How to get the perfect thesis research topic in one hour or less

A thesis statement is “a short statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, etc., and is developed, supported, and explained in the text by means of examples and evidence.” (Source: Dictionary.com)

Based on that definition alone, it’s reasonable to assume that, coming up with a thesis statement might sound easy, but it can be very challenging.

I want to stick a pin here and say that, what I am about to explain is akin to the cover page title of your research paper. It is not to be confused with the objective of the paper or the hypothesis that’s to be proven or disproved in your study.

The problem comes when you try to zero in on a statement you can develop with minimal issues. You have to get as specific as possible because you really don’t want to give yourself too much work.

What I am about to share with you, has worked for me and I’ve used it with my clients too. Almost every time, a statement was crafted within an hour, sometimes less.

BUT, I am going to start with the secret strategy first. It sets a good foundation for you to “NOT stress out” while you’re actually doing the research.

LOOK BACK FIRST

What do I mean by this?
Well, what you have to realise, at all times, is that your final research paper should showcase a bit of everything you learned during your entire programme. Each subject was considered integral to your holistic understanding of the discipline.

So, with that in mind, you need to look back at the courses and ask yourself:

  1. What course stood out to me the most?
  2. Which subject was I most comfortable with?
  3. When did I get the highest grade/s?
  4. What subject area did I understand fully and easily?

This helps you to centre your thesis topic around an element of your learning that allows you to easily support the statement.

Then, rank the other courses from easy to difficult. This will help you to shape the research in a way that incorporates each subject in different degrees. It will show the lecturer/supervisor that you absorbed everything that was taught and it can also help you segment your research to populate the paper! But you must also include definitions and theories associated with these topics. You don’t need to overdo it, but to mention it will augur well for you (Ding ding! Extra points).

If you’re just beginning your programme, and happen to be reading this, you’ve got a crazy head start!

All you have to do is… Look Forward

As you move along your programme, take mental checks of the four points I mentioned before and follow the ranking system.

You have to get as specific as possible because you really don’t want to give yourself too much work.

Now, let’s get into crafting the thesis statement. I’ll it in explain in 8 steps.

Step 1 – Select a broad topic that you are passionate about

What do you want to speak about; generally?

Financial Technology (FinTech)? A disease like diabetes? Divorce or marital separation? Human Resource? Politics? Entrepreneurship?
Whatever it is, let it be something you are interested in so you won’t feel overwhelmed or regretful while doing your research.

I’ll be using an example of a recent thesis statement I helped someone develop. I would like you to keep in mind, this was a research paper that was based ONLY on credible secondary data; mostly journals, articles and books.

We began with Logistics and Supply Chain Management with a focus on “Logistics”.

Step 2 – Choose a segment of the broad topic that links to the subject that you are most comfortable with

This feels like a weird step two, right? I know. But you see, it also makes for an interesting angle for the thesis statement. You are strong in the topic, you have the material to return to, it is associated with something you actually like. What better way to start!

So, using our example, Step 2 – customer service was identified as a comfortable topic for expansion.

So now we have Logistics + Customer Service.

Ok, good so far.

Step 3 – Look for research papers with keywords

And by “keywords” I mean the words you’ve used from Steps 1 and 2 WITH the word “thesis”. Logistics + Customer Service + Thesis.

You will get a general idea of what kind of research was already done in these areas. You will get variations, but you will begin to see common themes.

This person saw a few thesis topics that included the words “Logistics Service Quality”. This stood out and was noted as three words to include in their thesis statement.

Here’s another tactic that can take a bit more time. You can go straight to the limitations of the study or the conclusion to figure out what gaps you can use to carry your study also. The disadvantage is that you may not find as much literature, but the benefit is that you could pioneer a study that explores an under-examined topic.

Step 4 – Add a niche factor?

This person wanted to add an element that would improve logistics service quality – Information Technology systems. They repeated the search, now using “logistics service quality” + “Information Technology systems“.

