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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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Module 2: Critical Reading
Identifying thesis statements, introduction, learning objectives.
- identify explicit thesis statements in texts
- identify implicit thesis statements in texts
- identify strategies for using thesis statements to predict content of texts
Being able to identify the purpose and thesis of a text, as you’re reading it, takes practice. This section will offer you that practice.
One fun strategy for developing a deeper understanding the material you’re reading is to make a visual “map” of the ideas. Mind maps, whether hand-drawn or done through computer programs, can be fun to make, and help put all the ideas of an essay you’re reading in one easy-to-read format.
Your understanding of what the “central” element of the mind map is might change as you read and re-read. Developing the central idea of your mind map is a great way to help you determine the reading’s thesis.
Hand-drawn Mind Map
Locating Explicit and Implicit Thesis Statements
In academic writing, the thesis is often explicit : it is included as a sentence as part of the text. It might be near the beginning of the work, but not always–some types of academic writing leave the thesis until the conclusion.
Journalism and reporting also rely on explicit thesis statements that appear very early in the piece–the first paragraph or even the first sentence.
Works of literature, on the other hand, usually do not contain a specific sentence that sums up the core concept of the writing. However, readers should finish the piece with a good understanding of what the work was trying to convey. This is what’s called an implicit thesis statement: the primary point of the reading is conveyed indirectly, in multiple locations throughout the work. (In literature, this is also referred to as the theme of the work.)
Academic writing sometimes relies on implicit thesis statements, as well.
This video offers excellent guidance in identifying the thesis statement of a work, no matter if it’s explicit or implicit.
We’ve learned that a thesis statement conveys the primary message of an entire piece of text. Now, let’s look at the next level of important sentences in a piece of text: topic sentences in each paragraph.
A useful metaphor would be to think of the thesis statement of a text as a general: it controls all the major decisions of the writing. There is only one thesis statement in a text. Topic sentences, in this relationship, serve as captains: they organize and sub-divide the overall goals of a writing into individual components. Each paragraph will have a topic sentence.
It might be helpful to think of a topic sentence as working in two directions simultaneously. It relates the paragraph to the essay’s thesis, and thereby acts as a signpost for the argument of the paper as a whole, but it also defines the scope of the paragraph itself. For example, consider the following topic sentence:
Many characters in Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun have one particular dream in which they are following, though the character Walter pursues his most aggressively.
If this sentence controls the paragraph that follows, then all sentences in the paragraph must relate in some way to Walter and the pursuit of his dream.
Topic sentences often act like tiny thesis statements. Like a thesis statement, a topic sentence makes a claim of some sort. As the thesis statement is the unifying force in the essay, so the topic sentence must be the unifying force in the paragraph. Further, as is the case with the thesis statement, when the topic sentence makes a claim, the paragraph which follows must expand, describe, or prove it in some way. Topic sentences make a point and give reasons or examples to support it.
The topic sentence is often, though not always, the first sentence of a paragraph.
- Outcome: Thesis. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
- Revision and Adaptation of Topic Sentences. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
- Image of hand-drawn mind map. Authored by : Aranya. Located at : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Guru_Mindmap.jpg . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
- Topic Sentences. Authored by : Ms. Beardslee. Located at : http://msbeardslee.wikispaces.com/Topic+Sentences?showComments=1 . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
- Image of Parts of a Paragraph. Authored by : Enokson. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/ak9H3v . License : CC BY: Attribution
- How to Identify the Thesis Statement. Authored by : Martha Ann Kennedy. Located at : https://youtu.be/di1cQgc1akg . License : All Rights Reserved . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
How to Find a Thesis in an Essay
Colby stream, 25 jun 2018.
A thesis statement lays the groundwork for an essay. It tells the reader what the essay is about and what to expect as he reads through the essay. Locating and understanding the thesis statement, however, isn't always easy. Sometimes it requires that you read the entire essay, find the thesis statement and then read the essay again. The second time you read, you can then compare what the thesis statement said the essay was about to your thoughts about the essay's meaning.
Explore this article
- Note First Impressions
- Identify Purpose of Essay
- Review Opening Paragraphs
- Re-read Essay
1 Note First Impressions
Read the essay entirely. Take notes along the way about what you think the essay is trying to say about a particular subject, issue or event. These notes should be related to the big-picture meaning, not of specific passages. Consider whether the tone of the essay is factual, or emotional and persuasive. Determine the main idea of each paragraph, and ask how these ideas support the conclusion found in the last paragraph of the essay.
