How Do I Write a Thesis Statement?
This page is Part 1 of a two-part handout that continues with our Thesis Statement Checklist.
What is a Thesis Statement?
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A thesis statement is a very specific argument that guides your paper. Generally, a thesis statement consists of two parts:
- A clearly identifiable topic or subject matter
- A succinct summary of what you have to say about that topic
For your reader, a thesis functions like the case a lawyer has to make to the judge and jury in a courtroom. An effective thesis statement explains to your reader the case you are going to make and how you are going to make it.
For you as the author, your thesis can also help you to stay focused as a writer and determine what information you do (and don’t) need to include in your analysis.
Traditionally, the thesis statement is found near the end of your introduction, though this may change depending on the assignment and context. Don’t be afraid to draft a thesis statement that is more than one sentence.
A Note on Writing Process
You do not need a perfect thesis statement before you draft the rest of the paper. In fact, you will likely need to modify your thesis once you have a complete draft to make sure that your draft and your thesis match one another. If your argument evolves in productive ways as you write, your thesis should, too.
Honing and tweaking a thesis statement during the revision process is ultimately more important than having it exact and precise during the drafting process.
Characteristics of a WEAK thesis statement
- Vague: Raises an interesting topic or question but doesn’t specify an argument
- Offers plot summary, statement of fact, or obvious truths instead of an argument
- Offers opinion or conjecture rather than an argument (cannot be proven with textual evidence)
- Is too broad or too complex for the length of the paper
- Uses meaningful-sounding words, but doesn’t actually say anything of substance
Disclaimer: This is not a complete list! You can probably think of many more characteristics of a weak thesis statement.
Characteristics of a STRONG thesis statement
- Answers a specific question
- Takes a distinct position on the topic
- Is debatable (a reasonable person could argue an alternative position)
- Appropriately focused for the page length of the assignment
- Allows your reader to anticipate the organization of your argument
Having trouble drafting a thesis? Try filling in the blanks in these template statements:
- In this paper, I argue that _____, because/by _____.
- While critics argue _____, I argue _____, because _____.
- By looking at _____, I argue that _____, which is important because _____.
- The text, _____, defines _____ as _____, in order to argue _____.
Disclaimer: These are only models. They’ll be useful to help you to get started, but you’ll have to do quite a bit of tweaking before your thesis is ready for your paper.
For more on thesis statements, check out part 2: Our Thesis Statement Checklist.
Last revised: 07/15/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 5/2021
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