With this, they came upon some studies that began to detail IT systems used in Logistics. These included systems such as Electronic Data Interchange, Barcode / RFID, Vehicle Tracking Systems, Enterprise resource planning, etc.
They chose Enterprise Resource Planning because it could also be used to measure productivity with real-time data while optimising operations.

Note that, at each stage of the search, the broad words are swapped out for more specific words.

So now we had Logistics Service Quality and Enterprise Resource Planning. Some headway was being made.

Step 5 – Introduce your angle

Remember the words “service quality”, well, this is one of the features of an organisation’s “competitive advantage”. This was the angle this person chose.

The first line was then created, “Logistics Service Quality Management for Competitive Advantage.

Still broad, right?

So this is how we drilled down…

Step 6 – Choose your demographics

For the secondary data research, the soft drink industry was selected (because the person liked Coca Cola, ha!). The geographical location of the US was selected simply because it’s where Coca Cola is manufactured.

What do we have now? Logistics Service Quality Management for Competitive Advantage in the carbonated beverage industry in the US.

Step 7 – Add the guiding words

I call them guiding words because they tell the reader what direction your research is going to take. These include (but are not limited to) words such as

  • Analysis
  • Assessment
  • Examination
  • Investigation
  • Review
  • Study

You can refine them more like this:

  • An In-depth Analysis
  • A Quantitative Investigation
  • A Critical Review

Step 8 – Pull it together and arrange accordingly

There is nothing wrong with you playing around with the order of the words. You just have to be clear about the direction of the research. I would even advise that you ask for feedback about your statement

The final thesis statement was this:

Logistics Service Quality Management for Competitive Advantage – an investigation of Enterprise Resource Planning Systems in the Carbonated Beverage industry in the US.

This was good enough to get a thumbs up from the supervisor. Yay! But, it actually could have been even more detailed because some research papers require more detail.

For example, if primary research methods were allowed, the industry could have been narrowed to one company – Coca Cola.

The statement could then have been this:
Gaining Competitive Advantage with Enterprise Resource Planning Systems – An Examination of Logistics Service Quality Management in Coca Cola“.

Now, the length and details of statements vary. I once had a classmate who named her thesis “The Americanisation of Trinidad and Tobago”. It was one of the simplest thesis statements I ever came across and yet the intent was so clear. My thesis statement was boldfaced and clear: “The (Traditional) Media Do Nothing to Encourage an Interest and Involvement in Local Culture“. My results did not validate my stance, however. The findings exposed the shortcomings of media and local cultural groups that led to a decrease in interest and involvement. Someday I may publish it for you all to see. I did A LOT of work for that reality check!

Here are examples of statements from some of the people I’ve assisted:

  • Mediation as an Intervention Strategy to Resolve Conflict Between Persons Who Are Blind and Family Caregivers
  • From Millions to Billions – An Imperative Analysis of the Development of a Feasible Growth Strategy for an Emergent Credit Union
  • Transitioning From Traditional To Fintech: Modernising Customer Service In An Indigenous Bank – The Introduction Of Personal Teller Machines
  • The use of multi-channel distribution as an alternative to extensive marketing for organisational profitability: A critical review of The West Indian Tobacco Company Limited (WITCO)

Final Thoughts: Look at you! Getting your thesis statement on! Seriously though, although moving from 1 to 8 may look seamless, the process still takes some time. But with these guided steps, you’ll get that perfect title in less time and with a clear and researchable topic. Then, the next step would be to get that paper to sound as professional and polished as the statement itself! Yup, that’s another blog…
You’ve got this!

If you liked the information I shared, I’d love for you to pay it forward and pass it on to someone else 🙂

To the student mother… you are a superhero without a cape

On Mother’s Day I sat across from my mother watching her completely immersed in her new project, making cloth jewellry, I reminisced on our journey together as “mature students”.

My mother never stopped learning. She never stopped pursuing higher education. She never stopped pushing me, sometimes to the edge of darkness, to be the best version of myself. Because of her, I’m an overachiever. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s my blessing, my curse.

