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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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- thesis statement
a short statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, etc., and is developed, supported, and explained in the text by means of examples and evidence.
Origin of thesis statement
Words nearby thesis statement.
- short end of the stick, the
- The show must go on
- thesis play
- Sketch Book, The
- Skin of Our Teeth, The
- sky's the limit, the
- Snows of Kilimanjaro, The
- The Social Contract
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
What is a thesis statement? I need some examples, too.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement clearly identifies the topic being discussed, includes the points discussed in the paper, and is written for a specific audience. Your thesis statement belongs at the end of your first paragraph, also known as your introduction. Use it to generate interest in your topic and encourage your audience to continue reading.
You can read chapter four of Schaum's Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers an eBook in our online collection, click the title to open: "How Do I Write a Thesis Statement?" .
Another option is to think of a thesis statement as one complete sentence that expresses your position .
- Narrows the topic down to a specific focus of an investigation.
- Establishes a direction for the entire paper.
- Points forward to the conclusion.
- Always stated in your introduction. (Usually at the end of the first paragraph).
- Always take a stand and justify further discussion.
A thesis statement is not a statement of fact.
Your readers—especially your instructors—want to read writing that engages them. Consequently, you must write thesis statements that are arguable, not factual. Statements of fact seem easy to write about because, well, they are easy to prove. After all, they’re facts. The problem is that you cannot write engaging papers around statements of fact. Such theses prevent you from demonstrating critical thinking and analytical skills, which you want to show your instructor. If you were to write a paper around the next two statements, your writing would probably be quite dull because you would be restating facts that the general public already knows.
Thesis Statements always take a stand and justify further discussion.
In order to make your writing interesting, you should develop a thesis statement that is arguable. Sometimes you will be writing to persuade others to see things your way and other times you will simply be giving your strong opinion and laying out your case for it.
Take a look at the following examples:
Statement of fact:
Small cars get better fuel mileage than 4x4 pickup trucks.
Arguable thesis statement:
The government should ban 4x4 pickup trucks except for work-related use.
Foul language is common in movies.
The amount of foul language in movies is disproportionate to the amount of foul language in real life.
State ment of fact:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease.
Arguable thesis statement/opening paragraph:
Researchers think the incidence of celiac disease is increasing in the USA not only because of an increase in the ability and awareness to diagnose it, but also because of changes in the agricultural system. In particular, they are looking at the increased use of pesticides, insecticides, and genetically modified wheat as culprits. Some of these theories are more likely to be valid than others.
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Tips on writing a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.
The thesis statement is the sentence that states the main idea of a writing assignment and helps control the ideas within the paper. It is not merely a topic. It often reflects an opinion or judgment that a writer has made about a reading or personal experience. For instance: Tocqueville believed that the domestic role most women held in America was the role that gave them the most power, an idea that many would hotly dispute today.
What Makes a Strong Thesis Statement?
- A strong thesis statement gives direction to the paper and limits what you need to write about. It also functions to inform your readers of what you will discuss in the body of the paper. All paragraphs of the essay should explain, support, or argue with your thesis.
- A strong thesis statement requires proof ; it is not merely a statement of fact. You should support your thesis statement with detailed supporting evidence will interest your readers and motivate them to continue reading the paper.
- Sometimes it is useful to mention your supporting points in your thesis. An example of this could be: John Updike's Trust Me is a valuable novel for a college syllabus because it allows the reader to become familiar with his writing and provides themes that are easily connected to other works. In the body of your paper, you could write a paragraph or two about each supporting idea. If you write a thesis statement like this it will often help you to keep control of your ideas.
Where Does the Thesis Statement Go?
A good practice is to put the thesis statement at the end of your introduction so you can use it to lead into the body of your paper. This allows you, as the writer, to lead up to the thesis statement instead of diving directly into the topic. If you place the thesis statement at the beginning, your reader may forget or be confused about the main idea by the time he/she reaches the end of the introduction. Remember, a good introduction conceptualizes and anticipates the thesis statement.
