How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
It is impossible to write a successful academic paper if that paper does not have a clear and meaningful thesis statement. This all-important statement is comprised of one or two sentences that unambiguously set out the main idea or point of the written piece i.e. it states a paper’s central purpose or message. A well-written thesis statement should also set out the writer’s position in relation to their selected topic, and it helps readers follow the arguments in the paper.
The Steps Involved in Writing Thesis Statements
- Examine the topic, and in some cases, it may need narrowing. A good thesis statement should not be ambiguous or vague - it should express the essence and importance of the topic. If, for example, your chosen topic is, “Modern Political Systems” you might want to narrow this down to something like, “The Continual Survival of Communism in Some Parts of the World.”
- Rewrite or paraphrase your subject or topic into clear question form. It is likely the answer will give rise to your thesis statement. In the above example, the topic question might become, “What are the socio-political affects of communism in countries where it is practiced?” This question’s answer (and likewise your thesis statement) might say, “The system of communism rather than democracy brings in its wake a series of negative social, economic, and political consequences for any state in which it is practiced.”
- When the thesis statement you have created is sufficiently strong, it will need to be analyzed and evaluated. Check that it relates solely to one issue, conveys precisely what it is you mean to convey, and gives rise to (at minimum) three points for discussion.
- Write down the thesis statement you have decided upon. This is usually placed in the center or close to the end of the opening paragraph. This location means the writer can get their readers involved from the start.
Main Points for Consideration
- In some ways, thesis statements are like opinions. They differ, however, in one significant way. Where opinions are based more on thinking in one way or another, thesis statements imply that any claims you are presenting have been studied meticulously and that there is evidence to support them.
- A thesis statement can change while a paper is being worked on. Thus, you should not think of your first thesis as definitive. Instead, you should think of it as a work in progress that may be revised and amended later if required or appropriate.
- Thesis statements are intended to act as roadmaps for an entire paper, mainly because they set out the main point(s), structure, and the arguments the writer will be presenting and supporting. A good thesis statement should also be debatable, which suggests that there may be reasonable opposing arguments or people who take a different position.
- These central statements should also indicate one or more conclusions in respect of the topic. A thesis statement is not just a starting point for a piece of writing. Rather, it is the result of considerable investigation and research in a chosen topic, a type of summarization.
Dos and Don’ts
What You Should Do
- Know the purpose of your writing. Prior to beginning to develop a thesis statement, you should work out the purpose or aim of the paper i.e. whether it is to analyze, evaluate, persuade, etc.
- Formulate a debatable thesis statement. This should not merely be a repetition of facts. It should take a stance on some point or idea that can stand up to argument and discussion.
- A thesis statement should be easy to understand and read. If it is full of complex words, it will not be easy to follow.
- Avoid specific detail.
- Get a clear view of your chosen topic. Find out as much as possible about it before formulating your thesis statement. The greater your knowledge, the better the arguments you will be able to build to support it.
What You Should Not Do
- Thesis statements should not be written as questions. A thesis is meant to provide answers to questions rather than ask questions.
- A thesis statement should not have such sentences as, “The main point of this paper is …” or “This essay will argue that …”
- Avoid obvious, well-known facts and/or generalizations. There should be an arguable claim about a given topic in a thesis statement rather than information that is well known.
- Avoid vague declarations or those you cannot verify.
- Do not base your thesis statement on assumptions or announcements. Make your point clearly based on results that have already been proved through research and study, and not to “try to discover” or “look more closely” at the topic.
- Creating thesis statements that do not match the stipulated length of a paper. Irrespective of how knowledgeable or talented you are, it is unlikely you can cover all relevant information on a broad topic in a short essay.
- Including quotations. While this might seem clever, quotations indicate that the ideas being expressed in the thesis are not the writer’s.
- Including words and/or phrases that may sound meaningful but do not say anything.
- Including the viewpoints of other people. While you may not be able to offer an original opinion, it is likely someone else has thought of yours and/or used it previously. Still, people do not think in the exact same way and it will be obvious if you just restate the ideas and claims of other people.