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Theological Research and Writing: Research Question and Thesis

A Guide to Cutting Edge Critical Thinking; Cutting Edge Research and Writing at BMATS

Research is:

Research Questions

You can develop a research question by applying these interrogatives:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

A Good Thesis Statement:

A good thesis statement accomplishes the following:

  1. Expresses a main idea.
  2. Warrants discussion (the paragraphs of the paper).
  3. Specifically states what the paper will discuss.
  4. States the writer’s conclusions.

Developing a Research Question

Scholarship is all about reaching new conclusions.  A paper that simply describes the events of the Protestant Reformation is not a work of scholarship.  A paper that presents conclusions regarding the cause or the outcomes of the Reformation, on the other hand, is scholarship.  Such a paper will certainly contain a description of the events of the Protestant Reformation, but asking and answering questions involves critical thinking about a topic and the conclusions of other scholars.

Once you have the right topic nailed down, you can turn that topic into a question with ease.  A research question will give you a starting point and a finish line.  You will know where to start looking for information and you will know when you are done.

You have finished your paper when you have answered your research question!

Topic: "Jesus’ fulfillment of Messianic Prophecies according to the Gospel of Matthew"

Research Question: How does the Gospel of Matthew use Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament to show that Jesus is the Messiah?

Short answer: Your Thesis Statement

Long answer: Your research paper.

Your Thesis Statement

Your thesis statement is the short answer to your research question!

Topic: Jesus’ treatment of gentiles in the gospels.

Research Question: What is Jesus’ attitude toward gentiles according to the gospels?

Thesis Statement: The gospel writers used the words of Christ and narrative accounts of His deeds to show that Jesus saw gentiles as outsiders who were being drawn near with the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Your thesis statement will vary depending upon the kind of paper you are being asked to write:

Expository:  Generally, you will write expository papers, which means you will be explaining something to your reader, such as when you explain the main message of a book of the Bible. In your thesis be sure to sum up your paper with one main-idea.  It can be hard to unite the content of an expository paper under one main idea.

Analytical: examine an issue and determine the cause and effect relationships before presenting evidence for what you discovered. A thesis for this kind of paper will state the results of analysis.

Argumentative: position papers where you state where you stand on an issue, backing it up with evidence for your claims. A thesis for this paper will specify the position and how the writer will argue in the paper.

A good thesis will do more than simply account for what is in the paper; it will entice the reader to continue reading!