2 Identify Purpose of Essay
Write a brief paragraph describing the main purpose or objective of the essay. Use the notes you took to back up why you think what you've written is the meaning. Ask yourself if the essay is explaining a topic, analyzing a subject, or arguing a debatable point. Look for claims being made, detailed explanations, or statistical evidence that give clues to the thesis.
3 Review Opening Paragraphs
Search the first two paragraphs for a statement that matches the purpose of the essay. Most often, you will find the thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph. It might appear in the form of direct statement or might be a hypothesis that the author says he will prove. For example, if you said the purpose of the essay was that coffee hydrates the body, the author could say directly that coffee hydrates the body or that he intends to prove that coffee hydrates the body. Both qualify as a thesis statement.
4 Re-read Essay
Re-read the essay if you felt like the thesis statement provides more clarity to what you have already read. Keeping the thesis statement at the forefront of your mind while reading the essay a second time can help you better understand the author's objectives, findings and conclusions.
Finding the thesis is important because it strengthens reading comprehension and retention. Once you spot the thesis, you are better informed on the type of essay you are reading and the writer's intended purpose. Knowing this upfront helps you focus, so you don't have to go back repeatedly and analyze or dissect the text to figure out how it all fits together.
- A poorly written paper may not possess a concrete thesis. Be aware that if you can't find the thesis statement, the paper may not have one. On the other hand, you may not have understood the essay and may need to read it a second time.
- A thesis statement can be one or two sentences. Don't limit your search for the thesis by trying to select a single sentence if the author has spread it out over two.
- 1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Thesis Statements
- 2 Purdue Online Writing Laboratory: Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements
About the Author
Colby Stream has been a writer since 2007. His work has appeared in "The Arbiter," the student newspaper of Boise State University, as well as various websites. Stream graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in communication as a presidential civic leadership scholar.
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What is a thesis statement? I need some examples, too.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement clearly identifies the topic being discussed, includes the points discussed in the paper, and is written for a specific audience. Your thesis statement belongs at the end of your first paragraph, also known as your introduction. Use it to generate interest in your topic and encourage your audience to continue reading.
You can read chapter four of Schaum's Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers an eBook in our online collection, click the title to open: "How Do I Write a Thesis Statement?" .
Another option is to think of a thesis statement as one complete sentence that expresses your position .
- Narrows the topic down to a specific focus of an investigation.
- Establishes a direction for the entire paper.
- Points forward to the conclusion.
- Always stated in your introduction. (Usually at the end of the first paragraph).
- Always take a stand and justify further discussion.
A thesis statement is not a statement of fact.
Your readers—especially your instructors—want to read writing that engages them. Consequently, you must write thesis statements that are arguable, not factual. Statements of fact seem easy to write about because, well, they are easy to prove. After all, they’re facts. The problem is that you cannot write engaging papers around statements of fact. Such theses prevent you from demonstrating critical thinking and analytical skills, which you want to show your instructor. If you were to write a paper around the next two statements, your writing would probably be quite dull because you would be restating facts that the general public already knows.
Thesis Statements always take a stand and justify further discussion.
In order to make your writing interesting, you should develop a thesis statement that is arguable. Sometimes you will be writing to persuade others to see things your way and other times you will simply be giving your strong opinion and laying out your case for it.
Take a look at the following examples:
Statement of fact:
Small cars get better fuel mileage than 4x4 pickup trucks.
Arguable thesis statement:
The government should ban 4x4 pickup trucks except for work-related use.
Foul language is common in movies.
The amount of foul language in movies is disproportionate to the amount of foul language in real life.
State ment of fact:
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease.
Arguable thesis statement/opening paragraph:
Researchers think the incidence of celiac disease is increasing in the USA not only because of an increase in the ability and awareness to diagnose it, but also because of changes in the agricultural system. In particular, they are looking at the increased use of pesticides, insecticides, and genetically modified wheat as culprits. Some of these theories are more likely to be valid than others.
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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
- 1. Getting Started
- 2. Topic Ideas
- 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
- 4. Appropriate Sources
- 5. Search Techniques
- 6. Taking Notes & Documenting Sources
- 7. Evaluating Sources
- 8. Citations & Plagiarism
- 9. Writing Your Research Paper
About Thesis Statements
Qualities of a thesis statement.
- state the subject matter and main ideas of a paper.
- appear in the first paragraph and announces what you will discuss in your paper.
- define the scope and focus of your essay, and tells your reader what to expect.
- are not a simple factual statement. It is an assertion that states your claims and that you can prove with evidence.
- should be the product of research and your own critical thinking.
- can be very helpful in constructing an outline for your essay; for each point you make, ask yourself whether it is relevant to the thesis.
