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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on September 14, 2022 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
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, 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.
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.
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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.
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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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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How to write a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.
Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.
Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?
- to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
- to better organize and develop your argument
- to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument
In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.
How Can You Write a Good Thesis Statement?
Here are some helpful hints to get you started. You can either scroll down or select a link to a specific topic.
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned
Almost all assignments, no matter how complicated, can be reduced to a single question. Your first step, then, is to distill the assignment into a specific question. For example, if your assignment is, “Write a report to the local school board explaining the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class,” turn the request into a question like, “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” After you’ve chosen the question your essay will answer, compose one or two complete sentences answering that question.
Q: “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are . . .”
A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve . . .”
The answer to the question is the thesis statement for the essay.
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How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned
Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about.
A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:
- take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
- deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment
- express one main idea
- assert your conclusions about a subject
Let’s see how to generate a thesis statement for a social policy paper.
Brainstorm the topic . Let’s say that your class focuses upon the problems posed by changes in the dietary habits of Americans. You find that you are interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume.
You start out with a thesis statement like this:
This fragment isn’t a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about sugar consumption.
Narrow the topic . Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy.
You change your thesis to look like this:
Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.
This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one segment of the population: elementary school children. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, because while most people might agree that children consume more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic.
Take a position on the topic. After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children consume.
You revise your thesis statement to look like this:
More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.
This statement asserts your position, but the terms more attention and food and beverage choices are vague.
Use specific language . You decide to explain what you mean about food and beverage choices , so you write:
Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.
This statement is specific, but it isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of making an assertion.
Make an assertion based on clearly stated support. You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this:
Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.
Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce sugar consumption by children, and who should do it?” When you started thinking about the paper, you may not have had a specific question in mind, but as you became more involved in the topic, your ideas became more specific. Your thesis changed to reflect your new insights.
How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
1. a strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand..
Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper for a class on fitness, you might be asked to choose a popular weight-loss product to evaluate. Here are two thesis statements:
There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.
This is a weak thesis statement. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase negative and positive aspects is vague.
Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.
This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.
2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion.
Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:
My family is an extended family.
This is a weak thesis because it merely states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.
While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.
This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.
3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.
Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:
Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and Web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.
This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or Web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:
Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using Web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.
This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because , since , so , although , unless , and however .
4. A strong thesis statement is specific.
A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say:
World hunger has many causes and effects.
This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, world hunger can’t be discussed thoroughly in seven to ten pages. Second, many causes and effects is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. A revised thesis might look like this:
Hunger persists in Glandelinia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.
This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic, and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.
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How to write a thesis statement (with examples)
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What exactly is a thesis statement?
What if I told you that one sentence in your essay or thesis could be the difference between a First and a Fail?
It may sound absurd – perhaps even unfair – but it’s true. I refer, of course, to the thesis statement. A thesis statement is your entire essay if it were condensed into a single sentence. If your essay title is a question, then your thesis statement is the one-sentence answer.
It tends to arrive near the end of the first paragraph of a thesis.
Let’s take a look at an example from a Master of Education degree thesis:
Thesis title What constitutes ‘good writing’ for GCSE students of English?
Thesis statement The examination rubric by which GCSE English writing performance is assessed, influenced by a long history of variable ‘tastes’, may now be said to describe ‘good writing’ as that which is grammatically accurate, sophisticated, and suited to purpose, genre and audience.
(The thesis statement would be located in paragraph 1, after a brief overview of the subject).
Why is a thesis statement important?
As I mentioned, the way your thesis statement is written can be the difference between a First and a Fail. But how?
To answer that, let’s think about what ‘thesis’ means. From the Greek thésis, meaning ‘proposition’, your thesis is your main argument.
It is the position you have to support and defend for the remainder of your essay. Without something clear to defend, the fortress you build will crumble and the army you deploy will run about like headless chickens.
In essence: without a clear thesis statement, you don’t have an essay.
“Establishing a clear thesis at the start of your essay is crucial for both you and your examiner. For your examiner, it’s evidence that you have answered the question. For you, it can function as an essay plan.”
For both of you, it’s a litmus test for the quality of the argument: if you can’t fit your essay’s arguments into a sentence, they are too diffuse; and if you can’t stick to your thesis statement’s focus throughout your essay, you are not focused.
A precisely focused and well-grounded essay is more worthy of a First Class grade than one with a scattergun approach.
What should a thesis statement include?
