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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 .
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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Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, how to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples, how to write topic sentences | 4 steps, examples & purpose, academic paragraph structure | step-by-step guide & examples.
I'm still unsure of the difference of an essay structure or plan, and the thesis statement, or claim. Aren't they the same?
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
A thesis statement is a sentence or two in your essay or paper that expresses the main argument you intend to get across in the text. It's a way of getting across your ideas to the reader in the text itself.
Meanwhile, an essay outline is more something for yourself, to help you plan out your structure before you start writing or to show your instructor that you have a clear structure in mind. It's not something that you include in the final text, but an earlier stage in the writing process.
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Developing Strong Thesis Statements
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These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.
The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable
An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.
Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:
This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is unambiguously good.
Example of a debatable thesis statement:
This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation's money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.
Another example of a debatable thesis statement:
In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.
The thesis needs to be narrow
Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.
Example of a thesis that is too broad:
There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category "drugs"? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by "society"? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.
Example of a narrow or focused thesis:
In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.
We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:
Narrowed debatable thesis 1:
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.
Narrowed debatable thesis 2:
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.
Qualifiers such as " typically ," " generally ," " usually ," or " on average " also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.
Types of claims
Claims typically fall into one of four categories. Thinking about how you want to approach your topic, or, in other words, what type of claim you want to make, is one way to focus your thesis on one particular aspect of your broader topic.
Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact. Example:
Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur. Example:
Claims about value: These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something. Example:
Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem. Example:
Which type of claim is right for your argument? Which type of thesis or claim you use for your argument will depend on your position and knowledge of the topic, your audience, and the context of your paper. You might want to think about where you imagine your audience to be on this topic and pinpoint where you think the biggest difference in viewpoints might be. Even if you start with one type of claim you probably will be using several within the paper. Regardless of the type of claim you choose to utilize it is key to identify the controversy or debate you are addressing and to define your position early on in the paper.
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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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.
Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Thesis Statements: Crafting a Claim Backed by Reasoning
Overview of thesis statements.
A clear and well-developed thesis statement is, in many cases, the backbone of most essays and research papers. The thesis statement presents your argument to your reader, making your stance or your position clear. A solid thesis statement can also provide structure for your writing. Even in non-argumentative writing, such as narrative essays, you can still use your thesis statement to express your purpose for writing.
In your thesis statement, you can provide the overarching claims you plan to make, as well as your reasoning for those claims. You can think of the thesis statement as being made up of two parts: the position and the reasoning. The position is the overall point you are making, and the reasoning is the explanation or logic behind that position. When you include both the position and the reasoning, your thesis statement shows your readers how you intend to structure your writing. For more on organization in your writing, see the Stone Writing Center (SWC) handout on this topic.
Argumentative Thesis Statements
When it comes to argumentative thesis statements, these statements are not argumentative for the sake of conflict; rather, you are writing to inform and persuade your readers, advancing their understanding of your topic. It might be helpful to even think of argumentative thesis statements like a road map that guides your writing as a whole. For more on argumentative writing, see the SWC handouts on this topic.
An argumentative thesis statement makes a clear assertion, taking a stance and providing details to support that stance. An effective argumentative thesis statement helps to persuade the reader by providing an outline of the main claims and reasoning for those claims.
Examples of Thesis Statements
Each of these sample thesis statements takes a stance on a subject and states a claim, then provides supporting details to convey the reasoning for the claim/s. The position or claim is in bold , and the reasoning is in italics .
Adults should eat apples more regularly because the fruit has many health benefits including lowering risk for heart disease, improving digestion, and promoting weight loss.
The Stone Writing Center is a convenient learning resource for Del Mar College as it provides a place where students can get help with their writing and offers multiple services for all writers.
Because of the convenience, low prices, and diverse options , people should get rid of cable and join streaming services instead.
Del Mar College is a great option to further one’s education because it offers many different academic programs, has a lower cost than surrounding universities, and provides dual-enrollment courses for high school students.
Because public libraries give citizens access to free books, technological resources, and other helpful learning programs, these institutions deserve more city funding.
To demonstrate the theme that family can be made through friends, The Avengers* movie uses characterization, conflict, and allusion. *Note: Movie titles, such as The Avengers , are usually italicized.
By providing readers with the main claim or position, as well as the reasoning or explanations for said claim, thesis statements allow you to effectively communicate the overall argument you intend to make in your writing.
Page last updated July 12, 2023.
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Writing a thesis and making an argument.
Almost every assignment you complete for a history course will ask you to make an argument. Your instructors will often call this your "thesis" -- your position on a subject.
What is an Argument?
An argument takes a stand on an issue. It seeks to persuade an audience of a point of view in much the same way that a lawyer argues a case in a court of law. It is NOT a description or a summary.
