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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 14, 2022 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
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You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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- Developing A Thesis
Think of yourself as a member of a jury, listening to a lawyer who is presenting an opening argument. You'll want to know very soon whether the lawyer believes the accused to be guilty or not guilty, and how the lawyer plans to convince you. Readers of academic essays are like jury members: before they have read too far, they want to know what the essay argues as well as how the writer plans to make the argument. After reading your thesis statement, the reader should think, "This essay is going to try to convince me of something. I'm not convinced yet, but I'm interested to see how I might be."
An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion. (Superlatives like "the best" almost always lead to trouble. It's impossible to weigh every "thing" that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn't that be "the best thing"?)
A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.
Steps in Constructing a Thesis
First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis.)
Once you have a working thesis, write it down. There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration. And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely. You probably will not be able to write out a final-draft version of your thesis the first time you try, but you'll get yourself on the right track by writing down what you have.
Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction. A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.
Anticipate the counterarguments. Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you'll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counterargument. If yours doesn't, then it's not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument.)
This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a "soft-on-crime" image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counterargument, you'll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.
Some Caveats and Some Examples
A thesis is never a question. Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question ("Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?") is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water.
A thesis is never a list. "For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" does a good job of "telegraphing" the reader what to expect in the essay—a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons. However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn't advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important.
A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational. An ineffective thesis would be, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil." This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading.
An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim. "While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline" is an effective thesis sentence that "telegraphs," so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, "Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim."
A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible. Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions. For example, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite's inability to address the economic concerns of the people" is more powerful than "Communism collapsed due to societal discontent."
Copyright 1999, Maxine Rodburg and The Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University
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Undergraduate Thesis Examples
This page contains examples of Undergraduate Theses from students who have graduated with research distinction in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
All undergraduate theses completed at The Ohio State University are stored at the Knowledge Bank at OSU Libraries and can be accessed via their Search Interface .
Building a New Galactic Synthesis Model to Aid in the Detection of Exoplanets Thesis Advisor: Dr. Scott Gaudi, Department of Astronomy
Comparison of the Chemical Evolution of Simulated Milky-Way Type Galaxies Thesis Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Department of Astronomy
Classifying Stellar Variability in the V and g bands with the All-Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae Thesis Advisor: Dr. Krzysztof Stanek, Department of Astronomy
Migration and Stability of Multi-Planet Circumbinary Systems Project Advisor: Dr. David Martin, Department of Astronomy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Scott Gaudi, Department of Astronomy
Recreating the "Origins of the Elements" Planetarium Show and Curriculum Module Project Advisor: Dr. Wayne Schlingman, Department of Astronomy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Richard Pogge, Department of Astronomy
Analyzing Unusual Stars in Kepler Project Advisor: Dr. Mathieu Vrard, Center for Cosmology and Astro Particle Physics Thesis Advisor: Dr. Marc Pinsonneault, Department of Astronomy
Inspecting Stellar Angular Momentum Evolution and Ages using High-Resolution Spectroscopy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Donald Terndrup, Department of Astronomy
Biosignature Detection in Exoplanetary Atmospheres Using Monte Carlo Simulations Thesis Advisor: Dr. Anil Pradhan and Dr. Sultana Nahar, Department of Astronomy
Robert Von Holle
Active Galactic Nuclei and the Correlated Properties of Neighboring Galaxies Thesis Advisor: Dr. Barbara Ryden, Department of Astronomy
