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CPIM Resource Development: Thesis Statement
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The following information has been adapted from The Writing Place, a service of the WCAS Writing Program at Northwestern University.

CPIM What is a thesis?

Your thesis statement should articulate the main point of your white paper or PowerPoint. Everything else in your white paper/PowerPoint should contribute to explaining and proving the main point.

Your thesis may be a single sentence, but it can be much longer. You might need a paragraph or more to state your thesis. In general, the thesis belongs at the beginning of the presentation. If the thesis is at the beginning, it can set audience expectations and organize the information.

Here are some examples of subjects and topics, and a thesis statement that could be written about one of the topics.

Subject AreaTopic
Incentive ProgramsThe perceived obstacles to using incentive programs to increase staff productivity.
Customer ServiceDeveloping customer service oriented environment to gain a competitive advantage.
Employee LoyaltyThe factors that contribute to employee loyalty

Sample Thesis

Contrary to popular opinion, an organization’s ability to effectively and consistently recognize their employees is a greater factor in retaining employees than financial compensation.

Why is this a good example of a thesis?

  1. It is specific. The thesis focuses on two clearly stated factors of a narrowly defined topic.
  2. It makes an arguable point. Unless you are writing a factual report, your thesis should make a point that needs to be further proved or explained. It prepares the audience for more information.
  3. The thesis helps the audience define their expectations. From this thesis, one could expect to learn more about why recognition is a more important factor in retaining employees than financial compensation.

Does every white paper or presentation need a thesis?


Every white paper or presentation needs a controlling idea that helps you select and organize the details. However, not every presentation needs the same kind of thesis. Here is an example of a thesis that summarizes factual information rather than arguing a position:

Users may search the university library's catalog by author, title, subject, or keyword. The keyword function is a new addition to the library catalog that allows the user to search for words or combinations of words appearing anywhere in the book's title. Several specific commands enable users to combine keyword search terms.

This thesis prepares the audience for more information about searching the library catalog using the keyword function. Even though this thesis does not argue a position in the same manner as the previous one, it still organizes and controls the flow of information.

How do I develop a thesis?

  1. Choose your subject area (a list of approved subject and topics is available here)
  2. Select a topic (If you choose a subject and/or topic that is not on the approved list, you must submit your topic choice to the Certification Evaluation Team for approval.)
  3. Find a question that you want to answer, or a problem you want to solve regarding the approved topic. Write down as specific an answer as possible and use that answer as a thesis to organize your details.
  4. Assess the thesis you have found:
    • Are these questions and answers relevant to the incentive marketplace?
    • Am I interested in developing and supporting my answer to this question?
    • Will my readers (incentive market suppliers and users) be interested in my answer?
    • Can I find appropriate material to support my answer?

Getting your thesis approved:CPIM

  • Submit your thesis statement and outline to the Certification Evaluation Team for approval.
  • When your thesis statement and outline have been approved, write a rough draft to test your main idea. You may discover that your thesis needs to be changed or replaced.
  • If you write an early draft that doesn't stick to the main point you have chosen, it may mean that you really want to write about something else. In that case, change your thesis. Resubmit your thesis and a new outline to the Certification Evaluation Team for approval.
  • If you are developing a presentation, convert your rough draft into text for Power Point slides and a handout.
  • Once the Certification Evaluation Team has approved your topic and thesis you can start to gather and organize your data!
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