Developing Thesis Statements

Many students make the mistake of thinking that having a "subjects the same as having a "thesis" for an essay or research paper. However, the thesis of your writing is much more definite than the general subject.

A thesis statement is a specific declaration that summarizes (an argument really) the point of view you will express in your paper. It is the basic stand you take, the opinion you express, and the point you make about your narrowed subject. It’s your controlling idea, tying together and giving direction to all other elements in your paper. Your primary purpose is to persuade the reader that your thesis is a valid one.

What is a good thesis?

1. A thesis is specific. If your ideas are vague, there is an excellent chance that your paper will be confusing. Although general terms can be narrowed and defined elsewhere in the paper, a good thesis supplies a specific subject and a clear direction for your paper. The specific facts, details and examples that you use will help to clarify the idea that you are trying to express.

  • Poor: Aerobic exercise is good for you.
  • Better: Aerobic exercise may be part of a weight loss program, but t is also the way to a healthy heart.
  • a thesis must: a). contain an arguable point;

    b) control the entire argument;

    c) provide a structure for your argument.

2. A thesis is restrictive. A good thesis deals with restricted bite-sized issues, issues that would otherwise require a lifetime of writing. Just as you need to narrow the subject of a thesis statement, so you will need to narrow the assertion about the subject. When you restrict the scope of your assertions in the thesis your writing will be more focused. The length of your paper will determine how restricted your thesis will be.

  • Poor: there are many advantages to having professional sports teams in Houston.
  • Better: Having professional sports teams in Houston has political, social and economic advantages.

3. A thesis is unified and expresses one major idea bout items subject. A good thesis may sometimes include a secondary idea only if it is strictly subordinated to the major one. It is wise to write your thesis before you begin an outline and definitely before you begin writing your paper.

  • Poor: My difficulties in English literature are unbelievable, but I am doing very well in algebra.
  • Better: I am getting better grades in algebra than in English literature, because I seem more comfortable with exact concepts like numbers and formulas.

A thesis statement is the standard for your paper. Where you place a thesis statement depends on your goals, your audience, the purpose of your essay or research paper, and how you intend to organize it. The most common position for the thesis statement is in the opening paragraph, but other locations in the paper can work and the thesis may even be implied. However, just remember to write a thesis statement as one of the first steps towards completion of your paper. It should focus the paper as well as be restrictive and specific enough to give the instructor a clear idea of the subject and direction of your paper.

A thesis statement is not:

  • A promise or statement of purpose.
  • A topic or subject by itself.
  • A question.

Developing Ideas and Finding Your Thesis

Writing a Thesis Sentence (Advice for Beginners)
There’s no debating this one: the thesis sentence is the most important sentence of your paper. Without a strong, persuasive, thoughtful thesis, a paper is doomed to seem unfocussed, weak, and not worth the reader’s time.

What is a Thesis Sentence?
A thesis sentence is that sentence in your paper which asserts, controls, and structures your entire argument. Let’s look at these three characteristics one at a time.

1) The thesis sentence must contain an arguable point. A thesis sentence must not simply make an observation — for example, "Writer X seems in his novel Y to be obsessed with lipstick." Rather, it must assert a point that is arguable: "Writer X uses lipstick to point to his novel’s larger theme: the masking and unmasking of the self." This sentence is not yet a great thesis sentence. Still, it can be considered arguable in that it raises some controversy. One might claim, for example, that lipstick doesn’t signify a desire to mask. Instead, lipstick
signifies the desire not to be forgotten. Notice how the characters’ lipsticks stain their lovers’ shirts, sheets, wine glasses, and handkerchiefs. In short, if your thesis is positing something that no one can (or would wish to) argue with, then it’s not a very good thesis.

2) The thesis sentence must control the entire argument. Your thesis sentence determines what you are required say in a paper. It also determines what you cannot say. Every paragraph in your paper exists in order to support your thesis. Accordingly, if
one of your paragraphs seems irrelevant to your thesis you have two choices: get rid of the paragraph, or rewrite your thesis.

3) The thesis sentence should provide a structure for your argument. A good thesis not only signals to the reader what your argument is, but howyour argument will be presented.

What is a Thesis Sentence?
A thesis sentence, as we’ve said, is a kind of contract between you and your reader. It asserts, controls, and structures your argument for your reader’s ease.

Understand that you can revise the thesis sentence. Ask yourself: Is my argument clear? Does it present the logic and the structure of my paper? Does it emphasize the points I want to emphasize?
Will This Thesis Sentence Make the Grade? (A Check List) In the end, you may have spent a good deal of time writing your thesis and still not know if it’s a good one. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Does my thesis sentence attempt to answer (or at least to explore) a challenging intellectual question?

Is the point I’m making one that would generate discussion and argument, or is it one that would leave people asking, "So

Is my thesis too vague? Too general? Should I focus on some more specific aspect of my topic?

Does my thesis deal directly with the topic at hand, or is it a declaration of my personal feelings?

Does my thesis indicate the direction of my argument? Does my introductory paragraph define terms important to my thesis? If I am writing a research paper, does my "place" my thesis within the larger, ongoing scholarly discussion about my topic?

Is the language in my thesis vivid and clear?

Have I structured my sentence so that the important information is in the main clause?

Have I used subordinate clauses to house less important information? Have I used parallelism to show the relationship between parts of my thesis? In short, is this thesis the very best sentence that it can be?