The Local Environments of Low-Redshift Supernovae Project Advisor Dr. Dyas Utomo, Department of Astronomy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Adam Leroy, Department of Astronomy
Galaxy Alignment with Surrounding Large-Scale Structure Thesis Advisor: Dr. Barbara Ryden, Department of Astronomy
Spectroscopic Confirmation of Four Ultra Diffuse Galaxy Candidates Project Advisor: Dr. Johnny Greco, Center for Cosmology and Astro Particle Physics Thesis Advisor: Dr. Paul Martini, Department of Astronomy
Measuring Elemental Abundances in Metal-Poor Stars Thesis Advisors: Dr. Ji Wang and Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Department of Astronomy
The Dragonfly Galaxy III. An Imposter Radio Galaxy in the High Redshift Universe Project Advisor: Dr. Bjorn Emonts, The National Radio Astronomy Observatory Thesis Advisor: Dr. Donald Terndrup, Department of Astronomy
An Analysis of the Historically Observed Period Change of UV Piscium, RT Andromedae, and XY Ursae Majoris Using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo Approach Thesis Advisor: Dr. Donald Terndrup, Department of Astronomy
Studying angularly extended gamma-ray sources with VERITAS Project Advisor: David Kieda, University of Utah Thesis Advisor: Dr. Laura Lopez, Department of Astronomy
An Intermediate-Age α-Rich Galactic Population Beyond the Solar Neighborhood Thesis Advisors: Dr. Marc Pinsonneault and Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Department of Astronomy
Intrinsic Shape Alignment of Early versus Late Type Galaxies Thesis Advisor: Dr. Barbara Ryden, Department of Astronomy
HI Balmer Jump Temperatures for Extragalactic HII Regions in the CHAOS Galaxies Project Advisor: Dr. Danielle Berg, Department of Astronomy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Richard Pogge, Department of Astronomy
Making Microlensing Predictions With a New Population Synthesis Galactic Model Project Advisor: Dr. Matthew Penny, Department of Astronomy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Scott Gaudi, Department of Astronomy
The Fraction of Active Galactic Nuclei in the USS 1558-003 Protocluster at z = 2.53 Thesis Advisor: Dr. Paul Martini, Department of Astronomy
Contribution of Solar Mass Loss to the Solution the Faint Young Sun Paradox for Physically Motivated Mass Loss Prescriptions Thesis Advisors: Dr. Marc Pinsonneault & Dr. Scott Gaudi, Department of Astronomy
The Green Valley: Separating Galaxy Populations in Color-Magnitude Space Thesis Advisor: Dr. Barbara Ryden, Department of Astronomy
Searching for Dark Galaxies Via Their Distorted Companions in the SDSS Thesis Advisor: Dr. Barbara Ryden, Department of Astronomy
Looking for the dM in sdB+dM Systems Thesis Advisor: Dr. Donald Terndrup, Department of Astronomy
Metallicities and Temperatures for Two Metal-Rich and Two Metal-Poor Galaxies Project Advisor: Dr. Kevin Croxall, Department of Astronomy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Richard Pogge, Department of Astronomy
Circumbinary Planets via Microlensing Thesis Advisor: Dr. Scott Gaudi, Department of Astronomy
Inter-Percentile Velocity Width: An Alternative Parametrization of the Velocity Field of the Broad-Line Region Thesis Advisor: Dr. Bradley Peterson, Department of Astronomy
Chemical Abundances of CH Stars in Omega Centauri Thesis Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Johnson
Rachel Patton (Cannata)
Exploring Sources of Contamination in Kepler Surveys for Stellar Rotation Thesis Advisor: Dr. Donald Terndrup, Department of Astronomy
Characterization of LP133-373: A Double-line, Eclipsing dMe Binary Thesis Advisor: Dr. Donald Terndrup, Department of Astronomy
A Possible Evolutionary Channel for the Recently Discovered Class of Millisecond Pulsars in Long, Eccentric Orbits Thesis Advisor: Dr. Todd Thompson, Department of Astronomy
Testing Stellar Models for M Dwarfs Project Advisor: Dr. Sarah Schmidt, Department of Astronomy Thesis Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Department of Astronomy
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As you think about writing a thesis in Government, or commence your research on your thesis, you may wonder what a successful thesis looks like. We have collected some theses from previous years on this page; please peruse them and use them as examples of how to structure your own thesis.
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Theory Thesis 5
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Comparative Thesis 4
Comparative Thesis 5
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Comparative Thesis 8
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American Thesis 6
American Thesis 7
American Thesis 8
IR Thesis 1
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What is a thesis statement? Placement of the thesis statement Step 1: Start with a question Step 2: Write your initial answer Step 3: Develop your answer Step 4: Refine your thesis statement Types of thesis statements Frequently asked questions about thesis statements What is a thesis statement?
Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction. A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction.
Undergraduate Thesis Examples This page contains examples of Undergraduate Theses from students who have graduated with research distinction in Astronomy & Astrophysics. All undergraduate theses completed at The Ohio State University are stored at the Knowledge Bank at OSU Libraries and can be accessed via their Search Interface. 2021 Graduates
American Thesis 1 American Thesis 2 American Thesis 3 American Thesis 4 American Thesis 5 American Thesis 6 American Thesis 7 American Thesis 8 International Relations IR Thesis 1 IR Thesis 2 IR Thesis 3 IR Thesis 4 IR Thesis 5 IR Thesis 6