Tips for Writing/Drafting Thesis Statements
- Know the topic . The topic should be something you know or can learn about. It is difficult to write a thesis statement, let alone a paper, on a topic that you know nothing about. Reflecting on personal experience and/or researching will help you know more information about your topic.
- Limit your topic . Based on what you know and the required length of your final paper, limit your topic to a specific area. A broad scope will generally require a longer paper, while a narrow scope will be sufficiently proven by a shorter paper.
- Brainstorm . If you are having trouble beginning your paper or writing your thesis, take a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind about your topic. Did you discover any new ideas or connections? Can you separate any of the things you jotted down into categories? Do you notice any themes? Think about using ideas generated during this process to shape your thesis statement and your paper.
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The thesis is one of the most important concepts in college expository writing. A thesis sentence focuses your ideas for the paper; it's your argument or insight or viewpoint crystallized into a single sentence that gives the reader your main idea. It's not only useful for the reading audience to understand the purpose of the essay; this purpose is also useful for you as a writer, as it indicates the type of support that will follow in the paper and may indicate a logical structure or order for that support. Thus, you need to have a good grasp of the concept of thesis in order to proceed.
The thesis identifies two basics:
- what your ideas are about, and
- what your ideas are (i.e. what you will be trying to prove).
There are two parts to a thesis sentence that reflect these basics.
- The topic in the thesis tells what you are writing about.
- The angle in the thesis tells what your ideas are about the topic (again, what you are trying to prove).
- All successful college students have certain basic characteristics. [The main topic is about college students, while the idea or angle about the topic is that successful students share certain characteristics. The thesis indicates the type of support needed--discussion of those characteristics that contribute to college success.]
- For most adult students returning to college, the problems that they face along the way are outweighed by their achievements. [The main topic is about adult college students, while the idea or angle about the topic is that problems are outweighed by achievements. The thesis indicates the type of support needed and the order of that support--an explanation of the problems first and then an explanation of achievements second.]
- Adult students returning to college make up a higher percentage of entering students than they did twenty years ago because of a number of statistical, economic, and social reasons. [The main topic is about adult students returning to college, while the idea or angle about the topic is that there are reasons for the higher percentage of adults returning to college. The thesis indicates the type of support needed and the order of that support--an explanation of the statistical reasons first, economic reasons second, and social reasons third.]
Do you understand the basic topic and angle concept? If so, then there are a few more things to consider about the thesis. (And if not, now's the time to start asking a learning coach for assistance, so Email [email protected] ). It's important to investigate additional thesis characteristics at this point to make sure that you'll be creating a working thesis sentence that is workable and appropriate for college essays. In addition to knowing what a thesis is, you need to know what a thesis is not. A thesis sentence's angle should NOT be:
- Too broad. For example, the following thesis really doesn't pinpoint a specific insight about the topic: Adult students returning to college have a hard time. In what ways do adult students have a hard time? You'd need to identify a more specific insight in this angle.
- Too narrow a statement of fact. For example, the following thesis really cannot be developed into a full essay because the angle doesn't contain the writer's own thoughts or insights about the subject: Adult students returning to college read an average of 7.5 books per term. A reader may respond by saying, "So what?" A narrow statement of fact does not contain your own personal analysis, argument, or interpretation of the topic--that all-important angle which a thesis must have.
- An announcement. For example, the following really is not a thesis at all because it lacks an angle that gives the writer's own insight into the topic: My topic is the adult student returning to college. Again, "So what?" What's the reader's idea here?
Once you create a working thesis, you should assess it to make sure that it fulfills thesis characteristics. Make sure it has a clear topic (indication of what the thesis is about) and angle (what your own ideas are about the topic, i.e. what you are trying to prove). Make sure that the angle is not too broad, too narrow, a statement of fact, or an announcement. Work with the angle to make it indicate the order of your support, if you choose to do that for yourself or for your reading audience. And realize that the thesis is a working thesis until you finalize the essay (it's okay to revise the thesis as you go along, just as long as you retain important thesis characteristics.)
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How to write a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.
Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.
Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?
- to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
- to better organize and develop your argument
- to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument
In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.
