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.
An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should “telegraph” how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.
Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement
Determine what kind of paper you are writing:
An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence.
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
Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction. A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction.
Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.
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.
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.
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.
Anticipate the counterarguments. Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you’ll need to refute later on in your essay.
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.
A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible. Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions.
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.
A thesis is never a question. Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered.
A thesis is never a list.
A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational.