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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

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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 .

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.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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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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50 Argumentative Essay Thesis Statement Examples

argumentative essay thesis statement

A thesis statement in an argumentative essay needs to present a point of view . The biggest mistake you can make is to provide a thesis statement that doesn’t demonstrate what your argument will be. So, your thesis statement should set a clear argument, perspective, or position in relation to a debate. Check out the examples below.

Thesis Statements for Argumentative Essays

1. mandatory school uniforms.

school uniforms and dress codes, explained below

For: “School uniforms should be mandatory as they promote equality and reduce distractions, fostering a better learning environment.”

Against: “Mandatory school uniforms infringe on students’ freedom of expression and fail to address the root causes of bullying and social stratification.”

Read More: School Uniform Pros and Cons

2. School Should Start Later

moral panic definition examples

For: “Schools should start later in the morning to align with adolescents’ natural sleep cycles, resulting in improved mental health, increased academic performance, and better overall student well-being.”

Against: “Starting school later in the morning disrupts family routines, poses logistical challenges for after-school activities and transportation, and fails to prepare students for the traditional workday schedule.”

Read More: School Should Start Later Arguments | School Should Start Earlier Arguments

3. College Athletes Should be Paid

pros and cons of paying college athletes, explained below

For: “College athletes should be compensated for their contributions to the multi-billion dollar collegiate sports industry, as their commitment and efforts generate significant revenue and marketing value for their institutions.”

Against: “Paying college athletes undermines the spirit of amateurism in collegiate sports, complicates the primary focus on education, and poses significant financial and regulatory challenges for universities.”

Read More: Why College Athletes Should be Paid

4. Homework should be Banned

homework pros and cons

For: “Excessive homework can lead to student burnout, reduce family time, and is not always effective in enhancing learning.”

Against: “Homework is essential for reinforcing learning, fostering independent study skills, and preparing students for academic challenges.”

Read More: 21 Reasons Homework Should be Banned

5. Nature is More Important than Nurture

nature vs nurture examples and definition

For: “Genetic predispositions play a more critical role in shaping an individual than environmental factors, highlighting the importance of nature in personal development.”

Against: “Environmental factors and upbringing have a more significant impact on an individual’s development than genetic factors, emphasizing the role of nurture.”

Read More: Nature vs Nurture

6. The American Dream is Unattainable

American Dream Examples Definition

For: “The American Dream is an outdated and unachievable concept for many, masked by systemic inequalities and economic barriers.”

Against: “The American Dream is still a relevant and attainable goal, symbolizing hope, opportunity, and hard work in a land of limitless potential.”

Read More: Examples of the American Dream

7. Social Media is Good for Society

social media examples and definition

For: “Social media is a vital tool for modern communication, fostering global connectivity and democratizing information dissemination.”

Against: “Social media platforms contribute to mental health issues, spread misinformation, and erode quality face-to-face interactions.”

Read More: Social Media Pros and Cons

8. Globalization has been Bad for Society

types of globalization, explained below

For: “Globalization leads to the exploitation of developing countries, loss of cultural identity, and increased income inequality.”

Against: “Globalization is beneficial, driving economic growth, cultural exchange, and technological advancement on a global scale.”

Read More: Globalization Pros and Cons

9. Urbanization has been Good for Society

urbanization example and definition

For: “Urbanization is a positive force for economic development and cultural diversity, offering improved opportunities and lifestyles.”

Against: “Rapid urbanization leads to environmental degradation, overpopulation, and heightened social inequalities.”

Read More: Urbanization Examples

10. Immigration is Good for Society

immigration pros and cons, explained below

For: “Immigration enriches the social and economic fabric of the host country, bringing diversity and innovation.”

Against: “Uncontrolled immigration can strain public resources, disrupt local job markets, and lead to cultural clashes.”

Read More: Immigration Pros and Cons

11. Cultural Identity must be Preserved

cultural identity examples and definition, explained below

For: “Maintaining cultural identity is essential to preserve historical heritage and promote diversity in a globalized world.”

Against: “Excessive emphasis on cultural identity can lead to isolationism and hinder integration and mutual understanding in multicultural societies.”

Read More: Cultural Identity Examples

12. Technology is Essential for Social Progress

technology examples and definition explained below

For: “The advancement of technology is crucial for societal progress, improving efficiency, healthcare, and global communication.”

Against: “Over-dependence on technology leads to privacy concerns, job displacement, and a disconnection from the natural world.”

13. Capitalism is the Best Economic System

capitalism examples and definition

For: “Capitalism drives innovation, economic growth, and personal freedom, outperforming socialist systems in efficiency and prosperity.”

Against: “Capitalism creates vast inequalities and exploits workers and the environment, necessitating a shift towards socialist principles for a fairer society.”

14. Socialism is the Best Economic System

socialism definition examples pros cons, explained below

For: “Socialism promotes social welfare and equality, ensuring basic needs are met for all citizens, unlike the inequalities perpetuated by capitalism.”

Against: “Socialism stifles individual initiative and economic growth, often leading to governmental overreach and inefficiency.”

Read More: Socialism Pros and Cons

15. Pseudoscience has no Value to Society

pseudoscience examples and definition, explained below

For: “Pseudoscience is harmful as it misleads people, often resulting in health risks and the rejection of scientifically proven facts.”

Against: “Pseudoscience, while not scientifically validated, can offer alternative perspectives and comfort to individuals where mainstream science has limitations.”

Read More: Pseudoscience Examples

16. Free Will is Real

free will examples and definition, explained below

For: “Individuals possess free will, enabling them to make autonomous choices that shape their lives and moral character, independent of genetic or environmental determinism.”

Against: “The concept of free will is an illusion, with human behavior being the result of genetic and environmental influences beyond personal control.”

Read More: Free Will Examples

17. Gender Roles are Outdated

gender roles examples and definition, explained below

For: “Rigid gender roles are outdated and limit individual freedom, perpetuating inequality and stereotyping.”

Against: “Traditional gender roles provide structure and clarity to societal functions and personal relationships.”

Read More: Gender Roles Examples

18. Work-Life Ballance is Essential for a Good Life

work-life balance examples and definition, explained below

For: “Achieving a work-life balance is essential for mental health, productivity, and personal fulfillment.”

Against: “The pursuit of work-life balance can lead to decreased professional ambition and economic growth, particularly in highly competitive industries.”

Read More: Work-Life Balance Examples

19. Universal Healthcare

universal healthcare pros and cons

For: “Universal healthcare is a fundamental human right, ensuring equitable access to medical services for all individuals.”

Against: “Universal healthcare can be inefficient and costly, potentially leading to lower quality of care and longer wait times.”

Read More: Universal Healthcare Pros and Cons

20. Raising the Minimum Wage

raising minimum wage pros and cons

For: “Raising the minimum wage is necessary to provide a living wage, reduce poverty, and stimulate economic growth.”

Against: “Increasing the minimum wage can lead to higher unemployment and negatively impact small businesses.”

Read More: Raising the Minimum Wage Pros and Cons

21. Charter Schools are Better than Public Schools

charter schools vs public schools, explained below

For: “Charter schools provide valuable alternatives to traditional public schools, often offering innovative educational approaches and higher standards.”

Against: “Charter schools can drain resources from public schools and lack the same level of accountability and inclusivity.”

Read More: Charter Schools vs Public Schools

22. The Internet has had a Net Positive Effect

internet pros and cons

For: “The internet is a transformative tool for education, communication, and business, making information more accessible than ever before.”

Against: “The internet can be a platform for misinformation, privacy breaches, and unhealthy social comparison, negatively impacting society.”

Read Also: Pros and Cons of the Internet

23. Affirmative Action is Fair and Just

affirmative action example and definition, explained below

For: “Affirmative action is necessary to correct historical injustices and promote diversity in education and the workplace.”

Against: “Affirmative action can lead to reverse discrimination and undermine meritocracy, potentially harming those it aims to help.”

Read More: Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action

24. Soft Skills are the Most Important Workforce Skills

soft skills examples and definition, explained below

For: “Soft skills like communication and empathy are crucial in the modern workforce, contributing to a collaborative and adaptable work environment.”

Against: “Overemphasis on soft skills can neglect technical proficiency and practical skills that are essential in many professional fields.”

Read More: Examples of Soft Skills

25. Freedom of the Press has gone Too Far

freedom of the press example and definition, explained below

For: “Unregulated freedom of the press can lead to the spread of misinformation and biased reporting, influencing public opinion unfairly.”

Against: “Freedom of the press is essential for a democratic society, ensuring transparency and accountability in governance.”

Read More: Free Press Examples

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Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 5 Top Tips for Succeeding at University
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  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 100 Consumer Goods Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 30 Globalization Pros and Cons

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.

Introduction

Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I create a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to  be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:

Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.

You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.

  • Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?

After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:

Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.

This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.

Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

You begin to analyze your thesis:

  • Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.

Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
  • Do I answer the question? Yes!
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”

After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Argumentative Thesis

birds arguing

As explained in Research , not all essays will require an explicitly stated thesis, but most argumentative essays will. Instead of implying your thesis or main idea, in an argumentative essay, you’ll most likely be required to write out your thesis statement for your audience. A thesis statement is a one- to two-sentence statement that presents the main idea and makes an assertion about your issue. You may have a longer thesis for much longer essays, but one to two sentences is a good general guideline. And, remember, in an argumentative essay, the assertion you present in your thesis is going to be particularly important.

When you make your assertion in your thesis, it should be clear and direct. You want your audience to have no doubt about your point. Of course, how assertive you are in your thesis and the content you choose to include depends upon the type of argumentative essay you are writing. For example, in a Classical or Aristotelian argument (explained in pages that follow), your thesis statement should clearly present your side of the issue. In a Rogerian argument (explained in pages that follow), your thesis should bring both sides of the issue together.

Still, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to an argumentative thesis statement.

  • Your thesis statement should be one to two sentences .
  • Your thesis statement should clearly present the main idea of your essay and make some kind of assertion (even if that assertion is about bringing two sides together).
  • Your thesis should not make an “announcement” about what your essay will cover. Instead, it should just present your assertion. For example, a thesis like this makes an announcement:

In this paper, I will persuade you to vote for candidates who support education reform.

Instead you might write:

Because our education system is in need of reform, we should vote for candidates who are willing to make the necessary changes.

  • While there is no such thing as a “required” place for your thesis statement, most academic essays will present the thesis statement early on, usually near the end of the introduction . There is a reason for this. Audience members are more likely to understand and absorb each point as readers if you have told them, in advance, what they should be getting out of your essay. Still, you should check with your professor if you would like to present your thesis somewhere else, such as at the end of your essay.
  • Your thesis statement is the most important sentence in your essay. It’s your chance to make sure your audience really understands your point. Be sure your assertion and your writing style are clear.

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developing a thesis statement for an argumentative essay

How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement: 4 Steps + Examples

developing a thesis statement for an argumentative essay

What’s Covered:

What is the purpose of a thesis statement, writing a good thesis statement: 4 steps, common pitfalls to avoid, where to get your essay edited for free.

When you set out to write an essay, there has to be some kind of point to it, right? Otherwise, your essay would just be a big jumble of word salad that makes absolutely no sense. An essay needs a central point that ties into everything else. That main point is called a thesis statement, and it’s the core of any essay or research paper.

You may hear about Master degree candidates writing a thesis, and that is an entire paper–not to be confused with the thesis statement, which is typically one sentence that contains your paper’s focus. 

Read on to learn more about thesis statements and how to write them. We’ve also included some solid examples for you to reference.

Typically the last sentence of your introductory paragraph, the thesis statement serves as the roadmap for your essay. When your reader gets to the thesis statement, they should have a clear outline of your main point, as well as the information you’ll be presenting in order to either prove or support your point. 

The thesis statement should not be confused for a topic sentence , which is the first sentence of every paragraph in your essay. If you need help writing topic sentences, numerous resources are available. Topic sentences should go along with your thesis statement, though.

Since the thesis statement is the most important sentence of your entire essay or paper, it’s imperative that you get this part right. Otherwise, your paper will not have a good flow and will seem disjointed. That’s why it’s vital not to rush through developing one. It’s a methodical process with steps that you need to follow in order to create the best thesis statement possible.

Step 1: Decide what kind of paper you’re writing

When you’re assigned an essay, there are several different types you may get. Argumentative essays are designed to get the reader to agree with you on a topic. Informative or expository essays present information to the reader. Analytical essays offer up a point and then expand on it by analyzing relevant information. Thesis statements can look and sound different based on the type of paper you’re writing. For example:

  • Argumentative: The United States needs a viable third political party to decrease bipartisanship, increase options, and help reduce corruption in government.
  • Informative: The Libertarian party has thrown off elections before by gaining enough support in states to get on the ballot and by taking away crucial votes from candidates.
  • Analytical: An analysis of past presidential elections shows that while third party votes may have been the minority, they did affect the outcome of the elections in 2020, 2016, and beyond.

Step 2: Figure out what point you want to make

Once you know what type of paper you’re writing, you then need to figure out the point you want to make with your thesis statement, and subsequently, your paper. In other words, you need to decide to answer a question about something, such as:

  • What impact did reality TV have on American society?
  • How has the musical Hamilton affected perception of American history?
  • Why do I want to major in [chosen major here]?

If you have an argumentative essay, then you will be writing about an opinion. To make it easier, you may want to choose an opinion that you feel passionate about so that you’re writing about something that interests you. For example, if you have an interest in preserving the environment, you may want to choose a topic that relates to that. 

If you’re writing your college essay and they ask why you want to attend that school, you may want to have a main point and back it up with information, something along the lines of:

“Attending Harvard University would benefit me both academically and professionally, as it would give me a strong knowledge base upon which to build my career, develop my network, and hopefully give me an advantage in my chosen field.”

Step 3: Determine what information you’ll use to back up your point

Once you have the point you want to make, you need to figure out how you plan to back it up throughout the rest of your essay. Without this information, it will be hard to either prove or argue the main point of your thesis statement. If you decide to write about the Hamilton example, you may decide to address any falsehoods that the writer put into the musical, such as:

“The musical Hamilton, while accurate in many ways, leaves out key parts of American history, presents a nationalist view of founding fathers, and downplays the racism of the times.”

Once you’ve written your initial working thesis statement, you’ll then need to get information to back that up. For example, the musical completely leaves out Benjamin Franklin, portrays the founding fathers in a nationalist way that is too complimentary, and shows Hamilton as a staunch abolitionist despite the fact that his family likely did own slaves. 

Step 4: Revise and refine your thesis statement before you start writing

Read through your thesis statement several times before you begin to compose your full essay. You need to make sure the statement is ironclad, since it is the foundation of the entire paper. Edit it or have a peer review it for you to make sure everything makes sense and that you feel like you can truly write a paper on the topic. Once you’ve done that, you can then begin writing your paper.

When writing a thesis statement, there are some common pitfalls you should avoid so that your paper can be as solid as possible. Make sure you always edit the thesis statement before you do anything else. You also want to ensure that the thesis statement is clear and concise. Don’t make your reader hunt for your point. Finally, put your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph and have your introduction flow toward that statement. Your reader will expect to find your statement in its traditional spot.

If you’re having trouble getting started, or need some guidance on your essay, there are tools available that can help you. CollegeVine offers a free peer essay review tool where one of your peers can read through your essay and provide you with valuable feedback. Getting essay feedback from a peer can help you wow your instructor or college admissions officer with an impactful essay that effectively illustrates your point.

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II. Getting Started

2.5 Writing Thesis Statements

Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; and Kirk Swenson

To be effective, all support in an essay must work together to convey a central point; otherwise, an essay can fall into the trap of being out of order and confusing. Just as a topic sentence focuses and unifies a single paragraph, the thesis statement focuses and unifies an entire essay. This statement is like a signpost that signals the essay’s destination; it tells the reader the point you want to make in your essay, while the essay itself supports that point.

Because writing is not a linear process, you may find that the best thesis statement develops near the end of your first draft. However, creating a draft or working thesis early in the writing project helps give the drafting process clear direction. You should form your thesis before you begin to organize an essay, but you may find that it needs revision as the essay develops.

A thesis is not just a topic, but rather the writer’s comment or interpretation of the question or subject. For whatever topic you select (for example, school uniforms, social networking), you must ask yourself, “What do I want to say about it?” Asking and then answering this question is vital to forming a thesis that is precise, forceful, and confident.

In the majority of essays, a thesis is one sentence long and appears toward the end of the introductory paragraph. It is specific and focuses on one to three points of a single idea—points that are able to be demonstrated in the body paragraphs. It forecasts the content of the essay and suggests how you will organize your information. Remember that a thesis statement does not summarize an issue but rather dissects it.

Working Thesis Statements

A strong thesis statement must have the following qualities:

  • It must be arguable.  A thesis statement must state a point of view or judgment about a topic. An established fact is not considered arguable.
  • It must be supportable.  The thesis statement must contain a point of view that can be supported with evidence (reasons, facts, examples).
  • It must be specific. A thesis statement must be precise enough to allow for a coherent argument and remain focused on the topic.

Examples of Appropriate Thesis Statements

  • Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one solution that will tackle illegal immigration.
  • Compared to an absolute divorce, no-fault divorce is less expensive, promotes fairer settlements, and reflects a more realistic view of the causes for marital breakdown.
  • Exposing children from an early age to the dangers of drug abuse is a sure method of preventing future drug addicts.
  • In today’s crumbling job market, a high school diploma is not significant enough education to land a stable, lucrative job.
  • The societal and personal struggles of Troy Maxson in the play Fences symbolize the challenges of black males who lived through segregation and integration in the United States.

Pitfalls to Avoid

A thesis is weak when it is simply a declaration of your subject or a description of what you will discuss in your essay.

Weak Thesis Statement Example

My paper will explain why imagination is more important than knowledge.

A thesis is weak when it makes an unreasonable or outrageous claim or insults the opposing side.

Religious radicals across America are trying to legislate their Puritanical beliefs by banning required high school books.

A thesis is weak when it contains an obvious fact or something that no one can disagree with or provides a dead end.

Advertising companies use sex to sell their products.

A thesis is weak when the statement is too broad.

The life of Abraham Lincoln was long and challenging.

Ways to Revise Your Thesis

Your thesis statement begins as a working thesis statement, an indefinite statement that you make about your topic early in the writing process for the purpose of planning and guiding your writing. Working thesis statements often become stronger as you gather information and develop new ideas and reasons for those ideas. Revision helps you strengthen your thesis so that it matches what you have expressed in the body of the paper.

You can cut down on irrelevant aspects and revise your thesis by taking the following steps:

  • Pinpoint and replace all non specific words, such as people, everything, society, or life, with more precise words in order to reduce any vagueness.

Pinpoint and Replace Example

Working thesis:  Young people have to work hard to succeed in life.

Revised thesis:  Recent college graduates must have discipline and persistence in order to find and maintain a stable job in which they can use, and be appreciated for, their talents.

Explanation:  The original includes too broad a range of people and does not define exactly what success entails. By replacing those general words like people and work hard , the writer can better focus their research and gain more direction in their writing. The revised thesis makes a more specific statement about success and what it means to work hard.

  • Clarify ideas that need explanation by asking yourself questions that narrow your thesis.

Clarify Example

Working thesis:  The welfare system is a joke.

Revised thesis:  The welfare system keeps a socioeconomic class from gaining employment by alluring members of that class with unearned income, instead of programs to improve their education and skill sets.

Explanation:  A joke means many things to many people. Readers bring all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives to the reading process and would need clarification for a word so vague. This expression may also be too informal for the selected audience. By asking questions, the writer can devise a more precise and appropriate explanation for joke and more accurately defines their stance, which will better guide the writing of the essay.

  • Replace any linking verbs with action verbs. Linking verbs are forms of the verb to be , a verb that simply states that a situation exists.

Replace with Action Verbs Example

Working thesis:  Kansas City school teachers are not paid enough.

Revised thesis:  The Kansas City legislature cannot afford to pay its educators, resulting in job cuts and resignations in a district that sorely needs highly qualified and dedicated teachers.

Explanation:  The linking verb in this working thesis statement is the word are . Linking verbs often make thesis statements weak because they do not express action. Rather, they connect words and phrases to the second half of the sentence. Readers might wonder, “Why are they not paid enough?” But this statement does not compel them to ask many more questions.

  • Who is not paying the teachers enough?
  • How much is considered “enough”?
  • What is the problem?
  • What are the results?
  • Omit any general claims that are hard to support.

Omit General Claims Example

Working thesis:  Today’s teenage girls are too sexualized.

Revised thesis: Teenage girls who are captivated by the sexual images on the internet and social media are conditioned to believe that a woman’s worth depends on her sensuality, a feeling that harms their self-esteem and behavior.

Explanation:  It is true that some young women in today’s society are more sexualized than in the past, but that is not true for all girls. Many girls have strict parents, dress appropriately, and do not engage in sexual activity while in middle school and high school. The writer of this thesis should ask the following questions:

  • Which teenage girls?
  • What constitutes “too” sexualized?
  • Why are they behaving that way?
  • Where does this behavior show up?
  • What are the repercussions?

This section contains material from:

Crowther, Kathryn, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson. Successful College Composition . 2nd ed. Book 8. Georgia: English Open Textbooks, 2016. http://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/8 . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License .

Relating to lines; a way of explaining information logically and/or sequentially; can refer to the chronological relaying of information.

A brief and concise statement or series of statements that outlines the main point(s) of a longer work. To summarize is to create a brief and concise statement or series of statements that outlines the main point(s) of a longer work.

To analyze closely or minutely; to scrutinize every aspect. Unlike the fields of biology, anatomy, or medicine, in rhetoric and writing, dissect does not refer to the cutting apart of a physical body but to the taking apart the body of an argument or idea piece by piece to understand it better.

A logical, rational, lucid, or understandable expression of an idea, concept, or notion; consistent and harmonious explanation.

Assertion or announcement of belief, understanding, or knowledge; a formal statement or proclamation.

Without a defined number or limit; unlimited, infinite, or undetermined.

An altered version of  a written work. Revising means to rewrite in order to improve and make corrections. Unlike editing, which involves minor changes, revisions include major and noticeable changes to a written work.

Not relevant; unimportant; beside the point; not relating to the matter at hand.

Attractive, tempting, or seductive; to have an appealing and charismatic quality.

To influence or convince; to produce a certain or specific result through the use of force.

2.5 Writing Thesis Statements Copyright © 2022 by Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; and Kirk Swenson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence) 

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim 

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim 

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis 

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • picture_as_pdf Thesis

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9.1 Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement

Learning objectives.

  • Develop a strong, clear thesis statement with the proper elements.
  • Revise your thesis statement.

Have you ever known a person who was not very good at telling stories? You probably had trouble following his train of thought as he jumped around from point to point, either being too brief in places that needed further explanation or providing too many details on a meaningless element. Maybe he told the end of the story first, then moved to the beginning and later added details to the middle. His ideas were probably scattered, and the story did not flow very well. When the story was over, you probably had many questions.

Just as a personal anecdote can be a disorganized mess, an essay can fall into the same trap of being out of order and confusing. That is why writers need a thesis statement to provide a specific focus for their essay and to organize what they are about to discuss in the body.

