What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement captures the main idea of a paper in one or two sentences. Your thesis statement points the reader to your interpretation of the subject under discussion and is important to the research question.
For example, if the topic is Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn, the thesis statement offers a way to understand and interpret this novel by focusing on specific aspects. Moreover, a thesis statement tells the reader what your paper is about and how you will build up your argument.
Also useful: Research Question
How to write a thesis statement step-by-step
Brainstorming and collecting information online or in scientific literature can serve as a good first step to writing a thesis statement. This will help you come up with a working thesis and ideas on how to structure a good argument. You cannot jump to formulating the thesis statement right after reading the essay assignment.
Thinking about specific aspects of the topic that you can use to build up your argument might take a while, but it is worth spending some time to come up with a well-written thesis statement.
How to write a thesis statement step by step:
Thesis statement: Examples
Here are some examples of thesis statements (cf. JBirdwellBranson, https://www.servicescape.com/blog/25-thesis-statement-examples-that-will-make-writing-a-breeze, Last accessed 28th Mar 2019) to give you a better idea of how to formulate your own thesis statement.
Please note that the following sample thesis statements are intended as examples only, as they have not been fully researched. It is important that you come up with your own thesis statement based on your own research question. Only by giving your own thesis statement enough thought will you be able to argue convincingly.
|TOPIC||THESIS STATEMENT EXAMPLE|
|Vaccinations||Many children are not vaccinated due to illness. We must ensure that all healthy and able children are vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.|
|Educational Resources for Low-Income Students||Schools should provide educational resources for low-income students during the summers so that they do not forget what they have learned throughout the school year.|
|Populism||The rise in populism on the political stage in 2016 was in reaction to increasing globalisation, the decline of manufacturing jobs, and the Syrian refugee crisis.|
|Whether or Not to Attend University||A degree from a university provides invaluable lessons on life and a future career, but not every high school student should be encouraged to attend a university directly after graduation. Some students may benefit from a trade school or a “gap year” where they can think more intensely about what they want to do for a living and how they can accomplish this.|
|Cyber Bullying||With more and more teens using smartphones and social media, cyber bullying is on the rise. Cyber bullying puts a lot of stress on many teens, and can cause depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Parents should limit the usage of smartphones, monitor their childrens online activity, and report any cyber bullying to school officials in order to combat this problem.|
|Medical Marijuana for Veterans||Studies have shown that the use of medicinal marijuana has been helpful to veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Medicinal marijuana prescriptions should be legal in all states and should be provided to these veterans. Additional medical or therapeutic services should also be researched and provided in order to help them re-integrate back into civilian life.|
|Work-Life Balance||Corporations should provide more work from home opportunities and six-hour workdays so that office workers have a better work-life balance and are more likely to be productive when they are in the office.|
|Supporting More Women to Run for a Political Position||In order to get more women into political positions, more women must be encouraged to run for office. There must be grassroots efforts to educate women on how to run for office and to support female candidates in getting a political career started.|
|Re-Imagining the Nuclear Family||The nuclear family was traditionally defined as one mother, one father, and 2.5 children. This outdated depiction of family life does not quite fit with modern society. The definition of normal family life should not be limited to two-parent households.|
|Studying Abroad||Studying abroad is one of the most culturally valuable experiences you can have in college. It is the only way to get completely immersed in another language and learn how other cultures and countries are different from your own.|
|Women’s Body Image||Magazines have done a lot in the last five years to include a more diverse group of models, but they still need to do a lot more to promote healthy images of women’s bodies.|
|Veganism||Although a healthy and ethical way to consume food, a vegan diet indicates a position of privilege. It also limits your experience of other cultures’ food if you travel around the world.|
|Cigarette Tax||Heavily taxing and increasing the price of cigarettes is essentially a tax on the poorest Americans, and it does not deter them from purchasing. Instead, the state and federal governments should target those disenfranchised economically with early education about the dangers of smoking.|
|Women in the Workforce||Sheryl Sandberg makes a lot of interesting points in her best-selling book Lean in, but she only addresses the most privileged working woman and fails to speak to those in lower-skilled, lower-wage jobs.|
|Assisted Suicide||Assisted suicide should be legal and doctors should have the ability to make sure their patients have the end-of-life care they want to receive.|
|Diversity in the Workforce||Having a diverse group of people in an office setting leads to richer ideas, more cooperation, and more empathy between people with different skin colours or backgrounds.|
Examples of good and bad thesis statements
A good thesis statement is specific, clear, original, and includes a comment on how you are positioning yourself with respect to the issue at hand. You must consistently avoid vague wording. Moreover, you should avoid stating the obvious, like “The point I want to make in my paper…”.
The following checklist will help you meet the afore-mentioned requirements for writing a good thesis statement.
|Thesis statement must be specific||The thesis statement should be narrow and focused instead of talking about very general and superficial things. Check your thesis statement for loose connections by coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, for etc.) and add a subordinating conjunction if need be to show a relationship between two sentences (e.g., because, since, although etc.).||Original thesis statement example (too broad):
There are serious objections to today’s horror movies.