How Can You Write a Good Thesis Statement?
Here are some helpful hints to get you started. You can either scroll down or select a link to a specific topic.
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned
Almost all assignments, no matter how complicated, can be reduced to a single question. Your first step, then, is to distill the assignment into a specific question. For example, if your assignment is, “Write a report to the local school board explaining the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class,” turn the request into a question like, “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” After you’ve chosen the question your essay will answer, compose one or two complete sentences answering that question.
Q: “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are . . .”
A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve . . .”
The answer to the question is the thesis statement for the essay.
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How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned
Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about.
A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:
- take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
- deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment
- express one main idea
- assert your conclusions about a subject
Let’s see how to generate a thesis statement for a social policy paper.
Brainstorm the topic . Let’s say that your class focuses upon the problems posed by changes in the dietary habits of Americans. You find that you are interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume.
You start out with a thesis statement like this:
This fragment isn’t a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about sugar consumption.
Narrow the topic . Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy.
You change your thesis to look like this:
Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.
This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one segment of the population: elementary school children. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, because while most people might agree that children consume more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic.
Take a position on the topic. After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children consume.
You revise your thesis statement to look like this:
More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.
This statement asserts your position, but the terms more attention and food and beverage choices are vague.
Use specific language . You decide to explain what you mean about food and beverage choices , so you write:
Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.
This statement is specific, but it isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of making an assertion.
Make an assertion based on clearly stated support. You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this:
Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.
Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce sugar consumption by children, and who should do it?” When you started thinking about the paper, you may not have had a specific question in mind, but as you became more involved in the topic, your ideas became more specific. Your thesis changed to reflect your new insights.
How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
1. a strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand..
Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper for a class on fitness, you might be asked to choose a popular weight-loss product to evaluate. Here are two thesis statements:
There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.
This is a weak thesis statement. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase negative and positive aspects is vague.
Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.
This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.
2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion.
Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:
My family is an extended family.
This is a weak thesis because it merely states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.
While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.
This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.
3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.
Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:
Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and Web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.
This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or Web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:
Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using Web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.
This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because , since , so , although , unless , and however .
4. A strong thesis statement is specific.
A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say:
World hunger has many causes and effects.
This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, world hunger can’t be discussed thoroughly in seven to ten pages. Second, many causes and effects is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. A revised thesis might look like this:
Hunger persists in Glandelinia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.
This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic, and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.
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What this handout is about.
This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.
Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement:
- tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
- is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
- directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
- makes a claim that others might dispute.
- is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.
If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)
How do I create a thesis?
A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.
Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .
How do I know if my thesis is strong?
If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :
- Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
- Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.
Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:
Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.
You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.
- Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?
After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:
Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.
This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.
Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.
You begin to analyze your thesis:
- Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.
Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:
In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
- Do I answer the question? Yes!
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”
After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:
Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.
This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.
Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.
Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.
Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.
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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.
A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.
A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.
When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.
Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.
Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.
Descriptive thesis (not arguable)
While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.
This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.
Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)
Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.
This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.
Arguable thesis with analytical claim
While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.
This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.
Arguable thesis with normative claim
Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.
This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.
Questions to ask about your thesis
- Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?
- Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?
- Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?
- Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?
- Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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Writing an essay can be difficult. Sometimes it can be hard to organize an essay and consistently stay on topic. However, ensuring that the essay has a strong thesis and thesis statement can help keep the paper concise, orderly, and easily understandable.
Thesis Statement Definition
A thesis statement helps you to choose a side.
A thesis statemen t is a sentence — or two — that summarizes the central claims of an essay.
A thesis statement should be short and to the point but can cite specific evidence that the essay will expound upon later. Thesis statements are usually found in the first paragraph of the essay, the introduction, and often create the “roadmap” for the rest of the essay for both the writer and the reader.
Importance of a Thesis Statement
Writing a thesis statement is essentially the same as declaring one's thoughts and desires at the beginning of a conversation– it outlines what will be discussed and introduces what the speaker thinks. Though the thesis statement might seem like a small part of the essay, it's extremely important.