- This is an argument: "This paper argues that the movie JFK is inaccurate in its portrayal of President Kennedy."
- This is not an argument: "In this paper, I will describe the portrayal of President Kennedy that is shown in the movie JFK."
What is a Thesis?
A thesis statement is a sentence in which you state an argument about a topic and then describe, briefly, how you will prove your argument.
- This is an argument, but not yet a thesis: "The movie ‘JFK’ inaccurately portrays President Kennedy."
- This is a thesis: "The movie ‘JFK’ inaccurately portrays President Kennedy because of the way it ignores Kennedy’s youth, his relationship with his father, and the findings of the Warren Commission."
A thesis makes a specific statement to the reader about what you will be trying to argue. Your thesis can be a few sentences long, but should not be longer than a paragraph. Do not begin to state evidence or use examples in your thesis paragraph.
A Thesis Helps You and Your Reader
Your blueprint for writing:
- Helps you determine your focus and clarify your ideas.
- Provides a "hook" on which you can "hang" your topic sentences.
- Can (and should) be revised as you further refine your evidence and arguments. New evidence often requires you to change your thesis.
- Gives your paper a unified structure and point.
Your reader’s blueprint for reading:
- Serves as a "map" to follow through your paper.
- Keeps the reader focused on your argument.
- Signals to the reader your main points.
- Engages the reader in your argument.
Tips for Writing a Good Thesis
- Find a Focus: Choose a thesis that explores an aspect of your topic that is important to you, or that allows you to say something new about your topic. For example, if your paper topic asks you to analyze women’s domestic labor during the early nineteenth century, you might decide to focus on the products they made from scratch at home.
- Look for Pattern: After determining a general focus, go back and look more closely at your evidence. As you re-examine your evidence and identify patterns, you will develop your argument and some conclusions. For example, you might find that as industrialization increased, women made fewer textiles at home, but retained their butter and soap making tasks.
Strategies for Developing a Thesis Statement
Idea 1. If your paper assignment asks you to answer a specific question, turn the question into an assertion and give reasons for your opinion.
Assignment: How did domestic labor change between 1820 and 1860? Why were the changes in their work important for the growth of the United States?
Beginning thesis: Between 1820 and 1860 women's domestic labor changed as women stopped producing home-made fabric, although they continued to sew their families' clothes, as well as to produce butter and soap. With the cash women earned from the sale of their butter and soap they purchased ready-made cloth, which in turn, helped increase industrial production in the United States before the Civil War.
Idea 2. Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.
Main Idea: Women's labor in their homes during the first half of the nineteenth century contributed to the growth of the national economy.
Idea 3. Spend time "mulling over" your topic. Make a list of the ideas you want to include in the essay, then think about how to group them under several different headings. Often, you will see an organizational plan emerge from the sorting process.
Idea 4 .Use a formula to develop a working thesis statement (which you will need to revise later). Here are a few examples:
- Although most readers of ______ have argued that ______, closer examination shows that ______.
- ______ uses ______ and ______ to prove that ______.
- Phenomenon X is a result of the combination of ______, ______, and ______.
These formulas share two characteristics all thesis statements should have: they state an argument and they reveal how you will make that argument. They are not specific enough, however, and require more work.
As you work on your essay, your ideas will change and so will your thesis. Here are examples of weak and strong thesis statements.
- Unspecific thesis: "Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong leader as First Lady." This thesis lacks an argument. Why was Eleanor Roosevelt a strong leader?
- Specific thesis: "Eleanor Roosevelt recreated the role of the First Lady by her active political leadership in the Democratic Party, by lobbying for national legislation, and by fostering women’s leadership in the Democratic Party." The second thesis has an argument: Eleanor Roosevelt "recreated" the position of First Lady, and a three-part structure with which to demonstrate just how she remade the job.
- Unspecific thesis: "At the end of the nineteenth century French women lawyers experienced difficulty when they attempted to enter the legal profession." No historian could argue with this general statement and uninteresting thesis.
- Specific thesis: "At the end of the nineteenth century French women lawyers experienced misogynist attacks from male lawyers when they attempted to enter the legal profession because male lawyers wanted to keep women out of judgeships." This thesis statement asserts that French male lawyers attacked French women lawyers because they feared women as judges, an intriguing and controversial point.
Making an Argument-- Every Thesis Deserves Its Day in Court
You are the best (and only!) advocate for your thesis. Your thesis is defenseless without you to prove that its argument holds up under scrutiny. The jury (i.e., your reader) will expect you, as a good lawyer, to provide evidence to prove your thesis. To prove thesis statements on historical topics, what evidence can an able young lawyer use?
- Primary sources: letters, diaries, government documents, an organization’s meeting minutes, newspapers.