Just like a topic sentence summarizes a single paragraph, the thesis statement summarizes an entire essay. It tells the reader the point you want to make in your essay, while the essay itself supports that point. It is like a signpost that signals the essay’s destination. You should form your thesis before you begin to organize an essay, but you may find that it needs revision as the essay develops.

Elements of a Thesis Statement

For every essay you write, you must focus on a central idea. This idea stems from a topic you have chosen or been assigned or from a question your teacher has asked. It is not enough merely to discuss a general topic or simply answer a question with a yes or no. You have to form a specific opinion, and then articulate that into a controlling idea —the main idea upon which you build your thesis.

Remember that a thesis is not the topic itself, but rather your interpretation of the question or subject. For whatever topic your professor gives you, you must ask yourself, “What do I want to say about it?” Asking and then answering this question is vital to forming a thesis that is precise, forceful and confident.

A thesis is one sentence long and appears toward the end of your introduction. It is specific and focuses on one to three points of a single idea—points that are able to be demonstrated in the body. It forecasts the content of the essay and suggests how you will organize your information. Remember that a thesis statement does not summarize an issue but rather dissects it.

A Strong Thesis Statement

A strong thesis statement contains the following qualities.

Specificity. A thesis statement must concentrate on a specific area of a general topic. As you may recall, the creation of a thesis statement begins when you choose a broad subject and then narrow down its parts until you pinpoint a specific aspect of that topic. For example, health care is a broad topic, but a proper thesis statement would focus on a specific area of that topic, such as options for individuals without health care coverage.

Precision. A strong thesis statement must be precise enough to allow for a coherent argument and to remain focused on the topic. If the specific topic is options for individuals without health care coverage, then your precise thesis statement must make an exact claim about it, such as that limited options exist for those who are uninsured by their employers. You must further pinpoint what you are going to discuss regarding these limited effects, such as whom they affect and what the cause is.

Ability to be argued. A thesis statement must present a relevant and specific argument. A factual statement often is not considered arguable. Be sure your thesis statement contains a point of view that can be supported with evidence.

Ability to be demonstrated. For any claim you make in your thesis, you must be able to provide reasons and examples for your opinion. You can rely on personal observations in order to do this, or you can consult outside sources to demonstrate that what you assert is valid. A worthy argument is backed by examples and details.

Forcefulness. A thesis statement that is forceful shows readers that you are, in fact, making an argument. The tone is assertive and takes a stance that others might oppose.

Confidence. In addition to using force in your thesis statement, you must also use confidence in your claim. Phrases such as I feel or I believe actually weaken the readers’ sense of your confidence because these phrases imply that you are the only person who feels the way you do. In other words, your stance has insufficient backing. Taking an authoritative stance on the matter persuades your readers to have faith in your argument and open their minds to what you have to say.

Even in a personal essay that allows the use of first person, your thesis should not contain phrases such as in my opinion or I believe . These statements reduce your credibility and weaken your argument. Your opinion is more convincing when you use a firm attitude.

On a separate sheet of paper, write a thesis statement for each of the following topics. Remember to make each statement specific, precise, demonstrable, forceful and confident.

  • Texting while driving
  • The legal drinking age in the United States
  • Steroid use among professional athletes

Examples of Appropriate Thesis Statements

Each of the following thesis statements meets several of the following requirements:

  • Specificity
  • Ability to be argued
  • Ability to be demonstrated
  • Forcefulness
  • The societal and personal struggles of Troy Maxon in the play Fences symbolize the challenge of black males who lived through segregation and integration in the United States.
  • Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one solution that will tackle illegal immigration.
  • Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony in Romeo and Juliet spoils the outcome for the audience and weakens the plot.
  • J. D. Salinger’s character in Catcher in the Rye , Holden Caulfield, is a confused rebel who voices his disgust with phonies, yet in an effort to protect himself, he acts like a phony on many occasions.
  • Compared to an absolute divorce, no-fault divorce is less expensive, promotes fairer settlements, and reflects a more realistic view of the causes for marital breakdown.
  • Exposing children from an early age to the dangers of drug abuse is a sure method of preventing future drug addicts.
  • In today’s crumbling job market, a high school diploma is not significant enough education to land a stable, lucrative job.

You can find thesis statements in many places, such as in the news; in the opinions of friends, coworkers or teachers; and even in songs you hear on the radio. Become aware of thesis statements in everyday life by paying attention to people’s opinions and their reasons for those opinions. Pay attention to your own everyday thesis statements as well, as these can become material for future essays.

Now that you have read about the contents of a good thesis statement and have seen examples, take a look at the pitfalls to avoid when composing your own thesis:

A thesis is weak when it is simply a declaration of your subject or a description of what you will discuss in your essay.

Weak thesis statement: My paper will explain why imagination is more important than knowledge.

A thesis is weak when it makes an unreasonable or outrageous claim or insults the opposing side.

Weak thesis statement: Religious radicals across America are trying to legislate their Puritanical beliefs by banning required high school books.

A thesis is weak when it contains an obvious fact or something that no one can disagree with or provides a dead end.

Weak thesis statement: Advertising companies use sex to sell their products.

A thesis is weak when the statement is too broad.

Weak thesis statement: The life of Abraham Lincoln was long and challenging.

Read the following thesis statements. On a separate piece of paper, identify each as weak or strong. For those that are weak, list the reasons why. Then revise the weak statements so that they conform to the requirements of a strong thesis.

  • The subject of this paper is my experience with ferrets as pets.
  • The government must expand its funding for research on renewable energy resources in order to prepare for the impending end of oil.
  • Edgar Allan Poe was a poet who lived in Baltimore during the nineteenth century.
  • In this essay, I will give you lots of reasons why slot machines should not be legalized in Baltimore.
  • Despite his promises during his campaign, President Kennedy took few executive measures to support civil rights legislation.
  • Because many children’s toys have potential safety hazards that could lead to injury, it is clear that not all children’s toys are safe.
  • My experience with young children has taught me that I want to be a disciplinary parent because I believe that a child without discipline can be a parent’s worst nightmare.

Writing at Work

Often in your career, you will need to ask your boss for something through an e-mail. Just as a thesis statement organizes an essay, it can also organize your e-mail request. While your e-mail will be shorter than an essay, using a thesis statement in your first paragraph quickly lets your boss know what you are asking for, why it is necessary, and what the benefits are. In short body paragraphs, you can provide the essential information needed to expand upon your request.

Thesis Statement Revision

Your thesis will probably change as you write, so you will need to modify it to reflect exactly what you have discussed in your essay. Remember from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” that your thesis statement begins as a working thesis statement , an indefinite statement that you make about your topic early in the writing process for the purpose of planning and guiding your writing.

Working thesis statements often become stronger as you gather information and form new opinions and reasons for those opinions. Revision helps you strengthen your thesis so that it matches what you have expressed in the body of the paper.

The best way to revise your thesis statement is to ask questions about it and then examine the answers to those questions. By challenging your own ideas and forming definite reasons for those ideas, you grow closer to a more precise point of view, which you can then incorporate into your thesis statement.

Ways to Revise Your Thesis

You can cut down on irrelevant aspects and revise your thesis by taking the following steps:

1. Pinpoint and replace all nonspecific words, such as people , everything , society , or life , with more precise words in order to reduce any vagueness.

Working thesis: Young people have to work hard to succeed in life.

Revised thesis: Recent college graduates must have discipline and persistence in order to find and maintain a stable job in which they can use and be appreciated for their talents.

The revised thesis makes a more specific statement about success and what it means to work hard. The original includes too broad a range of people and does not define exactly what success entails. By replacing those general words like people and work hard , the writer can better focus his or her research and gain more direction in his or her writing.

2. Clarify ideas that need explanation by asking yourself questions that narrow your thesis.

Working thesis: The welfare system is a joke.

Revised thesis: The welfare system keeps a socioeconomic class from gaining employment by alluring members of that class with unearned income, instead of programs to improve their education and skill sets.

A joke means many things to many people. Readers bring all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives to the reading process and would need clarification for a word so vague. This expression may also be too informal for the selected audience. By asking questions, the writer can devise a more precise and appropriate explanation for joke . The writer should ask himself or herself questions similar to the 5WH questions. (See Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” for more information on the 5WH questions.) By incorporating the answers to these questions into a thesis statement, the writer more accurately defines his or her stance, which will better guide the writing of the essay.

3. Replace any linking verbs with action verbs. Linking verbs are forms of the verb to be , a verb that simply states that a situation exists.

Working thesis: Kansas City schoolteachers are not paid enough.

Revised thesis: The Kansas City legislature cannot afford to pay its educators, resulting in job cuts and resignations in a district that sorely needs highly qualified and dedicated teachers.

The linking verb in this working thesis statement is the word are . Linking verbs often make thesis statements weak because they do not express action. Rather, they connect words and phrases to the second half of the sentence. Readers might wonder, “Why are they not paid enough?” But this statement does not compel them to ask many more questions. The writer should ask himself or herself questions in order to replace the linking verb with an action verb, thus forming a stronger thesis statement, one that takes a more definitive stance on the issue:

  • Who is not paying the teachers enough?
  • What is considered “enough”?
  • What is the problem?
  • What are the results

4. Omit any general claims that are hard to support.

Working thesis: Today’s teenage girls are too sexualized.

Revised thesis: Teenage girls who are captivated by the sexual images on MTV are conditioned to believe that a woman’s worth depends on her sensuality, a feeling that harms their self-esteem and behavior.

It is true that some young women in today’s society are more sexualized than in the past, but that is not true for all girls. Many girls have strict parents, dress appropriately, and do not engage in sexual activity while in middle school and high school. The writer of this thesis should ask the following questions:

  • Which teenage girls?
  • What constitutes “too” sexualized?
  • Why are they behaving that way?
  • Where does this behavior show up?
  • What are the repercussions?

In the first section of Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , you determined your purpose for writing and your audience. You then completed a freewriting exercise about an event you recently experienced and chose a general topic to write about. Using that general topic, you then narrowed it down by answering the 5WH questions. After you answered these questions, you chose one of the three methods of prewriting and gathered possible supporting points for your working thesis statement.

Now, on a separate sheet of paper, write down your working thesis statement. Identify any weaknesses in this sentence and revise the statement to reflect the elements of a strong thesis statement. Make sure it is specific, precise, arguable, demonstrable, forceful, and confident.

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

In your career you may have to write a project proposal that focuses on a particular problem in your company, such as reinforcing the tardiness policy. The proposal would aim to fix the problem; using a thesis statement would clearly state the boundaries of the problem and tell the goals of the project. After writing the proposal, you may find that the thesis needs revision to reflect exactly what is expressed in the body. Using the techniques from this chapter would apply to revising that thesis.

Key Takeaways

  • Proper essays require a thesis statement to provide a specific focus and suggest how the essay will be organized.
  • A thesis statement is your interpretation of the subject, not the topic itself.
  • A strong thesis is specific, precise, forceful, confident, and is able to be demonstrated.
  • A strong thesis challenges readers with a point of view that can be debated and can be supported with evidence.
  • A weak thesis is simply a declaration of your topic or contains an obvious fact that cannot be argued.
  • Depending on your topic, it may or may not be appropriate to use first person point of view.
  • Revise your thesis by ensuring all words are specific, all ideas are exact, and all verbs express action.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Writing Tips

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

4-minute read

  • 30th April 2022

An argumentative essay is a structured, compelling piece of writing where an author clearly defines their stance on a specific topic. This is a very popular style of writing assigned to students at schools, colleges, and universities. Learn the steps to researching, structuring, and writing an effective argumentative essay below.

Requirements of an Argumentative Essay

To effectively achieve its purpose, an argumentative essay must contain:

●  A concise thesis statement that introduces readers to the central argument of the essay

●  A clear, logical, argument that engages readers

●  Ample research and evidence that supports your argument

Approaches to Use in Your Argumentative Essay

1.   classical.

