individuals serving life sentences to reduce prison violence.”

Our example is short, but you can easily add sub-points and quote statistics and relevant data as evidence from your findings.

Constructing a thesis argument can be challenging. It must conform to the rest of your thesis and be supported by your methodology and evidence. If you want professionals to review your thesis or dissertation argument, consider our academic editing service.