Imagine you're in the middle of a conversation with a friend when another person arrives and jumps into the middle of a discussion, not knowing what is actually being talked about. At that point, you have to explain the topic and the conversation's point. It's both tiring, and repetitive. Similarly, that's what it's like when an essay does not have a strong thesis statement.
A strong thesis statement introduces the paper's main ideas and helps readers relate to the author's feelings or central argument . Simultaneously, the thesis statement is an anchor for the entire paper and connects all the ideas expressed in the essay. Without it, the author would have to continually explain what they were writing about and why their ideas are significant.
Is a thesis statement and thesis different?
A thesis is a theory or statement – put forth as a premise – that an author is trying to prove.
A thesis statement is one or two sentences that summarize the main point of an essay, research paper, or other written piece.
Often, a thesis statement explains a thesis.
Different Types of Thesis Statements
There are several types of thesis statements: analytical, argumentative, and explanatory.
Looking at and knowing, each of these thesis statement types in depth can help a writer write a fantastic thesis statement that perfectly fits their specific essay.
Expository Thesis Statements
Like all thesis statements, an expository thesis statement sets out to explain the main points of an essay. However, this type of thesis statement is not usually meant to support any specific claim, rather it presents various concepts and how they will be discussed in the essay. Expository thesis statements do not necessarily need to be arguable but should make a strong point.
An expository thesis statement provides readers with a detailed description of what the essay will be about by providing loose examples of what will be mentioned in the essay.
It provides an exact roadmap for what significant concepts will be presented in the essay, and in which order they will be presented. Unlike many other thesis statements, expository thesis statements are mostly fact-based, as no stand or opinion is interjected into the statement. Take, for example, the statement below:
The life of a typical high school student involves going to class, interacting with teachers and friends, completing homework, and taking part in a multitude of various extracurricular activities.
The above expository thesis explains what the life of a typical high school student consists of by listing characteristics that can be expounded upon later. This statement does not take any significant stand but instead sheds light on a subject. Like all thesis statements, be prepared to follow up on each of the components mentioned in the thesis statement later in the essay. Such information should be evidence that reinforces an expository thesis statement.
Argumentative Thesis Statements
An argumentative thesis statement is exactly as it sounds — a statement that presents an argument .
An argumentative thesis statement is most often used in argumentative essays to clearly make a claim and take a stand that the author then presents evidence for in the body of the essay.
Unlike an expository thesis statement, argumentative thesis statements allow room for the author to take a particular stance on the issue. However, because argumentative thesis statements typically require some personal input, the evidence presented in the essays must usually be supported by a lot of reliable research. Any arguments made in the essay inevitably relate back to the argumentative thesis statement because it is essentially what is trying to be proved. Consider the example below:
There is a definite correlation between the geography of Swinging London, the hierarchical class structure in Britain, and renewed consumerism, all of which ultimately excluded lower-class individuals and barred them from being part of this cultural phenomenon.
From the above argumentative thesis statement, one can deduce that the body of the essay will assert that there is a correlation between the geography of the social movement "Swinging London," class, and consumerism and that this correlation caused the exclusion of lower-class individuals from this movement.
Based on this thesis statement, the reader of the essay can expect the author to write several paragraphs on Swinging London as a cultural phenomenon, followed by how class and consumerism are related to the social movement. These explanations would then most likely transition into the essay's main argument: that lower-class individuals were excluded from the movement. This would be supported by specific arguments and followed by a conclusion.
Analytical Thesis Statements
Analytical thesis statements stand to analyze a specific topic or problem.
As one might guess, the goal of an analytical thesis statement is to present the issue at hand and then discuss ways that may solve any concerns surrounding the topic.
These types of thesis statements are used in analysis papers, often in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. These fields typically necessitate the most data analysis or problem-solving. When writing an analytical thesis statement, it is still necessary to be mindful of the order in which the topic and possible solutions and analyses are presented. This means that an analytical statement should be precise, organized, and thorough, giving readers a brief overview of what's to come in the essay.
Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions , demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented . Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe — all striking tributes to her pain .
Based on this thesis statement, we can expect the author to expound upon how the rhetorical devices mentioned in the thesis statement are used in Sylvia Plath's poetry, most likely in that order. This specific thesis statement tells readers exactly what to expect in this analysis.
Elements That Make a Great Thesis Statement
Great thesis statements have the following characteristics:
Let's examine each attribute of these in-depth to see why they matter by again examining the previous analytical thesis statement on Sylvia Plath.
As previously discussed in this article, a thesis statement must be focused on a specific topic or aspect of a broader theme. It is hard to write an efficient essay and make a strong claim if the writer is focused on more than one subject. When creating a thesis statement, it's best to focus on one specific aspect of a larger topic. Not only does this make writing the essay easier, but it also makes researching the topic easier, as it narrows down exactly what is to be explained and justified in the essay.
The analytical thesis statement on Plath is specific because it focuses solely on Plath's use of rhetorical devices, as highlighted below.
Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions , demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe — all striking tributes to her pain.
A strong thesis statement should be concise. A writer only has one to two sentences to present the topic, explain the argument , and make a claim/take a stance. That's a lot to get done in two sentences! Consequently, word choice is extremely important. Don't use confusing words or jargon that you might require an explanation for–that's what the body of the essay is for! Always remember that a writer mustn't fit everything into the thesis all at once. It's just meant to be an introduction, so keep your thesis statements short and clear!
The analytical thesis statement on Plath is concise because it explains in plain language what the essay will be explaining by making a clear claim and including relevant examples . No confusing jargon is used, and the word choice is exact.
Ability to be Argued
A thesis statement must present a specific claim that can be fully explored or argued. That means that while thesis statements can be based on previous knowledge or facts, a thesis statement itself cannot be factual. For instance, "junk food is bad for your health" is not an arguable thesis statement, as most people believe that junk food can negatively impact one's health.
The analytical thesis statement on Plath is easily arguable . Perhaps one might disagree with this thesis statement and argue that Plath's writing style is too emotional and messy to be "controlled and detail-oriented."
Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented . Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe — all striking tributes to her pain.
Ability to be Demonstrated
A thesis statement is a claim or theory, but what's a theory without evidence? Evidence is necessary so that your thesis statement is strong. Without reliable demonstrated evidence, a thesis statement is just a thought or an opinion , with no real ability to claim or pronounce anything true. Remember, your thesis statement is demonstrated in the body of your essay, not the thesis.
The analytical thesis statement on Plath is easily demonstrable. For instance, in the body of the essay, the author could expound upon Plath's Nazi imagery by writing:
Plath describes herself as "bright as a Nazi lampshade," an allusion to the cruel skinning of Jews to make lampshades ("Daddy," Line 5).
This would clearly demonstrate the concept mentioned in the thesis statement.
A thesis statement must be confident and believable. Though the body paragraphs are what will convince readers of a thesis statement, the thesis statement itself must first entice readers. Using phrases like "I believe" or "I think" actually weakens readers' confidence in the writer , as it suggests that any evidence to be presented in the essay is opinion-based and lacks substance.
By strongly stating your thesis without the aforementioned phrases, readers are more likely to read the rest of the essay, feeling confident in any arguments that support the thesis statement.
Consider the Sylvia Plath thesis statement below:
Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe — all striking tributes to her pain.
Now, read it again, but this time with the words "I think" and "I believe" in it.
I think Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. I believe her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe — all striking tributes to her pain.
Which do you find to be a more compelling and confident thesis statement?
Examples of Strong Thesis Statements
Let's take a look at some strong thesis statements.
By fusing these paradoxes with his own perceptions of death and life, and utilizing key literary devices such as allusions, exclamation, repetition, alliteration, enjambment, and rhetorical questioning, John Keats creates palpable tensions that not only resonate with his readers but also convey the confusion and strain he feels in relation to his melancholy tranquility.
Why is this a strong thesis statement? This thesis statement focuses solely on what rhetorical devices John Keats uses to create tension in his writing. It lists the evidence in the essay in plain, understandable language.
Europe's influence has spanned oceans and is recognized because of its extensive involvement in imperial colonization and exploration, its hand in warfare, and its developments regarding social and economic reform, all of which have contributed to the creation of modern western civilization.
