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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.
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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.
A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.
A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.
When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.
Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.
Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.
Descriptive thesis (not arguable)
While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.
This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.
Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)
Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.
This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.
Arguable thesis with analytical claim
While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.
This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.
Arguable thesis with normative claim
Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.
This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.
Questions to ask about your thesis
- Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?
- Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?
- Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?
- Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?
- Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
- Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
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Transitional Words and Phrases
One of your primary goals as a writer is to present ideas in a clear and understandable way. To help readers move through your complex ideas, you want to be intentional about how you structure your paper as a whole as well as how you form the individual paragraphs that comprise it. In order to think through the challenges of presenting your ideas articulately, logically, and in ways that seem natural to your readers, check out some of these resources: Developing a Thesis Statement , Paragraphing , and Developing Strategic Transitions: Writing that Establishes Relationships and Connections Between Ideas.
While clear writing is mostly achieved through the deliberate sequencing of your ideas across your entire paper, you can guide readers through the connections you’re making by using transitional words in individual sentences. Transitional words and phrases can create powerful links between your ideas and can help your reader understand your paper’s logic.
In what follows, we’ve included a list of frequently used transitional words and phrases that can help you establish how your various ideas relate to each other. We’ve divided these words and phrases into categories based on the common kinds of relationships writers establish between ideas.
Two recommendations: Use these transitions strategically by making sure that the word or phrase you’re choosing matches the logic of the relationship you’re emphasizing or the connection you’re making. All of these words and phrases have different meanings, nuances, and connotations, so before using a particular transitional word in your paper, be sure you understand its meaning and usage completely, and be sure that it’s the right match for your paper’s logic. Use these transitional words and phrases sparingly because if you use too many of them, your readers might feel like you are overexplaining connections that are already clear.
Categories of Transition Words and Phrases
Causation Chronology Combinations Contrast Example
Importance Location Similarity Clarification Concession
Conclusion Intensification Purpose Summary
Transitions to help establish some of the most common kinds of relationships
Causation– Connecting instigator(s) to consequence(s).
accordingly as a result and so because
consequently for that reason hence on account of
since therefore thus
Chronology– Connecting what issues in regard to when they occur.
after afterwards always at length during earlier following immediately in the meantime
later never next now once simultaneously so far sometimes
soon subsequently then this time until now when whenever while
Combinations Lists– Connecting numerous events. Part/Whole– Connecting numerous elements that make up something bigger.
additionally again also and, or, not as a result besides even more
finally first, firstly further furthermore in addition in the first place in the second place
last, lastly moreover next second, secondly, etc. too
Contrast– Connecting two things by focusing on their differences.
after all although and yet at the same time but
despite however in contrast nevertheless nonetheless notwithstanding
on the contrary on the other hand otherwise though yet
Example– Connecting a general idea to a particular instance of this idea.
as an illustration e.g., (from a Latin abbreviation for “for example”)
for example for instance specifically that is
to demonstrate to illustrate
Importance– Connecting what is critical to what is more inconsequential.
foundationally most importantly
of less importance primarily
Location– Connecting elements according to where they are placed in relationship to each other.
above adjacent to below beyond
centrally here nearby neighboring on
opposite to peripherally there wherever
Similarity– Connecting to things by suggesting that they are in some way alike.
by the same token in like manner
in similar fashion here in the same way
Other kinds of transitional words and phrases Clarification
i.e., (from a Latin abbreviation for “that is”) in other words
that is that is to say to clarify to explain
to put it another way to rephrase it
granted it is true
naturally of course
in conclusion in the end
in fact indeed no
of course surely to repeat
undoubtedly without doubt yes
for this purpose in order that
so that to that end
to this end
in brief in sum
in summary in short
to sum up to summarize
Improving Your Writing Style
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Clear, Concise Sentences
Use the active voice
Put the action in the verb
Tidy up wordy phrases
Reduce wordy verbs
Reduce prepositional phrases
Reduce expletive constructions
Avoid using vague nouns
Avoid unneccessarily inflated words
Avoid noun strings
Connecting Ideas Through Transitions
Using Transitional Words and Phrases
How To Write A Strong Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is the most important part of an essay. It’s the roadmap, telling the reader what they can expect to read in the rest of paper, setting the tone for the writing, and generally providing a sense of the main idea.
Because it is so important, writing a good thesis statement can be tricky.
Before we get into the specifics, let’s review the basics: what thesis statement means. Thesis is a fancy word for “the subject of an essay” or “a position in a debate.” And a statement , simply, is a sentence (or a couple of sentences).
Taken together, a thesis statement explains your subject or position in a sentence (or a couple of sentences). Depending on the kind of essay you’re writing, you’ll need to make sure that your thesis statement states your subject or position clearly.
While the phrase thesis statement can sound intimidating, the basic goal is to clearly state your topic or your argument . Easy peasy!
The basic rules for writing a thesis statement are:
- State the topic or present your argument.
- Summarize the main idea of each of your details and/or body paragraphs.
- Keep your statement to one to two sentences.
Now comes the good stuff: the breakdown of how to write a good thesis statement for an informational essay and then for an argumentative essay (Yes, there are different types of thesis statements: check them all out here ). While the approach is similar for each, they require slightly different statements.
Informational essay thesis statements
The objective of an informational essay is to inform your audience about a specific topic. Sometimes, your essay will be in response to a specific question. Other times, you will be given a subject to write about more generally.
In an informational essay , you are not arguing for one side of an argument, you are just providing information.
Essays that are responding to a question
Often, you will be provided with a question to respond to in informational essay form. For example:
- Who is your hero and why?
- How do scientists research the effects of zero gravity on plants?
- What are the three branches of government, and what do each of them do?
If you are given a question or prompt, use it as a starting point for your thesis statement. Remember, the goal of a thesis statement in an informational essay is to state your topic.
You can use some of the same vocabulary and structure from the questions to create a thesis statement. Drop the question words (like who , what , when , where , and why ). Then, use the keywords in the question or prompt to start your thesis statement. Be sure to include because if the question asks “why?”
Check out the following example using the first prompt:
Original question : Who is your hero and why? Drop the question words : Who is your hero and why? Answer the question using the key words : My hero is Amelia Earhart, because she was very brave, did things many women of her time did not do, and was a hard worker.
If we were to write the rest of the essay based on this thesis statement, the outline would look something like this:
Introduction : My hero is Amelia Earhart, because she was very brave, did things many women of her time did not do, and was a hard worker. Body paragraph 1 : Details about how Amelia Earhart was brave Body paragraph 2 : Details about how she did things many women of her time did not do Body paragraph 3 : Details about how she was a hard worker Conclusion: It is clear that Amelia Earhart was a brave woman who accomplished many things that women of her time did not do, and always worked hard. These are the reasons why she is my hero.
These general guidelines work for other thesis statements, with some minor differences.
Essays that are responding to a statement or given subject
If you aren’t given a specific question to respond to, it can be a little more difficult to decide on a thesis statement. However, there are some tricks you can use to make it easier.
Some examples of prompts that are not questions are:
- Write about your favorite sports team.
- Describe how a motor works.
- Pick a famous scientist and write about their life.
- Compare and contrast the themes of a poem and a short story.
For these, we recommend using one of the following sentence starters to write your thesis with:
- In this essay, I will …
- [Subject] is interesting/relevant/my favorite because …
- Through my research, I learned that …
As an example of how to use these sentence starters, we’ve put together some examples using the first prompt: Write about your favorite sports team.
- In this essay, I will describe the history and cultural importance of the Pittsburgh Steelers, my favorite sports team.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers are my favorite because they have had a lasting impact on the history and culture of the city.
- Through my research, I learned that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had a lot of influence on the history and culture of Pittsburgh.
Any one of these thesis statements (or all three!) could be used for an informational essay about the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and their impact on the history and culture of Pittsburgh.
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Argumentative essay thesis statements
The basic building blocks of an informational essay also apply when it comes to an argumentative essay . However, an argumentative essay requires that you take a position on an issue or prompt.
You then have to attempt to persuade your reader that your argument is the best. That means that your argumentative thesis statement needs to do two things:
- State your position on the issue.
- Summarize the evidence you will be using to defend your position.
Some examples of argumentative essay prompts are:
- Should high school students be required to do volunteer work? Why or why not?
- What is the best way to cook a turkey?
- Some argue that video games are bad for society. Do you agree? Why or why not?