- Secondary sources: articles and books from your class that explain and interpret the historical event or person you are writing about, lecture notes, films or documentaries.
How can you use this evidence?
- Make sure the examples you select from your available evidence address your thesis.
- Use evidence that your reader will believe is credible. This means sifting and sorting your sources, looking for the clearest and fairest. Be sure to identify the biases and shortcomings of each piece of evidence for your reader.
- Use evidence to avoid generalizations. If you assert that all women have been oppressed, what evidence can you use to support this? Using evidence works to check over-general statements.
- Use evidence to address an opposing point of view. How do your sources give examples that refute another historian’s interpretation?
Remember -- if in doubt, talk to your instructor. Thanks to the web page of the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s Writing Center for information used in this handout. See writing.wisc.edu/handbook for further information.
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How to Write a Thesis Statement: Quick and Easy Guide 2023
Defining What is a Thesis Statement
Have you ever avoided writing a research paper because you believed it would be worthless and not make much academic contribution? We get it! Some people lack the courage and confidence to sit down with paper and a pen (or, more often, a laptop) and allow their viewpoint to flow through pages on any subject. If this has ever happened to you, trust us when we say that your research and creative abilities will be unquestionable after using our solution.
Are you secretly double-checking if you indeed clicked on the article on a thesis statement? Don't bother! The solution we mentioned above actually lies in crafting a perfect thesis statement that will work wonders for your research paper. Never undervalue the impact of a strong thesis statement articulating your position and providing direction for your writing. It is a cornerstone of your academic essay, providing readers with your main idea and the rationale for your study, ultimately motivating them to read the remaining pages in one go.
So, what is a thesis statement aside from praising its power? A thesis statement, presented in the introduction section of a paper, is a brief overview of the subject matter that includes your stance on the issue. Just like a navigating tool, thesis statements set a clear direction in which your upcoming paragraphs will flow and where the main body will defend your claim and arguments. After familiarizing yourself with the thesis statement definition, let's now examine the characteristics of a strong thesis statement prepared by our custom essay service
Qualities of a Good Thesis Statement
A solid thesis must be specific and defined. Moreover, it should:
- Clearly and promptly state the primary topic and supporting elements of your article;
- Serve as a blueprint so that your audience may freely comprehend your thoughts;
- Offer readers delight at the end of the work when they learn you have kept your promise by supporting or elaborating on your key topic.
- Expand through combining reasoning, observing, and reporting;
- Limit your study by giving you one single core topic that interests you;
- Focus your writing on a single, well-developed, or credible assertion;
- Arrange your thoughts so that you are aware of the central themes your article should address
- Clarify your writing by staying on course to achieve your intended goal.
How to Write a Thesis Statement: Getting it Right
Students frequently take a long time to draft their initial thoughts without knowing what a thesis statement should contain. A well-organized structure can help you finish your academic writing project quickly. So, let's break down the essential steps for writing a thesis statement with our admission essay writing service .
- Brainstorm ideas: Having a range of writing topics is usually preferable. In this manner, you will only pick a subject that appeals to you the most and can interest your audience. To generate a list of outstanding ideas and pick a topic based on them, collaborate with your friends, family, or instructors.
- Narrow and focus: We must emphasize that broad and general information has no place in a well-written work. The purpose of writing is to establish a special point about a subject. So, make sure the thesis reflects it.
- Understand the essay format , goal, and target audience: In most cases, the instructor assigns them, but even if you get to pick them, you must realize that they will have a significant impact on your thesis statement. When writing a persuasive essay, your goal will be to convince a certain audience of anything. While writing a descriptive essay, your goal is to explain something to a certain audience. Your thesis must incorporate at least one of each of these.
- Conduct research: You must do in-depth research using reliable, current sources. Always use academic databases to gain access to the materials you'll need for your study.
- Support your answer with reasoning: Select related evidence to bolster your main point. Throughout your research paper, ensure all of your arguments are supported by examples relevant to your thesis.
- Check how it aligns: Most often, authors will select to draft their body paragraphs before coming up with their thesis statement. A writer can set out to show one thing yet wind up changing their original thesis. Because of this, it's crucial to review your essay and make sure your thesis is consistent with the points you've made. When revising the main argument, make any necessary changes if you have evidence contradicting the initial claim.
Good Thesis Statement Examples
Now that you know the major steps of how to write a thesis statement, you should also remember that a thesis statement can take various forms, depending on the author's objectives. We created good thesis statement examples to give you a more precise illustration. This is a list of the most prevalent types of thesis statements:
Argumentative Thesis Statement
A strong, argumentative thesis statement example should take a stance about an issue. It should explain the basics of your argument and help your reader to know what to expect in your essay. An argumentative thesis must make a claim about which reasonable people can disagree. Let's take a look at an example:
'The federal government must limit the number of sodas distributed at fast-food places since junk food harms overall well-being.'