Why is this a strong thesis statement? The argument in this statement is concise ( Europe's influence has contributed to the creation of modern western civilization ). The argument lists exactly what the evidence will be in the essay that supports this claim (i.e. warfare, social and economic development, and imperial colonization all impacted western civilization).
Mina Harker née Murray in Dracula embodies the submissive woman, as seen through her understated relationship with Jonathan Harker, her desire to be "useful" to her husband, and her choice to be a school teacher at a time when women were able to branch out into other professions.
Why is this a strong thesis statement? This thesis statement is straightforward and simply written. The argument is that Mina Harker embodies the submissive woman and then gives clear, demonstrable examples of why this is so. One can easily deduce these points will be addressed later in the essay.
As a play, Hamlet highlights free will and alludes to the significant social and political changes occurring at the time in which it was written.
Why is this a strong thesis statement? This statement is shorter than the previous thesis statements, but it's still just as good! Why? It presents a clear, focused argument! A writer does not always have to include examples in their thesis statement, but they do need to make sure their statement is specific, concise, arguable, demonstrable, and confident!
Thesis - Key Takeaways
- A thesis is a theory or statement–put forth as a premise–that an author is trying to prove.
- Without a thesis statement, the author would have to continually explain what they were writing about and why their ideas are significant.
- There are three main types of thesis statements: expository, argumentative, and analytical.
- Thesis statements should be: specific, concise, arguable, demonstrable, and exude confidence.
Frequently Asked Questions about Thesis
--> what is a thesis.
A thesis is a theory or statement–put forth as a premise–that an author is trying to prove.
--> What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is one or two sentences that summarize the main point of an essay, research paper, or other written piece.
--> What is an example of a thesis statement?
An example of a thesis statement could be, “As a play, Hamlet highlights free will and alludes to the significant social and political changes occurring at the time in which it was written.”
--> How do I write a thesis statement?
The best way to write a strong thesis statement is to keep the statement specific, concise, arguable, and demonstrable, while also appearing confident.
--> What is the importance of a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is important because a strong thesis statement introduces the paper's main ideas in an orderly manner and helps relate the author's feelings or central argument to readers. Without it, the author would have to continually explain what they were writing about and why their ideas are significant.
Final Thesis Quiz
Thesis quiz - teste dein wissen.
What is a thesis statement?
What is a thesis?
A thesis is a theory or statement that an author is trying to prove.
What are the three types of thesis statements?
Expository, argumentative, and analytical thesis statements.
What are some characteristics that make a strong thesis statement?
Specificity, being concise, being arguable, being demonstrable, sounding confident.
What is an expository thesis statement?
An expository thesis statement is 1-2 sentences that present various concepts and how they will be discussed in an essay. They are mostly fact-based.
What is an argumentative thesis statement?
An argumentative thesis statement is a statement that presents an argument and clearly makes a claim/takes a stand that the author later presents evidence for in the body of the essay.
What is an analytical thesis statement?
An analytical thesis statement is a statement that presents the topic at hand and then discusses ways in which any concerns surrounding the topic may be solved.
Why are thesis statements important?
A strong thesis statement introduces the paper's main ideas in an orderly manner and helps relate the author's feelings or central argument to readers. Without it, the paper might feel aimless or redundant.
Where do you typically find a thesis statement?
In the introduction of a paper, oftentimes in the last couple lines of the paragraph.
How long should the average thesis statement be?
A thesis statement should be:
No more than a couple sentences
A thesis can present detailed evidence.
A thesis can allude to evidence.
The first paragraph of your essay is the introduction.
A thesis is like a:
A thesis statement does not summarize your main point.
A thesis is a thesis statement.
A thesis can be longer than a thesis statement.
It provides readers with a detailed description of the essay by providing examples.
Expository thesis statement
It makes a claim or takes a stance.
Argumentative thesis statement
It discusses an issue, its problems, and its solutions.
Analytical thesis statement
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Flashcards in Thesis 21
- English Grammar Summary
- 5 Paragraph Essay
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