In order to create a good thesis statement for an argumentative essay, you have to be as specific as possible about your position and your evidence. Let’s take a look at the first prompt as an example:
Prompt 1: Should high school students be required to do volunteer work? Why or why not? Bad thesis statement: No, I don’t think high school students should be required to do volunteer work because it’s boring. Good thesis statement: I think high school students should not be required to do volunteer work because it takes time away from their studies, provides more barriers to graduation, and does not encourage meaningful volunteer work.
Let’s look at a couple other examples:
Prompt 2: What is the best way to cook a turkey? Bad thesis statement: The best way to cook a turkey is the way my grandma does it. Good thesis statement: The best way to cook a turkey is using my grandmother’s recipe: brining the turkey beforehand, using a dry rub, and cooking at a low temperature.
Prompt 3: Some argue that video games are bad for society. Do you agree? Why or why not? Bad thesis statement: Video games aren’t bad for society, because they’re super fun. Good thesis statement: Video games aren’t bad for society because they encourage cooperation, teach problem-solving skills, and provide hours of cheap entertainment.
Do you notice the difference between the good thesis statements and the bad thesis statements? The bad statements are general, not specific. They also use very casual language. The good statements clearly lay out exactly what aspects of the argument your essay will focus on, in a professional manner.
By the way, this same principle can also be applied to informational essay thesis statements. Take a look at this example for an idea:
Prompt: What are the three branches of government, and what do each of them do? Bad thesis statement: There are many branches of government that do many different things. Good thesis statement: Each of the three branches of government—the executive, the legislative, and the judicial—have different primary responsibilities. However, these roles frequently overlap.
In addition to being more specific than the bad thesis statement, the good thesis statement here is an example of how sometimes your thesis statement may require two sentences.
A thesis statement is the foundation of your essay. However, sometimes as you’re writing, you find that you’ve deviated from your original statement. Once you’ve finished writing your essay, go back and read your thesis statement. Ask yourself:
- Does my thesis statement state the topic and/or my position?
- Does my thesis statement refer to the evidence or details I refer to in my essay?
- Is my thesis statement clear and easy to understand?
Don’t hesitate to edit your thesis statement if it doesn’t meet all three of these criteria. If it does, great! You’ve crafted a solid thesis statement that effectively guides the reader through your work. Now on to the rest of the essay!
Ways To Say
Synonym of the day
What this handout is about.
This handout can help you revise your papers for word-level clarity, eliminate wordiness and avoid clichés, find the words that best express your ideas, and choose words that suit an academic audience.
Writing is a series of choices. As you work on a paper, you choose your topic, your approach, your sources, and your thesis; when it’s time to write, you have to choose the words you will use to express your ideas and decide how you will arrange those words into sentences and paragraphs. As you revise your draft, you make more choices. You might ask yourself, “Is this really what I mean?” or “Will readers understand this?” or “Does this sound good?” Finding words that capture your meaning and convey that meaning to your readers is challenging. When your instructors write things like “awkward,” “vague,” or “wordy” on your draft, they are letting you know that they want you to work on word choice. This handout will explain some common issues related to word choice and give you strategies for choosing the best words as you revise your drafts.
As you read further into the handout, keep in mind that it can sometimes take more time to “save” words from your original sentence than to write a brand new sentence to convey the same meaning or idea. Don’t be too attached to what you’ve already written; if you are willing to start a sentence fresh, you may be able to choose words with greater clarity.
For tips on making more substantial revisions, take a look at our handouts on reorganizing drafts and revising drafts .
“Awkward,” “vague,” and “unclear” word choice
So: you write a paper that makes perfect sense to you, but it comes back with “awkward” scribbled throughout the margins. Why, you wonder, are instructors so fond of terms like “awkward”? Most instructors use terms like this to draw your attention to sentences they had trouble understanding and to encourage you to rewrite those sentences more clearly.
Difficulties with word choice aren’t the only cause of awkwardness, vagueness, or other problems with clarity. Sometimes a sentence is hard to follow because there is a grammatical problem with it or because of the syntax (the way the words and phrases are put together). Here’s an example: “Having finished with studying, the pizza was quickly eaten.” This sentence isn’t hard to understand because of the words I chose—everybody knows what studying, pizza, and eating are. The problem here is that readers will naturally assume that first bit of the sentence “(Having finished with studying”) goes with the next noun that follows it—which, in this case, is “the pizza”! It doesn’t make a lot of sense to imply that the pizza was studying. What I was actually trying to express was something more like this: “Having finished with studying, the students quickly ate the pizza.” If you have a sentence that has been marked “awkward,” “vague,” or “unclear,” try to think about it from a reader’s point of view—see if you can tell where it changes direction or leaves out important information.
Sometimes, though, problems with clarity are a matter of word choice. See if you recognize any of these issues:
- Misused words —the word doesn’t actually mean what the writer thinks it does. Example : Cree Indians were a monotonous culture until French and British settlers arrived. Revision: Cree Indians were a homogenous culture.
- Words with unwanted connotations or meanings. Example : I sprayed the ants in their private places. Revision: I sprayed the ants in their hiding places.
- Using a pronoun when readers can’t tell whom/what it refers to. Example : My cousin Jake hugged my brother Trey, even though he didn’t like him very much. Revision: My cousin Jake hugged my brother Trey, even though Jake doesn’t like Trey very much.
- Jargon or technical terms that make readers work unnecessarily hard. Maybe you need to use some of these words because they are important terms in your field, but don’t throw them in just to “sound smart.” Example : The dialectical interface between neo-Platonists and anti-disestablishment Catholics offers an algorithm for deontological thought. Revision : The dialogue between neo-Platonists and certain Catholic thinkers is a model for deontological thought.
- Loaded language. Sometimes we as writers know what we mean by a certain word, but we haven’t ever spelled that out for readers. We rely too heavily on that word, perhaps repeating it often, without clarifying what we are talking about. Example : Society teaches young girls that beauty is their most important quality. In order to prevent eating disorders and other health problems, we must change society. Revision : Contemporary American popular media, like magazines and movies, teach young girls that beauty is their most important quality. In order to prevent eating disorders and other health problems, we must change the images and role models girls are offered.
Sometimes the problem isn’t choosing exactly the right word to express an idea—it’s being “wordy,” or using words that your reader may regard as “extra” or inefficient. Take a look at the following list for some examples. On the left are some phrases that use three, four, or more words where fewer will do; on the right are some shorter substitutes:
Keep an eye out for wordy constructions in your writing and see if you can replace them with more concise words or phrases.
In academic writing, it’s a good idea to limit your use of clichés. Clichés are catchy little phrases so frequently used that they have become trite, corny, or annoying. They are problematic because their overuse has diminished their impact and because they require several words where just one would do.
The main way to avoid clichés is first to recognize them and then to create shorter, fresher equivalents. Ask yourself if there is one word that means the same thing as the cliché. If there isn’t, can you use two or three words to state the idea your own way? Below you will see five common clichés, with some alternatives to their right. As a challenge, see how many alternatives you can create for the final two examples.
Try these yourself:
Writing for an academic audience
When you choose words to express your ideas, you have to think not only about what makes sense and sounds best to you, but what will make sense and sound best to your readers. Thinking about your audience and their expectations will help you make decisions about word choice.
Some writers think that academic audiences expect them to “sound smart” by using big or technical words. But the most important goal of academic writing is not to sound smart—it is to communicate an argument or information clearly and convincingly. It is true that academic writing has a certain style of its own and that you, as a student, are beginning to learn to read and write in that style. You may find yourself using words and grammatical constructions that you didn’t use in your high school writing. The danger is that if you consciously set out to “sound smart” and use words or structures that are very unfamiliar to you, you may produce sentences that your readers can’t understand.
When writing for your professors, think simplicity. Using simple words does not indicate simple thoughts. In an academic argument paper, what makes the thesis and argument sophisticated are the connections presented in simple, clear language.
Keep in mind, though, that simple and clear doesn’t necessarily mean casual. Most instructors will not be pleased if your paper looks like an instant message or an email to a friend. It’s usually best to avoid slang and colloquialisms. Take a look at this example and ask yourself how a professor would probably respond to it if it were the thesis statement of a paper: “Moulin Rouge really bit because the singing sucked and the costume colors were nasty, KWIM?”
Selecting and using key terms
When writing academic papers, it is often helpful to find key terms and use them within your paper as well as in your thesis. This section comments on the crucial difference between repetition and redundancy of terms and works through an example of using key terms in a thesis statement.
Repetition vs. redundancy
These two phenomena are not necessarily the same. Repetition can be a good thing. Sometimes we have to use our key terms several times within a paper, especially in topic sentences. Sometimes there is simply no substitute for the key terms, and selecting a weaker term as a synonym can do more harm than good. Repeating key terms emphasizes important points and signals to the reader that the argument is still being supported. This kind of repetition can give your paper cohesion and is done by conscious choice.
