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Developing your essay

Learn more about how to develop your essay: from brainstorming to organizing your writing

What focus will you take in the work?

Map with pinpointIt's incredibly difficult to write any length of work without knowing the specific direction you're taking in the writing. Writing without an intended direction is like going on a road trip without knowing your destination. You might get there eventually, but you're also very likely to get lost along the way or for the trip to take much longer than you'd like.

In academic writing, the intended direction and focus of a written work is usually presented in the introductory paragraph(s) as a thesis statement, problem statement, or research question(s). Please see below for more information.

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Thesis statements

A thesis statement should identify the major claim of a work and:

  • Be specific
  • Be appropriate to the type of paper you're writing
  • Appear within the first section of your text so that it is immediately clear to your reader what the paper is about

For example: "Royal Roads University is unique amongst post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island because of its history, diversity of wildlife, Hatley Castle, and educational programs".

The advantage of a clear thesis statement is that it will also help you to stay on track. At any time during your writing process, you should be able to make a direct connection between what you're writing and your thesis statement. If that connection isn't clear, you may need to either adjust your writing, or revisit your thesis statement. Thesis statements can change during the evolution of a paper; however, make sure you re-examine your outline before you divert too far from your original plan.

Please see the resources below for more information on writing thesis statements:

Problem statements

A problem statement concisely details a vision and method that will be used to solve a problem.  

A problem statement should:

  • Be clear and specific
  • Discuss potential problems for the writer/researcher
  • Not offer a solution

Please see the resource below for more information on writing problem statements:

Research questions

A research question should:

  • Be clear and specific;
  • State the focus of investigation in the research; and
  • Not be answerable with a yes/no ´╗┐response.

For example: How is Royal Roads University different from other post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island?

Please see the resources below for more information on writing research questions: