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Keefe Regional Technical School: Interpret

Interpret Stage


Being able to find information and make sense of it is a necessary life skill. We do this all the time, whether it’s arguing a thesis statement for a school assignment or making an important decision in your job or life. 

During the INTERPRET phase you will take the information you have gathered during RESEARCH and use it to enhance your knowledge and answer the research question identified during PRE-SEARCH. This information will become evidence to support your claims or thesis statement, or to prove or disprove a hypothesis. If you are writing a research paper, you will develop a thesis statement and organize your notes into an outline. Regardless of your product, you need to step back to analyze and make sense of the information you have found in order to come to an original conclusion. 

As you INTERPRET and create new knowledge, you will probably start to feel more confident about your project and take greater ownership of your research. This is also a time to step back and make sure you have enough information. You may discover that you need to go back and do some more RESEARCH or that some of the information recorded in your notes is not relevant to your final argument and should be set aside. 

In This Section

  • How do I write an effective thesis statement that synthesizes my research findings? 
  • How do I create an outline to organize my ideas and information in support of my argument? 

Writing a Thesis


Your thesis statement asserts the purpose of your paper (or other product). It answers your research question, making a claim or argument that will be supported by evidence in the body of your paper. A strong thesis statement helps YOU organize your ideas and helps your READER understand where you are going. In a traditional academic essay, the thesis statement is often one or two sentences at the end of the introduction. 
  • Your thesis guides the paper. If it does not match the ideas you plan to talk about you either need to change your thesis or take new notes. 
  • Your thesis answers your research question. It is not a question itself. 
  • Your thesis requires proof through evidence and arguments that you will present. If you cannot imagine anyone disagreeing with it, your thesis is too simple and factual. 
  • Your thesis should fit the scope of your assignment, and not be too narrow or too broad.
  • Your thesis should sound confident and focused. Avoid vague ("interesting," "important"), overly personal ("in my opinion," "it seems to me"), and cautious language ("might," "perhaps"). 
  • You will revise your thesis statement several times before you finish your assignment, most likely returning to earlier stages of the research process. For example, as you write your first draft you may go back and do some more reading and note taking, then tweak your thesis to include your new ideas. 

Here is an example of how a thesis for an argument/position paper could be developed: 

Start with a topic. 
Red Sox

Pose a question that your paper will try to answer. 
How will the Red Sox fare in their division this year?

Now let's try to create a thesis statement.
The Red Sox are a baseball team in the American League East division.

This is a fact. It is not a thesis. Try to take a position on the topic.
The Red Sox will win their division this year.

Now you have taken a position, but you need to support it with sound reasoning. 
The Red Sox will win their division this year because they are a good team.

Your position is much clearer now, but your reasoning is still vague. Try to avoid words like good, bad, or important. Instead, be specific and explain your reasoning in more detail. 
The Red Sox will win their division this year because they have a strong pitching rotation, productive hitters, and experienced managers.

This is a stronger thesis statement because it takes a firm stand and explains your reasoning. In your body paragraphs, you will then give more concrete evidence to support each of your claims. 


Here are some thesis statements for other types of papers. 

A comparison paper: 
The Red Sox and Yankees are similar in that they both have experienced players, a large payroll, and a historic legacy.

A policy recommendation paper: 
In order to win their division, the Red Sox need to keep their pitchers healthy and add more speed to their lineup.

An cause and effect paper: 
The downfall of the Yankees was caused by poor draft picks, aging core players, and the signing of overpriced free agents.

Source: Red Sox examples adapted from A Guide to Student Research Projects from Ottoson Middle School. 

Making an Outline


Although there are many ways to present your research, whether a traditional research paper, a presentation, a lab report, a poster session, or something else entirely, all forms of communication benefit from organization. 

Your organizational strategy will depend on your final product. It could be an outline, a storyboard, a mind map, or notes on the back of a napkin. Regardless of the format, these tools help you map out the main claims and supporting evidence for your argument and put them into some order before they are fleshed out in detail. 

An outline is an abbreviated list of the parts of your paper. Think of it as a road map or a recipe. Even if your teacher does not require a formal outline, writing one has many benefits: 
  • Helps you see the big picture, organize your ideas, and stay on track while you are drafting. You will write more efficiently and be more likely to get where you were planning to go. 
  • Shows whether you have enough information to support your claims or need to go back and do more research. 
  • Can be shared with your teacher for feedback BEFORE you sit down to write all those pages and pages (and in college you will find some instructors willing to read outlines but not entire drafts) 

The easiest way to begin your outline is by taking your notes and grouping them by topic. You are interpreting and synthesizing your findings. If you created a working outline, compare it to your notes. Do you have enough information? Is there information missing? What will be the separate parts of your paper? If you are using index cards, put them into piles. If you are using EasyBib, drag note cards into groups; you can also color code them if it helps. 

Formatting an Outline

Working Title 
I. Topic 
    A. Subtopic 
        i. Supporting detail
            a. More information, clarification, interpretation 
            b. More information, clarification, interpretation 
        ii. Supporting detail
        iii. Supporting detail 
    B. Subtopic 
    C. Subtopic 
II. Topic 
III. Topic

Follow the format above for a traditional outline, noting the alternations between Roman numerals and letters. Most word processing software will automatically format your outline so that you do not need to renumber the sections as you revise.

For each level of your outline, you should logically have at least two headings. Outlines may be written in complete sentences or in phrases. Follow the instructions given by your teacher and do not switch back and forth between the two. Your teacher may ask you to include your research question or thesis statement at the top of your outline along with a working title. 

Try WorkFlowy, a free app you can use on the computer or on your phone.   You can sign up  with your school email and then do the tutorial on YouTube! 

Outlining Tools

  1. WorkFlowy

Mind mapping tools to organize and identify main ideas

  1. Popplet
  2. MindMeister
  3. Google Drawings
  4. Index cards with main ideas written on them