In contrast, if you find yourself frustrated, tiredly repeating the same nouns, verbs, or adjectives, or making the same point over and over, you are probably being redundant. In this case, you are swimming aimlessly around the same points because you have not decided what your argument really is or because you are truly fatigued and clarity escapes you. Refer to the “Strategies” section below for ideas on revising for redundancy.
Building clear thesis statements
Writing clear sentences is important throughout your writing. For the purposes of this handout, let’s focus on the thesis statement—one of the most important sentences in academic argument papers. You can apply these ideas to other sentences in your papers.
A common problem with writing good thesis statements is finding the words that best capture both the important elements and the significance of the essay’s argument. It is not always easy to condense several paragraphs or several pages into concise key terms that, when combined in one sentence, can effectively describe the argument.
However, taking the time to find the right words offers writers a significant edge. Concise and appropriate terms will help both the writer and the reader keep track of what the essay will show and how it will show it. Graders, in particular, like to see clearly stated thesis statements. (For more on thesis statements in general, please refer to our handout .)
Example : You’ve been assigned to write an essay that contrasts the river and shore scenes in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. You work on it for several days, producing three versions of your thesis:
Version 1 : There are many important river and shore scenes in Huckleberry Finn.
Version 2 : The contrasting river and shore scenes in Huckleberry Finn suggest a return to nature.
Version 3 : 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.
Let’s consider the word choice issues in these statements. In Version 1, the word “important”—like “interesting”—is both overused and vague; it suggests that the author has an opinion but gives very little indication about the framework of that opinion. As a result, your reader knows only that you’re going to talk about river and shore scenes, but not what you’re going to say. Version 2 is an improvement: the words “return to nature” give your reader a better idea where the paper is headed. On the other hand, she still does not know how this return to nature is crucial to your understanding of the novel.
Finally, you come up with Version 3, which is a stronger thesis because it offers a sophisticated argument and the key terms used to make this argument are clear. At least three key terms or concepts are evident: the contrast between river and shore scenes, a return to nature, and American democratic ideals.
By itself, a key term is merely a topic—an element of the argument but not the argument itself. The argument, then, becomes clear to the reader through the way in which you combine key terms.
Strategies for successful word choice
- Be careful when using words you are unfamiliar with. Look at how they are used in context and check their dictionary definitions.
- Be careful when using the thesaurus. Each word listed as a synonym for the word you’re looking up may have its own unique connotations or shades of meaning. Use a dictionary to be sure the synonym you are considering really fits what you are trying to say.
- Under the present conditions of our society, marriage practices generally demonstrate a high degree of homogeneity.
- In our culture, people tend to marry others who are like themselves. (Longman, p. 452)
- Before you revise for accurate and strong adjectives, make sure you are first using accurate and strong nouns and verbs. For example, if you were revising the sentence “This is a good book that tells about the Revolutionary War,” think about whether “book” and “tells” are as strong as they could be before you worry about “good.” (A stronger sentence might read “The novel describes the experiences of a soldier during the Revolutionary War.” “Novel” tells us what kind of book it is, and “describes” tells us more about how the book communicates information.)
- Try the slash/option technique, which is like brainstorming as you write. When you get stuck, write out two or more choices for a questionable word or a confusing sentence, e.g., “questionable/inaccurate/vague/inappropriate.” Pick the word that best indicates your meaning or combine different terms to say what you mean.
- Look for repetition. When you find it, decide if it is “good” repetition (using key terms that are crucial and helpful to meaning) or “bad” repetition (redundancy or laziness in reusing words).
- Write your thesis in five different ways. Make five different versions of your thesis sentence. Compose five sentences that express your argument. Try to come up with four alternatives to the thesis sentence you’ve already written. Find five possible ways to communicate your argument in one sentence to your reader. (We’ve just used this technique—which of the last five sentences do you prefer?)Whenever we write a sentence we make choices. Some are less obvious than others, so that it can often feel like we’ve written the sentence the only way we know how. By writing out five different versions of your thesis, you can begin to see your range of choices. The final version may be a combination of phrasings and words from all five versions, or the one version that says it best. By literally spelling out some possibilities for yourself, you will be able to make better decisions.
- Read your paper out loud and at… a… slow… pace. You can do this alone or with a friend, roommate, TA, etc. When read out loud, your written words should make sense to both you and other listeners. If a sentence seems confusing, rewrite it to make the meaning clear.
- Instead of reading the paper itself, put it down and just talk through your argument as concisely as you can. If your listener quickly and easily comprehends your essay’s main point and significance, you should then make sure that your written words are as clear as your oral presentation was. If, on the other hand, your listener keeps asking for clarification, you will need to work on finding the right terms for your essay. If you do this in exchange with a friend or classmate, rest assured that whether you are the talker or the listener, your articulation skills will develop.
- Have someone not familiar with the issue read the paper and point out words or sentences he/she finds confusing. Do not brush off this reader’s confusion by assuming he or she simply doesn’t know enough about the topic. Instead, rewrite the sentences so that your “outsider” reader can follow along at all times.
- Check out the Writing Center’s handouts on style , passive voice , and proofreading for more tips.
Questions to ask yourself
- Am I sure what each word I use really means? Am I positive, or should I look it up?
- Have I found the best word or just settled for the most obvious, or the easiest, one?
- Am I trying too hard to impress my reader?
- What’s the easiest way to write this sentence? (Sometimes it helps to answer this question by trying it out loud. How would you say it to someone?)
- What are the key terms of my argument?
- Can I outline out my argument using only these key terms? What others do I need? Which do I not need?
- Have I created my own terms, or have I simply borrowed what looked like key ones from the assignment? If I’ve borrowed the terms, can I find better ones in my own vocabulary, the texts, my notes, the dictionary, or the thesaurus to make myself clearer?
- Are my key terms too specific? (Do they cover the entire range of my argument?) Can I think of specific examples from my sources that fall under the key term?
- Are my key terms too vague? (Do they cover more than the range of my argument?)
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.
Cook, Claire Kehrwald. 1985. Line by Line: How to Improve Your Own Writing . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Grossman, Ellie. 1997. The Grammatically Correct Handbook: A Lively and Unorthodox Review of Common English for the Linguistically Challenged . New York: Hyperion.
Houghton Mifflin. 1996. The American Heritage Book of English Usage: A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English . Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
O’Conner, Patricia. 2010. Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English , 3rd ed. New York: Penguin Publishing Group.
Tarshis, Barry. 1998. How to Be Your Own Best Editor: The Toolkit for Everyone Who Writes . New York: Three Rivers Press.
Williams, Joseph, and Joseph Bizup. 2017. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace , 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.
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Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise. Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Like specialist languages adopted in other professions, such as, law or medicine, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts within a community of scholarly experts and practitioners.
Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020.
Importance of Good Academic Writing
The accepted form of academic writing in the social sciences can vary considerable depending on the methodological framework and the intended audience. However, most college-level research papers require careful attention to the following stylistic elements:
I. The Big Picture Unlike creative or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohesive and possess a logically organized flow of ideas; this means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be narrative links between sentences and paragraphs so that the reader is able to follow your argument. The introduction should include a description of how the rest of the paper is organized and all sources are properly cited throughout the paper.
II. Tone The overall tone refers to the attitude conveyed in a piece of writing. Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate narrative tone. When presenting a position or argument that you disagree with, describe this argument accurately and without loaded or biased language. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. You should, therefore, state the strengths of your arguments confidently, using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.
III. Diction Diction refers to the choice of words you use. Awareness of the words you use is important because words that have almost the same denotation [dictionary definition] can have very different connotations [implied meanings]. This is particularly true in academic writing because words and terminology can evolve a nuanced meaning that describes a particular idea, concept, or phenomenon derived from the epistemological culture of that discipline [e.g., the concept of rational choice in political science]. Therefore, use concrete words [not general] that convey a specific meaning. If this cannot be done without confusing the reader, then you need to explain what you mean within the context of how that word or phrase is used within a discipline.
IV. Language The investigation of research problems in the social sciences is often complex and multi- dimensional . Therefore, it is important that you use unambiguous language. Well-structured paragraphs and clear topic sentences enable a reader to follow your line of thinking without difficulty. Your language should be concise, formal, and express precisely what you want it to mean. Do not use vague expressions that are not specific or precise enough for the reader to derive exact meaning ["they," "we," "people," "the organization," etc.], abbreviations like 'i.e.' ["in other words"], 'e.g.' ["for example"], or 'a.k.a.' ["also known as"], and the use of unspecific determinate words ["super," "very," "incredible," "huge," etc.].