Revised thesis statements (3 suggestions):
1) Because modern cinematic techniques have allowed filmmakers to get more graphic, horror flicks have desensitised young American viewers to violence.
2) The pornographic violence in “bloodbath” slasher movies degrades both men and women.
3) Today’s slasher movies fail to deliver the emotional catharsis that 1930s horror films did.
|Thesis statement must be clear||You must make sure that the reader understands what you mean. Words like interesting, negative, difficult, and exciting are too vague and should be avoided, just as abstract constructs like culture, society, and values. Make sure to define terms you use, as you cannot expect the reader to share your understanding of abstract concepts if you do not explain them.||Original thesis statement example (not clear enough): Although the timber wolf is a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated. [If it’s so timid and gentle, why is it being exterminated?]
Revised thesis statement: Although the timber wolf is actually a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated because people wrongfully believe it to be a fierce and cold-blooded killer.
|Thesis statement should include comment on your position on the issue||Your personal stance on the subject must be made apparent to the reader, as well as how you are planning to evaluate and analyse the topic. Just announcing the topic is not enough. You should avoid making universal pro/con claims that are oversimplifications. Moreover, you should specify your reasoning and go beyond reporting facts (why bother if it has been proven already?).||Original thesis statement example (just announcing the topic): In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
Revised thesis statement: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.
Original thesis statement example (too universal, oversimplified): We must save the whales.
Revised thesis statement: Because our planet’s health may depend upon biological diversity, we should save the whales.
Original thesis statement example (reasoning not justified): Socialism is the best form of government for Kenya.
Revised thesis statement: If the government takes over industry in Kenya, then industry will become more efficient.
Original thesis statement example (merely reports a fact): Hoover’s administration was rocked by scandal.
Revised thesis statement: The many scandals of Hoover’s administration revealed basic problems with the Republican Party’s nominating process.
|Thesis statement must be original||AVOID formula/universal statements. You must be prepared to answer the question “So what?” to your thesis statement and explain why it is worthwhile reading. Do not just quote others. Instead, put the thesis statement in your own words. You will attract the reader’s attention only with your own words and ideas.||Original thesis statement example (formula statement):
There are advantages and disadvantages to using statistics. (a fill-in-the-blank formula)
Revised thesis statements (3 suggestions):
1) Careful manipulation of data allows a researcher to use statistics to support any claim she desires.
2) In order to ensure accurate reporting, journalists must understand the real significance of the statistics they report.
3) Because advertisers consciously and unconsciously manipulate data, every consumer should learn how to evaluate statistical claims.
Some more examples follow on how word choice ensures that your thesis statement is to the point and does not contain generic/formula words:
Original: “Society is...” [Who is this “society” and what exactly is it doing?]
Revised: “Men and women will learn how to...”, “television addicts may chip away at...”, “American educators must decide...”, “taxpayers and legislators alike can help fix...”
Original: “the media”
Revised: “the new breed of television reporters”, “advertisers”, “hard-hitting print journalists”, “TV movies of the week”, “sitcoms”, “national public radio”.
Original: “is, are, was, to be” or “to do, to make”
Revised: any great action verb you can come up with: “to generate”, “to demolish”, “to batter”, “to revolt”, “to discover”, “to flip”, “to signify”, “to endure...”
Where does the thesis statement belong?
The thesis statement is an integral part of the first paragraph/the introduction of your essay, as it sets the scene of what is to come. After a brief introduction, the thesis statement reflects your point of view and summarises the argument. Formulating the statement clearly and putting some thought into it ensures that your essay has a clear structure and focus – a common thread.
In course assignments, you are asked to convince the reader with your argument. This is just another form of persuasion (just as you might have to persuade your parents to let you use their car, or ask a friend to lend you money). Consequently, your thesis statement should give good reasons for readers to approve your line of argument.
Recommended: Harvard Referencing
- A thesis statement summarises the main argument of an essay in one or two sentences.
- A thesis statement is part of the introduction/the first paragraph of an essay.
- In order to come up with a thesis statement, you have to brainstorm and research your topic first to find valid arguments to support the claim you want to make in your essay. The thesis statement can be revised during the writing process.
- A thesis statement must be clear, specific, original, and should reflect your stance about the topic at hand. Generic words or formulas must be avoided.
Ashford University: “Thesis Generator”, in: Ashford University, https://awc.ashford.edu/writing-tools-thesis-generator.html, Last accessed 27th Mar 2019.
Center for Writing Studies: “Writing Tips: Thesis Statements”, in: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/tips/thesis/, Last accessed 27th Mar 2019.
JBirdwellBranson: “25 Thesis Statement Examples That Will Make Writing a Breeze”, in: ServiceScape, https://www.servicescape.com/blog/25-thesis-statement-examples-that-will-make-writing-a-breeze, Last accessed 28th Mar 2019.
Purdue Online Writing Lab: “Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements”, in: Purdue University, https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/thesis_statement_tips.html, Last accessed 27th Mar 2019.
The Writing Center: “Thesis Statement”, in: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/, Last accessed 27th Mar 2019.