Thesis statements are essential parts of every essay or research paper. However, not all students understand the importance of this statement or its relation to their overall paper. Understanding how to write a good thesis statement can not only help you develop a strong argument for your paper, but it can also relieve some stress of worrying about whether the topic you have chosen is strong enough for the essay.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is a clear and concise sentence (usually at the end of your first paragraph, the introduction) that tells the reader what your paper is about. A thesis statement is also known as a thesis statement, thesis claim, thesis topic sentence, or the controlling idea of an essay.
It outlines the main argument or claim of your essay and serves as a roadmap for what you will discuss in your paper. A thesis statement should be arguable, meaning that it should be debatable whether or not it is true.
Thesis statement types
When it comes to essay types, there are three main kinds of thesis statements in academic writing: argumentative, exploratory, and analytical.
- An argumentative thesis statement presents a clear position that the author plans to defend in the essay.
- An exploratory thesis statement simply introduces the topic and provides some initial thoughts on it. It tells the reader what you are going to explain and in what order.
- An analytical thesis statement is a clear and specific statement of what you plan to analyze in your paper and what your findings are.
Also, a thesis statement can be explicit or implicit:
- An explicit thesis statement states the main argument or claim of your essay explicitly with a lot of facts and proof. These are usually used in argumentative and persuasive texts.
- An implicit thesis statement does not state the main argument or claim of your essay. Such theses can be used in expository (informative) or narrative writing.
Example of an implicit thesis statement:
The novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about a young girl, Scout, who learns about racism and injustice in her small town in Alabama during the 1930s.
Characteristics of a strong thesis
- A strong thesis is specific. It should not be a broad, general statement that could be applied to any topic. Instead, it should focus on a specific issue that you can support with evidence from your research.
- A strong thesis is debatable. A thesis like “Euthanasia is wrong” is not debatable because there is no room for debate; everyone agrees that euthanasia is wrong. A thesis like “Euthanasia should be legalized” is debatable because people can disagree with it.
- A strong thesis is concise. A thesis statement should not be more than one or two sentences long, regardless of the overall length of your entire paper. If your thesis is too long, you might need to shorten it.
- A strong thesis is clear. A thesis statement should be easy for your readers to understand. It should not be vague or confusing.
- A strong thesis gives direction to the rest of your paper. Your thesis should tell your reader what your paper is about and give an overview of the main points you will be discussing in each body paragraph.
- A strong thesis is well-researched. A thesis should be based on evidence, not just opinion. You will need to do some research to find supporting evidence for your thesis.
- A strong thesis requires evidence. A thesis is not a statement of fact. It is an arguable claim or opinion. This means that you will need to support your thesis with specific evidence from your research.
- A strong thesis is not a list. A thesis should not be a list of the main points you will be discussing in your paper. A thesis should be a single, clear sentence that tells your reader what your paper is about.
- A strong thesis is not a question. A thesis is an assertion, a declarative statement, but not a question. It should be something that can be argued and supported.
How to write a good thesis statement
A thesis statement should be the product of your own critical thinking after doing some research, as it will be the main idea of your entire project.
Here are some steps you would need to take to write a thesis statement:
1) Start by writing down your topic.
If you don’t have a topic yet, try to brainstorm a few ideas until you find one that you’re really excited about.
Your topic can be anything you’re interested in, but it helps if you pick something that will interest other people as well.
2) Narrow down the topic from the assignment (if it’s broad)
Often, your assignment will be pretty broad. For example: “Write about the American Revolution.”
You’ll need to narrow it down to something like: “What were the motivations behind the American Revolution?” or “How did the American Revolution affect British-American relations?”
3) Research the narrowed down topic
This is where you’ll start to form your thesis statement. After doing some research, you may find that the original idea you had about your topic has changed. That’s okay! Your thesis statement should be flexible and adapt as you learn more about your topic.
4) Focus on one specific aspect
Once you’ve done some research, you should have a better idea of what you want to focus on. For example, if you’re writing about “How did the American Revolution affect British-American relations?” you might want to focus only on the economic effects of the Revolution.
5) Make sure the topic you chose is worthwhile to write about
You don’t want to spend all your time writing a paper only to find out that your topic is too boring, too difficult to research, or written about too many times.
Such topics often lead to thesis statements that are either too vague or too simplistic. If your thesis is too vague, it isn’t easy to prove. If it’s too simplistic, it doesn’t give you enough to write about.
6) Narrow down that one specific aspect
Now, you can narrow down that one aspect you have chosen even more by brainstorming some specific thesis statements. For example: “The American Revolution had a positive effect on British-American relations because it led to increased trade between the two countries.”
7) Make sure your thesis statement is arguable
You want to make sure that your thesis statement is something that people could reasonably disagree with. If it’s not, then it’s not a strong thesis statement.
Argumentative thesis statements are more interesting than factual thesis statements. They’re also more likely to lead to interesting, well-researched papers.
Here are some argumentative thesis statement examples with supporting details (with three supporting points).