Analytical Thesis Statement
A good analytical essay example demands going further and looking at the bigger picture. The following are key terms and phrases to remember when creating an analytical thesis statement: What is being claimed, how is it justified, and what does it imply? What are the ramifications, or why is it meaningful?
Example: 'The effects of the ongoing racism problem are visible in the world's sociocultural and commercial aspects. This issue is mostly being fueled by socio-ethnic prejudice within a population. '
Expository Thesis Statement
An expository essay introduces the reader to a new subject and educates them on it by providing facts, illustrations, or justifications. Your thesis statement should describe to the audience what she will discover in your essay if you are creating an expository essay.
Example: 'The possibility of stroke and rapid heart rate is increased by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).'
Compare and Contrast Thesis Statement
Several strategies can be used in compare and contrast essays. Some call for you to concentrate mostly on contrasts or similarities. Yet, for some, you need to pay attention to both.
Example: 'Although authoritarian and permissive parenting appears to be fundamentally contradictory, they share one important trait: both parents allow their kids to take responsibility for their actions.'
Cause and Effect Thesis Statement
Cause and effect essays examine how an event or scenario came about and what occurs due to that circumstance. You must give the cause of an event or occurrence in a cause-and-effect thesis statement.
Example: 'While several causes have led to the increase in homelessness, one of the most significant is the inadequate social support services.'
Elements of a Thesis Statement
An essay’s thesis consists of the following elements:
- The main idea of your paper expressed in a simple sentence.
- The reason(s) why you support and choose this idea.
- A counterargument to your claim. This is a valid piece of information which can, in turn, support your position. Use it only in case you have one.
Thesis Statement Examples & Templates
For many students, the best way to learn is to see some realistic examples. So here we will see how a thesis statement depends on the aim of the paper:
Make a claim about a chosen topic/question and try to justify this main argument by using reasons and credible evidence. Decide which type of thesis you plan to use. The main argument could be an opinion, analysis, or proposal. The writer should offer something some people can disagree with. Persuade the audience of your truth throughout the paper.
Example:The Brexit referendum result was caused by working-class frustration with the political elite and by austere policies that have eroded public services and fragmented communities; the referendum offered an alternative to the status quo.
You do not have to introduce a strong argument, you rather need to analyze, interpret, and evaluate different aspects of the same topic. It should introduce the key points of your analysis.
Example:An assessment of a barn owl’s flight technique depicts a couple of flight patterns: the ones connected with hunting prey and those related to courtship.
The main aim of an expository thesis statement is to explain and discuss the facts of a topic.
Example:Gerbils are believed to be a perfect pet for kids as they are low-maintenance and cheap.
In a compare and contrast thesis statement your goal should be to compare, review, and juxtapose the two points.
Example:While Judaism and Christianity are Abrahamic religions sprung from the same cultural hearth, they are different by their implementation of traditions, their realizations of religious cannons, and their perceptions of Jesus Christ.
In a cause and effect thesis statement you need to explain the reason for some event or happening.
Example:The primary reason why high school bullying takes place is the fact that modern teens watch violent videos and play violent video games.
Download PDF examples of essays with a thesis statement. The statements are highlighted.
Cricket, in the South of Asia between 1880-2005, played a political role in not only easing tensions and restrictions of caste members, but allowing Pakistan and India to release some political tensions from a religious aspect.
In Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, the setting is the hot and colorful West Indies in the post-colonial days. In Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre the setting is murky gray England: the heart of the empire and Mr. Rochester’s home. Thornfield in Wide Sargasso Sea is depicted as dark and ancient, while Antoinette’s surroundings in Jane Eyre are often green and dream-like. The contrasting climates and settings in the two novels showcase how different Antoinette’s concept of home is from Jane’s, yet they also add parallel qualities to the two novels
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FAQs on Thesis Statements
If you're looking for additional information on writing thesis statements, our rewrite essay service compiled a list of frequently asked questions that will give you thorough answers and help you strengthen your statement.
How Do I Start a Thesis Statement?
When unsure how to start a thesis statement, remember that an original thesis should be developed early in the writing process. Once you have selected your essay topic, you must choose what you will argue for in support. A concise thesis statement will give your essay a framework and focus.
You may provide a rough solution to this issue after conducting some preliminary studies. At this point, it can be straightforward and should guide the writing and research processes.
How Long Should a Thesis Statement Be?
Regardless of its many elements, a thesis statement must only be one sentence long. Rule-breaking is not as crucial as writing clearly. Still, the thesis may extend to two sentences in some circumstances, although it should always be stated briefly rather than generally addressed in a paragraph. Depending on the kind of paper, several thesis statements may be used.
