You have thought about your paper for days, perhaps weeks. You have read research, talked to friends about topics, discussed your assignment in class, and made various notes to yourself about what you want to write. The time has come to put pen to paper.

The first step is to construct a strong, compelling, succinct thesis. Constructing your thesis can be frustrating and time-consuming, but it is one of the most important tasks you will undertake while writing your paper. Reconstruct, rewrite, and rework your thesis until it clearly states your topic and direction or claim. Ultimately you want your thesis to be correct (including a topic and direction or claim), but you also want it to contain insightful, provocative ideas with regard to the topic; in other words, work to construct a thesis that expresses a more intriguing insight than the predictable application of theory or concept to routine communication behaviors or texts. You will benefit by efforts you make toward writing an excellent thesis. A well-constructed thesis guides your paper; it makes the writing of the paper easier and more effective.

If you find that writing the paper is confusing or difficult, you may be experiencing a common problem: a lack of direction or claim. Students often write theses that state the topic of the paper but not the direction or claim. Look at the thesis you have constructed. Check again to be sure the direction or claim of the thesis is clear. For example, these two theses provide clear topics without clear directions or claims:

  1. Leslie Baxter claims that all relationships operate on a set of dialectic tensions.
  2. People who argue about abortion use both absolute and relative terms.

The topic of the first thesis (1) is Leslie Baxter's claims. The topic of the second thesis (2) is the use of absolute and relative terms in abortion arguments. To complete each of these thesis statements, the writers must assert a direction or claim:

  1. A.) Although Leslie Baxter claims that all relationships operate on a set of dialectic tensions, she overlooks two important tensions of developmental and individual pacing.
    B.) Leslie Baxter's claim that all relationships operate on a set of dialectic tensions defines and clarifies the nature of communication problems couples may experience during the revision stages of their relationships.
  2. A.) Because arguments about abortion are expressed either in relative or absolute terms, arguers can find no mutual agreement or middle ground.
    B.) People who make absolute arguments about abortion are attempting to impose their principles on others; people who use relative terms have difficulty defining a code of ethics for themselves.

Your topic names the subject you will write about; your direction or claim is critical to tell the reader where you intend to go with that topic. Once your thesis contains both topic and direction or claim, you can begin the next step of writing your paper, supporting your thesis.