Thesis and Purpose Statements

Use the guidelines below to learn the differences between thesis and purpose statements

In the first stages of writing, thesis or purpose statements are usually rough or ill-formed and are useful primarily as planning tools.

A thesis statement or purpose statement will emerge as you think and write about a topic. The statement can be restricted or clarified and eventually worked into an introduction.

As you revise your paper, try to phrase your thesis or purpose statement in a precise way so that it matches the content and organization of your paper.

Thesis statements

A thesis statement is a sentence that makes an assertion about a topic and predicts how the topic will be developed. It does not simply announce a topic: it says something about the topic.

Good: X has made a significant impact on the teenage population due to its . . . Bad: In this paper, I will discuss X.

A thesis statement makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of the paper. It summarizes the conclusions that the writer has reached about the topic.

A thesis statement is generally located near the end of the introduction. Sometimes in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or an entire paragraph.

A thesis statement is focused and specific enough to be proven within the boundaries of the paper. Key words (nouns and verbs) should be specific, accurate, and indicative of the range of research, thrust of the argument or analysis, and the organization of supporting information.

Purpose statements

A purpose statement announces the purpose, scope, and direction of the paper. It tells the reader what to expect in a paper and what the specific focus will be.

Common beginnings include:

“This paper examines . . .,” “The aim of this paper is to . . .,” and “The purpose of this essay is to . . .”

A purpose statement makes a promise to the reader about the development of the argument but does not preview the particular conclusions that the writer has drawn.

A purpose statement usually appears toward the end of the introduction. The purpose statement may be expressed in several sentences or even an entire paragraph.

A purpose statement is specific enough to satisfy the requirements of the assignment. Purpose statements are common in research papers in some academic disciplines, while in other disciplines they are considered too blunt or direct. If you are unsure about using a purpose statement, ask your instructor.

This paper will examine the ecological destruction of the Sahel preceding the drought and the causes of this disintegration of the land. The focus will be on the economic, political, and social relationships which brought about the environmental problems in the Sahel.

Sample purpose and thesis statements

The following example combines a purpose statement and a thesis statement (bold).

The goal of this paper is to examine the effects of Chile’s agrarian reform on the lives of rural peasants. The nature of the topic dictates the use of both a chronological and a comparative analysis of peasant lives at various points during the reform period. . . The Chilean reform example provides evidence that land distribution is an essential component of both the improvement of peasant conditions and the development of a democratic society. More extensive and enduring reforms would likely have allowed Chile the opportunity to further expand these horizons.

For more tips about writing thesis statements, take a look at our new handout on Developing a Thesis Statement.

statement of purpose in thesis

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Developing a Thesis Statement

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper



Developing Strategic Transitions


Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

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“Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement” provided by University of Minnesota

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statement of purpose in thesis

Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement

provided by University of Minnesota

Have you ever known a person who was not very good at telling stories? You probably had trouble following his train of thought as he jumped around from point to point, either being too brief in places that needed further explanation or providing too many details on a meaningless element. Maybe he told the end of the story first, then moved to the beginning and later added details to the middle. His ideas were probably scattered, and the story did not flow very well. When the story was over, you probably had many questions.

Just as a personal anecdote can be a disorganized mess, an essay can fall into the same trap of being out of order and confusing. That is why writers need a thesis statement to provide a specific focus for their essay and to organize what they are about to discuss in the body.

Just like a topic sentence summarizes a single paragraph, the thesis statement summarizes an entire essay. It tells the reader the point you want to make in your essay, while the essay itself supports that point. It is like a signpost that signals the essay’s destination. You should form your thesis before you begin to organize an essay, but you may find that it needs revision as the essay develops.

Elements of a Thesis Statement

For every essay you write, you must focus on a central idea. This idea stems from a topic you have chosen or been assigned or from a question your teacher has asked. It is not enough merely to discuss a general topic or simply answer a question with a yes or no. You have to form a specific opinion, and then articulate that into a  controlling idea —the main idea upon which you build your thesis.

Remember that a thesis is not the topic itself, but rather your interpretation of the question or subject. For whatever topic your professor gives you, you must ask yourself, “What do I want to say about it?” Asking and then answering this question is vital to forming a thesis that is precise, forceful and confident.

A thesis is one sentence long and appears toward the end of your introduction. It is specific and focuses on one to three points of a single idea—points that are able to be demonstrated in the body. It forecasts the content of the essay and suggests how you will organize your information. Remember that a thesis statement does not summarize an issue but rather dissects it.