When asking 'how long should a thesis statement be' from the length perspective, there isn't a universally applicable solution to this question. However, limiting your thesis statement to between 20 and 50 words is advisable.
Can a Thesis Statement Be a Question?
If you're still wondering - 'can a thesis statement be a question?', the answer is no since it would not be seen as appropriate in scholarly work. A question can't be proven, unlike a declaration or assertion, and your complete claim is meant to respond to a query. Its original goal would be completely defeated if expressed as an inquiry.
On the other hand, you can ask questions within topic sentences as they are the core concept of a body paragraph, giving your reader a feel of the issue and piquing their interest. Yet, you must ensure that the next sentence continues to address it.
Now you know what's a thesis statement, yet you might still be struggling to construct a good statement. Don't worry; a strong thesis statement template is never simple to write. Nevertheless, with our essays help , it can be made with little effort.
If you ever wished 'If only I could pay someone to write my paper ,' consider your wish come true! At EssayPro, you will be matched with a qualified academic writer who has previously produced many strong thesis statements and is familiar with all the necessary components. Keep in mind that education does not have to be stressful!
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Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Parts of a Paper / How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement
How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement
A thesis can be found in many places—a debate speech, a lawyer’s closing argument, even an advertisement. But the most common place for a thesis statement (and probably why you’re reading this article) is in an essay.
Whether you’re writing an argumentative paper, an informative essay, or a compare/contrast statement, you need a thesis. Without a thesis, your argument falls flat and your information is unfocused. Since a thesis is so important, it’s probably a good idea to look at some tips on how to put together a strong one.
What is a “thesis statement” anyway.
- 2 categories of thesis statements: informative and persuasive
- 2 styles of thesis statements
- Formula for a strong argumentative thesis
- The qualities of a solid thesis statement (video)
You may have heard of something called a “thesis.” It’s what seniors commonly refer to as their final paper before graduation. That’s not what we’re talking about here. That type of thesis is a long, well-written paper that takes years to piece together.
Instead, we’re talking about a single sentence that ties together the main idea of any argument . In the context of student essays, it’s a statement that summarizes your topic and declares your position on it. This sentence can tell a reader whether your essay is something they want to read.
2 Categories of Thesis Statements: Informative and Persuasive
Just as there are different types of essays, there are different types of thesis statements. The thesis should match the essay.
For example, with an informative essay, you should compose an informative thesis (rather than argumentative). You want to declare your intentions in this essay and guide the reader to the conclusion that you reach.
To make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you must procure the ingredients, find a knife, and spread the condiments.
This thesis showed the reader the topic (a type of sandwich) and the direction the essay will take (describing how the sandwich is made).
Most other types of essays, whether compare/contrast, argumentative, or narrative, have thesis statements that take a position and argue it. In other words, unless your purpose is simply to inform, your thesis is considered persuasive. A persuasive thesis usually contains an opinion and the reason why your opinion is true.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best type of sandwich because they are versatile, easy to make, and taste good.
In this persuasive thesis statement, you see that I state my opinion (the best type of sandwich), which means I have chosen a stance. Next, I explain that my opinion is correct with several key reasons. This persuasive type of thesis can be used in any essay that contains the writer’s opinion, including, as I mentioned above, compare/contrast essays, narrative essays, and so on.
2 Styles of Thesis Statements
Just as there are two different types of thesis statements (informative and persuasive), there are two basic styles you can use.
The first style uses a list of two or more points . This style of thesis is perfect for a brief essay that contains only two or three body paragraphs. This basic five-paragraph essay is typical of middle and high school assignments.
C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series is one of the richest works of the 20th century because it offers an escape from reality, teaches readers to have faith even when they don’t understand, and contains a host of vibrant characters.
In the above persuasive thesis, you can see my opinion about Narnia followed by three clear reasons. This thesis is perfect for setting up a tidy five-paragraph essay.
In college, five paragraph essays become few and far between as essay length gets longer. Can you imagine having only five paragraphs in a six-page paper? For a longer essay, you need a thesis statement that is more versatile. Instead of listing two or three distinct points, a thesis can list one overarching point that all body paragraphs tie into.
Good vs. evil is the main theme of Lewis’s Narnia series, as is made clear through the struggles the main characters face in each book.
In this thesis, I have made a claim about the theme in Narnia followed by my reasoning. The broader scope of this thesis allows me to write about each of the series’ seven novels. I am no longer limited in how many body paragraphs I can logically use.