V. Punctuation Scholars rely on precise words and language to establish the narrative tone of their work and, therefore, punctuation marks are used very deliberately. For example, exclamation points are rarely used to express a heightened tone because it can come across as unsophisticated or over-excited. Dashes should be limited to the insertion of an explanatory comment in a sentence, while hyphens should be limited to connecting prefixes to words [e.g., multi-disciplinary] or when forming compound phrases [e.g., commander-in-chief]. Finally, understand that semi-colons represent a pause that is longer than a comma, but shorter than a period in a sentence. In general, there are four grammatical uses of semi-colons: when a second clause expands or explains the first clause; to describe a sequence of actions or different aspects of the same topic; placed before clauses which begin with "nevertheless", "therefore", "even so," and "for instance”; and, to mark off a series of phrases or clauses which contain commas. If you are not confident about when to use semi-colons [and most of the time, they are not required for proper punctuation], rewrite using shorter sentences or revise the paragraph.
VI. Academic Conventions Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references as either footnotes or endnotes is a key feature of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, data, paraphrased, or quoted text that you have used in your paper as a defense against allegations of plagiarism. Even more important, the scholarly convention of citing sources allow readers to identify the resources you used in writing your paper so they can independently verify and assess the quality of findings and conclusions based on your review of the literature. Examples of other academic conventions to follow include the appropriate use of headings and subheadings, properly spelling out acronyms when first used in the text, avoiding slang or colloquial language, avoiding emotive language or unsupported declarative statements, avoiding contractions [e.g., isn't], and using first person and second person pronouns only when necessary.
VII. Evidence-Based Reasoning Assignments often ask you to express your own point of view about the research problem. However, what is valued in academic writing is that statements are based on evidence-based reasoning. This refers to possessing a clear understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that exist within, and often external to, your discipline concerning the topic. You need to support your arguments with evidence from scholarly [i.e., academic or peer-reviewed] sources. It should be an objective stance presented as a logical argument; the quality of the evidence you cite will determine the strength of your argument. The objective is to convince the reader of the validity of your thoughts through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing. This is particularly important when proposing solutions to problems or delineating recommended courses of action.
VIII. Thesis-Driven Academic writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or position applied to the chosen topic of investigation, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions applied to investigating the research problem. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how you will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects you believe are most critical, or suggest a method for gathering information or data to better understand the problem.
IX. Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking Academic writing addresses complex issues that require higher-order thinking skills applied to understanding the research problem [e.g., critical, reflective, logical, and creative thinking as opposed to, for example, descriptive or prescriptive thinking]. Higher-order thinking skills include cognitive processes that are used to comprehend, solve problems, and express concepts or that describe abstract ideas that cannot be easily acted out, pointed to, or shown with images. Think of your writing this way: One of the most important attributes of a good teacher is the ability to explain complexity in a way that is understandable and relatable to the topic being presented during class. This is also one of the main functions of academic writing--examining and explaining the significance of complex ideas as clearly as possible. As a writer, you must adopt the role of a good teacher by summarizing complex information into a well-organized synthesis of ideas, concepts, and recommendations that contribute to a better understanding of the research problem.
Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Murray, Rowena and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Roy. Improve Your Writing Skills . Manchester, UK: Clifton Press, 1995; Nygaard, Lynn P. Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard . Second edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2015; Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007; Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice. Writing Center, Wheaton College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.
Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon
The very definition of research jargon is language specific to a particular community of practitioner-researchers . Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to words and phrases specific to a discipline or area of study. For example, the idea of being rational may hold the same general meaning in both political science and psychology, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research domain of a each discipline may have subtle differences based upon how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.
Given this, it is important that specialist terminology [i.e., jargon] must be used accurately and applied under the appropriate conditions . Subject-specific dictionaries are the best places to confirm the meaning of terms within the context of a specific discipline. These can be found by either searching in the USC Libraries catalog by entering the disciplinary and the word dictionary [e.g., sociology and dictionary] or using a database such as Credo Reference [a curated collection of subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, guides from highly regarded publishers] . It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but you should avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.
Problems with Opaque Writing
A common criticism of scholars is that they can utilize needlessly complex syntax or overly expansive vocabulary that is impenetrable or not well-defined. When writing, avoid problems associated with opaque writing by keeping in mind the following:
1. Excessive use of specialized terminology . Yes, it is appropriate for you to use specialist language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of complex or obscure words or writing complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your paper is more about style than substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about. Focus on creating clear, concise, and elegant prose that minimizes reliance on specialized terminology.
2. Inappropriate use of specialized terminology . Because you are dealing with concepts, research, and data within your discipline, you need to use the technical language appropriate to that area of study. However, nothing will undermine the validity of your study quicker than the inappropriate application of a term or concept. Avoid using terms whose meaning you are unsure of--do not just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or the Credo Reference database [see above].
Additional Problems to Avoid
In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should be aware of. These problems include:
- Personal nouns . Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. These words can be interpreted as being used only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem. Limit the use of personal nouns to descriptions of things you actually did [e.g., "I interviewed ten teachers about classroom management techniques..."]. Note that personal nouns are generally found in the discussion section of a paper because this is where you as the author/researcher interpret and describe your work.
- Directives . Avoid directives that demand the reader to "do this" or "do that." Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations or goals leading to specific outcomes. Note that an exception to this can be found in various forms of action research that involve evidence-based advocacy for social justice or transformative change. Within this area of the social sciences, authors may offer directives for action in a declarative tone of urgency.
- Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms . Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they can be open to interpretation. Your writing should be direct and concise using standard English.
- Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and developing a narrative that does not have confusing language . By doing so, you help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the design and purpose of your study.
- Vague expressions (e.g., "they," "we," "people," "the company," "that area," etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper, be sure to look for and edit any vague or imprecise statements that lack context or specificity.
- Numbered lists and bulleted items . The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, "The four main problems with hedge funds are:" and then list them as 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing, this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item arranged in separate paragraphs? Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols.
- Descriptive writing . Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study. In fact, some description or background information may be needed because you can not assume the reader knows the key aspects of the topic. However, the content of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem rather than background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
- Personal experience. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease] can be an effective way of introducing the research problem or engaging your readers in understanding its significance. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.
NOTE: Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone. A quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it or using a different quote to convey the same meaning. Consider inserting the term "sic" in brackets after the quoted text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source had grammar, spelling, or other errors. The adverb sic informs the reader that the errors are not yours.
Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Murray, Rowena and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Eileen S. “Action Research.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education . Edited by George W. Noblit and Joseph R. Neikirk. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students' Research Proposals. English Education Department. Yogyakarta State University; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.
Structure and Writing Style
I. Improving Academic Writing
To improve your academic writing skills, you should focus your efforts on three key areas: 1. Clear Writing . The act of thinking about precedes the process of writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from the literature they have reviewed before creating their work. Writing detailed outlines can help you clearly organize your thoughts. Effective academic writing begins with solid planning, so manage your time carefully. 2. Excellent Grammar . Needless to say, English grammar can be difficult and complex; even the best scholars take many years before they have a command of the major points of good grammar. Take the time to learn the major and minor points of good grammar. Spend time practicing writing and seek detailed feedback from professors. Take advantage of the Writing Center on campus if you need help. Proper punctuation and good proofreading skills can significantly improve academic writing [see sub-tab for proofreading you paper ].
Refer to these three basic resources to help your grammar and writing skills:
- A good writing reference book, such as, Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style or the St. Martin's Handbook ;
- A college-level dictionary, such as, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary ;
- The latest edition of Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form .
3. Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor expresses a preference to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or not, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide rules on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to a style of writing helps with the narrative flow of your paper and improves its readability. Note that some disciplines require a particular style [e.g., education uses APA] so as you write more papers within your major, your familiarity with it will improve.
II. Evaluating Quality of Writing
A useful approach for evaluating the quality of your academic writing is to consider the following issues from the perspective of the reader. While proofreading your final draft, critically assess the following elements in your writing.
- It is shaped around one clear research problem, and it explains what that problem is from the outset.
- Your paper tells the reader why the problem is important and why people should know about it.
- You have accurately and thoroughly informed the reader what has already been published about this problem or others related to it and noted important gaps in the research.
- You have provided evidence to support your argument that the reader finds convincing.
- The paper includes a description of how and why particular evidence was collected and analyzed, and why specific theoretical arguments or concepts were used.
