More On the Hypothesis and the Thesis
Briefly, a thesis is a new idea that states in one or two sentences a newly perceived relationship between items of new information, old information, or a combination of the two. The heart of academic writing is that it has a thesis, and the heart of a thesis is that it is centered around a new idea. Maybe none of the information is new, but if we make a new interpretation based on new information, then we might well have a good thesis. New information or a new interpretation is the important thing. If I gather a lot of old information from a wide variety of sources, but do not offer a new interpretation, I do not have a thesis. If I have fairly strong evidence for an idea, I call it a thesis. If I do not yet have strong evidence, I call it a hypothesis.
We call an idea a "hypothesis" if it is interesting to us, but we have little or no evidence to support it. Finding the evidence is the research part of academic writing. After we have found it, our idea changes from a "hypothesis" to a "thesis." We can use any information that comes from a source that most people would consider reliable. For example, evidence from a television or radio program can be used if we document it. If necessary, we should call the television or radio station, identify ourselves, and ask where did they get the information.
By far, the main reason for writing in the academy is to present new ideas. If I have nothing new to say, I do not write. Academic writing is not meant to be amusing or entertaining. On the other hand, academic writing should not be dull or awkward or contain language that is so dense that even the experts in a particular field can understand it only with great difficulty. Unfortunately, some persons who are engaged in academic writing are poor writers. Clarity, the logical presentation of ideas, and a great concern about supporting a central thesis are valued highly in academic writing.
© Copyright 2002 Dr. Clyde Coreil