●  Clearly present the central argument.

●  Outline your opinion.

●  Provide enough evidence to support your theory.

2.   Toulmin

●  State your claim.

●  Supply the evidence for your stance.

●  Explain how these findings support the argument.

●  Include and discuss any limitations of your belief.

3.   Rogerian

●  Explain the opposing stance of your argument.

●  Discuss the problems with adopting this viewpoint.

●  Offer your position on the matter.

●  Provide reasons for why yours is the more beneficial stance.

●  Include a potential compromise for the topic at hand.

Tips for Writing a Well-Written Argumentative Essay

●  Introduce your topic in a bold, direct, and engaging manner to captivate your readers and encourage them to keep reading.

●  Provide sufficient evidence to justify your argument and convince readers to adopt this point of view.

●  Consider, include, and fairly present all sides of the topic.

●  Structure your argument in a clear, logical manner that helps your readers to understand your thought process.

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●  Discuss any counterarguments that might be posed.

●  Use persuasive writing that’s appropriate for your target audience and motivates them to agree with you.

Steps to Write an Argumentative Essay

Follow these basic steps to write a powerful and meaningful argumentative essay :

Step 1: Choose a topic that you’re passionate about

If you’ve already been given a topic to write about, pick a stance that resonates deeply with you. This will shine through in your writing, make the research process easier, and positively influence the outcome of your argument.

Step 2: Conduct ample research to prove the validity of your argument

To write an emotive argumentative essay , finding enough research to support your theory is a must. You’ll need solid evidence to convince readers to agree with your take on the matter. You’ll also need to logically organize the research so that it naturally convinces readers of your viewpoint and leaves no room for questioning.

Step 3: Follow a simple, easy-to-follow structure and compile your essay

A good structure to ensure a well-written and effective argumentative essay includes:

Introduction

●  Introduce your topic.

●  Offer background information on the claim.

●  Discuss the evidence you’ll present to support your argument.

●  State your thesis statement, a one-to-two sentence summary of your claim.

●  This is the section where you’ll develop and expand on your argument.

●  It should be split into three or four coherent paragraphs, with each one presenting its own idea.

●  Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that indicates why readers should adopt your belief or stance.

●  Include your research, statistics, citations, and other supporting evidence.

●  Discuss opposing viewpoints and why they’re invalid.

●  This part typically consists of one paragraph.

●  Summarize your research and the findings that were presented.

●  Emphasize your initial thesis statement.

●  Persuade readers to agree with your stance.

We certainly hope that you feel inspired to use these tips when writing your next argumentative essay . And, if you’re currently elbow-deep in writing one, consider submitting a free sample to us once it’s completed. Our expert team of editors can help ensure that it’s concise, error-free, and effective!

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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

  • An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
  • An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college

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UNDERSTANDING A THESIS

A thesis is a substantial generalization that can stand by itself as the basis of an essay’s development. It is an assertion of what the writer believes is right or wrong and why, and it is a statement that can be either true or false.

A thesis clearly and concisely conveys the writer’s main argument in an essay, and it allows readers to clearly grasp the focus of the essay, which will be developed in the body of the essay.

A thesis needs to be unified—expressing one main idea—although it can, and often does, include secondary concepts as they relate to the main idea. The thesis statement should be broad enough and arguable enough to be worth defending in an essay.

A thesis statement usually evolves only after considerable reading, writing, and thinking has been done on your topic. You can begin the writing process of an essay with a preliminary or open thesis , move on to a tentative thesis or hypothesis , and finally arrive at your closed or final thesis . During your writing, you will become more secure in advancing your final thesis, which includes the fundamental reason(s) you have chosen to support your assertion.

STAGES OF THE THESIS STATEMENT

Stage I: Preliminary or Open Thesis

In the very early stages of your writing or research, or before you have begun to write, it is advantageous to formulate a preliminary or open thesis , which will state your general unifying idea but will not yet reflect how you intend to support that idea. Let’s say you are writing an essay on the relationship between the United States criminal court system and the media. You have read one article related to this topic, but you have not yet begun your research. Still, it is possible for you to arrive at a very basic and general opinion without going into detail, secondary topics, or supporting reason(s) for your assertion.

Broad Topic: The United States criminal court system and the media

Example of a Preliminary or Open Thesis: The media plays a very influential role in criminal court trials, perhaps too influential.

To assist you in formulating your preliminary or open thesis, ask basic “W” questions that are related to your topic: who, what, when, where, and why? This will help you determine your particular interests and a possible starting point for your essay or research.

Based on the topic above, the following list demonstrates the different kinds of questions that can be generated. Note how the order of questions goes from the more general to the more specific. It may be easier for you to begin with broader questions as they may lead you to more narrowed and focused questions.

  • Why is the media involved in court cases?
  • When did the media start reporting court cases?
  • What is the media’s role in criminal court cases?
  • What aspect of the media am I going to write about?
  • What kind of criminal case is it?
  • When did the case take place?
  • Where did the case take place?
  • Who were the people involved in the case?

If you are writing a research paper and you have come up with a long list of random questions, select three or four questions that hold the most interest for you. These questions will narrow your focus and help you to plan your research strategy.

Exercise A: Choose a topic, brainstorm for a few minutes, and come up with a basic list of questions. Then, write a preliminary or open thesis.

Stage II: Tentative Thesis or Hypothesis

A tentative thesis or hypothesis is more specific than the preliminary or open thesis, and it is particularly important for a research paper. After you have brainstormed, written a list of questions, arrived at an open thesis, and begun your research and reading, you will be prepared to write a focused question and then a tentative answer to this question. The tentative answer is your hypothesis because it represents what you predict you will be able to conclude.

Example of a Focused Question: Does media publicity in a criminal trial influence the verdict?

Example of a Tentative Thesis or Hypothesis as an Answer to a Focused Question: The media’s ubiquitous presence in courtroom trials has made it impossible to have a jury that is unbiased.

Exercise B: Continuing with your preliminary or open thesis from Exercise A, formulate a focused question and then answer that question with your tentative thesis or hypothesis.

Stage III: Closed or Final Thesis

If you make an assertion and include the reason or reasons which support your assertion, and it is broad enough in scope, yet specific enough to be unified and to serve as a substantial generalization of your essay, you have written a closed or final thesis statement. The evidence can take many forms: facts, opinions, anecdotes, statistics, analogies, etc., but the essential relationship between the thesis and the major points of support is one of conclusion to reason:

I believe this (thesis statement) to be true because... (provide the reasons to support your thesis) .

Remember: A thesis statement consists of at least one complete sentence; you cannot use a phrase or sentence fragment. Usually, the first sentence indicates the general thesis assertion, and additional sentences indicate the major support for this assertion. (An assertion is any statement that can be either true or false.) As readers, we may not know whether it is true or false or even have any way of determining whether it is true or false, but the logical response to an assertion is either, “Yes, I believe that to be true” or “No, I do not believe that to be true.” Some sentences do not make assertions. Commands, exclamations, intentions, obvious facts, and questions are considered sentences, but they do not make direct assertions and cannot be used as thesis statements.

Whether or not your thesis is preliminary or open, tentative, or closed and final, it should be considered flexible while you are still writing and doing research. Good writing results from a mixture of conviction and open-mindedness, no matter how diametrical these two qualities appear to be.

The following paragraph represents the introduction to an essay on the subject of “mail order companies” that discusses “deceptive sales techniques” referred to by the author as a form of “psychological harassment.” The closed or final thesis is highlighted in bold.

Mail order companies use deceptive sales techniques to lure potential buyers into purchasing their products. They mail documents that boldly declare: “You have just won 10,000,000” while a half page down in faint, minuscule print it reads: “...if you send in your form and order and you have the matching numbers.” This type of advertising and solicitation constitutes psychological harassment; it misleads consumers through a fallacious belief that if they buy, they will win, and it should be made illegal.

GUIDELINES FOR THESIS DEVELOPMENT

Thesis for a Single Source Essay

Many times you will be asked to respond in writing to a single text. Before you begin writing, you must be clear about the author’s intentions and what her/his own thesis is. A good way to do this is to make annotations while you are reading and after you are finished reading to briefly summarize the author’s main points. Also, make sure to separate your own ideas and opinions from those of your source. It would also be beneficial to decide whether you agree or disagree with what the author is saying. Then, you can begin the stages—as listed in this handout—of developing your thesis.

Thesis for a Comparative Essay

In a comparative essay, you will be required to formulate a thesis that encompasses two or more features that you will be comparing and analyzing. Therefore, you will be writing a thesis that looks at multiple perspectives, not necessarily leaning one way or the other, but bringing out a central comparative idea between or among the things, issues, authors, etc., that you choose as the focus of your essay. The following paragraph represents the introduction to an essay comparing the female protagonists from two works of fiction: Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s The Yellow Wallpaper . The closed or final thesis is highlighted in bold.

In Kate Chopin’s book The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s novella The Yellow Wallpaper , the female protagonists veer from the collective mainstream of a patriarchal society because of their pronounced feelings of alienation, frustration, and emotional and creative repression within this social structure, marked by the subordination of women. Ultimately, both characters escape the narrow restraints of this early 20th century mentality either by suicide—as in The Awakening —or through insanity—as in The Yellow Wallpaper . However tragic this may appear on the surface, the implication of deliverance from their restricted environments is one of liberation and transgression from and of the dominant culture. In this way, the women’s actions are equally heroic.

Thesis for a Multiple Source Essay

Most of the guidelines of this handout specifically relate to writing a thesis for a multiple source essay. Remember, it is best to keep your thesis open while you are doing your research, and it is necessary to have a few possible narrow topics in mind before beginning intensive reading. Also, the questions that you formulate in the first stage of the thesis are important, as they will guide you in your research.

Thesis for a Biographical or Historical Research Paper

Biographical and historical topics have an immediate advantage: they can be defined and limited by space and time. Always try to select a specific point in time as the focus of your essay. As you narrow your topic and begin your reading, watch for your emerging thesis: a single clear impression of the person or event should be the controlling idea of your essay. Whether you are writing about a sequence of events, as in a battle, or a single event or issue affecting the life of a well-known person, you will still need both a thesis and a strategy to shape the direction of your essay.

Example [biographical profile]: Virginia Woolf Focus: Woolf’s education Focused Question: In what ways did Woolf receive her education? Tentative Thesis or Answer to a Focused Question: Virginia Woolf did not receive her academic education from a university because women were, in that provincial Victorian era, not deemed worthy of entering those so-called esteemed halls of academia. In lieu of any formal training, Woolf substantially and extraordinarily educated herself although it is true that her home environment was an academic one and she was given guidance from her father, Leslie Stephen, as well as other relatives.

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Suggestions for Developing Argumentative Essays

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developing a thesis statement for an argumentative essay

1. Select an arguable topic, preferably one which interests, puzzles, or appeals to you.

Make sure your topic is neither too broad--something which warrants a dissertation--nor too limited. Decide what your goals are for the paper. What is your purpose? What opinion, view, or idea do you want to prove? Try to articulate your purpose clearly  before  you begin writing. If you cannot state your purpose clearly, try to freewrite about your topic.

2. Take a position on your topic, and form a thesis statement.

Your thesis must be arguable; it must assert or deny something about your topic. To be arguable, a thesis must have some probability of being true. It should not, however, be generally accepted as true; it must be a statement with which people may disagree. Keep in mind that a thesis contains both an observation and an opinion:

A good way to test the strength of your thesis is to see if it yields a strong antithesis.