- The paper is made up of paragraphs, each containing only one controlling idea.
- You indicate how each section of the paper addresses the research problem.
- You have considered counter-arguments or counter-examples where they are relevant.
- Arguments, evidence, and their significance have been presented in the conclusion.
- Limitations of your research have been explained as evidence of the potential need for further study.
- The narrative flows in a clear, accurate, and well-organized way.
Boscoloa, Pietro, Barbara Arféb, and Mara Quarisaa. “Improving the Quality of Students' Academic Writing: An Intervention Study.” Studies in Higher Education 32 (August 2007): 419-438; Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; Candlin, Christopher. Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach . Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style . College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.
Considering the Passive Voice in Academic Writing
In the English language, we are able to construct sentences in the following way: 1. "The policies of Congress caused the economic crisis." 2. "The economic crisis was caused by the policies of Congress."
The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether you want to focus on “Congress” and what they did, or on “the economic crisis” and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice. When you want your readers to focus on the "doer" of an action, you can make the "doer"' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb. When you want readers to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence by using the passive form of the verb.
Often in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is doing an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action. The passive voice is useful in academic writing because it allows writers to highlight the most important participants or events within sentences by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.
Use the passive voice when:
- You want to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself;
- It is not important who or what did the action;
- You want to be impersonal or more formal.
Form the passive voice by:
- Turning the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence.
- Changing the verb to a passive form by adding the appropriate form of the verb "to be" and the past participle of the main verb.
NOTE: Consult with your professor about using the passive voice before submitting your research paper. Some strongly discourage its use!
Active and Passive Voice. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Diefenbach, Paul. Future of Digital Media Syllabus. Drexel University; Passive Voice. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.
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Essay Writing Guide
Thesis Statement Examples
20+ Thesis Statement Examples for Different Types of Essays?
Published on: Oct 18, 2017
Last updated on: Oct 20, 2023
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Are you finding it tough to come up with a strong thesis statement? Well, you're not alone!
Creating a short and clear thesis statement might seem tricky, but it's a really important part of your essays and research papers. It's like the main message of your whole paper in just one sentence.
But don't worry, we're here to help. In this blog, we've gathered over 20 examples of different kinds of essays. These examples will show you exactly how to do it.
So, let's dive in and read on to learn more.
Thesis Statement Examples for Different Essay Types
A thesis statement is like the central message of your essay. It states the main claim along with the reason or rationale that supports the claim. It's a single sentence that sums up what your essay is all about.
When someone reads your essay, they should know from the thesis statement what your essay is trying to prove or explain.
Now, in some cases, like more complex essays or research papers, you might use a three-point thesis statement. This means your thesis statement has not just one, but three main ideas or arguments that your essay will explore.
Here are some good thesis statement examples for the common types of essays:
Argumentative Thesis Statement Examples
An argumentative essay persuades by presenting evidence on a debatable topic. Here is what a thesis statement looks like for an argumentative essay:
Claim + Reasons/Evidence
Here are argumentative essay thesis statement examples:
- "Social media negatively impacts mental health by fostering excessive comparison and cyberbullying, leading to increased stress and anxiety among users."
- "Stricter gun control laws are necessary to reduce firearm-related violence in our society, as evidenced by lower rates of gun violence in countries with stringent gun control measures and the potential to prevent potentially dangerous individuals from acquiring firearms."
Informative Thesis Statement Examples
An informative essay educates by presenting facts and details on a specific topic. The thesis statement typically takes this form:
Topic + Main Points
Here are informative essay thesis statement examples:
- "The history, symptoms, and available treatments for diabetes provide essential knowledge for individuals managing this chronic condition."
- "Exploring the causes, effects, and preventive measures of climate change sheds light on the urgent need for global environmental action."
Literary Analysis Thesis Statement Examples
In a literary analysis essay , the writer examines a specific element of a literary work. The thesis statement for literary analysis generally follows this structure:
Analysis of Element in Literary Work + Significance
Here are literary analysis thesis statement examples:
- "The symbolism of the 'green light' in 'The Great Gatsby' represents Gatsby's unattainable American Dream and the disillusionment of the Jazz Age."
- "Examining the character of Macbeth's descent into madness in 'Macbeth' reveals the tragic consequences of unchecked ambition in Shakespearean tragedy."
Analytical Thesis Statement Examples
An analytical essay delves into a topic by evaluating and presenting multiple perspectives. The thesis statement in an analytical essay often appears as:
Topic + Analysis/Examination
Here are analytical essay thesis statement examples:
- "Analyzing the economic impact of globalization on developing countries reveals both opportunities for growth and potential challenges."
- "An examination of societal norms in 'The Catcher in the Rye' underscores the alienation experienced by the protagonist, Holden Caulfield."
Expository Thesis Statement Examples
Expository essays aim to explain or inform by providing details and facts on a subject. The typical expository thesis statement format is:
Subject + Key Aspects
Here are expository essay thesis statement examples:
- "The exploration of the solar system, including the sun, planets, and asteroids, showcases the vastness and complexity of our cosmic neighborhood."
- "Understanding the process of photosynthesis, its significance in plant growth, and its role in producing oxygen is vital for comprehending Earth's ecosystems."
Cause And Effect Thesis Statement Examples
Cause and effect essays investigate the relationships between events or phenomena. The thesis statement structure in a cause and effect essay is:
Cause + Effect
Here are cause and effect essay thesis statement examples:
- "The increase in technology usage has led to a decline in face-to-face social interactions among young adults, contributing to feelings of isolation."
- "The depletion of the ozone layer results in harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth's surface, leading to various environmental and health consequences."
Narrative Thesis Statement Examples
Narrative essays recount personal experiences or stories. The thesis statement in a narrative essay is often shaped as:
Personal Experience/Story + Significance
Here are narrative essay thesis statement examples:
- "My backpacking adventure through the Appalachian Trail taught me resilience, self-reliance, and a deep appreciation for the beauty of nature."
- "The story of my grandmother's immigration journey reflects the strength, determination, and sacrifices made by countless immigrants seeking a better life."
Thesis Statement Examples For Opinion Essays
Opinion essays express the author's viewpoint on a particular subject. You can follow this structure to write a thesis statement in an opinion essay:
Topic + Opinion/Position
Here are thesis statement examples for opinion essays:
- "Universal healthcare is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all citizens, ensuring equitable access to medical services."
- "The widespread use of technology in education enhances learning opportunities, preparing students for a tech-driven world."
Thesis Statement Examples for Problem Solution Essay
In a problem-solution essay, the writer identifies a specific problem and proposes a viable solution or solutions to address it. The thesis statement in a problem-solution essay typically follows this structure:
Problem + Solution
Here are thesis statement examples for problem solution essays:
- "The rising prevalence of food insecurity can be mitigated through community-based programs that promote urban farming and food distribution initiatives."
- "To combat the issue of plastic pollution in oceans, a comprehensive approach involving strict regulations, public awareness campaigns, and sustainable alternatives is necessary."
Thesis Statement Examples for English Essays
English essays encompass a wide range of topics, from literary analysis to language studies. The thesis statement for English essays can take various forms depending on the specific focus of the essay.
Here are thesis statement examples for different types of English essays:
- For a Literary Analysis Essay: "The use of symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Scarlet Letter' underscores the theme of societal hypocrisy and the journey of self-redemption."
- For a Language and Linguistics Essay: "Exploring the evolution of the English language through historical context reveals the influences and transformations that have shaped it into its current form."
- For a Comparative Literature Essay: "Comparing the themes of love and tragedy in Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' and Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' highlights the universal aspects of human emotions."
Thesis Statement Examples for Research Paper
A research paper often critically analyzes a specific topic or issue, conducting in-depth exploration and analysis.
While all academic papers require a thesis statement to convey the central message, they differ in scope and depth.
Research paper thesis statements are broad and involve in-depth research, often including empirical research, while essay thesis statements are shorter and focus on a specific argument.
Here are some examples of research papers of different natures:
- For an Analytical Research Paper: "An analysis of historical voting patterns reveals shifts in political ideologies over the past century, shedding light on changing voter demographics and their impact on contemporary elections."
- For an Experimental Research Paper: "Through controlled experiments and statistical analysis, this research examines the effects of a new drug on patients with a specific medical condition, offering insights into its potential for widespread therapeutic use."
- For a Comparative Research Paper: "This research paper compares and contrasts the educational systems of two countries, Japan and Finland, exploring the factors contributing to their respective success in student performance and learning outcomes."
