Thesis research is unlike the research a writer will do after the thesis has been determined in that thesis research is not focused, but wandering; its purpose is to generate ideas rather than to find them. For many academic essays and papers, a thesis emerges from a period of brainstorming and exploring rather than from a eureka moment of inspiration. This is natural, as a thesis is a very refined, specific idea, and does not typically occur to a writer in its final form. The exploratory process of thesis generation often includes some research, particularly if the writer's topic is a complex or academic one.
Why do thesis research? Often, a writer will be interested in a particular topic, but will not have enough information about that topic to develop a definitive point or opinion about it. In such cases, it is necessary to do some preliminary investigating in order to learn enough about the subject to develop a particular stance or opinion. In other cases, a writer may simply have a general area of interest, but no specific topic on which to develop an argument, and then may do some thesis research in order to determine possible topics on which to write.
As mentioned, thesis research is not the focused type of research a student will do after she has determined her thesis. Rather, thesis research is exploratory, and should be directed by a student's interest. For instance, if a student wishes to write an essay on the relationship between left-handedness and musical talent, she would likely begin her research by browsing literature on handedness and talent. However, through the research, she may find herself drawn in a new direction by a point made in that literature about a psychological aspect of musical talent, and decide she would prefer to write her assignment on that instead.
Another difference between thesis research and essay or paper research is that thesis research is often internet-based, and this is fine. When writing academic texts, students are typically encouraged to base their research in sources found through scholarly databases; however, because thesis research is exploratory and is intended to generate ideas rather than serve as cited research, the internet is often an excellent source for this type of data collection. In fact, the type of web surfing students commonly do when casually browsing the web is the exact type of exploratory research a student should do when researching for a thesis.
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