How to Write a Thesis Statement in Four Easy Steps
Everyone knows that a good thesis statement is clear, specific, and focused. It draws the reader’s attention to your topic and announces your perspective on the topic.
But while teachers often tell you what to put in your thesis statement, they don’t always tell you how to write a thesis statement. The four steps below will show you how to write thesis statements quickly and effectively.
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Teacher Tips: How to Write Thesis Statements for High School Papers
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Learning how to write a thesis statement is one of the most important skills a high school student can master. Without a strong thesis statement, a paper can feel disorganized and readers may not understand what you’re trying to express. The thesis summarizes the theme of your paper and tells the reader what the rest of the paper is about. The thesis usually appears at the end of your introduction, generally as the last sentence of your first paragraph. High school papers that typically include a thesis statement include argument essays, analysis papers, process essays and research papers.
Understand the Purpose
A successful thesis includes three essential elements: It presents the topic of the paper, offers a clear opinion on that topic, and summarizes the points you’ll cover in the body of the paper. A thesis statement can help you organize your essay, as each paragraph you include in the body of your essay relates to one of the points you included in your thesis. For example, if your thesis was that online learning is more effective than traditional classes because they are more flexible and affordable and offer students the ability to learn at their own pace, then your body paragraphs would focus on each of those three reasons. A successful thesis also acts as a road map for the reader, signaling what the rest of the paper will cover.
Present an Opinion
Your thesis must express a clear opinion about your topic. An opinion is debatable, meaning that someone else could potentially dispute it. If a reader cannot challenge or oppose your thesis statement, you may simply be stating facts or summarizing an issue rather than presenting a clear point of view. For example, if you said that online classes are becoming more common, that’s a fact, not an opinion, but saying that online classes are better or worse than traditional classes offers a debatable point of view.
Your thesis statement should include evidence to support your point of view. This evidence gives you credibility as the author of the paper, telling the reader that you understand your topic, have conducted research, and that you have evidence to back up your opinion. The evidence you include in your thesis should summarize the main points in your essay so the reader knows what the rest of the paper is about.
Write Several Drafts
It takes practice to write a successful thesis statement. You may need to write several versions in order to capture your opinion and summarize your evidence in one or two sentences. It can help to use a checklist to make sure you’ve included all of the elements of a thesis. Your thesis should be one or two sentences, express a debatable point of view and include evidence to support your opinion. This simple test can help make sure your thesis is strong and organized before you write the rest of your paper.
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Amy Mahoney has been a writer for more than 15 years. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines including “The Boston Globe,” “Reader’s Digest” and the “Miami Herald.” She holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.
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How to write a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.
Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.
Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?
- to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
- to better organize and develop your argument
- to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument
In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.
How Can You Write a Good Thesis Statement?
Here are some helpful hints to get you started. You can either scroll down or select a link to a specific topic.
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned
Almost all assignments, no matter how complicated, can be reduced to a single question. Your first step, then, is to distill the assignment into a specific question. For example, if your assignment is, “Write a report to the local school board explaining the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class,” turn the request into a question like, “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” After you’ve chosen the question your essay will answer, compose one or two complete sentences answering that question.
Q: “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are . . .”
A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve . . .”
The answer to the question is the thesis statement for the essay.
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How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned
Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about.
A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:
- take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
- deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment
- express one main idea
- assert your conclusions about a subject
Let’s see how to generate a thesis statement for a social policy paper.
Brainstorm the topic . Let’s say that your class focuses upon the problems posed by changes in the dietary habits of Americans. You find that you are interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume.
You start out with a thesis statement like this:
This fragment isn’t a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about sugar consumption.
Narrow the topic . Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy.
You change your thesis to look like this:
Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.
This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one segment of the population: elementary school children. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, because while most people might agree that children consume more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic.
Take a position on the topic. After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children consume.
You revise your thesis statement to look like this:
More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.
This statement asserts your position, but the terms more attention and food and beverage choices are vague.
Use specific language . You decide to explain what you mean about food and beverage choices , so you write:
Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.
This statement is specific, but it isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of making an assertion.
Make an assertion based on clearly stated support. You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this:
Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.
Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce sugar consumption by children, and who should do it?” When you started thinking about the paper, you may not have had a specific question in mind, but as you became more involved in the topic, your ideas became more specific. Your thesis changed to reflect your new insights.
How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
1. a strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand..
Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper for a class on fitness, you might be asked to choose a popular weight-loss product to evaluate. Here are two thesis statements:
There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.
This is a weak thesis statement. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase negative and positive aspects is vague.
Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.
This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.
2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion.
Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:
My family is an extended family.
This is a weak thesis because it merely states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.
While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.
This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.
3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.
Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:
Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and Web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.
This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or Web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:
Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using Web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.
This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because , since , so , although , unless , and however .
4. A strong thesis statement is specific.
A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say:
World hunger has many causes and effects.
This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, world hunger can’t be discussed thoroughly in seven to ten pages. Second, many causes and effects is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. A revised thesis might look like this:
Hunger persists in Glandelinia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.
This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic, and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.
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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements
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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.
Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement
1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:
- An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
- An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
- An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.
If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.
2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.
3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.
4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.
Thesis Statement Examples
Example of an analytical thesis statement:
The paper that follows should:
- Explain the analysis of the college admission process
- Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors
Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:
- Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers
Example of an argumentative thesis statement:
- Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college
Teaching Thesis Statement Writing in Secondary ELA
When my students complete a formal essay in class, I make it a point to go through the entire writing process with them. Once students have brainstormed and selected the main ideas for their essays, it is time to write the thesis statement. Since the thesis statement is such a crucial part of any academic paper or essay, I make sure I spend some time on each essay teaching my students how to write their thesis statement.
When I teach my high school English students about the thesis statement, I tell them that it is a roadmap or framework sentence that encapsulates the entire main argument or claim of the essay. I have my students write their thesis statement at the end of their introduction, and I like to have them keep it to one sentence.
For middle school and high school students, writing a thesis statement can be a challenging task. Here are some steps that I walk my students through to help them craft a strong thesis statement .
1. Identify topics, supporting arguments, and main reasons.
I have my students outline their essays by identifying the main topic, supporting arguments, or main reasons. These ideas will be the basis for their thesis statement
2. Brainstorm more ideas
Next, I have my students brainstorm ideas related to their main topics. This step helps them determine if they have enough reasons to include in an entire body paragraph. By brainstorming more ideas, students also get a stronger viewpoint of their essays.
3. Narrow the essay focus
Once my students have a list of ideas, I have them begin narrowing down their focus. They look for common themes or patterns they might find from their brainstormed ideas, and then I have them use them to develop a single, clear, concise thesis statement.
4. Thesis statements should be specific
As students develop their thesis statement, I have them check to make sure it is specific and focused. I instruct my students to avoid vague or general statements and try to make their thesis statement as specific and concrete as possible.
5. Make it clear and concise
Finally, I have my students revise and edit their thesis statements to ensure they are clear and concise. I like to remind my students that I should be able to read their thesis statement and know exactly what their entire essay will be about.
By teaching students these five steps, they can write a strong and effective thesis statement. If you are looking for additional help teaching students how to write a thesis statement, I like to use this Thesis Statement and Introduction Teaching Unit in my classroom with my students.
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