Formula for a Strong Argumentative Thesis
One thing I find that is helpful for students is having a clear template. While students rarely end up with a thesis that follows this exact wording, the following template creates a good starting point:
___________ is true because of ___________, ___________, and ___________.
Conversely, the formula for a thesis with only one point might follow this template:
___________________ is true because of _____________________.
Students usually end up using different terminology than simply “because,” but having a template is always helpful to get the creative juices flowing.
The Qualities of a Solid Thesis Statement
When composing a thesis, you must consider not only the format, but other qualities like length, position in the essay, and how strong the argument is.
Length: A thesis statement can be short or long, depending on how many points it mentions. Typically, however, it is only one concise sentence. It does contain at least two clauses, usually an independent clause (the opinion) and a dependent clause (the reasons). You probably should aim for a single sentence that is at least two lines, or about 30 to 40 words long.
Position: A thesis statement always belongs at the beginning of an essay. This is because it is a sentence that tells the reader what the writer is going to discuss. Teachers will have different preferences for the precise location of the thesis, but a good rule of thumb is in the introduction paragraph, within the last two or three sentences.
Strength: Finally, for a persuasive thesis to be strong, it needs to be arguable. This means that the statement is not obvious, and it is not something that everyone agrees is true.
Example of weak thesis:
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy to make because it just takes three ingredients.
Most people would agree that PB&J is one of the easiest sandwiches in the American lunch repertoire.
Example of a stronger thesis:
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are fun to eat because they always slide around.
This is more arguable because there are plenty of folks who might think a PB&J is messy or slimy rather than fun.
Composing a thesis statement does take a bit more thought than many other parts of an essay. However, because a thesis statement can contain an entire argument in just a few words, it is worth taking the extra time to compose this sentence. It can direct your research and your argument so that your essay is tight, focused, and makes readers think.
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Module 3: Writing Essentials
Thesis statements, learning objectives.
- Identify strong thesis statements
The thesis statement is the key to most academic writing. The purpose of academic writing is to offer your own insights, analyses, and ideas—to show not only that you understand the concepts you’re studying, but also that you have thought about those concepts in your own way and agreed or disagreed, or developed your own unique ideas as a result of your analysis. The thesis statement is the one sentence that encapsulates the result of your thinking, as it offers your main insight or argument in condensed form.
We often use the word “argument” in English courses, but we do not mean it in the traditional sense of a verbal fight with someone else. Instead, you “argue” by taking a position on an issue and supporting it with evidence. Because you’ve taken a position about your topic, someone else may be in a position to disagree (or argue) with the stance you have taken. Think about how a lawyer presents an argument or states their case in a courtroom—similarly, you want to build a case around the main idea of your essay. For example, in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted “The Declaration of Sentiments,” she was thinking about how to convince New York State policymakers to change the laws to allow women to vote. Stanton was making an argument .
Some consider all writing a form of argument—or at least of persuasion. After all, even if you’re writing a letter or an informative essay, you’re implicitly trying to persuade your audience to care about what you’re saying. Your thesis statement represents the main idea—or point—about a topic or issue that you make in an argument. For example, let’s say that your topic is social media. A thesis statement about social media could look like one of the following sentences:
- Social media harms the self-esteem of American pre-teen girls.
- Social media can help connect researchers when they use hashtags to curate their work.
- Social media tools are not tools for social movements, they are marketing tools.
A basic thesis sentence has two main parts:
- Topic: What you’re writing about
- Angle: What your main idea is about that topic, or your claim
Example Thesis Statements
Thesis: A regular exercise regime leads to multiple benefits, both physical and emotional.
Topic: Regular exercise regime
Angle: Leads to multiple benefits
Thesis: Adult college students have different experiences than typical, younger college students.
Topic: Adult college students
Angle: Have different experiences
Thesis: The economics of television have made the viewing experience challenging for many viewers because shows are not offered regularly, similar programming occurs at the same time, and commercials are rampant.
Topic: Television viewing
Angle: Challenging because shows shifted, similar programming, and commercials
When you read all of the thesis statements above, can you see areas where the writer could be more specific with their angle? The more specific you are with your topic and your claims, the more focused your essay will be for your reader.
Identifying the Thesis Statement
You’ll remember that the first step of the reading process, previewing , allows you to get a big-picture view of the document you’re reading. This way, you can begin to understand the structure of the overall text. The most important step of understanding an essay or a book is to find the thesis statement.
A thesis consists of a specific topic and an angle on the topic. All of the other ideas in the text support and develop the thesis. The thesis statement is often found in the introduction, sometimes after an initial “hook” or interesting story; sometimes, however, the thesis is not explicitly stated until the end of an essay. Sometimes it is not stated at all. In those instances, there is an implied thesis statement. You can generally extract the thesis statement by looking for a few key sentences and ideas.
