Defining the business thesis
In its academic form, business is a large and diverse body of knowledge that encompasses many topics and sub-topics relating to commerce. The business thesis displays certain peculiarities that it shares with related subjects, such as management and economics. For example, the business thesis:
- Makes heavy use of quantitative evidence, such as that derived from statistics and surveys, and can occasionally contain mathematical analysis.
- Includes a literature review section that situates the thesis against the backdrop of other relevant work in the domain.
- Incorporates extensive referencing.
- Focuses in on a very precise topic on inquiry.
Researching your business thesis
Conducting research for a business thesis is largely driven by the character of the business thesis itself. For example, a business thesis suggested by the writer’s engagement with a particular business problem—say, the issue of marketing financial products to bank customers—may be very different than a thesis that arises as a response to a purely academic theory. In both cases, however, researching your business thesis begins with a problem statement.
What is to be solved? It is the nature of this problem statement that will determine the subsequent direction taken in researching your business thesis. If the problem to be solved is largely empirical—for example, the question of why certain shoppers buy certain items in a certain store—the business thesis may begin by conducting first-hand survey research. On the other hand, if the problem is more abstruse, the research may take the form of critiquing other academic theses on the subject.
Structuring your business thesis
While there can be a vast number of ways of researching your business thesis , the chances are that structuring your business thesis will be much easier because of certain conventions in this academic field. Typically, your business thesis will begin with the problem statement and a brief introduction to the subject of study, so that readers will know why it is important. This will typically be followed by a literature review, in which the writer will attempt to offer an overview of the previous business theses—sourced from books, academic journals, and other credible sources—that have treated the subject of study. After the literature review, you will typically describe your own methodology to solving the problem statement, taking the opportunity to point out where your method is indebted to previous academic literature.
The methodology section is a key part of structuring your business thesis, because this is where you must convince the reader that you are in fact addressing the problem directly. For example, if your problem statement involves attempting to determine why 500 consumers shopped as they did during the past six months, and you managed to interview 50 of the consumers directly, the methodology section of your business thesis must convince the reader that these 50 consumers are a statistically valid cross-section from which to reach conclusions about the rest. After the methodology comes your argument itself, which builds on the methodology by marshaling and presenting your evidence in detail and applying it to the problem statement. Particularly sophisticated theses will also be diligent in considering, and answering, evidence to the contrary in the body of the argument; this is a more honest and conscientious practice than pretending that all the evidence favors your own thesis. After the argument comes the conclusion, which reiterates your initial proposition. This is followed by a list of references.
The scope of the business thesis
One of the challenges of writing a compelling business thesis is being able to limit the scope of inquiry. Unlike, say, the writer of a philosophy thesis, the writer of a business thesis does not profit by attempting to engage the foundations of his or her discipline. Rather, the exemplary business thesis often fills in the smaller details of larger paradigms. This is because there is more general agreement on the basic concepts of academic business theory than there might be on a subject in the humanities; it is impossible, for example, to find a business thesis in the Harvard Business Review written from the economic viewpoint of socialism. Because of the broad neoliberal consensus in this field, the scope of the business thesis does not extend to challenging the foundations of the field, which can—at times—make for relatively uninteresting theses. Thus, the most pressing challenge for the business thesis writer is to craft an engaging thesis within a limited scope of insider-tilted inquiry.