She used to tell me stories of her reading books to me while I was still in her womb. I remember her carrying me on her back, with my brother in her arms to drop us off at my grandmother’s house, before the sun came up. You see, very early into her marriage, she became a single parent. That’s a long and painful story. But my mother was and is an excellent nurse. And still, she decided, even while she had two small children and a job that required her to work long shifts, she was going to become one of the best midwives in the country.

Today, she is one of the best in the country; literally.

But she just never stopped going.

She did short courses while my brother and I completed the full-time-student phase of our lives. And as soon as I began to work, I began my degree. My mother emerged from her hiatus and applied to enrol in a degree programme, after being out of the school system for almost two decades.

This time, she needed all the help she could get. She needed me.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times we were both frustrated. Both trying to meet deadlines for our assignments at the same time, both overwhelmed with our careers.

I’m going to stop here and show you (with some kinda old, not too well taken, photos) where we have been and what we have accomplished together.

Here are the…

Three stages. Three phases. Three success stories.

Of…

Wendy Phillip – Mother of The Graduate Guru
Alette Liz Williams – The Graduate Guru

The first picture – my mother graduated with her BSc in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. It was also my birthday. I told her it was poetic justice (haha) because we both earned that qualification together. I think God let her graduate on my birthday to honour both of our efforts. You couldn’t tell who was more proud that day.

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The second picture – my mother and I graduated on the same day. I got my Associates Degree in Journalism and Public Relations (with Honours). She received her post-graduate diploma; qualifying her as a Diabetes Educator.

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The third picture – I graduated with my BA in Mass Communications (Magna Cum Laude). My #1 cheerleader was by my side. Guess who that was? You got it! My mother 🙂

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What do these pictures have in common?

Support.
Love.
Struggles and victories.
Caring and understanding.
Compassion and tolerance.
Drive and resilience.

Even while I studied, my mother was motivated to return to school. The motivation was symbiotic.

Many tears were shed between us during those years.

We both haven’t stopped. Presently, we are both enrolled in programmes. I am pursuing an International Masters and she is taking another course to position her for her masters. I think she may decide to do Public Health *covers eyes*.

Final thoughts: Ironically, most of my clients are mothers going back to school. I’m always humbled to share their journey with them. I’ve cried with them and laughed with them. I’ve listened to their concerns and encouraged them through their trials. My service goes beyond providing resources and support. I am as invested in their success because the journey is always familiar. Every stage my mother and I went through together, I have been through with the mother’s I’ve helped (with a few varying situations, of course).

To the student mother… you are a superhero without a cape. Be encouraged.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Yours in Success,
The Graduate Guru

Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear your story 😉

Get a grade A when you do this surprising hack!

As an overachiever, nothing makes me feel better than seeing a “Grade A” at the end of a course, project or exam. After all, how can I help my clients achieve the high grades they want, if I can’t get them myself, right?

But, I’m not super intelligent or a genius. People just think I am *smirks*. The real reason I hit that grade, many times, is because I just love hacks.

You see, a few years ago, I struggled through the first year of my Bachelors. Three semesters of getting B’s and C’s. I was always either soooooo close or too far from that better grade, and it was frustrating.

But then I did a personal audit to figure out what I could do to improve my grades.

I realised was that I was constantly trying to keep up in class. And it didn’t help that I was already feeling overwhelmed with trying to balance my work life with my social life, and studies.

So, I decided to “work smart, not hard” and switched up my approach to learning. This one decision set me on a path to become a Magna Cum Laude graduate at the end of my programme.

Quick facts: According to the Investopedia Dictionary, universities use Cum Laude to signify that a student has attained a high level of achievement. Cum Laude means “with distinction” or “with honour”. Magna Cum Laude means “with great distinction”. Summa Cum Laude means “with highest distinction”.

It’s not as difficult as you think, but it keeps you ahead of the game, which was my challenge. If you have the same issue I had, then this hack is your life-saver.

What’s the hack?

Stay ahead of the class!

Grasp the concept before… reinforce during, execute after.

