One of the things that gets drilled into you when learning how to write academic or expository essays is the importance of the thesis statement. Like a broken record, your teachers repeat over and over again about how you need to write “thesis-driven essays” or include a “strong thesis statement” at the end of your introductory paragraph. Why? Because a good essay has a good thesis statement!
The thesis statement might be for a five-paragraph essay or for a longer research paper or term paper. As onerous as the chore of the thesis statement might seem to you at first, thesis statements are important for several reasons. In this article, we are going to help you better understand the art of writing a good thesis statement. You will learn why thesis statements are so important in academic writing, and how to improve your own thesis statements.
A thesis statement is the main point of your essay. With most of the essays and term papers you will be writing, the thesis statement is just one sentence. That’s right—a thesis statement is pretty simple after all: Just one sentence that encapsulates the gist of your argument.
Depending on the type of essay you are writing, your thesis statement could take on many different forms. The form of the thesis statement matches the purpose of your essay. If you are writing an argumentative essay, your thesis statement would be argumentative. A descriptive essay might have a more informative thesis statement. Some thesis statements outline several core components of your essay, and others summarize the main points you will make.
Regardless of its type, ultimately your thesis statement should be as punchy as possible. You want to make your reader genuinely interested in what you have to say, which means writing a thesis statement that is interesting and as specific as possible. The thesis lets your reader know what you want to claim and how you are going to prove it.
Absolutely! With a good thesis statement, the rest of your essay will flow almost like magic. A thesis statement prevents you from losing focus when you write, which means your entire essay will be better. Not only do your instructors expect you to write a strong thesis statement, many will ask you to underline your thesis so that they know you understand how important a thesis statement really is. Later on, when you get better at writing, you will not be asked to underline your thesis statement. You will simply be expected to give your paper a focus, and that focus comes in the form of a thesis statement.
Will the world come to an end if you forget your thesis statement? Not likely. But if you do write an essay without a thesis statement, several things could happen. Besides getting points off your essay, you might find that you cannot remain focused or forgot what you were trying to say. Your reader will lose interest in the essay, and all the hard work you did researching the subject will all be for nothing if you neglect the thesis statement.
Have you ever read something and then thought to yourself, “What was the point of that?” or “I have no idea what that person is trying to say!” In situations like this, the writer probably forgot to write a good thesis statement. Even the pros sometimes forget how important a thesis statement can be, but their readers never do. Therefore, learn how to write a good thesis statement now. Learn the art of writing a good thesis statement so that it becomes second nature. The best thesis statements are those that flow naturally, unlike the stilted thesis statement you might have been exposed to thus far. This article is going to help you write a thesis statement just like the pros!
Just as there are different types of essay, there are also different types of thesis statement. The main types you are likely to write include the analytical thesis statement, the expository or explanatory thesis statement, and the argumentative thesis statement. However, even narrative essays will have a thesis statement. While there are some similarities between these three types of thesis statement, it is always a good idea to alter the type and tone of your thesis statement according to the purpose of the paper.
What do all thesis statements share in common? All thesis statements are concise, coherent, consistent, and clear. They can also be a touch controversial, especially because you are using the thesis statement to convey the primary claims of your argument. Even when you are not writing an argumentative essay, your thesis statement does not need to be bland or boring. Your thesis statement can and should also be creative.
You might have been asked to place your thesis statement at the end of the introduction to your paper. There is a reason for this general rule. The introduction should lure the reader into your essay, after which point you present the thesis statement with aplomb.
Some people wonder why you don’t just start every essay with the thesis statement. Of course, you can do anything you want, but if you choose to put the thesis statement too soon, you upset the rhythm of your writing. Think of the thesis statement almost like the chorus of your favorite song. A song would seem weird if the chorus came first. The chorus of the song is like a thesis statement, adding structure and providing the main point of the composition.
The thesis statement should come as soon as possible in your essay, but not so soon that you did not aptly prepare the reader for what you are about to say. Writing a good introduction means grabbing the reader’s attention first with an interesting anecdote, a strong statistic, or a controversial statement. Then, you state your claim or make your central argument in one sentence.
Good thesis statements are concise, clear, consistent, coherent, and creative. When you write your thesis statement, ask yourself if it ticks all of these boxes:
A good thesis statement is concise. However, one of the most challenging things about writing a good thesis statement is packing in all the information into one single sentence. With practice, you will find that the adage “keep it simple, stupid” applies well in thesis statement construction. The thesis statement is your main argument. A poorly written thesis statement is clunky, whereas a good one is concise, pithy, and succinct.