Most readers expect to see the point of your argument (the thesis statement) within the first few paragraphs. This does not mean that it has to be placed there every time. Some writers place it at the very end, slowly building up to it throughout their work, to explain a point after the fact. Others don’t bother with one at all but feel that their thesis is “implied” anyway. Beginning writers, however, should avoid the implied thesis unless certain of the audience. Almost every professor will expect to see a clearly discernible thesis sentence in the introduction.
Thesis statements vary based on the rhetorical strategy of the essay. Thesis statements typically share the following characteristics:
- presents the main idea
- is one sentence
- tells the reader what to expect
- summarizes the essay topic
- presents an argument
- is written in the third person (does not include the “I” pronoun)
The following “How to Identify a Thesis Statement” video offers advice for locating a text’s thesis statement. It asks you to write one or two sentences that summarize the text. When you write that summary, without looking at the text itself, you’ve most likely paraphrased the thesis statement.
You can view the transcript for “How to Identify the Thesis Statement” here (download).
Writing a Thesis Statement
Remember your thesis should answer two simple questions: What topic are you writing about, and what is your position, or angle, on the topic?
A thesis statement is a single sentence (or sometimes two) that provides the answers to these questions clearly and concisely. Ask yourself, “What is my paper about, exactly?” Answering this question will help you develop a precise and directed thesis, not only for your reader, but for you as well.
A good thesis statement will:
- Consist of just one interesting idea
- Be specific and written clearly
- Have evidence to support it
A good basic structure for a thesis statement is “they say, I say.” What is the prevailing view, and how does your position differ from it? However, avoid limiting the scope of your writing with an either/or thesis under the assumption that your view must be strictly contrary to their view.
Following are some typical thesis statements:
- Although many readers believe Romeo and Juliet to be a tale about the ill fate of two star-crossed lovers, it can also be read as an allegory concerning a playwright and his audience.
- The “War on Drugs” has not only failed to reduce the frequency of drug-related crimes in America but actually enhanced the popular image of dope peddlers by romanticizing them as desperate rebels fighting for a cause.
- The bulk of modern copyright law was conceived in the age of commercial printing, long before the Internet made it so easy for the public to compose and distribute its own texts. Therefore, these laws should be reviewed and revised to better accommodate modern readers and writers.
- The usual moral justification for capital punishment is that it deters crime by frightening would-be criminals. However, the statistics tell a different story.
- If students really want to improve their writing, they must read often, practice writing, and receive quality feedback from their peers.
- Plato’s dialectical method has much to offer those engaged in online writing, which is far more conversational in nature than print.
Thesis Problems to Avoid
Although you have creative control over your thesis sentence, you still should try to avoid the following problems, not for stylistic reasons, but because they indicate a problem in the thinking that underlies the thesis sentence.
- For example, look at the thesis: Hospice workers need support. This is a thesis sentence; it has a topic (hospice workers) and an angle (need support). But the angle is very broad. When the angle in a thesis sentence is too broad, the writer may not have carefully thought through the specific support for the rest of the writing. A thesis angle that’s too broad makes it easy to fall into the trap of offering information that deviates from that angle.
- Consider this thesis: Hospice workers have a 55% turnover rate compared to the general health care population’s 25% turnover rate. This sentence really isn’t a thesis sentence at all, because there’s no angle idea to support. A narrow statistic, or a narrow statement of fact, doesn’t offer the writer’s own ideas or analysis about a topic. A clearer example of a thesis statement with an angle of development would be the following:
Practice identifying strong thesis statements in the following interactive.
argument : in writing, the argument is the main stance, claim, or position that is supported with evidence
explicit thesis : a clear and direct statement of the writer’s claim
thesis statement : a statement of the topic of the piece of writing and the angle the writer has on that topic
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When you make an argument in an academic essay, you are writing for an audience that may not agree with you. In fact, your argument is worth making in the first place because your thesis will not be obvious—or obviously correct—to everyone who considers the question you are asking or the topic you’re addressing. Once you figure out what you want to argue—your essay’s thesis—your task in writing the essay will be to share with your readers the evidence you have considered and to explain how that evidence supports your thesis.
But just offering your readers evidence that supports your thesis isn’t enough. You also need to consider potential counterarguments—the arguments that your readers could reasonably raise to challenge either your thesis or any of the other claims that you make in your argument. It can be helpful to think of counterarguments to your thesis as alternative answers to your question. In order to support your thesis effectively, you will need to explain why it is stronger than the alternatives.
A counterargument shouldn’t be something you add to your essay after you’ve finished it just because you know you’re supposed to include one. Instead, as you write your essay, you should always be thinking about points where a thoughtful reader could reasonably disagree with you. In some cases, you will be writing your essay as a counterargument to someone else’s argument because you think that argument is incorrect or misses something important. In other cases, you’ll need to think through—and address—objections that you think readers may have to your argument.
