In academic papers, the thesis is an answer to a question about a significant issue that has more than one answer and requires research to provide evidence. It is not a summing up of accumulated knowledge. It aims to resolve an issue, not report information. It engages with different viewpoints, takes a stand, and makes an argument supported by research.
To determine whether a question is appropriate, consider whether the question can be answered with research and whether it is worthwhile to do so. Is there already a clear answer? Is it common knowledge? Are there differences of interpretation, perspective, or opinion? Is it answerable by research?
The most fruitful questions for argumentative academic essays are questions that can be researched and supported with scholarly research but that cannot be answered definitely.
Following is a useful way to analyze potential research questions, determine their appropriateness, and consider how to change them into appropriate topics.
Questions that can be answered with knowledge you have right now.
What is the first book in the Hebrew Bible?
In what religion would the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, be considered a common practice among its followers?
The term Hindu refers to core religious beliefs in what
Questions that can be definitively answered with scholarly research
How many years did the Qin Dynasty last?
Which Roman emperor first implemented the Aliment program of social welfare?
According to Robert Miller, what is the predominant “theological outlook” in the Gospel of Mary?
Who were the first four Rashidun Khalifas of Islam following
Questions that cannot be definitively answered but can be researched and on which a position can be formed and supported with scholarly research
Why did Buddhism become such an important religion in China?
Is the Caste System intrinsic to Hinduism?
What factors led to the spread of Islam under the Umayyad Caliphate?
How did theological debates in Islam following the Abassid reveal underlying social, ethnic, and class tensions?
Questions that cannot be definitively answered and cannot be addressed and settled with scholarly research (often speculative or opinion-based questions that reveal more about the researcher than the topic)
Did the ancient Egyptians really believe in the pharaoh’s divinity?
How did the majority of Roman slaves perceive Christian martyrdom following the death of Jesus?
Did Ali anticipate his assassination and what would he have
thought about the historical conflict between the Sunni and shi’a?
Level 3 questions are best for writing historical essays, where you are asked to write persuasive argument backed by scholarly research on a significant issue.
Because Level 3 questions have no definitive answers but can be researched, you can take a position and make your case in a persuasive, logical way.
Almost any question can be turned into a level 3 question if you look for the argumentative angle. Think about what types of claims could be made about the topic, what some potential arguments and counterarguments could be, what types of sources you could use as evidence, what types of evidence you would need to support an argument.