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Education Research Tutorial

Step-by-step guide to conducting research in education

Thesis Statement

It is important to do enough preliminary reading about your topic that you have a basic understanding of the various issues, key concepts, and facts associated with it. There is no substitute for doing some initial investigation of your topic. The more background information you have, the more effectively you will be able to focus the topic.  Based on your focal points and how they relate to each other, you then form a thesis statement for your research.

A thesis statement is usually one or two complete sentences describing the precise question or issue you will discuss in your paper. It can be a debatable point that requires you take a stand and defend your position or a claim that needs explanations and evidences. You need to develop your arguments in response to the How? Why? and What? questions prompted by your thesis statement. The thesis statement, which often appears at the end of the first or second paragraph, should be specific, covering only what you will discuss in your paper.  Remember that your professor is a valuable resource as you attempt to formulate hypotheses and research questions.

For further information, consult the helpful guide, “Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements" from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue.

Main Concepts

Identify the main concepts in your thesis statement. Make a list of related terms and synonyms that best describe the concepts. This strategy will allow you to construct an effective search within databases with controlled vocabulary. For example, if your thesis were "The effects of online courses on academic performance in higher education." you might make a list like this:

                      Keywords that express your concepts Related terms/synonyms for the keywords
Concept 1

online courses

or Web-based instruction or distance education
Concept 2 academic performance or academic achievement or student evaluation
Concept 3 higher education or university or college

Search Terms

Using the appropriate search terms has a direct effect on your search outcome.  After brainstorming for a list of keywords and related terms based on the main concepts of your research topic, consider consulting the following resources for possible search terms:

  • Indexes of your textbooks 
  • The thesaurus of the ERIC database. ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) is an important education database sponsored by the U. S. Department of Education. Begun in 1966, ERIC continues to provide access to education information for educators, researchers, and others. The ERIC thesaurus is found in the ERIC database, which is available here.   
  • Subject headings and descriptors in other library databases  
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings. When searching the library catalog at, note the Library of Congress subject headings used to describe your topic.  They function as a thesaurus, allowing you to find the relevant materials about a specific topic with greater precision than keywords.