A thesis statement is a concise statement, often only one or two sentences in length, that tells the main point of a paper. The thesis statement is the central argument of a paper, and a great touchstone for the rest of the paper. If anything in the paper fails to provide support for the thesis statement, then either there is something wrong with the thesis statement or that material does not belong in the paper.
Things to Keep in Mind While Writing Your Thesis Statement:
One of the most important elements for a successful thesis statement is clarity. For writing to be considered clear and easy to understand, it must meet several different qualifications. First, the sentence should be grammatically correct. Misplaced punctuation or phrases can dramatically alter the meaning of your writing, so make sure your grammar is correct. Second, the sentence should be written at a level appropriate to your audience. Many writers make the mistake of assuming that the higher-the-level of their writing, the better the writing. However, your audience is important. Using writing that is above the level of your assignment may actually obscure your writing. Third, look at your vocabulary. Some people advise you not to use any technical vocabulary, but that is bad advice. Some types of writing require a writer to use a technical approach. However, if you are using technical language in your thesis statement, you want to ask yourself if the audience will understand the language. If the answer is no, then you either need to define terms prior to your thesis statement or paraphrase your thesis.
Getting the right degree of specificity in a thesis statement can be tricky. If your thesis statement is overly broad, you will not be able to provide the supporting evidence for it within the parameters of your paper. However, a thesis statement that is overly broad for a two-or-three-page paper may be perfect for a twenty-page paper. Therefore, when looking at whether your thesis statement is overly broad, you must consider the overall paper.
Generally, you want your thesis statement to be as specific as possible. If your thesis statement has multiple clauses, you want to make sure that the relationship between the clauses is clear and will be supported in the body of your paper.
One of the most challenging aspects of writing an effective thesis statement is determining where the statement should appear in your paper. Many beginning writers initially believe that the thesis statement should appear in the first sentence or two of your paper. While it is possible to write an effective paper that begins with a thesis statement, doing so does not follow the conventions that have been established for academic writing. This can make you appear disorganized or like a bad writer.
Currently in academic writing, it is conventional for the thesis statement to appear at the conclusion of the introductory paragraph(s). This convention is important because it acknowledges that reader expectations play an important role in the writing process. A reader who has been taught to expect a thesis statement at the conclusion of introductory material may be confused by a different order, and may even be confused about your thesis, especially if you have failed to make your thesis statement sufficiently specific or clear.
However, thesis sentence placement is about more than reader expectations. The entire reason that readers have come to expect a thesis sentence at the conclusion of introductory material is because placing it there makes sense. The introduction lets the reader know what subject is being discussed, narrows down the subject, and provides insight into what the author is attempting to establish. Providing a thesis statement at the end of the introduction permits the reader to draw upon the prior information in the introductory paragraph to help understand how the paper will support the thesis statement.
In order to be a thesis statement, the statement needs to let the reader know what you are going to do in your paper. However, to be an effective thesis statement, it needs to do more than let the reader know your intentions. Instead, it should go a step farther and let your reader know why you are writing the paper.
This aspect of thesis writing can be challenging for students, because many developing writers erroneously believe that taking a position in a paper means that your paper would be based in opinion. On the contrary, any successful academic paper that takes a position needs to rely upon facts, not opinions, in order to support that position.
Sometimes the position you take will not necessarily be about the topic in your thesis paper. For example, you may choose to describe some of the terms in your thesis with more dramatic or descriptive language than you would normally use. Keep in mind that your readers are going to be examining the connotation and the denotation of your words when assessing your thesis statement, so do not hesitate to use emotionally-charged words or phrases in order to help convey your position, when it is appropriate to do so.
One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is being unwilling to revise a thesis statement. Oftentimes, when a writer begins the writing process, the thesis is overbroad. Only when writing the paper can be the writer fully understand that he or she is trying to provide support for a concept that is too large for the parameters of the paper. Therefore, an experienced writer stops the project, revisits the thesis, and either increases the scope of the paper or edits the thesis statement.
Sometimes, writing a paper reveals to the author that he or she actually holds a different position than the one that the author believed he or she embraced when beginning to write a paper. One of the beauties of academic writing, especially the research-heavy kind, is that it forces students to really focus critical thinking skills on the issues being discussed in their writing. This type of critical focus can cause people to gain a broader understanding of an issue and may even change position on the issue. Therefore, while you are writing, you want to periodically revisit your thesis statement to see it still reflects the content of your paper.
In this section, we are going to explore some thesis statements and how to take them from basic to great.
Gun control is a hot-button political issue in the United States, because it seemingly places two critical rights, the right to life and the right to bear arms, at odds. This is a better thesis statement. It lets the reader know that the topic of the paper is gun control and that the paper will explore the right of people to be safe and the right to bear arms as defined in the Constitution. It also signals that the paper is an expository one that is going to talk about rights, rather than an argumentative paper since the thesis does not take a position.
Although gun control is a divisive political issue in the United States, gun control is not unconstitutional and needs to occur in order to save human lives. This is an even better thesis statement. It introduces gun control as the topic, acknowledges that the issue is divisive, and signals the reader that the essay will focus on whether or not gun control is constitutional.
Although gun control is a divisive political issue in the United States, the reality is that no amount of gun-related deaths can change the 2nd Amendment’s guarantees; any gun control absent a constitutional amendment violates the Bill of Rights. This is another great thesis sentence. It introduces gun control as the topic, acknowledges the high number of gun deaths, but tells the reader that the number of deaths does not impact the constitutionality of gun control.
School dress codes are sexist. This statement is incrementally better than the first thesis statement. It lets the reader know that the writer finds dress codes to be sexist, but does not provide information about why the writer feels this way.
School dress codes are sexist because they disproportionately impact female students. This statement is an improvement on the last statement and could be the basis for an essay. However, it could be made more specific and narrower, meaning that there is room for improvement.
School dress codes are sexist because they disproportionately impact female students, and send the message that a boy’s right to a distraction-free environment is more important than a girl’s right to an education. Knowing that a facially-neutral dress code impacts female students more than male students does not necessarily mean it is sexist; this thesis statement addresses that issue by discussing the message that the dress code sends to male and female students. Therefore, the reader knows that the essay will not only focus on the factual details contained in dress codes, but also on the impact those details have on students.
Because he was able to successfully pass legislation despite working with a notoriously partisan Congress that made opposing his efforts a priority, Obama demonstrated that he was the best modern American President. This statement is a stronger thesis statement because it gives some support for the writer’s position and signals to the reader that the focus of the paper will be how Obama dealt with a partisan Congress.
The recent increase in sexual assault allegations against public figures seems to be ushering in an era of change that will result in people being more likely to believe accusers. This is a better thesis statement, because it discusses why the increased number of allegation is relevant. However, given the sheer number of alleged sexual abusers, the topic still seems overbroad. To write a good essay, it might be important to further-narrow the topic.
Writing a great thesis statement can initially be intimidating. However, if you keep the above tips in mind and remember that a thesis statement should evolve during the course of writing your paper, we think you will find yourself well on the way to writing your best thesis statements, ever.