I am writing a paper for a class and I am asked to include a thesis statement and a research question in the introduction, however, I feel like I don't have a clear picture of the difference between the two. I tried googling the question and I found the following:

A thesis statement presents the position that you intend to argue within your paper, whereas a research question indicates your direction of inquiry in your research.

so here for example a thesis statement would be something like "In this paper I am going to argue that people living in rural areas are less likely to suffer for mental health problems than people living in the city", however, when trying to write a research question for this thesis statement I would come up with something like "How does living in rural areas affect one's mental health?" and this lead me to confusion as I feel like my thesis statement is just me answering the research question which will I do in my paper but it didn't make sense to me to both put them in the introduction so I felt my understanding isn't good. Any help would be appreciated.

1 Answer 1


Put in the simplest terms:

  • A thesis statement is a broad, theoretical assertion about underlying causation, something that (as a rule) can only be demonstrated through inference.
  • A research question is an empirically verifiable claim that (if it pans out) will serve to infer the validity of the thesis statement.

To give the simple physics example, Isaac Newton developed a thesis that the force of gravitation between two masses is proportional to the sum of their masses divided by the square of their distance. He (and others) then developed an assortment of research questions — different cases in which this thesis ought to hold true, which can be specifically tried and measured — in order to see if the general thesis holds true.

In the example you offer, the thesis would be something abstract and general, like:

Rural communities are more conducive to mental health than urban environments

while your research question would be some specific, testable claim derived from that, such as:

Rural communities see a lower incidences of involuntary commitment per capita than urban communities


People in rural communities score better on a given psychological test (measuring some form of mental health) than people in urban settings

A thesis is always a claim about a universal — something we want to assert is always true in a given context — while a research topic is always something specific that we can measure. It follows the basic pattern in scientific reasoning: assert that every X always entails Y, then find specific instances of X to see if those really do entail some Y.

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