WHAT IS A THESIS?
A thesis statement is one or two sentences in your introduction that explains the core idea of your paper. The thesis is the foundation of the paper and should act as a roadmap for your paper. It should not only be a guide for the reader, but for the writer as well.
When writing your thesis, think about how you want to get your point across to the reader. State your claim and make sure it is arguable. Knowing what you’re going to argue helps you take you in the right direction and stay on track. A thesis is usually located near the end of the introduction, often the last sentence of the introduction. This provides a smooth transition into the body of the paper.
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR THESIS
Before developing an argument you must 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.
Remember… writing your thesis is a process. Writing your thesis is like learning a new soccer move. You have to keep working with it to perfect it.
Let’s say your professor assigns you a 3 to 4-page paper and you have to write about consumerism in America. Before even thinking about writing your thesis, do some research. What usually works for me is typing the topic into the search bar and then I briefly educate myself on the topic. By doing this, I am familiarizing myself with the topic and it makes it easier to narrow down what I want to write about. After doing some research, ask yourself an arguable question? Your thesis should be the answer to your question.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR THESIS IS STRONG
Ask yourself these four questions:
- Is my thesis statement specific enough?
Vague thesis statements do not usually have strong arguments.
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose?
If your thesis statement isn’t arguable, you’re simply making a statement, not a thesis statement.
- Did I answer the question?
Be sure to follow directions and respond to the proper task.
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test?
Your reader should be able to form a relationship with the thesis and the thesis should connect to a larger issue.
Miley Cyrus is a bad role model for teens.
The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different.
Miley Cyrus is an inadequate role model for teens, as she advertises drug and alcohol abuse in her hit song, “We Can’t Stop.”
While both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while the South fought to preserve its own institutions.
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The Thesis Statement
A persuasive essay—which will many (if not all) of your writing assignments in college will be—advocates a particular position that can be argued for or against. That position will be expressed in a thesis statement. Simply put, a thesis tells the reader your topic and your position on that topic. For example:
- Movies produced in the mid-1950s use obsessive behavior to depict teenage romance as something dangerous that should be avoided.
A paper based on that thesis statement would cover the general topic of love in movies produced during the 1950s and would express the author’s view that obsessive behavior is used to portray the dangers of teenage romance.
Notice how that example expresses a particular position that can be argued for or against. Your thesis statement must express an opinion rather than a fact. It should avoid repeating anything that would be considered common knowledge. If no one could possibly disagree with your thesis, choose another topic.
In a persuasive essay, the thesis statement will typically be found toward the end of an introductory paragraph. The following paragraphs will contain the author’s argument in support of the position stated in the thesis statement and will give evidence in support of his/her viewpoint. A final paragraph will summarize the author’s argument and present the author’s conclusions about the topic (though it will not simply restate the thesis).
The Organizational Statement
Sometimes, an organization statement will be used in conjunction with the thesis. An organizational statement is a map that tells your reader what h/she should expect to read in your essay. It introduces the two or three main pieces of evidence that you will use to support your position. While not required in a thesis, organizational statements can make for stronger thesis statements.
An organizational statement can can take the form of a separate sentence or can be attached to your thesis in a single sentence, as seen in the examples below:
- Movies produced in the mid-1950s use obsessive behavior to depict teenage romance as something dangerous that should be avoided. Obsessive behavior was viewed as rebellious, uncontrollable, and harmful both to the teenagers and to the people who loved them.
- Since obsessive behavior was viewed as rebellious, uncontrollable, and dangerous, movies produced in the mid-1950s use it to depict teenage romance as something that should be avoided for the sake of young adults and the people who loved them.
Notice how the 2nd version above strengthens the original thesis. Try to combine your thesis and organizational statement into one sentence whenever possible.
Important: You must discuss the evidence in the same order that you introduce it in your organizational statement. In this example, it means the paper would have to discuss rebelliousness, an uncontrollable nature, and danger (as they relate to obsessive teenage romance in film) in that order.
For More Information
Now that you know what thesis and organizational statements are, how do you come up with one? Learn different strategies by reading these two guides: Generating a Thesis and Thesis Statements: Working Backwards.
The information on this page is based on an English 102 handout by Angela Francis.
NEXT: Generating a Thesis