Writing a thesis statement is one of the most important parts of composing an essay. It has to be there. It’s the street sign for your essay: it tells the reader where it is going. Without it, the reader might get lost and have no idea where the paper is supposed to take him.
The thesis statement also helps you, the writer. It allows you to keep things clear and organized. It helps you to know exactly what your topic is and what you should be writing about.
In this article, we’ll look at how to write a thesis statement. We’ll also give you some good tips and examples of how your thesis should look.
A thesis statement is a sign post. It tells the reader what the subject of your essay is. The thesis statement = your main point. In other words, the purpose of your paper is clearly identifiable in your thesis statement.
A thesis statement should correspond with the type of essay you are writing. As Purdue OWL notes, there are typically three types of essays in which a thesis is used:
In an analytical essay, the writer breaks down a subject into parts and examines each segment, evaluating it for the reader. The essay is an analysis. The thesis statement for such a paper should explain what analysis is being made. For example, if you are writing a paper in which you provide analysis of Germany during the 1920s, you might have a thesis statement that looks like this: Following its surrender in WW1 and the impositions of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany experienced a moral, social and economic decay evidenced in the rise of the cabaret, Dada, hyperinflation and joblessness.
In an expository essay, the writer is explaining a subject. The thesis should summarize that explanation so that the reader knows, going into the essay, what the focus is all about. For example, say you are writing an essay explaining Bernini’s David to someone. Your thesis statement might look like this: Bernini’s David embodies the trends of the Baroque: it is dramatic, action-oriented, triangular in composition, and on the offensive.
In an argumentative essay, an argument is made and defended. The thesis for such an essay should tell what the argument is and how it will be supported. For example, if you are writing an essay in which you are arguing that the TSA is bad for airports, you might have a thesis statement such as this: While proponents of the TSA view the organization as a last line of defense between air travelers and terrorists, the reality is that the TSA has never actually foiled a single terror attempt but has, on the contrary, devastated the ease and comfort that once went with flying.
No matter what type of essay you are writing, the thesis statement should serve as the main point or message of that essay. It should be clear and concise. If you can, try to keep it around 160 characters—similar to that which you might send out in a tweet. Of course, there’s no harm in going over—but if you find your thesis statement going on for 400 or 500 characters (basically four or five lines of text), you should probably think about revising it. Too many words and ideas in a thesis statement will mean that it is more than likely cluttered and ineffective. Keep it as short and as to the point as possible. After all, that is the point of the thesis statement—to get to the point!
However, for specific types of essays, the thesis should be comprised of specific elements. For example, if you are writing an argumentative essay, your thesis statement should contain the argument that you are making with some idea of why it is the correct argument to make. If you are writing an explanatory essay, your thesis statement should contain some explanatory summation of what it is you will show. So keep that in mind when composing your essay!
Coming up with a strong thesis statement is not hard—all it takes is a little focus. Basically, a strong thesis will be coherent, consistent with the rest of the essay, and easy to understand. Think of how news is sent out via Twitter. You get a certain amount of characters to get your point across: well, that’s how a thesis should be. Try to boil down the main idea of your essay to 160 characters as a basic goal. (This is not a hard and fast rule by any means, so don’t feel constrained to keep it at or under that many characters!)
The following tips will help you craft a great thesis:
The formula for writing a thesis statement is as simple as a + b = c, where “a” = your essay’s main point, “b” = how that point is made/shown, and “c” = your thesis. Take your essay, turn it upside down, shake it out, and see what points fall to the table: examine them individually and as a whole. What is the main idea that they are telling you? This will be your main point.
Now how are those points coming together? What is supporting them? Evidence, a series of logical deductions, a philosophical principle, an experience? Whatever it is, include that in your thesis statement!
If you had to outline your essay, you could see point by point how your essay is constructed. A main idea would be evident. Summarizing this main idea and the approach you take to get there is what would be stated in your thesis.
Another formula that could help is this:
The cause of “x” is found in the combination of “y” and “z”, which occurred as a result of “a, b, and c”.
Any variation on the formula above will work—the important thing to notice is that it focuses on causes and effects and looks at both the micro and the macro level.
Bring the reader in and out of the micro-level and show the big picture! This is a good way to convince your reader early on that you have command of your subject.
Likewise, don’t forget to make mention of the evidence that you will rely upon to make your point. You don’t have to mention every little thing—but you should at least give the reader a hint of how you will make your case. Just remember: don’t let your thesis statement go on for 500 characters! No one wins when that happens.
Finally, if you’re still having trouble finding your thesis, try this: start small and get big. Focus on the main point of your essay. What is it? Write that down in a few words. Then focus on how that point is made. Add on this “how” to the few words you just wrote about your main point. There, you’ve just written your thesis statement!
Consider what a thesis statement outline would look like.
If you had to break your one-sentence thesis statement down into parts it might appear thus:
II. Cause of the Problem/Issue
III. How that cause is made evident
Plug in the parts and see for yourself! Pretend you are writing an essay on global warming. Your thesis might look like this: The problem of global warming is caused by greenhouse gases depleting the ozone, which is evident in numerous studies of the atmosphere over the years.
Let’s look at some more examples to get a better idea of what we’re talking about.
For analytical essays:
For expository (explanatory) essays:
For argumentative essays:
A thesis statement is a way to reduce the main point of your essay down to a single sentence. Sure, you can draft it in two sentences if you want—but the more you can compact it and make it concise, the better it will be. The purpose of the thesis statement is to tell your reader exactly what will transpire in your essay.
A common mistake that some people make when trying to write a thesis is to explain too much: their thesis gets away from them as they try to put a macro perspective on the issue they are discussing in the essay. Remember: start small and get big. Focus on what your main point is and then explain how that point is shown in your essay.
A good thesis statement will neither be too short nor too long. Try to keep it right at about 160 characters if you can. Think of it as sending out a tweet on Twitter. If you can express a complete thought that makes sense and applies to a specific subject on Twitter, you should be able to compose a thesis statement. It really is no different!
You can write your thesis statement first, before beginning your essay. Or you can write it last, after you’ve completed your essay. Either way works fine. Some people like to compose the thesis statement first so they can have in their mind what it is they are trying to do in the paper. Others prefer to construct it last because they feel it is easier to see their main point and how it is supported after they have finished all their writing.
The best place to plug in your thesis is in the last line of your introductory paragraph. Spend the first part of the paragraph describing the subject—the background info—or using a hook to lure in the reader. Then give the purpose of your paper: this is your thesis statement.
Depending on the type of essay you are writing you should adhere to the basic parameters set forth by the genre’s expectations. If you are drafting an expository essay, be mindful of the fact that your reader would like to know what it is you are going to explain. Tell that in your thesis. If you are penning an analysis, tell your reader what it is you are analyzing and what you have found: this will allow you to start your paper with an effective thesis statement that is to the point and guiding. If you are writing an argumentative essay, let your reader know the subject that is being argued and what your own position is. That way you’ll have a clear thesis statement that not only helps your reader to navigate the rest of your work, but also helps you to stay on track.
Remember, your essay should match your thesis—so if the body of your paper does not address the issues identified in your thesis statement, something is off! Be sure the two align. If they don’t, it’s like having a road sign that points in one direction while the road goes off in another: it won’t make any sense and will only lead to frustration and disappointment!
Use these tips and guidelines to craft your own great thesis statement! Good luck and happy writing!