- For a Case Study Research Paper: "Through an in-depth case study of a successful tech startup, this research paper analyzes the key factors behind its rapid growth and profitability, offering valuable insights for aspiring entrepreneurs."
These examples illustrate the diversity of research paper thesis statements, each tailored to the specific focus and methodology of the research.
Elements of a Good Thesis Statement
A strong and clear thesis statement exhibits several crucial elements:
- Specific Topic: It addresses a well-defined subject or issue.
- Debatable Stance: The thesis takes a position that can be debated or questioned.
- Narrow Focus: It doesn't encompass too broad a scope but rather hones in on a specific aspect.
- Single Central Idea: It conveys a solitary, precise main point.
- Supportable: It answers the question with evidence, facts, or reasons in the essay.
- Clear Position: It presents a distinct viewpoint on the topic.
Example of a Good Thesis Statement
"Increasing access to quality education in underserved communities is essential for addressing socio-economic disparities, and this can be achieved through improved school funding, qualified educators, and community involvement."
Here is an analysis of the elements of the above thesis statement example:
This thesis statement exemplifies these elements well. It explicitly addresses the topic of "increasing access to quality education in underserved communities."
It takes a debatable stance as the strategies for achieving this goal can vary. It narrows the focus by discussing specific solutions: "improved school funding, qualified educators, and community involvement."
The central idea is that these actions are necessary to address socio-economic disparities through education. While the evidence isn't in the thesis itself, it's implied that the essay will support these claims . The position is clear: these actions are essential.
Here’s an example of a good thesis statement versus a bad one:
You now have a wide range of thesis statement examples to learn from.
But if you're running low on time or confidence, our reliable essay writing service is here to assist you. Our skilled writers can create clear and strong thesis statements in top-notch essays.
With their experience and expertise, you can be sure you’ll receive original, unique, and quality essays every time.
Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)
Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.
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100+ Research Vocabulary Words & Phrases
The academic community can be conservative when it comes to enforcing academic writing style , but your writing shouldn’t be so boring that people lose interest midway through the first paragraph! Given that competition is at an all-time high for academics looking to publish their papers, we know you must be anxious about what you can do to improve your publishing odds.
To be sure, your research must be sound, your paper must be structured logically, and the different manuscript sections must contain the appropriate information. But your research must also be clearly explained. Clarity obviously depends on the correct use of English, and there are many common mistakes that you should watch out for, for example when it comes to articles , prepositions , word choice , and even punctuation . But even if you are on top of your grammar and sentence structure, you can still make your writing more compelling (or more boring) by using powerful verbs and phrases (vs the same weaker ones over and over). So, how do you go about achieving the latter?
Below are a few ways to breathe life into your writing.
1. Analyze Vocabulary Using Word Clouds
Have you heard of “Wordles”? A Wordle is a visual representation of words, with the size of each word being proportional to the number of times it appears in the text it is based on. The original company website seems to have gone out of business, but there are a number of free word cloud generation sites that allow you to copy and paste your draft manuscript into a text box to quickly discover how repetitive your writing is and which verbs you might want to replace to improve your manuscript.
Seeing a visual word cloud of your work might also help you assess the key themes and points readers will glean from your paper. If the Wordle result displays words you hadn’t intended to emphasize, then that’s a sign you should revise your paper to make sure readers will focus on the right information.
As an example, below is a Wordle of our article entitled, “ How to Choose the Best title for Your Journal Manuscript .” You can see how frequently certain terms appear in that post, based on the font size of the text. The keywords, “titles,” “journal,” “research,” and “papers,” were all the intended focus of our blog post.
2. Study Language Patterns of Similarly Published Works
Study the language pattern found in the most downloaded and cited articles published by your target journal. Understanding the journal’s editorial preferences will help you write in a style that appeals to the publication’s readership.
Another way to analyze the language of a target journal’s papers is to use Wordle (see above). If you copy and paste the text of an article related to your research topic into the applet, you can discover the common phrases and terms the paper’s authors used.
For example, if you were writing a paper on links between smoking and cancer , you might look for a recent review on the topic, preferably published by your target journal. Copy and paste the text into Wordle and examine the key phrases to see if you’ve included similar wording in your own draft. The Wordle result might look like the following, based on the example linked above.
If you are not sure yet where to publish and just want some generally good examples of descriptive verbs, analytical verbs, and reporting verbs that are commonly used in academic writing, then have a look at this list of useful phrases for research papers .
3. Use More Active and Precise Verbs
Have you heard of synonyms? Of course you have. But have you looked beyond single-word replacements and rephrased entire clauses with stronger, more vivid ones? You’ll find this task is easier to do if you use the active voice more often than the passive voice . Even if you keep your original sentence structure, you can eliminate weak verbs like “be” from your draft and choose more vivid and precise action verbs. As always, however, be careful about using only a thesaurus to identify synonyms. Make sure the substitutes fit the context in which you need a more interesting or “perfect” word. Online dictionaries such as the Merriam-Webster and the Cambridge Dictionary are good sources to check entire phrases in context in case you are unsure whether a synonym is a good match for a word you want to replace.
To help you build a strong arsenal of commonly used phrases in academic papers, we’ve compiled a list of synonyms you might want to consider when drafting or editing your research paper . While we do not suggest that the phrases in the “Original Word/Phrase” column should be completely avoided, we do recommend interspersing these with the more dynamic terms found under “Recommended Substitutes.”
A. Describing the scope of a current project or prior research
B. outlining a topic’s background, c. describing the analytical elements of a paper, d. discussing results, e. discussing methods, f. explaining the impact of new research, wordvice writing resources.
For additional information on how to tighten your sentences (e.g., eliminate wordiness and use active voice to greater effect), you can try Wordvice’s FREE APA Citation Generator and learn more about how to proofread and edit your paper to ensure your work is free of errors.
Before submitting your manuscript to academic journals, be sure to use our free grammar checker to catch errors in grammar, spelling, and mechanics. And use our proofreading services and English editing services from Wordvice, including academic editing services , cover letter editing , manuscript editing , and research paper editing services to make sure your work is up to a high academic level.
We also have a collection of other useful articles for you, for example on how to strengthen your writing style , how to avoid fillers to write more powerful sentences , and how to eliminate prepositions and avoid nominalizations . Additionally, get advice on all the other important aspects of writing a research paper on our academic resources pages .
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Words and Phrases to Avoid in Academic Writing
Published on February 6, 2016 by Sarah Vinz . Revised on September 11, 2023.
When you are writing a dissertation , thesis, or research paper, many words and phrases that are acceptable in conversations or informal writing are considered inappropriate in academic writing .
You should try to avoid expressions that are too informal, unsophisticated, vague, exaggerated, or subjective, as well as those that are generally unnecessary or incorrect.
Bear in mind, however, that these guidelines do not apply to text you are directly quoting from your sources (including interviews ).
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Too informal, too exaggerated, too subjective, generally incorrect, other interesting articles.
Academic writing is generally more formal than the writing we see in non-academic materials (including on websites). It is also more formal than the ways in which we normally speak. The following words and phrases are considered too informal for a dissertation or academic paper.
Informal sentence starts
Some words are acceptable in certain contexts, but become too informal when used at the beginning of a sentence. You can replace these with appropriate transition words or simply remove them from the sentence.
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Using vague terms makes your writing imprecise and may cause people to interpret it in different ways. Always try to be as specific as possible.
Academic writing is usually unadorned and direct. Some adverbs of frequency (such as always and never ) and intensifiers (words that create emphasis, such as really ) are often too dramatic. They may also not be accurate – you’re making a significant claim when you say something is perfect or never happens.
These terms do sometimes add value, but try to use them sparingly.
Some words and phrases reveal your own bias. For instance, if you state that something will obviously happen, you are indicating that you think the occurrence is obvious – not stating a fact.
Expressing your opinion is appropriate in certain sections of a dissertation and in particular types of academic texts (such as personal statements and reflective or argumentative essays ). In most cases, though, take care when using words and phrases such as those below – try to let the facts speak for themselves, or emphasize your point with less biased language.
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Certain words and phrases are often used incorrectly, even by native speakers of a language. If you’re exposed to such mistakes often enough, you may start to assume they are correct – but it’s important that you don’t let them creep into your writing.
You should also bear in mind that some of these mistakes relate to things we all frequently mishear (for instance, we often think the speaker is saying would of instead of would have ).
