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Difference Between Thesis and Purpose Statements

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As you select your topic and plan your research, you’ll need to think about your thesis statement. Your instructor may ask you to write a thesis statement or a purpose statement. Sometimes you will have both in the same paper. No matter what type of style you use – MLA, APA or Chicago,  you’ll need to include these statements.

Instructor Discussing Difference Between Thesis and Purpose Statements

How to Use Thesis or Purpose Statements

After you select your topic, you’ll need to determine the point of your paper. Are you trying to persuade your reader towards a certain conclusion? Are you comparing and contrasting other people’s arguments?

During the first part of developing your research paper or essay, you can create a rough draft of a thesis or purpose statement to drive your research. As you work through your paper, you’ll refine these statements. Although your thesis or purpose statement is included in the introduction, It’s often advised to write your introduction last. That way, you’ve presented your research to its conclusion and then you’ll have a clear idea of your introduction.

Thesis Statements

Typically, your thesis statement will be placed at or near the end of your introduction. It can be one or two sentences or even up to a paragraph long. However, don’t make it so long that the reader has difficulty understanding it. Your thesis statement is your argument or the answer to a question or problem. The thesis statement provides the scope, purpose and direction of your paper. It is specific and focused.

Example

Focused interviews and examination of published research indicate that college students report increased satisfaction in attending classes with cultural diversity. Community colleges that embrace cultural diversity have happier students overall.

Purpose Statements

Purpose statements are used to let the reader know what the paper is about and what to expect from it. You can tell a purpose statement by the way it’s written. For example, if the sentence begins with phrases such as:

  • The purpose of this paper is to….
  • This essay examines…..
  • In this paper, I will describe…..

Example

This essay examines cultural diversity in community colleges. The focus will be on how cultural diversity affects students’ daily lives.

A purpose statement, unlike a thesis statement, doesn’t discuss any conclusions. It must be concise and specific.

Combining a Purpose and Thesis Statement

You may include both a purpose and thesis statement. Again, check with your instructor. Teachers will provide specific instructions for you to follow in completing your assignment.

Example

This essay examines cultural diversity in community colleges. The focus will be on how cultural diversity affects students’ daily lives. Focused interviews and examination of published research indicate that college students report increased satisfaction in attending classes with cultural diversity. Community colleges that embrace cultural diversity have happier students overall.

Tying it All Together

The thesis or purpose statement needs to match what you state in your essay. Preparing an outline before you begin your paper helps you stay on track. Teachers will often assign an outline for that reason. However, even if it’s not part of your assignment, creating an outline is an effective way to organize your paper.

Your introduction and conclusion should tie together. The ideas you presented in your introduction will be backed up by the research in your paper and your conclusion will bring it all together.

Generally, you’ll provide either a thesis statement or a purpose statement. As you enter college writing classes, you will need to understand how to write a good thesis statement. Your instructor provides an assignment rubric, which you should follow at all times. The school or public librarian can guide you to excellent resources on writing essays and research papers.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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