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Effective introductions and thesis statements, make them want to continue reading.
Writing an effective introduction is an art form. The introduction is the first thing that your reader sees. It is what invests the reader in your paper, and it should make them want to continue reading. You want to be creative and unique early on in your introduction; here are some strategies to help catch your reader’s attention:
- Tell a brief anecdote or story
- As a series of short rhetorical questions
- Use a powerful quotation
- Refute a common belief
- Cite a dramatic fact or statistic
Your introduction also needs to adequately explain the topic and organization of your paper.
Your thesis statement identifies the purpose of your paper. It also helps focus the reader on your central point. An effective thesis establishes a tone and a point of view for a given purpose and audience. Here are some important things to consider when constructing your thesis statement.
- Don’t just make a factual statement – your thesis is your educated opinion on a topic.
- Don’t write a highly opinionated statement that might offend your audience.
- Don’t simply make an announcement (ex. “Tuition should be lowered” is a much better thesis than “My essay will discuss if tuition should be lowered”).
- Don’t write a thesis that is too broad – be specific.
The thesis is often located in the middle or at the end of the introduction, but considerations about audience, purpose, and tone should always guide your decision about its placement.
Sometimes it’s helpful to wait to write the introduction until after you’ve written the essay’s body because, again, you want this to be one of the strongest parts of the paper.
Example of an introduction:
Innocent people murdered because of the hysteria of young girls! Many people believe that the young girls who accused citizens of Salem, Massachusetts of taking part in witchcraft were simply acting to punish their enemies. But recent evidence shows that the young girls may have been poisoned by a fungus called Ergot, which affects rye and wheat. The general public needs to learn about this possible cause for the hysteria that occurred in Salem so that society can better understand what happened in the past, how this event may change present opinion, and how the future might be changed by learning this new information.
By Rachel McCoppin, Ph.D. Last edited October 2016 by Allison Haas, M.A.
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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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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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How to write a good thesis introduction
Many people struggle to write a thesis introduction. Much of your research prep should be done and you should be ready to start your introduction. But often, it’s not clear what needs to be included in a thesis introduction. If you feel stuck at this point not knowing how to start, this guide can help.
Tip: If you’re really struggling to write your thesis intro, consider putting in a placeholder until you write more of the body of your thesis. Then, come back to your intro once you have a stronger sense of the overall content of your thesis.
A good introduction draws readers in while providing the setup for the entire project. There is no single way to write an introduction that will always work for every topic , but the points below can act as a guide. These points can help you write a good thesis introduction.
- 1. Identify your readership
Before even starting with your first sentence, consider who your readers are. Most likely, your readers will be the professors who are advising you on your thesis.
You should also consider readers of your thesis who are not specialists in your field. Writing with them in your mind will help you to be as clear as possible; this will make your thesis more understandable and enjoyable overall.
Tip: Always strive to be clear, correct, concrete, and concise in your writing.
- 2. Hook the reader and grab their attention
The first sentence of the thesis is crucial. Looking back at your own research, think about how other writers may have hooked you.
It is common to start with a question or quotation, but these types of hooks are often overused. The best way to start your introduction is with a sentence that is broad and interesting and that seamlessly transitions into your argument.
Once again, consider your audience and how much background information they need to understand your approach. You can start by making a list of what is interesting about your topic:
- Are there any current events or controversies associated with your topic that might be interesting for your introduction?
- What kinds of background information might be useful for a reader to understand right away?
- Are there historical anecdotes or other situations that uniquely illustrate an important aspect of your argument?
- 3. Provide relevant background
A good introduction also needs to contain enough background information to allow the reader to understand the thesis statement and arguments. The amount of background information required will depend on the topic .
There should be enough background information so you don't have to spend too much time with it in the body of the thesis, but not so much that it becomes uninteresting.
Tip: Strike a balance between background information that is too broad or too specific.
- 4. Give the reader a sense of what the paper is about
Let the reader know what the purpose of the study is. Make sure to include the following points:
- Briefly describe the motivation behind your research.
- Describe the topic and scope of your research.
- Explain the practical relevance of your research.
- Explain the scholarly consensus related to your topic: briefly explain the most important articles and how they are related to your research.
- 5. Preview key points and lead into your thesis statement
At the end of your introduction, you should lead into your thesis statement by briefly bringing up a few of your main supporting details and by previewing what will be covered in the main part of the thesis. You’ll want to highlight the overall structure of your thesis so that readers will have a sense of what they will encounter as they read.
- Frequently Asked Questions about writing a good thesis introduction
A good introduction draws readers in while providing the setup for the entire project. There is no single way to write an introduction that will always work for every topic, but these tips will help you write a great introduction:
- Identify your readership.
- Grab the reader's attention.
- Provide relevant background.
- Preview key points and lead into the thesis statement.
A good introduction needs to contain enough background information, and let the reader know what the purpose of the study is. Make sure to include the following points:
- Briefly describe the motivation for your research.
The length of the introduction will depend on the length of the whole thesis. Usually, an introduction makes up roughly 10 per cent of the total word count.
The best way to start your introduction is with a sentence that is broad and interesting and that seamlessly transitions into your argument. Consider the audience, then think of something that would grab their attention.
In Open Access: Theses and Dissertations you can find thousands of recent works. Take a look at any of the theses or dissertations for real-life examples of introductions that were already approved.
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What this handout is about.
This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.
Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement:
- tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
- is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
- directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
- makes a claim that others might dispute.
- is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.
If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)
How do I create a thesis?
A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.
Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .
How do I know if my thesis is strong?
If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :
- Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
- Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.
Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:
Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.
You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.
- Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?
After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:
Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.
This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.
Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.
You begin to analyze your thesis:
- Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.
Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:
In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
- Do I answer the question? Yes!
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”
After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:
Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.
This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.
Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.
Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.
Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.
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A thesis statement is usually at the end of an introductory paragraph. The sentences that precede the sentence will introduce it, and the sentences that follow will support and explain it. Just as a topic sentence introduces and organizes a paragraph, a thesis statement helps readers recognize what is to follow.
For example, consider the following thesis statement:
The Battle of Vicksburg changed the course of the Civil War, leading to the success of the Union.
This statement defines the subject, limits it (one battle, not the entire Civil War), and sets up a cause and effect pattern for the essay that follows.
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Writing Essays Well: Introductions, Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences
For the first paragraph of an essay to actually be a proper introduction (in other words, for it to fulfil the requirements of an effective introduction), it must have two elements:
1. a thesis statement 2. a preview or essay plan for the essay.
So, what are these two elements?
1. A thesis statement tells the reader about your position on the topic as the author. It serves to focus your ideas on the topic and to indicate why your essay is worth the reader’s time. When you are given an essay question, the thesis statement is your clear and concise answer to the question. For example, for the essay question ‘What were the causes of the Holocaust in World War II?’, your thesis statement could be something like this: ‘There were many complicated and interrelated causes of the Holocaust, including the economy of Germany, the ideology of the fascists and Hitler’s personal racism.’
A ‘ thesis ’ is an ‘argument’, and the thesis statement indicates what the argument of the essay is, or what argument (or viewpoint) the author of the essay will be putting across to readers. Thus, the thesis statement also keeps authors from wandering off topic. A thesis statement can be short—just one sentence—or long—two or more sentences—depending on the points to be covered. Always include it at the beginning of the essay, within the first paragraph. For short essays, the thesis statement can list the two or three key points that the essay covers, but for longer essays that typically cover more key points, it can broadly state the central theme.
2. An introduction must introduce all the main points that you will discuss in the remaining sections of the essay. For instance, argumentative essays must provide evidence to back up or support the thesis statement. This means you have to provide proof to back up your answer to the essay question. So, if your essay is on the causes of the Holocaust and your essay is going to discuss six main causes (two paragraphs on each), then your introduction must list (or introduce) each of these six main causes. Thus, this list acts like an essay map or preview and provides your reader with an idea about the topics that your essay will discuss. Usually, this list is linked to your thesis statement or comes straight after it.
You must also use ‘topic sentences’ in your essay. These sentences begin each paragraph in which you are about to discuss a new topic. To continue with the example we have been looking at of the Holocaust essay, the essay will discuss six causes of the Holocaust and each cause will have two paragraphs. That means that every second paragraph would use a ‘topic sentence’ since it would be moving on to discuss another cause of the Holocaust. Here are some examples of these topic sentences:
‘The most significant cause of the Holocaust is the economic state of Germany.’ ‘Another cause of the Holocaust is Hitler’s personal views.’
These sentences let the reader know what the paragraph will discuss (i.e. what the next point to be discussed in the essay is) and also relate the paragraph back to the introduction. This gives the essay a logical, smooth flow and shows that it has been well organised.
A concluding sentence goes at the end of a paragraph or topic. It sums up for the readers what has just been discussed and relates it back to the question. If you had used the topic sentence ‘The most significant cause of the Holocaust is the economic state of Germany’ and then written a paragraph or two discussing this topic, a concluding sentence could be ‘Thus, it can be observed that the economic state of Germany after World War I is the main cause of the Holocaust.’
Topic sentences and concluding sentences go before and after your paragraphs like the bread slices in a sandwich, leading the reader through your essay .
Update: 27 May 2020
Frequently Asked Questions
How can i write a good introduction to my essay.
For the first paragraph of an essay to actually be a proper introduction, that is, for it to fulfil the requirements of an effective introduction, remember to include two elements: a thesis statement and a preview or essay plan for the essay.
What is a ‘thesis statement’?
A ‘thesis’ is an ‘argument’, and the thesis statement indicates what the argument of the essay is. It tells your readers about your position on the topic as the author. The thesis statement also keeps authors from wandering off topic. It can be short or long, but always include it at the beginning of the essay, within the first paragraph. For short essays, the thesis statement can list the two or three key points, but for longer essays that have more key points, it can broadly state the central theme instead.
What is an ‘essay plan’?
Think of it as a preview of what your essay contains. For instance, if your essay will discuss six main causes of an event (two paragraphs on each), then your introduction must list (or introduce) each of these six main causes. Thus, this list acts like an ‘essay plan’ or map and provides your reader with an idea about the topics that your essay will discuss. Usually, this list is linked to your thesis statement or comes straight after it.
What other types of sentences should my essay include?
You must also use ‘topic sentences’ and ‘concluding sentences’ in your essay. Let’s begin with the first. Topic sentences begin each paragraph in which you’re about to discuss a new topic. These sentences let your readers know what the paragraph will discuss (i.e. what the next point to be discussed in the essay is) and also link the paragraph back to the introduction. This way, you can give your essay a logical, smooth flow and organise it well.
So, what are ‘concluding sentences’?
The concluding sentence goes at the end of a paragraph or topic. It sums up for the readers what has just been discussed and relates it back to the question. Thus, topic sentences and concluding sentences go before and after your paragraphs just like the bread slices in a sandwich, leading the reader through your essay.
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