An essayist has to decide on a research topic and what stand to take on that topic. Before you can begin to write, you must know what is meant by a thesis, a topic and a subject area. Your subject area may be in sociology, but your sociology topic must conform to the formal development of an essay.
Your subject area on sociology is too large to be treated as a topic. Your sociology topic could be on Civil Rights. But your subject is too large to cover in one essay. Your topic is to take a position on one aspect of Civil Rights. You could choose a topic like, Are illegal aliens covered by civil rights legislation? Your topic is now narrow, and you can take a stand in your essay by addressing your topic.
Once you begin to address your topic and have taken a stand, you are developing your thesis. The thesis of an essay is the central idea that your development by flat statement, examples and direct citations from other sources will surround. Your thesis to the above topic could be, Since illegal aliens are here by choice, they are not covered by civil rights legislation. You really can't develop a topic without coming to a conclusion. That conclusion comes after you have done a thorough search or researched your topic and have listed research ideas based on information accumulated from sources or from your own personal thinking.
A research thesis is the stand that you intend to take in your paper based on the research ideas amassed in your research topic. While you want your research thesis to be directed and specific, you don't want to limit it, other discussion is needed. To develop a research topic, your research thesis must have room for discussion to prove how you came to your thesis.
After you have found a research topic and have done research on that topic to arrive at a thesis statement, you can compile the notes that you have taken in researching your topic and begin to organize your notes. Organization of notes is like building a house, only you are building an essay. To properly build your essay, you need to build a framework to fill in when you actually write your essay. That framework is called a topic outline.
A topic outline has a title that leads the reader to your main thesis topic. A topic outline has a completed thesis statement that is the foundation of your research topic. Using Roman numerals to suggest main points to be covered and following the traditional essay development of introduction, body and conclusion, you add items to your topic outline by using subtopics.
Once your topic outline is completed, you can begin to write your essay.