Steps you can use to create a thesis statement
1. Start out with the main topic and focus of your essay.
youth gangs + prevention and intervention programs
2. Make a claim or argument in one sentence. It can be helpful to start with a question which you then turn into an argument
Can prevention and intervention programs stop youth gang activities? How? ►►► "Prevention and intervention programs can stop youth gang activities by giving teens something else to do."
3. Revise the sentence by using specific terms.
"Early prevention programs in schools are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement by giving teens good activities that offer a path to success."
4. Further revise the sentence to cover the scope of your essay and make a strong statement.
"Among various prevention and intervention efforts that have been made to deal with the rapid growth of youth gangs, early school-based prevention programs are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement, which they do by giving teens meaningful activities that offer pathways to achievement and success."
5. Keep your thesis statement flexible and revise it as needed. In the process of researching and writing, you may find new information or refine your understanding of the topic.
You can view this short video for more tips on how to write a clear thesis statement.
An outline is the skeleton of your essay, in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the essay. Once your outline is in good shape, it is much easier to write your paper; you've already done most of the thinking, so you just need to fill in the outline with a paragraph for each point.
To write an outline: The most common way to write an outline is the list format. List all the major topics and subtopics with the key points that support them. Put similar topics and points together and arrange them in a logical order. Include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
A list outline should arrange the main points or arguments in a hierarchical structure indicated by Roman numerals for main ideas (I, II, III...), capital letters for subtopics (A, B, C...), Arabic numerals for details (1,2,3...), and lower-case letters for fine details if needed (a,b,c...). This helps keep things organized.
Here is a shortened example of an outline:
Introduction: background and thesis statement
I. First topic
1. Supporting evidence 2. Supporting evidence
II. Second Topic
III. Third Topic
I. Summarize the main points of your paper II. Restate your thesis in different words III. Make a strong final statement
You can see examples of a few different kinds of outlines and get more help at the Purdue OWL .
- << Previous: 2. Topic Ideas
- Next: 4. Appropriate Sources >>
- Last Updated: Apr 18, 2023 12:12 PM
- URL: https://butte.libguides.com/ResearchPaper
How to Write an Effective Thesis Statement
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Jonathan Wlodarski is pursuing a Ph.D. in English and teaches introductory-level English courses.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement is typically one sentence that appears in the first paragraph of an essay that captures the essay's purpose. Think of the thesis statement as a one-sentence summary that tells the reader exactly what an essay says.
Rather than writing your essay like a puzzle, keeping the reader in suspense about what conclusion you'll reach by the end, use the thesis statement like a treasure map to give the reader a sense of your essay's direction. Tell them the conclusion up front, so they know where your piece is headed.
Once you've done your research and found your sources, craft a thesis statement that clearly indicates the direction your essay will take. As you write, think about how each paragraph connects to your thesis. If you're struggling to understand how a particular idea relates directly to the thesis statement, it may be a sign that you've diverged from the purpose of the essay.
THESIS STATEMENT DEFINITION
A thesis statement is a one-sentence declaration of intention — a summation of the main idea your essay will explain at length. An effective thesis statement will make a unique claim or seek to answer an important question.
Tips for Writing a Good Thesis Statement
Essays should be based on a specific argument. Check your thesis statement to see if the central idea of your writing is too vague. If you argue for something overly general — for example, an argument that all pop music is bad — your essay will try to conquer too many ideas and be unfocused.
Refine your argument to be more specific. Perhaps you'll say that pop music suffers from repetitive chord progressions or that pop songs have unimaginative lyrics. These narrower claims allow you to easily marshall evidence in support of your thesis.
Make a Clear Argument
Often, you need to write a paper within a very limited set of parameters — usually a few thousand words at most. Within a prescribed framework, you won't have space on the page to fully address multiple arguments.
If a reader can't ascertain the direction your essay will take from reading the thesis statement alone, then revise it to ensure your main point is stated plainly. If you're struggling to make your argument clear, try formulating your thesis statement using this template: "In this paper, I argue that __________."
Because some writing instructors forbid or disapprove of the first-person point of view in academic essays, you may have to change your thesis statement later; however, using this template reminds you what your argument should be, which is a helpful early drafting technique.
Take a Strong Stance
When writing your essay's thesis statement, ask whether it is a statement that can be argued with. For example, if your thesis statement is, "Computers are a popular technology in today's society," your essay might not be advancing a position so much as stating an objectively true fact.
Most essays will require you to take a stance, not make an observation, so craft a thesis statement that actually puts forward a unique perspective.