All good thesis statements are clear and detailed. Almost by definition, a thesis statement conveys a sense of clarity and purpose in your essay. The best way to be clear when writing your thesis statement is by choosing the brightest words possible. A poorly written thesis statement is nebulous or obscure, whereas a good thesis statement makes it abundantly clear what you are going to say in your essay.
You would be surprised how many thesis statements are inconsistent with the remainder of the essay. One way a thesis statement can cohere with the rest of the essay is with tone, and another way is with content. The tone of the thesis statement should be consistent with the tone of the rest of your introduction and the rest of the essay. Likewise, the content of your thesis statement should accurately communicate your main arguments. If necessary, you can always revise your thesis statement later if you find that it is not logical or coherent. A poorly written thesis statement has nothing to do with the rest of the essay, whereas a good thesis statement is logically consistent and coherent.
The best thesis statements stand out from the crowd. Be creative, and do not be afraid to make a stand. You can be a little controversial when writing your thesis statement, because your reader will be much more interested in what you have to say if you are saying something unique. Of course, some academic essays ask stock questions. When answering those stock questions, though, it helps to offer a new perspective.
There is no one “right” way to write a thesis statement. Some students find that they write their best thesis statements after they have done all the research for their paper. You can, however, start with a “working thesis” that guides your preliminary investigations into your topic of interest or the topic that was assigned to you. A working thesis helps point you in the right direction so that you do not waste time while researching information. Later, when you start actually writing your essay or outlining what you are going to say, you can adjust your thesis statement based on what you have learned.
Here are the main steps in writing a good thesis statement:
It might surprise you to learn that the first step in writing a good thesis statement has nothing at all to do with writing! Before you even begin writing, you need to know what you are going to say, and the only way to know what to say in the essay is to do some background research on the topic.
If you are not writing a research essay, then brainstorming serves the same purpose as research. For example, a narrative or descriptive essay does not necessarily require formal research, but it might require you to reflect on your personal experiences. Reflecting on your personal experiences can be considered a type of “research,” in that you are digging deep and examining as much information or detail as possible.
You will now take what you have learned in your research or brainstorming session and begin to outline your essay. An outline helps you organize your thoughts and plan your essay. Just as you cannot build a house properly without a blueprint, you cannot write an essay properly without an outline. You might be able to outline your thoughts in your head, but some students find that a written outline helps them stay focused. Once you outline your main ideas, you will realize that your thesis statement practically writes itself!
Do not be afraid of writing your thesis statement. Now that you pretty much know what you are going to say, or what you want to prove, in your essay, just write a thesis statement using the handy tips we are offering you here in this article.
Step IV: Revising
You will often find you need to revise your thesis statement. Perhaps you found that your original ideas lacked substantive evidence to support them, or perhaps you realized that your claim was too weak. Regardless of the reason, never be afraid to change your mind.
The following examples will help give you some ideas on how to write a good thesis statement, and how to transform a weak one into a strong one.
Weak: London and Paris are totally different cities.
Strong: London and Paris are both major world capitals, but differ in terms of lifestyle, history, language, and culture.
Explanation: The weak thesis statement lacks specificity and clarity. Everyone knows London and Paris are totally different cities, but why are they different? The second, stronger thesis statement indicates that you are going to compare the two capitals on the basis of lifestyle, history, language, and culture.
Weak: Both Hamlet and Oedipus are tragic figures, with similar tragic flaws related to their blindness to the truth, which is why their hubris gets them into trouble.
Strong: Tragic heroes Hamlet and Oedipus both have good intentions as leaders, but their pride and stubbornness lead to their devastating demise.
Explanation: Notice how the weaker of these statements is incoherent and cluttered. The second statement shows how you intend to compare and contrast Hamlet and Oedipus.
Weak: Obamacare is a failure because Americans cannot deal with socialism.
Strong: The individual mandate aspect of the ACA presented legal problems, which is why the Trump administration was so easily able to dismantle it.
Explanation: A good thesis statement does not just make a broad claim, but hones in on the specific issues at hand, especially in an argumentative essay.