You’re probably asking why I call this a hack. Well, before you dismiss it, let me answer that question be telling you HOW you can make this your ultimate hack in three easy steps!

Read about the SQ3R method here: 7 effective study techniques

Step 1: Read the lecture notes with the intention to clarify what you are unsure about and reinforce what you think you know.

To be forewarded is to be forearmed.

I can guarantee you that 99% of the time, you’ll get the course outline before you begin the course anyway, so why wait until you start the class?

To grasp the concept before, you need to read as though you had to learn the topic quickly for a class discussion. Even if you don’t like to read, read.

In some cases it may be that you have to read a book for the class. Well, set aside a day or two to read a chapter or two. The aim is to stay ahead of the class.

Ask yourself “What main points stand out to me?” “What am I confused about?” “What makes me uneasy?” “What do I want to challenge?” “What relatable example would help me understand this better?” Save the page numbers or articles that spark these questions.

When you list the questions and develop your scenarios to challenge a statement or thought, get ready to make your class sessions interactive – on purpose, with a purpose.

You’ll be needing them ONLY, in the next few steps.

Of it’s an online course, use the forums.

Step 2: Trigger class or forum discussions that would answer all of YOUR questions.

This is how you reinforce during. It’s your head start!

You don’t have to derail the lecture or forum discussion. Actually, you may not even be allowed to. But know this, lecturers actually appreciate when students show interest in what they teach. Simply ask your questions intermittently. The best times would be when the teacher asks if the class has any questions or when there’s a reasonable pause. Sometimes, you may have to ask after the session.
Being inquisitive may make you look like a teacher’s pet, or a nuisance to your peers.

If you have the energy to care about those associations, you’re wasting emotions. Period.

Now on to the next step.

Step 3: Write the responses to suit your style of understanding and organise them by topic.

By this I mean, firstly write the responses you receive in a way that you understand them best.
For me, I write shorthand and write one-line examples. Let me give you an example. Suppose I want to remember different leadership styles for a topic with your MBA. Here’s what I would do do:
Transformative leader – TransLed
Style – With my vision and awesome personality, I inspire employees to use creativity and innovation tomake my organisation grow and be successful. When I’m done with them, they’ll be leaders too!

Hey, don’t judge me. That’s just how I do it, ok? I’d also put a note to learn the definition just in case the lecturer says I have to know it verbatim.

This strengthens the foundation built in Step 2.

Then organise them together, in order, by topic. Only use YOUR notes against the obvious theories or references that are recommended. Don’t neglect to write down the books and page numbers you did your first reading from. The trick with this step will be revealed in the next step.

Execution time: Compare exam or project hint/guides to your unique notes ONLY.

So, this is the part that closes the gap between that average grade and that perfect grade.

All lecturers are inclined to give some kind of hint or guide. Some are very detailed. Bless their hearts. But there are others who just give you generalised overview of what to expect. Sometimes you are the unlucky one that doesn’t get to experience this.

Still, go back to your notes and ONLY flag the unique notes that line up with the guide or hints. This is how you execute after doing Steps 1 to 3, effectively.

Most times, you will have to give an interpretation of what is taught. Everything you’ve done before will work in your favour.

Repeat this hack for every course and you’ll do better every time!

Final Thoughts: I admit, this hack takes work. But the benefit is that planning ahead is much better than trying to keep up. It’s like getting experience before you begin a job. With this strategy, you will find it easy to consistently get high grades, even for subjects you find difficult to understand.

Of course, this hack isn’t for everybody. Some of you are able to learn quickly, interpret and retain information well, and communicate effectively in your projects and exams. Y’all unicorns are scattered everywhere huh? But if you are a normal, busy, overwhelmed, part-time student (like me), you’ll need all of the help you can get to stay afloat in this ocean of academia.

It’s a hack that worked for me. And, it can be used for any type of programme that gives you information beforehand – which is pretty much all programmes. Try it and see if it works for you.

Remember, “Work smart, not hard.”

I’d love for you to share this blog post 🙂

Do you need help staying ahead of the class?

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