Question Your Assumptions
As you formulate the thesis statement of your essay, ask yourself what assumptions your argument is based on. In other words, what must your readers assume to be true before they can even begin to accept your argument?
Be particularly aware of your intended audience. For example, does your argument rely on a religious or moral code to prove that it is inherently right? If you are writing a paper for a class in Christian ministry, a dogmatic argument might be appropriate; for a sociology paper, however, such arguments don't hold water.
Think about the ways in which your argument may not hold up for people who don't subscribe to your viewpoints, then revise or re-approach your thesis statement so that your argument doesn't depend on those assumptions.
Don't Hide Your Thesis
Keep in mind that your thesis statement should come near the beginning of your essay. Conventional wisdom dictates that it should appear by the end of the first paragraph, though the exact positioning may vary, depending on how much introduction your specific essay requires. In any case, it should generally come at the end of your introduction to the material — the final statement your reader sees at the beginning, before moving into the body of your argument.
To some extent, it's also important not to overthink your thesis statement. Don't dress up a thesis statement with fancy language, and don't be too clever in how you set the stage for your argument; both of these strategies sometimes disguise a weak central thesis. Whoever your professor is, they will appreciate you getting to the point in a clear, concise manner.
Types of Thesis Statements
Argumentative essays ask students to make the case for a particular perspective, or to persuade the reader to agree with the writer's point of view by the time they reach the essay's conclusion. In these essays, a thesis statement should be a clear picture of the argument you will make over the course of your essay.
In an American history class, you are asked to argue about the dominant cause of the War of 1812. Your thesis statement might look like, “The War of 1812 was a direct result of British arms sales to native tribes in the American West.”
In an ethics class, you are asked to argue about the moral obligation to help people in need. Your thesis statement might read, “By virtue of a social contract, we do have a moral obligation to help one another.”
In analytical essays, writers must communicate their interpretation of a given source or set of sources. In these essays, a thesis statement will explain the conclusion that your analysis has led you to. It may also be helpful to forecast your analysis by explaining which specific points you'll be examining. A helpful formula to get started with this kind of thesis statement is: "In this essay, I argue __________ by examining ____, ____, and ____."
In an English class, you've been asked to write an essay that analyzes how a persuasive article about climate change was constructed. Your thesis statement might say, “In this paper, I argue that Johnson relies too heavily on personal anecdotes and interviews, rather than scientific data, to establish the threat of climate change.”
In a psychology class, your assignment is an essay that analyzes the connection between depression and childhood trauma based on several studies you've researched. Your thesis statement might read, “Based on the data from these three studies, it's clear that there is a direct link between childhood trauma and clinical depression emerging in adults.”
Expository essays ask writers to provide an informational breakdown of a topic, educating readers using specific details. It may be hard to understand how a thesis statement is of use in an expository essay because expository writing often does not advance an argument. Even so, a controlling statement near the beginning of the essay that summarizes your point is useful. By communicating clearly what the intention of your writing is, you can ensure that each new piece of information supports the central idea you are building.
A helpful formula for guiding your expository essay is: "In this essay, I will teach my reader __________." As you work toward this goal, you can revisit this sentence later and rework it into an effective thesis statement.
In a biochemistry class, you've been asked to write an essay explaining the impact of bisphenol A on the human body. Your thesis statement might say, “This essay will make clear the correlation between bisphenol A exposure and hypertension.”
In a gender studies class, you must write an essay that explains third-wave feminism. Your thesis statement might read, “Third-wave feminism built upon the work of earlier generations of feminists to advocate for an expanded view of what being a woman means.”
Especially in composition and creative writing classes, you might be asked to write essays that draw upon your personal experiences. Prompts for personal essays might include writing about your experiences with race or your development as a writer, and these essays are often centered on a moment of realization or revelation. You can distill these themes into a thesis statement for your personal essay. While there may be no central argument in a thesis like this, there is always an organizing principle, such as change, destiny, growth, or irony.
In a creative writing class, you have to write an essay about how the place you grew up shaped you. Your thesis statement might look like, “Growing up on the farm taught me how to be more patient.”
In a composition class, you have to write an essay about the first time you realized how your gender was part of your identity. Your essay's thesis statement might read, “Because I was yelled at for playing with dolls as a kid, I understood that I didn't fit the narrow constraints of masculinity as my family defined it.”
Some Final Thoughts
Crafting an effective thesis statement is a useful exercise not just in college, but in your everyday life. It teaches you to examine ideas, organize them into a central theme or argument, and to persuasively mobilize evidence in support of this argument — a skill useful in many careers and personal endeavors.
Explore More College Resources
Strategies for writing a compelling thesis statement.
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