Common thesis pitfalls:

  • A thesis expressed as a fragment.
  • A thesis which is too broad.
  • A thesis worded as a question. (Usually the answer to the question yields the thesis)
  • A thesis which includes extraneous information.
  • A thesis which begins with I think or in my opinion.
  • A thesis which deals with a stale or trite issue.
  • A thesis which contains words which lead to faulty generalizations (all, none, always, only, everyone, etc.)

Thesis writing tips:

  • A thesis evolves as you work with your topic. Brainstorm, research, talk, and think about your topic before settling on a thesis. If you are having trouble formulating a thesis, begin freewriting about your topic. Your freewrite may suggest a workable thesis.
  • During the writing process, consider your thesis a  working thesis  and be willing to modify and re-focus it as you draft and revise your paper.
  • Copy your working thesis on an index card and keep it in front of you as you research and write. Having your thesis in plain view may help focus your writing.

3. Consider your audience.

Plan your paper with a specific audience in mind. Who are your readers? Are they a definable group--disinterested observers, opponents of your point of view, etc.? Perhaps you are writing to your classmates. Ask your professor or GSI who you should consider your target audience. If you are not certain of your audience, direct your argument to a general audience.

4. Present clear and convincing evidence.

Strong essays consist of  reasons  supported by  evidence .  Reasons  can be thought of as the main points supporting your claim or thesis. Often they are the answers to the question, "Why do you make that claim?" An easy way to think of  reasons  is to see them as "because phrases." In order to validate your reasons and make your argument successful, support your reasons with ample evidence.

The St. Martin's Guide to Writing  (Axelrod & Cooper, 2nd ed., New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988) lists the following forms of evidence:

  • authorities
  • textual evidence

For most college papers, you will include evidence you have gathered from various sources and texts. Make sure you document your evidence properly. When using evidence, make sure you (1) introduce it properly, and (2) explain its significance. Do not assume that your evidence will speak for itself--that your readers will glean from your evidence that which you want them to glean. Explain the importance of each piece of evidence-- how  it elucidates or supports your point,  why  it is significant. Build evidence into your text, and use it strategically to prove your points.

In addition to using evidence, thoughtful writers anticipate their readers'  counterarguments  Counterarguments include objections, alternatives, challenges, or questions to your argument. Imagine readers responding to your argument as it unfolds. How might they react? A savvy writer will anticipate and address counterarguments. A writer can address counterarguments by  acknowledging ,  accommodating , and/or  refuting  them.

5. Draft your essay.

As is the case with any piece of writing, you should take your argumentative essay through multiple drafts. When writing and revising your drafts, make sure you:

  • provide ample  evidence , presented logically and fairly
  • deal with the  opposing point of view
  • pay particular attention to the organization of your essay. Make sure its structure suits your topic and audience
  • address and correct any  fallacies  of logic
  • include proper  transitions  to allow your reader to follow your argument

6. Edit your draft.

After you have written a developed draft, take off your writer's hat and put on your reader's hat. Evaluate your essay carefully and critically. Exchange a draft of your essay with classmates to get their feedback. Carefully revise your draft based on your assessment of it and suggestions from your peers. For self-assessment and peer response to your draft, you may want to use a peer editing sheet. A peer editing sheet will guide you and your peers by asking specific questions about your text (i.e., What is the thesis of this essay? Is it arguable? Does the writer include ample evidence? Is the structure suitable for the topic and the audience?).

You may also want to avail yourself of the Writing  Drop-In Tutoring  or  By-Appointment Tutoring  at the  Student Learning Center .

Luisa Giulianetti 
Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley
©1996 UC Regents

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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6.3: Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement

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  • Athena Kashyap & Erika Dyquisto
  • City College of San Francisco via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

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Have you ever known a person who was not very good at telling stories? You probably had trouble following his train of thought as he jumped around from point to point, either being too brief in places that needed further explanation or providing too many details on a meaningless element. Maybe he told the end of the story first, then moved to the beginning and later added details to the middle. His ideas were probably scattered, and the story did not flow very well. When the story was over, you probably had many questions.

Just as a personal anecdote can be a disorganized mess, an essay can fall into the same trap of being out of order and confusing. That is why writers need a thesis statement to provide a specific focus for their essay and to organize what they are about to discuss in the body.

Just like a topic sentence summarizes a single paragraph, the thesis statement summarizes an entire essay. It tells the reader the point you want to make in your essay, while the essay itself supports that point. It is like a signpost that signals the essay’s destination. You should form your thesis before you begin to organize an essay, but you may find that it needs revision as the essay develops.

Elements of a Thesis Statement

For every essay you write, you must focus on a central idea. This idea stems from a topic you have chosen or been assigned or from a question your teacher has asked. It is not enough merely to discuss a general topic or simply answer a question with a yes or no. You have to form a specific opinion, and then articulate that into a controlling idea—the main idea upon which you build your thesis.

Remember that a thesis is not the topic itself, but rather your interpretation of the question or subject. For whatever topic your professor gives you, you must ask yourself, “What do I want to say about it?” Asking and then answering this question is vital to forming a thesis that is precise, forceful and confident.

A thesis is one sentence long and appears toward the end of your introduction. It is specific and focuses on one to three points of a single idea—points that are able to be demonstrated in the body. It forecasts the content of the essay and suggests how you will organize your information. Remember that a thesis statement does not summarize an issue but rather dissects it.

A Strong Thesis Statement

A strong thesis statement contains the following qualities.

  • Specificity. A thesis statement must concentrate on a specific area of a general topic. As you may recall, the creation of a thesis statement begins when you choose a broad subject and then narrow down its parts until you pinpoint a specific aspect of that topic. For example, health care is a broad topic, but a proper thesis statement would focus on a specific area of that topic, such as options for individuals without health care coverage.
  • Precision. A strong thesis statement must be precise enough to allow for a coherent argument and to remain focused on the topic. If the specific topic is options for individuals without health care coverage, then your precise thesis statement must make an exact claim about it, such as that limited options exist for those who are uninsured by their employers. You must further pinpoint what you are going to discuss regarding these limited effects, such as whom they affect and what the cause is.
  • Ability to be argued. A thesis statement must present a relevant and specific argument. A factual statement often is not considered arguable. Be sure your thesis statement contains a point of view that can be supported with evidence.
  • Ability to be demonstrated. For any claim you make in your thesis, you must be able to provide reasons and examples for your opinion. You can rely on personal observations in order to do this, or you can consult outside sources to demonstrate that what you assert is valid. A worthy argument is backed by examples and details.
  • Forcefulness. A thesis statement that is forceful shows readers that you are, in fact, making an argument. The tone is assertive and takes a stance that others might oppose.
  • Confidence. In addition to using force in your thesis statement, you must also use confidence in your claim. Phrases such as I feel or I believe actually weaken the readers’ sense of your confidence because these phrases imply that you are the only person who feels the way you do. In other words, your stance has insufficient backing. Taking an authoritative stance on the matter persuades your readers to have faith in your argument and open their minds to what you have to say.

Even in a personal essay that allows the use of first person, your thesis should not contain phrases such as in my opinion or I believe . These statements reduce your credibility and weaken your argument. Your opinion is more convincing when you use a firm attitude.

On a separate sheet of paper, write a thesis statement for each of the following topics. Remember to make each statement specific, precise, demonstrable, forceful and confident.

  • Texting while driving
  • The legal drinking age in the United States
  • Steroid use among professional athletes

Examples of Appropriate Thesis Statements

Each of the following thesis statements meets several of the following requirements:

  • Specificity
  • Ability to be argued
  • Ability to be demonstrated
  • Forcefulness
  • The societal and personal struggles of Troy Maxon in the play Fences symbolize the challenge of black males who lived through segregation and integration in the United States.
  • Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one solution that will tackle illegal immigration.
  • Shakespeare’s use of dramatic irony in Romeo and Juliet spoils the outcome for the audience and weakens the plot.
  • J. D. Salinger’s character in Catcher in the Rye , Holden Caulfield, is a confused rebel who voices his disgust with phonies, yet in an effort to protect himself, he acts like a phony on many occasions.
  • Compared to an absolute divorce, no-fault divorce is less expensive, promotes fairer settlements, and reflects a more realistic view of the causes for marital breakdown.
  • Exposing children from an early age to the dangers of drug abuse is a sure method of preventing future drug addicts.
  • In today’s crumbling job market, a high school diploma is not significant enough education to land a stable, lucrative job.

Five Ways of Looking at a Thesis

1. a thesis creates an argument that builds from one point to the next, giving the paper a direction that the audience can follow as the paper develops..

This point often separates the best theses from the pack. A good thesis can prevent the two weakest ways of organizing a critical paper: the pile of information and the plot summary with comments. A paper that presents a pile of information will frequently introduce new paragraphs with transitions that simply indicate the addition of more stuff. (“Another character who exhibits these traits is X,” for instance.) Consider these examples:

A: The Rules and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey both tell women how to act.

B: By looking at The Rules , a modern conduct book for women, we can see how Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is itself like a conduct book, questioning the rules for social success in her society and offering a new model.

Example A would almost inevitably lead to a paper organized as a pile of information. A plot summary with comments follows the chronological development of a text while picking out the same element of every segment; a transition in such a paper might read, “In the next scene, the color blue also figures prominently.” Both of these approaches constitute too much of a good thing. Papers must compile evidence, of course, and following the chronology of a text can sometimes help a reader keep track of a paper’s argument.

The best papers, however, will develop according to a more complex logic articulated in a strong thesis. Example B above would lead a paper to organize its evidence according to the paper’s own logic.

2. A thesis fits comfortably into the Magic Thesis Sentence (MTS).

The MTS: By looking at _____, we can see _____, which most readers don’t see; it is important to look at this aspect of the text because _____.

Try it out with the examples from the first point:

A: By telling the story of Wesley and Buttercup’s triumph over evil, The Princess Bride affirms the power of true love.

B: Although the main plot of The Princess Bride rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting sticks–baseball bats, tree branches, and swords–link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the narrator’s grandson is being trained in true love, that love is not natural but socialized.

Notice that the MTS adds a new dimension to point number one above. The first part of the MTS asks you to find something strange (“which most readers don’t see”), and the second part asks you to think about the importance of the strangeness. Thesis A would not work at all in the MTS; one could not reasonably state that “most readers [or viewers] don’t see” that film’s affirmation of true love, and the statement does not even attempt to explain the importance of its claim. Thesis B, on the other hand, gives us a way to complete the MTS, as in “By looking at the way fighting sticks link the plot and frame of The Princess Bride , we can see the way the narrator’s grandson is trained in true love, which most people don’t see; it is important to look at this aspect of the text because unlike the rest of the film, the fighting sticks suggest that love is not natural but socialized.” One does not need to write out the MTS in such a neat one-sentence form, of course, but thinking through the structure of the MTS can help refine thesis ideas.

3. A thesis says something about the text(s) exclusively .

If a thesis could describe many works equally well, it needs to be more specific. Let’s return to our examples from above:

Try substituting other works:

A: By telling the story of Darcy and Elizabeth’s triumph over evil, Pride and Prejudice affirms the power of true love.

Sure, that makes sense. Bad sign.

B: Although the main plot of Pride and Prejudice rests on the natural power of true love, an examination of the way that fighting sticks–baseball bats, tree branches, and swords–link the frame story to the romance plot suggests that the grandson is being trained in true love, that it is not natural but socialized.

pride-300x225.jpg

Um, nope. Even if you have never read Pride and Prejudice , you can probably guess that such a precise thesis could hardly apply to other works. Good sign. The point here is that the thesis needs to be specific enough that its meaning relates to the specific work(s) you are writing about -- be it fiction or nonfiction.

4. A thesis makes a lot of information irrelevant.

If the thesis is specific enough, it will make a point that focuses on only a small part of the text be analyzed or a particular aspect of a larger topic. A writer should ultimately apply that point to the work as a whole, but a thesis will call attention to specific parts of it. Let’s look at those examples again. (This is the last time, I promise.)

One way of spotting the problem with Example A is to note that a simple plot summary would support its point. That is not of true example B, which tells the reader exactly what moments the paper will be discussed and why. The thesis is focused and concentrated.

5. Remember to Address the Work as a Whole: The “So What?”

As you complete your analysis, remember to think about what the effect this will have on the world of academia.

  • Does your thesis introduce your topic in a clear way?
  • Does the introduction mention what you will be addressing? Social constructs, gender issues, etc.

Writing a Thesis Statement

One legitimate question readers always ask about a piece of writing is “What is the big idea?” (You may even ask this question when you are the reader, critically reading an assignment or another document.) Every nonfiction writing task—from the short essay to the ten-page term paper to the lengthy senior thesis—needs a big idea, or a controlling idea, as the spine for the work. The controlling idea is the main idea that you want to present and develop.

For a longer piece of writing, the main idea should be broader than the main idea for a shorter piece of writing. Be sure to frame a main idea that is appropriate for the length of the assignment. Ask yourself, “How many pages will it take for me to explain and explore this main idea in detail?” Be reasonable with your estimate. Then expand or trim it to fit the required length.

Developing Thesis Statements from Topics

The big idea, or controlling idea, you want to present in an essay is expressed in a thesis statement. A thesis statement is often one sentence long, and it states your point of view. The thesis statement is not the topic of the piece of writing but rather what you have to say about that topic and what is important to tell readers.

Table 5.1 “Topics and Thesis Statements” compares topics and thesis statements.

Table 5.1 Topics and Thesis Statements

The first thesis statement you write will be a preliminary thesis statement, or a working thesis statement. You will need it when you begin to outline your assignment as a way to organize it. As you continue to develop the arrangement, you can limit your working thesis statement if it is too broad or expand it if it proves too narrow for what you want to say.

Using the topic you selected in Section 4.6 “ Prewriting Strategies ”, develop a working thesis statement that states your controlling idea for the piece of writing you are doing. On a sheet of paper, write your working thesis statement.

You will make several attempts before you devise a working thesis statement that you think is effective. Each draft of the thesis statement will bring you closer to the wording that expresses your meaning exactly. Sometimes, this refinement of the thesis statement happens after your write your first draft of the paper.

Guidelines for Drafting a Thesis Statement

thesis-problem-300x221.png

It helps to understand why readers value the arguable thesis. What larger purpose does it serve? Readers will bring a set of expectations to an essay. If writers can anticipate the expectations of their readers, the better they will be able to persuade the audience to find the arguments convincing, interesting, and relevant.

Academic readers (and readers more generally) read to learn something new. They want to see the writer challenge commonplaces—either everyday assumptions about the object of study or truisms in the scholarly literature. In other words, academic readers want to be surprised so that their thinking shifts or at least becomes more complex by the time they finish reading an essay. Good essays problematize what we think we know and offer an alternative explanation in its place. They leave their reader with a fresh perspective on a problem.

We all bring important past experiences and beliefs to our interpretations of texts, objects, and problems. Writers can harness these observational powers to engage critically with what they are studying. The key is to be alert to what strikes you as strange, problematic, paradoxical, or puzzling about your topic. If writers can articulate this and a claim in response, they are well on their way to formulating an arguable thesis in the introduction.

How do I set up a “problem” and an arguable thesis in response?

All good writing has a purpose or motive for existing. The thesis is the writer’s surprising response to this problem or motive. This is why it seldom makes sense to start a writing project by articulating the thesis. The first step is to articulate the question or problem your paper addresses.

step-1.png

Here are some possible ways to introduce a conceptual problem in your paper’s introduction.

1. Challenge a commonplace interpretation (or your own first impressions).

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How are readers likely to interpret this source or issue? What might intelligent readers think at first glance? (Or, if you’ve been given secondary sources or have been asked to conduct research to locate secondary sources, what do other writers or scholars assume is true or important about your primary source or issue?)

What does this commonplace interpretation leave out, overlook, or under-emphasize?

2. Help the reader see the complexity of your topic.

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Identify and describe for the reader a paradox, puzzle, or contradiction in a primary source(s).

What larger questions does this paradox or contradiction raise for readers?

3. If research is part of the assignment, piggyback off another scholar’s research.

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4. If research is part of the assignment, identify a gap in another scholar’s or a group of scholars’ research.

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Summarize another scholar’s argument about your topic, primary source, or case study and explain to the reader why this claim is interesting. Or, summarize how scholars in the field tend to approach the topic.

Next, explain what important aspect this scholarly representation misses or distorts. Introduce the particular approach to the topic and its value.

5. If research is part of the assignment, bring in a new lens for investigating the case study or problem.

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Summarize how a scholar or group of scholars has approached the topic.

Introduce a theoretical source (possibly from another discipline) and explain how it helps to address this issue from a new and productive angle.

Tip : your introductory paragraph will probably look like this:

introduction.png

Testing Your Thesis

Test a thesis statement’s arguability by asking the following questions:

1) Does the thesis only or mostly summarize a source?

If so, try some of the exercises above to articulate the paper’s conceptual problem or question.

2) Is the thesis arguable – can it be supported by evidence, and is it surprising and contentious?

If not, return to the sources and practice the exercises above.

3) Is the thesis about the primary source, or is it about the world?

If it’s about the world, revise it so that it focuses on primary source(s). Remember to include solid evidence to support the thesis.

"THREE-STORY THESIS STATEMENTS" BY AMY GUPTIL

How do you produce a good, strong thesis? And how do you know when you’ve gotten there? Many instructors and writers find useful a metaphor based on this passage by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.: 3

There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three-story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors who have no aim beyond their facts are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, generalize using the labor of fact collectors as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, predict—their best illumination comes from above the skylight.

One-story theses state inarguable facts. Two-story theses bring in an arguable (interpretive or analytical) point. Three-story theses nest that point within its larger, compelling implications. 4

The biggest benefit of the three-story metaphor is that it describes a process for building a thesis. To build the first story, you first have to get familiar with the complex, relevant facts surrounding the problem or question. You have to be able to describe the situation thoroughly and accurately. Then, with that first story built, you can layer on the second story by formulating the insightful, arguable point that animates the analysis. That’s often the most effortful part: brainstorming, elaborating and comparing alternative ideas, finalizing your point. With that specified, you can frame up the third story by articulating why the point you make matters beyond its particular topic or case.

Thesis: that’s the word that pops at me whenever I write an essay. Seeing this word in the prompt scared me and made me think to myself, “Oh great, what are they really looking for?” or “How am I going to make a thesis for a college paper?” When rehearing that I would be focusing on theses again in a class, I said to myself, “Here we go again!” But after learning about the three story thesis, I never had a problem with writing another thesis. In fact, I look forward to being asked on a paper to create a thesis.

Timothée Pizarro

For example, imagine you have been assigned a paper about the impact of online learning in higher education. You would first construct an account of the origins and multiple forms of online learning and assess research findings about its use and effectiveness. If you’ve done that well, you’ll probably come up with a well considered opinion that wouldn’t be obvious to readers who haven’t looked at the issue in depth. Maybe you’ll want to argue that online learning is a threat to the academic community. Or perhaps you’ll want to make the case that online learning opens up pathways to college degrees that traditional campus-based learning does not. In the course of developing your central, argumentative point, you’ll come to recognize its larger context; in this example, you may claim that online learning can serve to better integrate higher education with the rest of society, as online learners bring their educational and career experiences together. To outline this example:

  • First story : Online learning is becoming more prevalent and takes many different forms.
  • Second story : While most observers see it as a transformation of higher education, online learning is better thought of an extension of higher education in that it reaches learners who aren’t disposed to participate in traditional campus-based education.
  • Third story : Online learning appears to be a promising way to better integrate higher education with other institutions in society, as online learners integrate their educational experiences with the other realms of their life, promoting the freer flow of ideas between the academy and the rest of society.

Here’s another example of a three-story thesis: 5

  • First story : Edith Wharton did not consider herself a modernist writer, and she didn’t write like her modernist contemporaries.
  • Second story : However, in her work we can see her grappling with both the questions and literary forms that fascinated modernist writers of her era. While not an avowed modernist, she did engage with modernist themes and questions.
  • Third story : Thus, it is more revealing to think of modernism as a conversation rather than a category or practice.

Here’s one more example:

  • First story : Scientists disagree about the likely impact in the U.S. of the light brown apple moth (LBAM) , an agricultural pest native to Australia.
  • Second story : Research findings to date suggest that the decision to spray pheromones over the skies of several southern Californian counties to combat the LBAM was poorly thought out.
  • Third story : Together, the scientific ambiguities and the controversial response strengthen the claim that industrial-style approaches to pest management are inherently unsustainable.

A thesis statement that stops at the first story isn’t usually considered a thesis. A two-story thesis is usually considered competent, though some two-story theses are more intriguing and ambitious than others. A thoughtfully crafted and well informed three-story thesis puts the author on a smooth path toward an excellent paper.

The concept of a three-story thesis framework was the most helpful piece of information I gained from the writing component of DCC 100. The first time I utilized it in a college paper, my professor included “good thesis” and “excellent introduction” in her notes and graded it significantly higher than my previous papers. You can expect similar results if you dig deeper to form three-story theses. More importantly, doing so will make the actual writing of your paper more straightforward as well. Arguing something specific makes the structure of your paper much easier to design.

Peter Farrell

Effective Thesis Statements

As mentioned before, a thesis statement is the controlling idea of your essay. It is the main idea that all of the other sentences in the essay relate to. After gathering information about your topic, you need to figure out what you want to say about it.

An effective thesis statement has two major characteristics.

1. An effective thesis statement makes a point about a topic. For this reason, it must do more than state a fact or announce what you plan to write about.

Statement of fact: The military recruits students in high schools.

Announcement: In this essay, I would like to discuss what’s wrong with military recruitment in high schools.

List thesis: We should not allow the military to recruit in high schools because recruiters violate privacy, manipulate naïve young people, and target low-income youth.

Effective thesis: We should end the abusive and discriminatory practice of military recruitment in high schools.

A statement of fact is not an effective thesis statement because it does not take a position, giving you nothing to develop in your essay. Likewise, an announcement of what you plan to write about in your essay does not take a position on the issue, leaving you with nothing to develop. A good thesis statement makes a claim that is arguable.

2. The most effective thesis statements do not list your main points but unite your main points into a larger, central idea. The list thesis above looks strong, but notice how the effective thesis connects the three points with the words “abusive” and “discriminatory.” Now we know how the three points relate to each other; they are more than just a list.

To turn three or four “reasons” or topic sentences into a thesis, consider what they have in common and what your overall point is.

You can find thesis statements in many places, such as in the news; in the opinions of friends, coworkers or teachers; and even in songs you hear on the radio. Become aware of thesis statements in everyday life by paying attention to people’s opinions and their reasons for those opinions. Pay attention to your own everyday thesis statements as well, as these can become material for future essays.

Now that you have read about the contents of a good thesis statement and have seen examples, take a look at the pitfalls to avoid when composing your own thesis:

Weak thesis statement: My paper will explain why imagination is more important than knowledge.

Weak thesis statement: Religious radicals across America are trying to legislate their Puritanical beliefs by banning required high school books.

Weak thesis statement: Advertising companies use sex to sell their products.

Weak thesis statement: The life of Abraham Lincoln was long and challenging.

Read the following thesis statements. On a separate piece of paper, identify each as weak or strong. For those that are weak, list the reasons why. Then revise the weak statements so that they conform to the requirements of a strong thesis.

  • The subject of this paper is my experience with ferrets as pets.
  • The government must expand its funding for research on renewable energy resources in order to prepare for the impending end of oil.
  • Edgar Allan Poe was a poet who lived in Baltimore during the nineteenth century.
  • In this essay, I will give you lots of reasons why slot machines should not be legalized in Baltimore.
  • Despite his promises during his campaign, President Kennedy took few executive measures to support civil rights legislation.
  • Because many children’s toys have potential safety hazards that could lead to injury, it is clear that not all children’s toys are safe.
  • My experience with young children has taught me that I want to be a disciplinary parent because I believe that a child without discipline can be a parent’s worst nightmare.

Writing at Work

Often in your career, you will need to ask your manager for something through an e-mail. Just as a thesis statement organizes an essay, it can also organize your e-mail request. While your e-mail will be shorter than an essay, using a thesis statement in your first paragraph quickly lets your manager know what you are asking for, why it is necessary, and what the benefits are. In short body paragraphs, you can provide the essential information needed to expand upon your request.

Thesis Statement Revision

Your thesis will probably change as you write, so you will need to modify it to reflect exactly what you have discussed in your essay. Remember from Chapter 4 that your thesis statement begins as a working thesis statement, an indefinite statement that you make about your topic early in the writing process for the purpose of planning and guiding your writing.

Working thesis statements often become stronger as you gather information and form new opinions and reasons for those opinions. Revision helps you strengthen your thesis so that it matches what you have expressed in the body of the paper.

The best way to revise your thesis statement is to ask questions about it and then examine the answers to those questions. By challenging your own ideas and forming definite reasons for those ideas, you grow closer to a more precise point of view, which you can then incorporate into your thesis statement.

Ways to Revise Your Thesis

You can cut down on irrelevant aspects and revise your thesis by taking the following steps:

1. Pinpoint and replace all nonspecific words, such as people , everything , society , or life , with more precise words in order to reduce any vagueness.

Working thesis: Young people have to work hard to succeed in life.

Revised thesis: Recent college graduates must have discipline and persistence in order to find and maintain a stable job in which they can use and be appreciated for their talents.

The revised thesis makes a more specific statement about success and what it means to work hard. The original includes too broad a range of people and does not define exactly what success entails. By replacing those general words like people and work hard , the writer can better focus their research and gain more direction in their writing.

2. Clarify ideas that need explanation by asking yourself questions that narrow your thesis.

Working thesis: The welfare system is a joke.

Revised thesis: The welfare system keeps a socioeconomic class from gaining employment by alluring members of that class with unearned income instead of programs to improve their education and skill sets.

A joke means many things to many people. Readers bring all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives to the reading process and would need clarification for a word so vague. This expression may also be too informal for the selected audience. By asking questions, the writer can devise a more precise and appropriate explanation for joke . The writer should ask himself or herself questions similar to the 5WH questions. (See Chapter 4.6 " Prewriting Strategies " for more information on the 5WH questions.) By incorporating the answers to these questions into a thesis statement, the writer more accurately defines his or her stance, which will better guide the writing of the essay.

3. Replace any linking verbs with action verbs. Linking verbs are forms of the verb to be , a verb that simply states that a situation exists.

Working thesis: Kansas City schoolteachers are not paid enough.

Revised thesis: Kansas City cannot afford to pay its educators, resulting in job cuts and resignations in a district that sorely needs highly qualified and dedicated teachers.

The linking verb in this working thesis statement is the word are . Linking verbs often make thesis statements weak because they do not express action. Rather, they connect words and phrases to the second half of the sentence. Readers might wonder, “Why are they not paid enough?” But this statement does not compel them to ask many more questions. The writer should ask himself or herself questions in order to replace the linking verb with an action verb, thus forming a stronger thesis statement, one that takes a more definitive stance on the issue:

  • Who is not paying the teachers enough?
  • What is considered “enough”?
  • What is the problem?
  • What are the results

In an earlier section you determined your purpose for writing and your audience. You then completed a free writing exercise about an event you recently experienced and chose a general topic to write about. Using that general topic, you then narrowed it down by answering the 5WH questions. After you answered these questions, you chose one of the three methods of prewriting and gathered possible supporting points for your working thesis statement.

Now, on a separate sheet of paper, write down your working thesis statement. Identify any weaknesses in this sentence and revise the statement to reflect the elements of a strong thesis statement. Make sure it is specific, precise, arguable, demonstrable, forceful, and confident.

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

In your career you may have to write a project proposal that focuses on a particular problem in your company, such as reinforcing the tardiness policy. The proposal would aim to fix the problem; using a thesis statement would clearly state the boundaries of the problem and tell the goals of the project. After writing the proposal, you may find that the thesis needs revision to reflect exactly what is expressed in the body. Using the techniques from this chapter would apply to revising that thesis.

Purdue OWL: Thesis Statements . Authored by: OWL Purdue. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube license.

Contributors

  • Adapted from Writing for Success . Provided by: The Saylor Foundation. License: CC-NC-SA 3.0 .
  • Adapted from " Five Ways of Looking at a Thesis. " Authored by: Erik Simpson. Provided by: LumenLearning. License: CC BY: Attribution
  • Adapted from Formulating a Thesis . Authored by: Andrea Scott. Provided by: Princeton University. Project: WritingCommons. License: CC BY-NC-ND:
  • Adapted from Writing in College . Authored by Amy Guptill. License: CC-NC-SA 4.0

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Supporting an argumentative thesis, 1. thesis development.

Remember that a thesis is a single sentence that expresses the controlling idea of a written work. In other words, the thesis is the core of the essay. It guides the goals and structure of the work by letting the reader know what the writer will be discussing in the body paragraphs, and in what order.

Also remember that there is a significant difference between a thesis and a topic. A topic is the broad subject of a written work and can include multiple thesis statements. The thesis is a focused point or argument about something within the topic.

IN CONTEXT Suppose you were assigned the topic of pet ownership. You wouldn't be able to write an essay based on that topic—it's too broad. First, you must decide which aspect of pet ownership you want to write about or communicate to readers. You might, for example, make the following statement: Although many people assume that owning a pet is easy, it actually comes with a great deal of responsibility, such as grooming, feeding, and training. Here's another option: Due to their companionship, understanding nature, and ability to help during emergencies, pets can fit the definition of lifesavers. As you can see, these two thesis statements are very different and are only related through their very broad shared topic of pet ownership.

Once you've selected a topic and a thesis, you must support the thesis by developing your ideas effectively. This is accomplished through a process of clearly articulating your ideas and supporting them with evidence and reasoning throughout the essay.

So, when writers refer to development, they're not only referring to development of the essay as a whole, but also to the process that takes place at the paragraph level. Paragraphs function like mini essays: Each of them contains their own main ideas, topic sentences, and support.

2. Main Ideas and Claims

To effectively state and support a thesis, most essays must also promote related points—points that, together, prove or support the thesis. Recall that, in writing, these are called main ideas. A main idea is a point or concept that drives one or more body paragraphs of an essay. Each main idea in an essay should contribute to, or support, the thesis statement in some way.

A claim is a type of main idea in which the writer makes a statement that must be defended. A claim is an assertion made by the writer. The thesis statement is thus the primary claim of the essay—the object of all of the essay's support, ideas, and evidence.

A main idea, when coupled with a claim, is usually the controlling idea of the paragraph. When working on the level of the paragraph, the main idea and the controlling idea are synonymous.

hint A controlling idea is the core idea that drives the writing's goals and structure. Note that consecutive paragraphs will sometimes focus on one controlling idea. This can be a sign of a complex and fully realized main idea. Don't worry if you find this happening in your writing.

terms to know Main Idea In writing, a point or concept that drives one or more body paragraphs of an essay. Claim A type of main idea in which the writer makes a statement that must be defended.

3. Evidence and Support

The thesis statement is the main point of the essay, so it needs support in order to hold up. Support refers to any evidence, logic, or other technique (e.g., clarification, expansion of ideas) that bolsters an essay's claims. The purpose of support isn't only to prove that a thesis is true, but also to explain or strengthen the essay's main ideas.

  • Facts and data
  • Personal research
  • Citation of the research of others
  • Personal experience

Because essays consist of paragraphs that use forms of support to back up the thesis, it's important to consider paragraphs in order to understand the essay as a whole. As mentioned above, paragraphs are like miniature essays that include a topic sentence (i.e., the sentence that states the paragraph's thesis) and support—usually evidence for the topic sentence.

terms to know Support Any evidence, logic, or other technique that bolsters an essay's claims. Evidence Proof of the validity of a claim or claims.

4. Thesis Support in Action

Following are paragraphs from the same essay which demonstrate how an overall thesis might be introduced, developed, and supported. This first paragraph serves as the essay's introduction:

When you think about your goofy pet dog, your lazy house cat, or even your loud pet parrot, you might not consider that they could save your life. Mounting evidence suggests that pets are more than a playful mess to clean up after; they are key to a happy, healthy life. Due to their companionship, understanding nature, and ability to help during emergencies, pets can fit the definition of lifesavers.

The thesis appears as the last sentence of the paragraph: “Due to their companionship, understanding nature, and ability to help during emergencies, pets can fit the definition of lifesavers.”

Because of this thesis, we know that the main point and narrowed-down topic of the essay is that pets are lifesavers, and we know that the main ideas related to that point are companionship, an understanding nature, and ability to help during emergencies. That helps us to figure out what kind of evidence and support may be included in this essay: Perhaps the essay will use data about the health benefits of owning a pet, perhaps it will discuss research from others who have investigated this topic, or perhaps it will include descriptions of personal experience.

Now consider this next paragraph, keeping the essay's thesis in mind as you do:

The companionship of pets offers health benefits, demonstrating the lifesaving qualities of pets. There are all kinds of pets that individuals or families can adopt. Some of the most traditional pets are dogs, cats, birds, rodents (such as hamsters and guinea pigs), and fish. Less common pets include rabbits, small pigs, raccoons, and snakes and other reptiles. Exotic animals might also make excellent pets but may require a special permit and special care. There is an ideal type of pet for each individual or family.

The topic sentence of this is paragraph is “The companionship of pets offers health benefits, demonstrating the lifesaving qualities of pets,” which means that the support in this paragraph should focus on the main idea of companionship mentioned in the thesis. So, is the support here effective for the main idea of the paragraph and the essay's thesis?

No, it is not. All of the sentences that come after the topic sentence are discussing different types of pets that individuals and families can adopt. The author gives examples of different types of pets and simply states that there is an ideal pet for each individual or family. Even though this information is related to the broader topic of pet ownership, it does not belong in this essay. It does not support the idea that the companionship of pets offers health benefits (the main idea of this paragraph), and it does not support the overall claim of the thesis (that pets fit the definition of lifesavers) because it does not address pets' companionship, understanding nature, or ability to help during emergencies.

In order to better support the topic sentence “The companionship of pets offers health benefits, demonstrating the lifesaving qualities of pets,” and to therefore better support the thesis, here is a revised version of this paragraph:

The companionship of pets offers health benefits, demonstrating the lifesaving qualities of pets. Both mental and physical health can improve when owning a pet. Petting or caring for a dog or cat lowers levels of stress and combats loneliness. Dog owners in particular may find themselves socializing more often when taking their dog for walks and to dog parks. In addition, walking a dog can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease (Fields, 2013). By improving the health of their owners through companionship, pets improve—and even save—these owners' lives.

In this version of the paragraph, the support provided directly relates to both the topic sentence and thesis. There are facts, such as that petting or caring for a dog or cat lowers levels of stress and combats loneliness, dog owners socialize more, and walking a dog can lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease. These facts help to support the idea that the companionship offered by pets comes with health benefits.

Additionally, the support in this paragraph supports the thesis, which lists companionship as one of its main ideas.

summary In this lesson, you learned that thesis development is the process in which thesis statements are represented throughout an essay by main ideas and claims , which are in turn backed up by different kinds of support , such as evidence . You then looked at examples of thesis support in action by reading an introductory and body paragraph from a sample essay. Best of luck in your learning!

Source: THIS TUTORIAL WAS AUTHORED BY SOPHIA LEARNING. PLEASE SEE OUR TERMS OF USE .

A type of main idea in which the writer makes a statement that must be defended.

Proof of the validity of a claim or claims.

In writing, a point or concept that drives one or more body paragraphs of an essay.

Any evidence, logic, or other technique that bolsters an essay's claims.

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Unit 6: Argumentative Essay Writing

40 Developing RQs and Thesis Statements for Argumentative Essays

Research questions (rq) for argumentative essays.

A research question guides your research. RQs help you identify sources and locate appropriate information in your sources (and ignore information that may be irrelevant) during the research process. As you read, you will become familiar with the topic and the answers to your research question. Once you have found the answers (the evidence), you can formulate your thesis statement and identify supporting ideas.

Effective RQs are:

  • Clear: Provide enough information to convey the writer’s purpose.
  • Narrowed: Limited to the amount and type of information that can be included in the writing.
  • Arguable: The answers to the question are debatable and not simply accepted facts.

What are the criteria of an Argumentative Thesis Statement?

An effective thesis statement for an argumentative essay should:

  • The number of English language classes taught in Japanese elementary schools has increased dramatically in the past twenty years.
  • Developing English education at the elementary school level in Japan is an inefficient use of time and resources due to the emphasis on grammar instead of speaking, and the limited number of contact hours with a native or near native English speaker.
  • Voluntourism programs in the Philippines are not sustainable in the long run because they harm the animals, the environment, and local people.
  • Voluntourism in SE Asia is controversial because it impacts the people, environment, and animals.
  • The practice of selling organs goes against the natural order of society because organs are not commodities.
  • The selling of organs should be prohibited because donors face health issues and recipients often reject the organs.
  • Thailand’s 2020 ban on single use plastics does not seem to be an effective way to reduce plastic pollution since the country continues to import plastic waste from foreign countries and participation in the ban is voluntary for local businesses.
  • Plastic should be banned to save the animals, the people, and the environment.

Answers: 1 – #1, 2 – #1, 3 – #2, and 4 – #1.

Thesis statements: Arguments or reports?

An argumentative essay expresses a position, or opinion, on the topic; it does not merely summarize or report on information. See the chart and notice the language used to express a position:

  • International students benefit from …
  • Universities should require …
  • Undergraduate university students retain content more effectively …
  • It is advisable for instructors to …
  • The use of social networking sites by young children harms their development …
  • Parents should restrict …
  • The recommended guidelines limiting screen use for children under ten have been ineffective …

In the examples below, note the difference between an “argument” and a “report.”    

Argument versus Report

  • RQ: What are the negative consequences of alcohol addiction?
  • Thesis statement: Alcohol addiction leads to family problems, job loss, and health issues. (Here, the writer simply lists the impacts.)
  • RQ: Should the legal age for drinking be lowered from 21 to 18?
  • Thesis statement: The legal age for drinking should not be lowered to 18 because of three risks: drunk driving, alcohol poisoning, and violent behavior. (Here, the writer states their opinion by recommending a call for action.)
  • Thesis statement: The most important impacts of alcohol addiction on family problems are job loss, and health issues. (Here, the writer has included their evaluation of the many problems by selecting the three most important.)

Adapted from Carlock et al (2010), The ESL Writer’s Handbook

Writing a Good Research Question

Watch the video below to learn how to write a research question for an argumentative essay.

from ARC Library

Using your RQ to Brainstorm Key Words for Research

Once you have your research question, you can begin conducting Internet and database research. Watch the video below to learn strategies for brainstorming “key words” from your RQ.

From Oslis Elementary Videos

Academic Writing I Copyright © by UW-Madison ESL Program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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For this Discussion Board, you are supposed to read the Essay#2 Guidelines, Lesson: Making Academic Arguments, .https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/chapter/basic-argument-components F

For this Discussion Board, you are supposed to read the Essay#2 Guidelines, Lesson: Making Academic Arguments, .https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/chapter/basic-argument-components

For this Discussion Board, you are supposed to read the Essay#2 Guidelines, 

Lesson: Making Academic Arguments, 

.https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/chapter/basic-argument-components/

and Lesson: Thesis Statement. 

https://dallascollege.brightspace.com/content/enforced/127143-2024SP-ENGL-1302-82302/csfiles/home_dir/courses/2023SP-ENGL-1302-82300/2022SP-ENGL-1302-82302/Creating%20Thesis%20Statements.pdf?ou=127143

For this discussion board, you need to do two things: 1) Find two articles from Opposing Viewpoints-Gale (Dallas College Database) that present two different viewpoints on the topic selected by you fro Essay#2 from the topic list given in the Essay Guidelines. Summarize these two articles and at the end of the post provide the URL or some citation of the two articles. The purpose of this activity is for you to share your understanding on the varied views on the topic. 2) Create a working thesis statement on the topic. Your thesis statement should clearly present an opinion and it should make a specific claim about the topic

https://go-gale-com.dcccd.idm.oclc.org/ps/dispBasicSearch.do?userGroupName=txshracd2500&prodId=OVIC

I added my essay and some other links in the attachments.

For this Discussion Board, you are supposed to read the Essay#2

Files: E1WHAT MAKES DIVAS TICK.docx

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developing a thesis statement for an argumentative essay

  • Q: What’s the story I am telling in this letter? What’s the topic? What are my own views on this particular topic? What research lens or frame am I going to use? What’s the thesis or argument? What are s
  • Q: For this Discussion Board, you are supposed to read the Essay#2 Guidelines, Lesson: Making Academic Arguments, .https://pressbooks.ulib.csuohio.edu/csu-fyw-rhetoric/chapter/basic-argument-components
  • Q: True Crime" Podcasts Assignment The "true crime" podcast is the newest sensation sweeping the nation. Investigative journalists and entertainers alike flex their powers of deduction and guide their li
  • Q: Prepare a one-two page narrative style paper to discuss the peer reviewed journal article incorporating your answers to each template prompt (found in the assignment prompt). Your completed template s
  • Q: InstructionsResearch Study Proposal 2   In this class, you will complete a Research Study Proposal. The Research Study Proposal is divided into three pieces: Research Study Proposal Part I,

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  1. Argumentative essay writing

  2. Argumentative Essay Thesis Statement

  3. Thesis Statement +Refutation Paragraph(Argumentative Essay)

  4. The BEST Way to Break Down the Argument Prompt!

  5. Thesis statement for argumentative essay

  6. What is Thesis Statement (For CSS/ PMS/ PCS)

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  1. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 2: Write your initial answer. 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. The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.

  2. Developing a Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement . . . Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic. Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper. Is focused and specific enough to be "proven" within the boundaries of your paper. Is generally located near the end ...

  3. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  4. 50 Argumentative Essay Thesis Statement Examples (2024)

    A thesis statement in an argumentative essay needs to present a point of view.The biggest mistake you can make is to provide a thesis statement that doesn't demonstrate what your argument will be. So, your thesis statement should set a clear argument, perspective, or position in relation to a debate. Check out the examples below.

  5. Thesis Statements

    A thesis statement: tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper. directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself.

  6. Strong Thesis Statements

    An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.

  7. Argumentative Thesis

    A thesis statement is a one- to two-sentence statement that presents the main idea and makes an assertion about your issue. You may have a longer thesis for much longer essays, but one to two sentences is a good general guideline. And, remember, in an argumentative essay, the assertion you present in your thesis is going to be particularly ...

  8. How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement: 4 Steps + Examples

    Step 4: Revise and refine your thesis statement before you start writing. Read through your thesis statement several times before you begin to compose your full essay. You need to make sure the statement is ironclad, since it is the foundation of the entire paper. Edit it or have a peer review it for you to make sure everything makes sense and ...

  9. 2.5 Writing Thesis Statements

    2.5 Writing Thesis Statements. Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; and Kirk Swenson. To be effective, all support in an essay must work together to convey a central point; otherwise, an essay can fall into the trap of being out of order and confusing. Just as a topic sentence focuses and unifies a ...

  10. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  11. 9.1 Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement

    You can cut down on irrelevant aspects and revise your thesis by taking the following steps: 1. Pinpoint and replace all nonspecific words, such as people, everything, society, or life, with more precise words in order to reduce any vagueness. Working thesis: Young people have to work hard to succeed in life.

  12. 9.4: Argumentative Thesis Statements

    An argumentative thesis must make a claim about which reasonable people can disagree. Statements of fact or areas of general agreement cannot be argumentative theses because few people disagree about them. Let's take a look at an example: BAD: Junk food is bad for your health. This is not a debatable thesis.

  13. How to Write an Argumentative Essay

    A concise thesis statement that introduces readers to the central argument of the essay A clear, logical, argument that engages readers Ample research and evidence that supports your argument. Approaches to Use in Your Argumentative Essay 1. Classical Clearly present the central argument. Outline your opinion. Provide enough evidence to support ...

  14. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement. 1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.; An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.; An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies ...

  15. 15 Thesis Statement Examples to Inspire Your Next Argumentative Essay

    Schools should start at a later time of day. Inspired by this sample essay about school start times. Beginning the school day at a later time would stabilize students' sleep patterns, improve students' moods, and increase students' academic success. #15. Schools should distribute birth control to teens.

  16. Developing a Thesis Statement

    UNDERSTANDING A THESIS. A thesis is a substantial generalization that can stand by itself as the basis of an essay's development. It is an assertion of what the writer believes is right or wrong and why, and it is a statement that can be either true or false. A thesis clearly and concisely conveys the writer's main argument in an essay, and ...

  17. PDF Essay Planning: How to Develop a Working Thesis Statement

    You will be presented with different thesis statements based on the four thesis categories that we discussed. Please identify which thesis statement is the most effective. Refer back to the "Type of Paper" section to get a refresher on types of thesis statements and examples of them. 1. Argumentative Essay Thesis: a.

  18. Suggestions for Developing Argumentative Essays

    2. Take a position on your topic, and form a thesis statement. Your thesis must be arguable; it must assert or deny something about your topic. To be arguable, a thesis must have some probability of being true. It should not, however, be generally accepted as true; it must be a statement with which people may disagree. Keep in mind that a ...

  19. 6.3: Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement must present a relevant and specific argument. A factual statement often is not considered arguable. Be sure your thesis statement contains a point of view that can be supported with evidence. ... Developing Thesis Statements from Topics. The big idea, or controlling idea, you want to present in an essay is expressed in a ...

  20. Supporting an Argumentative Thesis Tutorial

    2. Main Ideas and Claims. To effectively state and support a thesis, most essays must also promote related points—points that, together, prove or support the thesis. Recall that, in writing, these are called main ideas. A main idea is a point or concept that drives one or more body paragraphs of an essay.

  21. 40 Developing RQs and Thesis Statements for Argumentative Essays

    Effective RQs are: Clear: Provide enough information to convey the writer's purpose. Narrowed: Limited to the amount and type of information that can be included in the writing. Arguable: The answers to the question are debatable and not simply accepted facts. Examples: RQ. Possible answers (= thesis statements) 1.

  22. How to Write an Argumentative Essay

    Second, follow these steps on how to write an argumentative essay: Brainstorm: research, free-write, and read samples to choose a debatable topic. Prepare: organize thoughts, craft a thesis, decide on arguments and evidence. Draft: outline an essay, start with an engaging introduction, delve into arguments, and conclude like a boss.

  23. For this Discussion Board, you are supposed to read the Essay#2

    Waiting for answer This question has not been answered yet. You can hire a professional tutor to get the answer.