A Strong Thesis Statement

A strong thesis statement contains the following qualities.

strong thesis statement .  A thesis statement must concentrate on a specific area of a general topic. As you may recall, the creation of a thesis statement begins when you choose a broad subject and then narrow down its parts until you pinpoint a specific aspect of that topic. For example, health care is a broad topic, but a proper thesis statement would focus on a specific area of that topic, such as options for individuals without health care coverage.

Precision.  A strong thesis statement must be precise enough to allow for a coherent argument and to remain focused on the topic. If the specific topic is options for individuals without health care coverage, then your precise thesis statement must make an exact claim about it, such as that limited options exist for those who are uninsured by their employers. You must further pinpoint what you are going to discuss regarding these limited effects, such as whom they affect and what the cause is.

Ability to be argued.  A thesis statement must present a relevant and specific argument. A factual statement often is not considered arguable. Be sure your thesis statement contains a point of view that can be supported with evidence.

Ability to be demonstrated.  For any claim you make in your thesis, you must be able to provide reasons and examples for your opinion. You can rely on personal observations in order to do this, or you can consult outside sources to demonstrate that what you assert is valid. A worthy argument is backed by examples and details.

Forcefulness.  A thesis statement that is forceful shows readers that you are, in fact, making an argument. The tone is assertive and takes a stance that others might oppose.

Confidence.  In addition to using force in your thesis statement, you must also use confidence in your claim. Phrases such as  I feel  or  I believe  actually weaken the readers’ sense of your confidence because these phrases imply that you are the only person who feels the way you do. In other words, your stance has insufficient backing. Taking an authoritative stance on the matter persuades your readers to have faith in your argument and open their minds to what you have to say.

Even in a personal essay that allows the use of first person, your thesis should not contain phrases such as  in my opinion  or  I believe . These statements reduce your credibility and weaken your argument. Your opinion is more convincing when you use a firm attitude.

Examples of Appropriate Thesis Statements

Each of the following thesis statements meets several of the following requirements:

You can find thesis statements in many places, such as in the news; in the opinions of friends, coworkers or teachers; and even in songs you hear on the radio. Become aware of thesis statements in everyday life by paying attention to people’s opinions and their reasons for those opinions. Pay attention to your own everyday thesis statements as well, as these can become material for future essays.

Now that you have read about the contents of a good thesis statement and have seen examples, take a look at the pitfalls to avoid when composing your own thesis:

A thesis is weak when it is simply a declaration of your subject or a description of what you will discuss in your essay.

Weak thesis statement:  My paper will explain why imagination is more important than knowledge.

A thesis is weak when it makes an unreasonable or outrageous claim or insults the opposing side.

Weak thesis statement:  Religious radicals across America are trying to legislate their Puritanical beliefs by banning required high school books.

A thesis is weak when it contains an obvious fact or something that no one can disagree with or provides a dead end.

Weak thesis statement:  Advertising companies use sex to sell their products.

A thesis is weak when the statement is too broad.

Weak thesis statement:  The life of Abraham Lincoln was long and challenging.

Writing at Work

Often in your career, you will need to ask your boss for something through an e-mail. Just as a thesis statement organizes an essay, it can also organize your e-mail request. While your e-mail will be shorter than an essay, using a thesis statement in your first paragraph quickly lets your boss know what you are asking for, why it is necessary, and what the benefits are. In short body paragraphs, you can provide the essential information needed to expand upon your request.

Thesis Statement Revision

Your thesis will probably change as you write, so you will need to modify it to reflect exactly what you have discussed in your essay. Remember  that your thesis statement begins as a  working thesis statement , an indefinite statement that you make about your topic early in the writing process for the purpose of planning and guiding your writing.

Working thesis statements often become stronger as you gather information and form new opinions and reasons for those opinions. Revision helps you strengthen your thesis so that it matches what you have expressed in the body of the paper.

The best way to revise your thesis statement is to ask questions about it and then examine the answers to those questions. By challenging your own ideas and forming definite reasons for those ideas, you grow closer to a more precise point of view, which you can then incorporate into your thesis statement.

Ways to Revise Your Thesis

You can cut down on irrelevant aspects and revise your thesis by taking the following steps:

1. Pinpoint and replace all nonspecific words, such as  people ,  everything ,  society , or  life , with more precise words in order to reduce any vagueness.

Working thesis:  Young people have to work hard to succeed in life.

Revised thesis:  Recent college graduates must have discipline and persistence in order to find and maintain a stable job in which they can use and be appreciated for their talents.

The revised thesis makes a more specific statement about success and what it means to work hard. The original includes too broad a range of people and does not define exactly what success entails. By replacing those general words like  people  and  work hard , the writer can better focus his or her research and gain more direction in his or her writing.

2. Clarify ideas that need explanation by asking yourself questions that narrow your thesis.

Working thesis:  The welfare system is a joke.

Revised thesis:  The welfare system keeps a socioeconomic class from gaining employment by alluring members of that class with unearned income, instead of programs to improve their education and skill sets.

A joke  means many things to many people. Readers bring all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives to the reading process and would need clarification for a word so vague. This expression may also be too informal for the selected audience. By asking questions, the writer can devise a more precise and appropriate explanation for  joke . The writer should ask himself or herself questions similar to the 5WH questions. By incorporating the answers to these questions into a thesis statement, the writer more accurately defines his or her stance, which will better guide the writing of the essay.

3. Replace any  linking verbs  with action verbs. Linking verbs are forms of the verb  to be , a verb that simply states that a situation exists.

Working thesis:  Kansas City schoolteachers are not paid enough.

Revised thesis:  The Kansas City legislature cannot afford to pay its educators, resulting in job cuts and resignations in a district that sorely needs highly qualified and dedicated teachers.

The linking verb in this working thesis statement is the word  are . Linking verbs often make thesis statements weak because they do not express action. Rather, they connect words and phrases to the second half of the sentence. Readers might wonder, “Why are they not paid enough?” But this statement does not compel them to ask many more questions. The writer should ask himself or herself questions in order to replace the linking verb with an action verb, thus forming a stronger thesis statement, one that takes a more definitive stance on the issue:

4. Omit any general claims that are hard to support.

Working thesis:  Today’s teenage girls are too sexualized.

Revised thesis:  Teenage girls who are captivated by the sexual images on MTV are conditioned to believe that a woman’s worth depends on her sensuality, a feeling that harms their self-esteem and behavior.

It is true that some young women in today’s society are more sexualized than in the past, but that is not true for all girls. Many girls have strict parents, dress appropriately, and do not engage in sexual activity while in middle school and high school. The writer of this thesis should ask the following questions:

In your career you may have to write a project proposal that focuses on a particular problem in your company, such as reinforcing the tardiness policy. The proposal would aim to fix the problem; using a thesis statement would clearly state the boundaries of the problem and tell the goals of the project. After writing the proposal, you may find that the thesis needs revision to reflect exactly what is expressed in the body. Using the techniques from this chapter would apply to revising that thesis.

Important Concepts

Licenses and Attributions


Composing Ourselves and Our World,   Provided by: the authors. License:  Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


9.1 Developing a Strong, Clear Thesis Statement  by University of Minnesota is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Video 1: License: Standard YouTube License Attribution: Purdue OWL: Thesis Statements   by  OWLPurdue OWLPurdue .

Composing Ourselves and Our World by Auburn University at Montgomery is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing the Specific Purpose Statement for a Dissertation

Published by steve tippins on august 17, 2021 august 17, 2021.

Last Updated on: 29th August 2022, 08:17 am

One of the most important sentences in your dissertation is the Specific Purpose Statement. It’s not just a sentence – it’s a statement that captures everything your study is about. Together with the Problem Statement and Research Questions, it guides the entirety of your research. It may be a small section (usually less than a page), but it is an important one.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Specific Purpose Statement. Let’s begin with an example.

Specific Purpose Statement Example

The Specific Purpose Statement is part of a bigger picture called alignment, where you make sure that all parts of your study are essentially going in the same direction. Every study has to have an implicit or explicit problem as the focus, which is described in your Problem Statement. The Specific Purpose Statement basically says that your purpose is to address the problem.

For example, let’s say your Problem Statement is this: “The problem to be explored in this study is the lack of understanding of teacher perceptions on student discipline.” The purpose statement might go like this: “The purpose of this study is to explore teacher perceptions on student discipline”.

african american man with headphones taking notes from laptop

However, a lot of schools will have you add the broad type of methodology and the specific methodology that will be used to address the problem. So, the actual Specific Purpose Statement would read something like this: 

“The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study is to explore teacher perceptions on student discipline.”