Note: Each supporting detail usually serves as the main idea for your body paragraph. It is presented with broader significance in the first sentence, also called a topic sentence.
Good: The Internet is good for humanity because it has created a more global society, simplified access to information, and changed how people interact.
Bad: The Internet is a good thing.
Good: The death penalty should be banned because it is a morally questionable form of punishment that does not deter crime, is biased against the poor, and has been shown to be ineffective.
Bad: Should the death penalty be banned?
Good: American industrialization brought about significant economic and social changes that have shaped the country to this day as it was marked by great advances in technology and production, the rise of large corporations and trusts, and the growth of labor unions.
Bad: The Industrial Revolution was good for America.
As you can see, a strong thesis statement should be clear, specific, and arguable. When writing it, make sure to use clear and concise language. Don’t be afraid to revise your thesis statement as you write your paper. Often, your thesis will change as you learn more about your topic.
Examples of thesis statements for a few popular topics:
Macbeth is a tragic hero because he is astatic, his downfall is brought about by his own actions, and he has a moment of realization before his death.
The government in George Orwell’s 1984 controls its citizens through a combination of surveillance, intimidation, and violence.
For Romeo and Juliet:
Romeo and Juliet are star-crossed lovers because they are from different families, their relationship is forbidden by society, and they are forced to commit suicide.
For The Great Gatsby:
The characters in The Great Gatsby are all pursuing some version of the American Dream, but they are all ultimately unsuccessful because the dream is impossible to achieve.
For An Inspector Calls:
The Inspector in An Inspector Calls symbolizes morality and justice, and he forces the characters to confront the consequences of their actions.
For Hills Like White Elephants:
The characters in “Hills Like White Elephants” are not able to communicate effectively with each other, which leads to their relationship falling apart.
For Living Like Weasels:
The weasel is a symbol of independence and self-sufficiency, and the narrator of “Living Like Weasels” learns from the weasel to live a more wild and free life.
Examples of thesis statements for some essay types:
The increase in gun violence in America is due to the easy availability of guns, the lack of gun control, and the idea that violence is the only way to solve problems.
While both the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series are about young boys who find out they are wizards and go on adventures to save the world, they are different in many ways, such as the tone of the books, the characters, and the plots.
The word “love” is an elusive concept that has many different meanings to different people.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world and is a symbol of French culture.
My experience volunteering at the animal shelter has taught me the importance of compassion, responsibility, and patience.
The day I got lost in the city was one of the most frightening and exciting experiences of my life.
Junk food should be banned in schools because it is unhealthy, it increases the risk of obesity, and it sets a bad example for children.
The Industrial Revolution was a time of great social and economic change that had a significant impact on the world.
Typically, a thesis statement is composed of two parts: the topic of your paper and the claim you’re making about that topic. For example, if you’re writing a paper on the American Revolution, your thesis statement might be, “The American Revolution was a watershed moment in American history because it led to the formation of a more democratic government.”
No, your thesis statement should be a declarative sentence that makes a clear and concise argument. Questions are often too vague and open-ended to be arguable thesis statements.
Some common mistakes include thesis statements that are too vague, too broad, or too simplistic. Other thesis statement mistakes include failing to make an argument, making an assertion that is not supportable, and making an argument that is not debatable.
You can revise a thesis statement by making sure it is clear, specific, and arguable. You can also revise it by ensuring that it is well-supported with evidence from your paper. Finally, you can revise your thesis statement by ensuring that it reflects the overall argument of your paper.
The benefits of writing a thesis statement are as follows:
- It helps you to focus on the main point of your paper.
- It helps you to organize your thoughts and structure your paper.
- It helps you to develop a clear and concise argument.
- It helps you to communicate your ideas to others.
- It can help you to receive feedback from others.
- It can help you to revise your paper.
If you are having trouble coming up with an idea, try brainstorming. Brainstorming is a process whereby you come up with ideas by free-associating. To brainstorm, simply start writing down any and all ideas that come to mind, no matter how far-fetched or random they may seem. Once you have a list of ideas, you can start to narrow down your focus and develop a thesis statement.
A thesis statement typically goes at the beginning of an essay, often at the end of the introductory paragraph. However, it can also be placed elsewhere in the paper, such as at the end of the paper, which is often the case for narrative essays. In narrative writing, the thesis statement can be placed in the middle of the action to reveal what the story is about. In these types of essays, it’s often best to place the thesis statement at the end, after the events have unfolded and the reader has a better understanding of what the essay is about.
No, thesis statements should not be in the form of a question. A thesis statement is a declarative sentence that assertively states your position on a particular issue or topic.
Yes, it is possible for a thesis statement to be two sentences. It depends on the complexity of the overall paper and the purpose of the thesis statement. However, it is generally advisable to keep thesis statements as concise as possible, so you may want to consider editing them down to a single sentence.
- Harvard College Writing Center – Developing A Thesis
- Indiana University Bloomington – How to Write a Thesis Statement
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Thesis Statements