From guest blogger Ali Kappes, Minnesota History Day.
- A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.
- A proposition made as a basis for reasoning, without any assumption of its truth.
- A statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved: “can you support your thesis?”.
- (in Hegelian philosophy) A proposition forming the first stage in the process of dialectical reasoning.
Too many times we see History Day students attempting to write a thesis statement too soon after choosing their topics. We’ve all done this at one time in some capacity. In college it was easy to cling to an idea of how you wanted to conclude your paper in an effort to either propose a new analysis on the topic or to solidify what others had already concluded. It was a marvelous idea, until you soon realized that the resources didn’t exist to support your “new” analysis on the topic or you were referencing the same sources as those before you.
As a student who only participated in science fairs growing up, my view on research was skewed to look at a topic, create a statement/guess on why something happened, and then set out to prove it. And as I entered college I realized that though I had chosen to study history I was truly only trained in the scientific method. I lacked the skill of looking at a topic and creating a question to answer, rather than trying to prove a hypothesis.
It is vital for students to understand the differences between these two words. Too many times they become interchangeable. If a student is pushed to develop a thesis statement too soon they are much more likely to get frustrated during their research. Letting the research lead them to a thesis statement can be a fascinating process. When you see the light bulb go off, you know they made an important connection that will lead to a great thesis statement.
In science class students are usually expected to come to the same conclusion at the end of an experiment. Whereas with historical research, two students, starting with the same topic, can develop two very different thesis statements and conclude with two very different ideas.