These statements have to be aligned with your research question(s). So for this qualitative, phenomenological study, the research question might be “What are the lived experiences of teachers regarding student discipline?” or “How do teachers report their lived experiences regarding student discipline?” 

Common Mistakes With the Specific Purpose Statement

We tend not to write our dissertations in one sitting, and that can create problems. The problem and purpose statement tend to be on different pages in the document, for example, so it’s easy to stray from your problem statement and have a purpose statement that’s slightly different. 

One reason for this is the time and distance between creating the two. The other, which is totally understandable, is that it’s easy to feel like you’re repeating yourself when writing a dissertation. A lot. The answer is, “Yes you are, and keep doing it.”

man and woman looking at documents on laptop together

Anyone who’s ever done creative writing will cringe at this, but it’s important to keep the wording exactly the same throughout the sections of your paper. Introducing minor variations in the phrasing of your problem and purpose alters the meaning, and consistency is key in a dissertation.  

Committee members often like to parse words and want to see everything aligned. If you start using different words, your paper may get out of alignment . That’s why a Specific Purpose Statement that follows the Problem Statement is much more likely to be approved than one that uses different terminology to try to capture interest.

Another issue that can arise (and which I often see in my students’ papers) is trying to do too much with one study. “The purpose is a, and b, and c, and d.” You want to make your project doable – that is, able to be completed within a reasonable time period. The more purposes you have, the longer it will take to complete the study and the more expensive it will be. Most successful dissertations have one very specific purpose.

How Long is the Specific Purpose Statement?

The Specific Purpose Statement section of your document does not have to be many pages. Tell us what your purpose is – that’s it. It’s usually two or three paragraphs at most. I’ve seen as little as one paragraph be accepted. You’ll get many chances throughout the document to say other things, but the Specific Purpose Statement section is not the right place to expound.

woman focused on writing notes next to her laptop

Be Explicit

You don’t want your committee members to have to wander around your paper looking for your purpose statement. You don’t want them to have to guess or make assumptions about your study. Start your Specific Purpose Statement with the phrase, “The purpose of this study is…” That way, you’ll get a lot fewer questions about what you’re planning to do. The more explicitly you state things, the easier it is for your committee to find them. 

Some committee members won’t actually read all the material, but they’ll look for key terms. They’ll get to the Purpose Statement section and ask, “Where does she state the purpose?” Make it as easy as possible for the reader, and it will get easier for you. The journey is hard enough and long enough as it is.

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The Key: Staying In Alignment

One technique that I’ve found very helpful for staying in alignment is to open up a brand-new document and cut and paste your title, problem statement, purpose statement, and research question(s). Print it out, and read it. See if you’re saying the same thing everywhere. Does your purpose statement line up with your title, your problem, your research questions?

middle aged woman with short hair explaining something to a colleague

If everything lines up, then you have crossed the threshold into alignment. Congratulations! Many universities have rubrics with a list of what they require in dissertations, and alignment is usually a key piece. Just by making this simple one-page document, you can be as sure as you can be (without input by someone who’s done it before) that you’re in alignment. 

Once you get the concept of alignment, it seems simple – but if you’ve never written a dissertation before , there’s no reason to believe that it will come easily to you. If you need help with alignment, reach out to your Chair or another competent advisor and ask for assistance. Once people get it, there’s an “aha” moment. Getting alignment right early in the process can save a lot of time and frustration; it will also keep you focused as you design your study.

You Need a Clear Problem Statement

In order to have a successful purpose statement, it’s important to have a strong and succinct problem statement , which your purpose then addresses. If your problem statement is, “Not everybody likes each other,” the purpose is “To find out why everybody doesn’t like each other.” That’s a laudable goal, but in the confines of a dissertation, your Chair would very quickly say, “Nice idea, not doable.” 

man with eyeglasses thinking of something with question marks around him

Another common problem is beginning with a too-broad problem statement.  Ask yourself, “Do I have 47 years to do this research?” If the answer is “no” (which it should be), you’ll realize you need to look at a narrow enough slice of a problem that you can address with your purpose.  Using the above broad problem, “Not everybody likes each other,” this could be narrowed to “The impact of Servant Leadership on conflicts between middle and upper-level managers is not known.”

The Specific Purpose Statement relates to a problem that’s well-bounded and doable. You can always tackle the huge problems later. I often tell students, “Do something that’s doable for your dissertation, and then save the world later, when someone else is paying you.” Dissertations are meant to be practice, with the training wheels of your committee, for a career of doing research. Use this time to learn the process thoroughly.  After you’ve done that, you can take on the bigger questions and the tougher methodologies.

“The purpose of this study is to explore whether this specific intervention improves team functionality.” 

In research, we answer small questions that get added to a pile of knowledge so that ultimately, enough evidence is developed over time that we get a good idea that something is (or isn’t) the case. Academics were never meant to work in isolation. Study builds upon study, giving us a “body of evidence,” so none of us has to solve the problem or answer the question all on our own.

Final Thoughts

As a student, the problem is that you need to finish your dissertation . Your specific purpose is to finish your dissertation. Don’t try to do too much, keep it short and explicit, and make sure it’s in alignment with the rest of your paper. If you follow these simple rules, you’ll breeze through your proposal and be collecting data before you know it.

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Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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Writing a Statement of Purpose

Ask these questions:

What is it?

Why do I need to do it?

When and How to do it:

For example: One person was very concerned about air pollution and wanted to know if the government is doing anything to stop it. Her Statement of Purpose was this: I want to learn about what is being done by our government to stop air pollution. This Statement of Purpose will lead her to eventually write a Thesis Statement in which she will be able to make an assertion (a statement she can defend) and support it with the evidence she has gathered in her research. Her Thesis Statement may sound something like this: "In the United States, government regulation plays an important role in the fight against air pollution." Or, conversely, "United States government regulation has little effect in the fight against air pollution." Whichever the case, she will use the evidence she has gathered in her research to prove her Thesis Statement.

Make sure your Statement of Purpose is specific enough.

I think you probably get the idea by now. It may take a while to write your statement. If you are having trouble, ask a teacher or librarian for help.

Sable University Writing Tips

Sable University Writing Tips

Sable Mc’Oneal

Sep 15, 2018

Difference between Thesis Statement and Purpose Statement

When it comes to writing an essay the key idea to remember is this: usually, it is not advised to have a statement of purpose within a paper. However, you can use purpose statements as the first sentence of an essay sometimes. Purpose statements also work well in abstracts. Occasionally, you can use purpose statements as a thesis statement in scientific and heavily-research based papers.

Thesis statement

A thesis statement is a sentence, which delineates the topic, predicts how the topic will be developed and says something precise about the topic. The key point here is not only to announce a topic, but to be precise with the conclusions you made about the topic . A good thesis statement contains succinct and very clear information about the key points of the topic, its purpose and provides answers to the topic questions. The writer should be able to prove and support a thesis statement within the paper. Therefore, such statement should not be too large or general, since it defines the key route for the paper.

In a short paper, a thesis statement should be located at the end of the intro paragraph. In a longer paper, a thesis statement may consist of several sentences or an entire thesis paragraph (for example, dissertations).

Good: The war has significantly changed the historical background of … due to … Bad: In this paper, I will discuss the war and its consequences…

Purpose statement

The goal of a purpose statement is to announce the purpose, direction and the general scope of the paper. Nevertheless, unlike a thesis statement, purpose statement does not provide particular conclusions made by the writer. Just like a thesis statement, a purpose statement is located at the end of the intro paragraph, or may take the form of a separate paragraph in large papers, such as dissertations etc.

While both ways to present your paper are acceptable in academic writing, we advise you to cling to thesis statements . Purpose statements are typical for written assignments like research papers. They are also a common requirement among definite disciplines.

Prop Tips: Purpose statements are also common with academic writers that custom writing companies employ. So, in the event that you decide to have your thesis written by these companies, be sure to check before submitting the final draft to your lecturer/instructor.

This paper will examine the consequences of the war and the causes of this conflict. The focus will be on the political and social instability preceding the tragic events.

You may use such phrases for your purpose statement:

· This essay seeks to remedy these problems by analyzing the literature of …

· This essay seeks to address the following questions …

· The purpose of this study is to …

As always, when you have any question on thesis statement outline, thesis statement example, thesis statement formula, informative thesis statement examples, purpose statement format, qualitative purpose statement examples, or just stuck with writing a research paper, essay, thesis or dissertation paper, get in touch: [email protected] . I will gladly help.

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