Weak: Iran and Saudi Arabia are waging proxy wars in Yemen, Syria, and perhaps even Bahrain, reflecting the Sunni-Shia divide and creating tremendous instability in the region.
Strong: By arming and training insurgents and fomenting political unrest, Saudi Arabia and Iran are vying for regional dominance.
Explanation: The weaker thesis statement rambles, lacks focus or clarity, and fails to actually make a statement. The second thesis statement shows how the writer will focus more exclusively on how the proxy wars are being waged and also why.
Weak: You should invest in Bitcoin now because the price is only going to be higher later on.
Strong: Although risky, cryptocurrency investments will pay off in the future because they are insulated both from market instability and from global currency fluctuations.
Explanation: The weak thesis statement is simplistic, lacks creativity, and does not effectively lure the reader into the essay. On the contrary, the second statement provides a clear direction for the essay. The reader wants to know how you are going to prove your point.
Weak: The short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” uses literary devices like simile and symbolism to show that the society oppresses women by labeling them as crazy and trapping them into a domestic life.
Strong: In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman delivers a scathing commentary on patriarchal social norms and institutions using potent literary symbolism and metaphor.
Explanation: Both thesis statements contain a lot of information, but the second one pares it down, offering a more concise road map for the expository essay.
Weak: Microsoft’s holistic marketing strategies have paid off for the company, allowing it to regain its competitive advantage and market share.
Strong: Microsoft’s holistic marketing strategies have created a more consistent and relatable brand identity, which proves critical in the age of social media and interactive consumer engagement.
Explanation: In an expository essay, you want to explain both why something happens and also how. The weaker of these two thesis statements tells the reader what holistic marketing has done for Microsoft. However, the stronger one states explicitly why holistic marketing is important.
Weak: Last summer, I learned about the importance of helping others.
Strong: A major crisis situation encourages us to dig deep, finding an inner source of strength and determination that can be used to uplift, inspire, and empower other people.
Explanation: By now you can recognize that the weaker of these two statements lacks specificity. The strong thesis statement provides clarity and nuance, while still remaining concise.
Weak: Uncle Jerry was always a nice guy, which is why the townsfolk were so devastated by his death.
Strong: Previously torn apart by poverty and pessimism, our community came together to honor the life of Uncle Jerry because his organization the Sunshine Center had touched the lives of almost every resident.
Explanation: The former thesis statement lacks specificity or creativity. Even a narrative essay needs a strong and almost controversial thesis statement. In this case, the writer claims that Uncle Jerry was almost single-handedly responsible for bringing together a fragmented community.
Weak: Defined by their brightly colored plumage and large shape, macaws make great pets.
Strong: Perennially popular as pets, macaws are beloved for their intelligence and ability to learn, their engagement with people, and of course, their gorgeous rainbow colored plumage.
Explanation: Although veering on containing too much information, the stronger of these two thesis statements offers much more detail than the weaker one and drives the essay forward based on this main idea.
Weak: As slavery never did align with core Constitutional values, the Civil War was fought ultimately to assert the character of the nation and to enable a strong central government to prevent the encroachment of universal rights and freedoms.
Strong: The Civil War was fought ultimately to enable a strong central government to prevent the encroachment of universal rights and freedoms, but failed to resolve racism.
Explanation: The weaker thesis statement is overly cluttered, unclear, and inconsistent. The stronger thesis statement illustrates the causes of the war, and also touches lightly on some of the effects, or lack thereof.
By now you should have a much better idea about what a thesis statement is, why thesis statements are important, and what distinguishes a good thesis statement from a weak one. When you learn how to write good thesis statements, they will seem like less of a burden. You will come to appreciate having this handy method of keeping your ideas focused. Before long, your thesis statements will start to flow naturally, and you will find yourself writing them unconsciously rather than in contrived ways. Practice, practice, practice.
Yes, thesis statements can be a chore. Being expected to pack your main argument into one sentence often seems like a daunting, if not impossible task. In some cases, writing a thesis statement can seem redundant, monotonous, and even unnecessary. You might feel that you are artificially constructing a thesis statement in order to conform to the rules, thereby sacrificing the creative flow of your writing. All that might be true, but you still do need to master the basics of a thesis statement to create logical, organized, standardized academic essays.
If you are struggling to find the right thesis statement, there is always help to be found. Call a writing tutor or ask your professor for help. A good writing tutor can help you to hone your thesis and thereby save you a lot of time in the long run.