What your thesis statement includes is determined by three things:
1. The subject and topic of the essay. 2. The purpose of the essay. 3. The length of the essay.
Let’s examine each of those in more detail to see how they can help us refine our thesis statement.
The subject and topic of the essay
Look at this real-life title from an undergraduate Sports Science essay:
What are the key differences between training recommendations for maximising muscular strength and maximising muscular hypertrophy?
The first task is, of course, to determine the subject of the essay.
In this example, that would be ‘training recommendations for maximising muscular strength and training recommendations for maximising muscular hypertrophy’.
Knowing that means that I know I will need to deploy my knowledge about those two similar but distinct areas. It also means that I should be using the specialist terminology relevant to the field, such as load, isotonic and volume.
Next, I need to determine the topic.
Here it would be ‘the key differences’ between training recommendations for those two goals. That phrase ‘key differences’ is likely to be at the heart of my thesis statement, to show that I’m on track.
With that in mind, my thesis statement might look like this:
Whilst both training outcomes require resistance training centred upon isotonic contractions, it is likely that the absolute load requirements may need to be higher for strength purposes, whilst the total training volume may need to be higher for hypertrophy purposes.
It is by no means a complete essay, but it states clearly what the ‘short answer’ to the question is, whilst paving the way for the ‘long answer’ to follow.
But what if the essay isn’t just looking for the facts organised into a specific order? What if the essay is asking for analysis? Or an argument?
The purpose of the essay
Different essay purposes require different thesis statements. Fortunately, there are only three main essay purposes, and they’re pretty easy to recognise:
1. The expository essay: This is an essay type that asks for the key facts on a subject to be laid out, with explanations. The Sports Science question above is an example of this. It asks for the WHAT and HOW of something.
2. The analytical essay: This essay type asks you not only to lay out the facts, but also to analyse and deconstruct them to better understand them. It is typical in subjects such as English Literature and Fine Art. It asks for the WHY of something.
3. The argumentative essay: This type of essay asks you to use the facts available, to analyse them for value, and then to provide a point of view about the subject. It moves more quickly through the WHAT, HOW and WHY of a topic through to: WHY DOES IT MATTER?
All of the above essay types need a thesis statement that includes a proposition (a statement which answers the question or addresses the title).
Beyond that, these three essay types all require different additions.
For the expository essay , you need to add an overview of the details of the conclusion. Let’s look at an example:
Expository essay title: What are the key differences between training recommendations for maximising muscular strength and maximising muscular hypertrophy? (BSc in Sports Science)
Expository thesis statement: Whilst both training outcomes require resistance training centred upon isotonic contractions, it is likely that the absolute load requirements may need to be higher for strength purposes, whilst the total training volume may need to be higher for hypertrophy purposes. (The basic conclusion is that both approaches need isotonic resistance training; the details are teased out in bold.)
For the analytical essay , you need to add an overview of the analysis performed. Here’s an example:
Analytical essay title: Why did England and Wales vote to leave the European Union? (BA in Politics)
Analytical thesis statement: A close consideration of the voter demographics, the populist nature of political messages leading up to the referendum, and the history of Britain’s status in the EU, will demonstrate that Brexit was primarily motivated by the machinations of the Right.
(The basic conclusion is that Brexit was influenced by politicians; the analytical approach is in bold.)
For the argumentative essay , you need to add an overview of your reasoning. Another example:
Argumentative essay title: To what extent do you consider the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays to be in question? (BA in English Literature)
Argumentative thesis statement: Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays is beyond question, given both the entirely unconvincing nature of any counter-theories and the relatively unstable conception of the playwright’s identity as it stands. (The basic conclusion is that Shakespeare did write his plays; the reasoning is in bold.)
As you can see from these examples, the purpose of the essay gives a very clear demand for something beyond a simple answer.
But, there’s more!
The length of the essay
The prescribed length of the essay also defines what you need to do with your thesis statement.
Your thesis statement is a microcosm : a miniature, compressed version of your whole essay.
So, it makes sense that the length of the actual essay is going to impact upon the content of the thesis statement.
If, for example, your essay is expected to be 800 words long and on the subject of Eve in the Bible, then it would be overly ambitious for your thesis statement to say: ‘through comprehensive study of the Bible and extant criticism’. For an 800 essay, more precision will be necessary. It would be better for your thesis statement to say: ‘with due awareness of the complexity of the issue, focusing on feminist readings of Genesis .’
“Matching the scope given in your thesis statement to the depth you provide in your essay is a very effective way to ensure precision.”