While it may be tempting to ignore counterarguments that challenge your own argument, you should not do this. Your own argument will be stronger if you can explain to your readers why the counterarguments they may pose are not as strong or convincing as your own argument. If you come up with a counterargument that you can’t refute, then you may decide to revise your thesis or some part of your argument. While that could be frustrating in the moment, challenging your own thinking is an important part of the writing process. By considering potential counterarguments, you will figure out if you actually agree with your own argument. In many cases, you will discover that a counterargument complicates your argument, but doesn’t refute it entirely.
Some counterarguments will directly address your thesis, while other counterarguments will challenge an individual point or set of points elsewhere in your argument. For example, a counterargument might identify
- a problem with a conclusion you’ve drawn from evidence
- a problem with an assumption you’ve made
- a problem with how you are using a key term
- evidence you haven’t considered
- a drawback to your proposal
- a consequence you haven’t considered
- an alternative interpretation of the evidence
Consider the following thesis for a short paper that analyzes different approaches to stopping climate change:
Climate activism that focuses on personal actions such as recycling obscures the need for systemic change that will be required to slow carbon emissions.
The author of this thesis is promising to make the case that personal actions not only will not solve the climate problem but may actually make the problem more difficult to solve. In order to make a convincing argument, the author will need to consider how thoughtful people might disagree with this claim. In this case, the author might anticipate the following counterarguments:
- By encouraging personal actions, climate activists may raise awareness of the problem and encourage people to support larger systemic change.
- Personal actions on a global level would actually make a difference.
- Personal actions may not make a difference, but they will not obscure the need for systemic solutions.
- Personal actions cannot be put into one category and must be differentiated.
In order to make a convincing argument, the author of this essay may need to address these potential counterarguments. But you don’t need to address every possible counterargument. Rather, you should engage counterarguments when doing so allows you to strengthen your own argument by explaining how it holds up in relation to other arguments.
How to address counterarguments
Once you have considered the potential counterarguments, you will need to figure out how to address them in your essay. In general, to address a counterargument, you’ll need to take the following steps.
- State the counterargument and explain why a reasonable reader could raise that counterargument.
- Counter the counterargument. How you grapple with a counterargument will depend on what you think it means for your argument. You may explain why your argument is still convincing, even in light of this other position. You may point to a flaw in the counterargument. You may concede that the counterargument gets something right but then explain why it does not undermine your argument. You may explain why the counterargument is not relevant. You may refine your own argument in response to the counterargument.
- Consider the language you are using to address the counterargument. Words like but or however signal to the reader that you are refuting the counterargument. Words like nevertheless or still signal to the reader that your argument is not diminished by the counterargument.
Here’s an example of a paragraph in which a counterargument is raised and addressed. The two steps are highlighted ( yellow for the counterargument and blue for the “counter” to the counterargument):
But some experts argue that it’s important for individuals to take action to mitigate climate change. In “All That Performative Environmentalism Adds Up,” Annie Lowery argues that personal actions to fight climate change, such as reducing household trash or installing solar panels, matter because change in social behavior can lead to changes in laws.  While Lowery may be correct that individual actions can lead to collective action, this focus on individual action can allow corporations to receive positive publicity while continuing to burn fossil fuels at dangerous rates.
Where to address counterarguments
There is no one right place for a counterargument—where you raise a particular counterargument will depend on how it fits in with the rest of your argument. The most common spots are the following:
- Before your conclusion This is a common and effective spot for a counterargument because it’s a chance to address anything that you think a reader might still be concerned about after you’ve made your main argument. Don’t put a counterargument in your conclusion, however. At that point, you won’t have the space to address it, and readers may come away confused—or less convinced by your argument.
- Before your thesis Often, your thesis will actually be a counterargument to someone else’s argument. In other words, you will be making your argument because someone else has made an argument that you disagree with. In those cases, you may want to offer that counterargument before you state your thesis to show your readers what’s at stake—someone else has made an unconvincing argument, and you are now going to make a better one.
- After your introduction In some cases, you may want to respond to a counterargument early in your essay, before you get too far into your argument. This is a good option when you think readers may need to understand why the counterargument is not as strong as your argument before you can even launch your own ideas. You might do this in the paragraph right after your thesis.
- Anywhere that makes sense As you draft an essay, you should always keep your readers in mind and think about where a thoughtful reader might disagree with you or raise an objection to an assertion or interpretation of evidence that you are offering. In those spots, you can introduce that potential objection and explain why it does not change your argument. If you think it does affect your argument, you can acknowledge that and explain why your argument is still strong.
 Annie Lowery, “All that Performative Environmentalism Adds Up.” The Atlantic . August 31, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/your-tote-bag-can-make...
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