In general, you should also try to avoid using words and phrases that fall into the following categories:
- Jargon (i.e., “insider” terminology that may be difficult for readers from other fields to understand)
- Clichés (i.e., expressions that are heavily overused, such as think outside of the box and at the end of the day )
- Everyday abbreviations (e.g., approx. , ASAP, corona, stats, info )
- Slang (e.g., cops , cool )
- Gender-biased language (e.g., firemen , mankind )
- Generally unnecessary (e.g., redundant expressions that do not add meaning, such as compete with each other instead of simply compete)
Reflective reports and personal statements sometimes have a less formal tone. In these types of writing, you may not have to follow these guidelines as strictly. The preface or acknowledgements of a dissertation also often have a less formal and more personal voice than the rest of the document.
If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, 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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Sarah's academic background includes a Master of Arts in English, a Master of International Affairs degree, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect formulation or wording and derives much satisfaction from helping students take their academic writing up a notch.
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Words to Use in an Essay: 300 Essay Words
Table of Contents
Words to use in the essay introduction, words to use in the body of the essay, words to use in your essay conclusion, how to improve your essay writing vocabulary.
It’s not easy to write an academic essay .
Many students struggle to word their arguments in a logical and concise way.
To make matters worse, academic essays need to adhere to a certain level of formality, so we can’t always use the same word choices in essay writing that we would use in daily life.
If you’re struggling to choose the right words for your essay, don’t worry—you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of over 300 words and phrases to use in the introduction, body, and conclusion of your essay.
The introduction is one of the hardest parts of an essay to write.
You have only one chance to make a first impression, and you want to hook your reader. If the introduction isn’t effective, the reader might not even bother to read the rest of the essay.
That’s why it’s important to be thoughtful and deliberate with the words you choose at the beginning of your essay.
Many students use a quote in the introductory paragraph to establish credibility and set the tone for the rest of the essay.
When you’re referencing another author or speaker, try using some of these phrases:
To use the words of X
According to X
As X states
Example: To use the words of Hillary Clinton, “You cannot have maternal health without reproductive health.”
Near the end of the introduction, you should state the thesis to explain the central point of your paper.
If you’re not sure how to introduce your thesis, try using some of these phrases:
In this essay, I will…
The purpose of this essay…
This essay discusses…
In this paper, I put forward the claim that…
There are three main arguments for…
Example: In this essay, I will explain why dress codes in public schools are detrimental to students.
After you’ve stated your thesis, it’s time to start presenting the arguments you’ll use to back up that central idea.
When you’re introducing the first of a series of arguments, you can use the following words:
First and foremost
First of all
To begin with
Example: First , consider the effects that this new social security policy would have on low-income taxpayers.
All these words and phrases will help you create a more successful introduction and convince your audience to read on.
The body of your essay is where you’ll explain your core arguments and present your evidence.
It’s important to choose words and phrases for the body of your essay that will help the reader understand your position and convince them you’ve done your research.
Let’s look at some different types of words and phrases that you can use in the body of your essay, as well as some examples of what these words look like in a sentence.
Transition Words and Phrases
Transitioning from one argument to another is crucial for a good essay.
It’s important to guide your reader from one idea to the next so they don’t get lost or feel like you’re jumping around at random.
Transition phrases and linking words show your reader you’re about to move from one argument to the next, smoothing out their reading experience. They also make your writing look more professional.
The simplest transition involves moving from one idea to a separate one that supports the same overall argument. Try using these phrases when you want to introduce a second correlating idea:
Another key thing to remember
In the same way
Example: Additionally , public parks increase property value because home buyers prefer houses that are located close to green, open spaces.
Another type of transition involves restating. It’s often useful to restate complex ideas in simpler terms to help the reader digest them. When you’re restating an idea, you can use the following words:
In other words
To put it another way
That is to say
To put it more simply
Example: “The research showed that 53% of students surveyed expressed a mild or strong preference for more on-campus housing. In other words , over half the students wanted more dormitory options.”
Often, you’ll need to provide examples to illustrate your point more clearly for the reader. When you’re about to give an example of something you just said, you can use the following words:
To give an illustration of
Example: Humans have long tried to exert control over our natural environment. For instance , engineers reversed the Chicago River in 1900, causing it to permanently flow backward.
Sometimes, you’ll need to explain the impact or consequence of something you’ve just said.
When you’re drawing a conclusion from evidence you’ve presented, try using the following words:
As a result
As you can see
This suggests that
It follows that
It can be seen that
For this reason
For all of those reasons
Example: “There wasn’t enough government funding to support the rest of the physics experiment. Thus , the team was forced to shut down their experiment in 1996.”
When introducing an idea that bolsters one you’ve already stated, or adds another important aspect to that same argument, you can use the following words:
Not only…but also
Not to mention
To say nothing of
Another key point
Example: The volcanic eruption disrupted hundreds of thousands of people. Moreover , it impacted the local flora and fauna as well, causing nearly a hundred species to go extinct.
Often, you'll want to present two sides of the same argument. When you need to compare and contrast ideas, you can use the following words:
On the one hand / on the other hand
In contrast to
On the contrary
Example: On the one hand , the Black Death was undoubtedly a tragedy because it killed millions of Europeans. On the other hand , it created better living conditions for the peasants who survived.
Finally, when you’re introducing a new angle that contradicts your previous idea, you can use the following phrases:
Having said that
In spite of
With this in mind
Example: Shakespearean plays are classic works of literature that have stood the test of time. Having said that , I would argue that Shakespeare isn’t the most accessible form of literature to teach students in the twenty-first century.
Good essays include multiple types of logic. You can use a combination of the transitions above to create a strong, clear structure throughout the body of your essay.
Strong Verbs for Academic Writing
Verbs are especially important for writing clear essays. Often, you can convey a nuanced meaning simply by choosing the right verb.
You should use strong verbs that are precise and dynamic. Whenever possible, you should use an unambiguous verb, rather than a generic verb.
For example, alter and fluctuate are stronger verbs than change , because they give the reader more descriptive detail.
Here are some useful verbs that will help make your essay shine.
Verbs that show change:
Verbs that relate to causing or impacting something:
Verbs that show increase:
Verbs that show decrease:
Verbs that relate to parts of a whole:
Is composed of
Verbs that show a negative stance:
Verbs that show a positive stance:
Verbs that relate to drawing conclusions from evidence:
Verbs that relate to thinking and analysis:
Verbs that relate to showing information in a visual format:
Useful Adjectives and Adverbs for Academic Essays
You should use adjectives and adverbs more sparingly than verbs when writing essays, since they sometimes add unnecessary fluff to sentences.
However, choosing the right adjectives and adverbs can help add detail and sophistication to your essay.
Sometimes you'll need to use an adjective to show that a finding or argument is useful and should be taken seriously. Here are some adjectives that create positive emphasis:
Other times, you'll need to use an adjective to show that a finding or argument is harmful or ineffective. Here are some adjectives that create a negative emphasis:
Finally, you might need to use an adverb to lend nuance to a sentence, or to express a specific degree of certainty. Here are some examples of adverbs that are often used in essays:
Using these words will help you successfully convey the key points you want to express. Once you’ve nailed the body of your essay, it’s time to move on to the conclusion.
The conclusion of your paper is important for synthesizing the arguments you’ve laid out and restating your thesis.
In your concluding paragraph, try using some of these essay words:
In a nutshell
Given the above
All things considered
Example: In conclusion , it’s imperative that we take action to address climate change before we lose our coral reefs forever.
In addition to simply summarizing the key points from the body of your essay, you should also add some final takeaways. Give the reader your final opinion and a bit of a food for thought.
To place emphasis on a certain point or a key fact, use these essay words:
It should be noted
On the whole
Example: Ada Lovelace is unquestionably a powerful role model for young girls around the world, and more of our public school curricula should include her as a historical figure.
These concluding phrases will help you finish writing your essay in a strong, confident way.
There are many useful essay words out there that we didn't include in this article, because they are specific to certain topics.
If you're writing about biology, for example, you will need to use different terminology than if you're writing about literature.
So how do you improve your vocabulary skills?
The vocabulary you use in your academic writing is a toolkit you can build up over time, as long as you take the time to learn new words.
One way to increase your vocabulary is by looking up words you don’t know when you’re reading.
Try reading more books and academic articles in the field you’re writing about and jotting down all the new words you find. You can use these words to bolster your own essays.
You can also consult a dictionary or a thesaurus. When you’re using a word you’re not confident about, researching its meaning and common synonyms can help you make sure it belongs in your essay.
Don't be afraid of using simpler words. Good essay writing boils down to choosing the best word to convey what you need to say, not the fanciest word possible.