Contrastingly, if your essay is expected to be 80,000 words long (a PhD thesis, for example), on the subject of stop-motion animation, it would be rather unambitious to suggest that the essay will ‘provide a visual analysis of Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers’, only. For a PhD, we would expect more content to be covered, and multiple approaches to analysis to be considered.
Indeed, matching the scope given in your thesis statement to the depth you provide in your essay is a very effective way to ensure precision.
So, to summarise, how do I write a thesis statement?
It’s a simple, three-part process:
1. Identify the question in the title (or make a question from the statement). 2. Answer that question in as few words as possible. 3. Complete the sentence by providing an overview of the foundation behind your answer.
Easy, right? It can be!
That said, there are plenty of traps that essayists can fall into with this part of the essay. Let’s look at some of these pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Pitalls to Avoid
Pitfall #1: amateurish style.
This is common throughout academic essays written by beginners. It’s not just the thesis statement that falls foul of sounding amateurish. There are plenty of ways this happens, which are beyond the scope of this argument, but the following example is a prime example: In this essay, I will explore the various pieces of evidence before concluding.
This is amateurish for a few reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t actually say anything. You could otherwise word it, ‘I will write an essay which answers the question’ – a rather wasted sentence. The next, and more forgivable issue is the use of the first-person. We want to get a sense that an individual wrote this essay, but we never want to hear them mentioned! Make sense? No? Sorry.
This should instead read more like:
This essay considers evidence from X in light of Y which ultimately reveals Z at the heart of the issue.
(It focuses on the specifics, X, Y, and Z, and is devoid of any mention of its author.)
Pitfall #2: empty phrasing
This is similar to amateurish style. However, empty phrasing is not just amateur-sounding; it’s manipulative-sounding.
Using phrases such as “in order to” instead of, simply, “to” – or “due to the fact that” instead of just “as” – look like attempts to fill up the word count with waffle rather than content. The same goes for phrases that can be substituted for one word: ‘it is evident that’ can (and should) become ‘evidently’.
Watch this thesis statement from a GCSE essay on Music go from hideous to tolerable:
Beethoven was unable to hear his work, due to the fact that he was deaf, so it is evident that he musically conceptualised the notes in order to compose. (Wordy!)
Beethoven was unable to hear his work, as he was deaf, so it is evident that he musically conceptualised the notes to compose. (Slightly less wordy.)
Beethoven’s deafness made him unable to hear his work, so evidently he musically conceptualised the notes to compose. (About as concise as such a complex sentence will get…)
Do not mistake wordiness for sophistication. Your ideas should be sophisticated; your writing should be clear.
Pitfall #3: non-standard grammar
For an examiner, the English language is not just a vehicle for your ideas. It should be, but the academic process always involves the assessment of your expression.
So, to satisfy our examiners’ prescriptive tastes, we need to adhere to the basic tenets of Standard English.
Take a look at the following thesis statement example from an A Level Sociology essay: Considering the status of BAME in Internet culture, the demonstrably racist treatment at the hands of the police, and the energy behind the BLM protests, concluding that there is hope for the future.
This sentence has no finite main verb, so it is technically not a sentence. To become a grammatical sentence, we would need to make ‘concluding’ finite: ‘it can be concluded’, or ‘we conclude’.
The writer got lost in this example because the sentence was so long!
Long sentences can also lead to a failure to make subject and verb agree, like in the next thesis statement example from a school Geography essay:
The most populous municipalities of Spain, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Zaragoza, does not rank in the top ten most dense populations of the country, with the exception of Barcelona.
Because the subject ‘municipalities’ is separated from the verb ‘does’ by eight words, it is easy to forget that they do not agree. It should, of course, be ‘do, not ‘does’.
The thesis statement, as I said at the start, can be the difference between a First and a Fail. So, take your time with it.
Write it carefully.
Then redraft and refine it several times, until it’s as good as you can make it.
The payoff is a slick, coherent thesis statement that paves the way to a great essay that really impresses your examiner.
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How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples Step 1: Start with a question. You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis, early in... Step 2: Write your initial answer. After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. Step 3: ...
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.
How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One. 1. A strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand. Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you ... 2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion. 3. A strong thesis statement expresses ...
It’s a simple, three-part process: 1. Identify the question in the title (or make a question from the statement). 2. Answer that question in as few words as possible. 3. Complete the sentence by providing an overview of the foundation behind your answer.