Finally, you can use ProWritingAid’s synonym tool or essay checker to find more precise and sophisticated vocabulary. Click on weak words in your essay to find stronger alternatives.
There you have it: our compilation of the best words and phrases to use in your next essay . Good luck!
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Hannah Yang is a speculative fiction writer who writes about all things strange and surreal. Her work has appeared in Analog Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, The Dark, and elsewhere, and two of her stories have been finalists for the Locus Award. Her favorite hobbies include watercolor painting, playing guitar, and rock climbing. You can follow her work on hannahyang.com, or subscribe to her newsletter for publication updates.
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Linking Words and Phrases in a Thesis
Linking words (also known as transitions) are one of the most important elements in writing, since they allow readers to see the relationships between your ideas. There are several categories of transitions, ranging from words and phrases that signal contrast to words and phrases that signal agreement.
Because they are so important, it’s critical that you don’t misuse them. This article presents some commonly misused linking words that you should be aware of, and then presents some of the most common types of linking words, along with examples.
The most important thing I can emphasize here is to always be aware of the definition of any word or phrase you use. You may be familiar enough with a word to feel comfortable using it, but if you don’t actually know its definition and you don’t take the time to look it up, you may occasionally (or frequently) misuse it.
Linking words present a particularly important case in which you should be aware of definitions, since your audience will be easily lost if you misrepresent the connections between your sentences and ideas.
Linking words often (Ab)used
Easily one of the most commonly misused linking words, therefore indicates a logical relationship between two things, such that the first thing proves or necessitates the second. Think of it as equivalent to the phrase “as a result.” Confused uses of therefore often imply odd logical connections.
Problem : To see the problem more clearly, simplify the sentence: “We know it’s a competitive environment, so it’s important for lawyers to set themselves apart.” The implication here is that lawyers need to set themselves apart because people know that law firms are highly competitive.
However, the fact that people know of the highly competitive environment is more or less irrelevant to the reasons lawyers set themselves apart from each other.
Explanation : Here, the logical connection is between law firms being highly competitive environments and lawyers needing to set themselves apart from each other.
Herewith, therewith, hereby
These are all examples of transition words not in common use. They are most common in the technical definitions of legal documents, and often sound archaic when used in other contexts. Though they have their uses, it’s best to avoid these words.
Explanation : “Hereby” was above being used as an equivalent to “herewith,” meaning roughly “along with this,” “in this way,” or “by means of this.” The language is simply much more natural in the rephrasing.
This slash-transition (and with most other words joined by a slash) can be very difficult to understand. Some writers mean “ either A or B or both A and B, ” yet others simply mean A and B , and still others simply mean A or B . It gets confusing.
Avoid and/or altogether in formal writing. Almost always the context of the discussion will clarify your meaning if you use simply and or or . In cases that might be confusing, it’s generally best to spend the extra words to clarify your meaning.
Explanation : It’s difficult to tell whether she might take 1) either the bus or the train, 2) both the bus and the train, or 3) either the bus or the train or both. Making the ambiguity worse, the intended meaning will change depending on the writer. This confusion of use among beginning writers makes it difficult for a reader to decide among the choices.
Solution : Simply avoid “and/or” and spell out the option that you mean:
- the bus or the train
- the bus and the train
- the bus and the train, or both of them.
The phrase “as well as” is often used as a substitution for “and,” but the meaning is not quite the same. “As well as” implies a difference of emphasis or importance, with whatever comes after “as well as” being less important, so receiving less emphasis. “And,” on the other hand, is used between two equally important things.
Problem : The emphasis seems not to be right here, at least if we think that whether staff will be paid is at least as important as the time of the meeting. To see the problem more clearly, we can keep the emphasis as it is and rephrase the sentence: “The mayor will decide on not only whether or not staff will be paid for their time, but also on next week’s meeting time.”
Here it should be obvious that the “not only … but also” sentence structure downplays the importance of a seemingly important issue (whether or not staff gets paid). The emphasis is the same in the original sentence.
Explanation : “And” gives equal emphasis to both the time of the meeting and the issue of staff pay. If we think these are issues that should receive equal emphasis, we need to use “and.”
Different examples of linking words*
Note that many of these may appear at the beginning, middle, and end of sentences. If in doubt about the use of any of the linking words below, a quick search for example sentences should help clarify.
Additive linking words
These show addition, introduction, similarity to other ideas, etc.
Adversative linking words
These linking words are used to signal conflict, contradiction concession, dismissal, etc.
Causal linking words
These linking words signal cause and effect, reason and result, etc.
Sequential linking words
These linking words are used to signal a chronological or logical sequence.
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What Words To Use To Make Your Thesis Look Better Now
Thesis writing remains an integral part of academia even in the unforeseeable future. It is a test of expertise, excellence, knowledge ,experience and skills in postgraduate studies. The big question is whether you’re doing it right or writing thesis help will put all your worries behind.
The truth is that students exhibit wide-ranging skill levels when it comes to academic literary composition. But ,when it comes to doing a thesis paper, there is no one’s way of going about it one shoe fits all approach. A student must, therefore, follow set rules ,procedures and guidelines when writing this important paper. It is the epitome of earning a Master’s degree of PhD depending on a country’s academic system.
Choice of Words
Moreover, writing a thesis paper isn’t going to be easy unless you choose the right words for it. And, while there could be variations depending on a topic, it is imperative to note that certain phrases and words denote universal practices at this level of academic writing. You wouldn’t want to sound amateurish, would you? Well, no one would, especially given the significance and weight of this type of paper, not to mention the seriousness that goes into crafting it.
Now, let’s take a look at some example, particularly, words that will make your thesis look better.
- Whether you want to indicate the purpose of your study or explain how original pieces of work have helped you arrived at the present project, the following phrases/words always fit the bill for introduction or description:
- This study investigates….
- This paper explores…
- This research aims to address ….
- The paper discuses …
- This project presents…
- The paper outlines (surveys, features, highlights, questions…)
2. For analytical purposes, words like this paper/study considers , analyzes, explains, evaluates, interprets, clarifies, identifies, delves into, advances, defines, dissects, probes, tests , explores and appraises have always worked wonders in helping students better their thesis writing. And when referring to sections, use words like covers, deals with, talks about, outlines, sketches, highlights, assesses or contemplates.
3. Descriptive elements of research finding analysis often employ words like
Findings/study/investigation calls into question, challenges, refutes, rebuts, disputes, disproves, questions, debunks, invalidates or rejects.
4. When it comes to giving background of a study, especially after going everywhere possible looking for information to backup your write-up, make it known in your thesis using the right words such as the following:
- The mechanism/subject plays a significant/vital/important role (this is the conventional way of doing it).
- Alternative phrases include the subject influences, regulates, directs, governs, inhibits, controls or constraints. The 5Ws apply here and by taking the normalized verb and making it the main verb, your sentences will sound scholastic.
- When describing say theory Y and how it impacts your study, you can use words like ‘much attention has been drawn to…,’ ‘theory Y has become important in recent times…,’ the preferred theory to explain, widely accepted, frequently implemented, a common/prevailing method of explaining…. xyz …’
5. When consenting to an agreement that has been arrived at regarding your study topic, you can use the following words:
- The agreement/consensus has been that…,
- Initial/prior studies/research confirms that…,
- Several studies confirm/agree…,
- Some studies substantiate this belief…
6. When discussing findings and expressing the depth/breadth of a study/knowledgebase, the following phrases will make your thesis excellent:
- Previous studies/researches indicate…
- ….have documented
- …have shown that…
- Have demonstrated…
- …much/little is known about xyz….
7. Finally, even if you choose to use paper writing pros , the following words for discussing results/findings, observations, methods and impact of a study are important.
- Suggests, show, extrapolate, surmise, deduce, extract, approximate, evidence, surfaced, yielded, generated, perceived, detected…(for explaining results)
- The research/y-method performed, used, employed, diffused, relayed, administered, applied, replicated, imitated… (Discussing methods)
- Study xyz demonstrates/shows, proves, establishes, offers, introduces, illustrates, attributes, ushers in, promotes, reveals, unveils, exposes, unearths, proffers, conveys, advances or strengthens. (For describing impact).
Positive Words Research – What Words To Use To Make Your Thesis Look Better?
Synonyms of thesis
- as in argument
- as in hypothesis
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Thesaurus Definition of thesis
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Cite this entry.
“Thesis.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/thesis. Accessed 2 Nov. 2023.
More from Merriam-Webster on thesis
Nglish: Translation of thesis for Spanish Speakers
Britannica English: Translation of thesis for Arabic Speakers
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about thesis
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