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.

what's the purpose of a thesis statement

Writing Process and Structure

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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

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

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

University Learning Center

Developing Your Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement.

Composition classes stress the role of the thesis statement because it is the backbone of collegiate composition. The thesis statement gives the reader insight into the topic, letting him/her know what the essay is about. Without a thesis statement, the essay may lack an argument, focus, clarity, and continuity.

1. There are two major types of thesis statements: explanatory and argumentative. The explanatory thesis announces the subject to the reader; it never declares a stance which needs an argument to defend. These explanatory theses are evident in expository essays and research essays. In an argumentative essay, the thesis statement should be a claim, not a factual statement or a personal response to a topic. It should be an idea that provokes opposition, a claim that readers might choose to refute.

2. The thesis statement is usually found at the end of an introductory paragraph. It's planted early in the essay because it informs the reader of the main important idea that encompasses the entire essay.

3. A thesis statement is not always one sentence; the length of the thesis depends on the depth of the essay. Some essays may require more than a single sentence. However, the statement should be as clear and concise as possible in the final draft of the essay. The shorter and more direct a thesis statement is the more confident and assertive the writer sounds. Being assertive and confident is crucial, especially in argumentative essays.

Creating a thesis statement:

As a writer, keep your thesis statement in mind. Each proposed or considered topic within the essay should have some relevance to your thesis statement. It is the argument or focus of the essay, as well as a great structuring tool.

Because of the pivotal role a thesis statement plays in a piece of composition, many novice writers put too much emphasis on the thesis statement during the production of an essay. It is important to keep the thesis in mind, but it is also important to avoid hindering the writing process by restricting your writing to a thesis statement. This is where a working thesis comes into play.

A working thesis is exactly what it means: a thesis statement that is "in progress" during the writing process. Normally, a thesis statement will not be fully constructed until the entire essay is written. A working thesis allows for a writer to approach the topic with a thesis in mind, even though that thesis can be revised (and it will be numerous times) during the writing prcess.

Constructing a working thesis should come after brainstorming or deriving a topic. It should be a thesis that can help guide you as a writer through the composition of the essay. A simple way to begin the construction of a working thesis is to write "I believe that ... " and follow it up with a simple claim that includes the key topics to be discussed in the essay. An example would be:

" I believe that America's cultural identity can be defined by art, literature, and film."

The working thesis stated above now gives the writer a structure for the paper. Three main ideas should be discussed in their relation to cultural identity: art, literature, and film.

The best aspect of a working thesis is that it can be revised at any time to meet the needs of the essay or the writer. For instance, when using a working thesis, the writer knows that the thesis can be changed to fit in an extra topic if the essay needs it:

" I believe that America's cultural identity can be defined by art, literature, music , and film."

The role of the working thesis is to lessen the stress of writing a collegiate essay and to incorporate some flexibility into the writing process. Knowing that a working thesis will be subjected to numerous revisions allows the writer more freedom when writing the essay.

Now let's revise our working thesis into a stronger claim.

Revising the thesis statement

The first step in changing the working thesis into a strong, independent claim is to cut "I believe that" from the beginning of the sentence. Let us use the original working thesis from the previous section as an example:

As it stands now, this thesis is a bit weak because the writer is asserting that it is their opinion or what they think. To make it into an argument or claim, the writer must be taken out of the sentence.

"America's cultural identity can be defined by art, literature, and film."

Hmm….Still sounds a little weak. Although the writer is now void from the statement, there is still doubt in this claim. This is where diction becomes important. The key is to use words that make the claim stronger and more assertive. Taking out the passive voice in the statement will add strength to the statement.

"Art, literature, and film define America's cultural identity."

Now an argument can be sparked.

Although this is not the best thesis statement, the aforementioned example is to show how to create and revise a thesis. If this thesis were to be used, it probably would be revised again to make it more specific; the types of art, literature, and film would need clarification.

Key points in revising a thesis statement:

Make sure that your paper reinforces your thesis statement at all times. One way to ensure this is by checking the use of the topic sentences throughout the essay:

If not, don't change your paper right away; see if you can revise the thesis statement to meet the needs of your essay. If you can't change the thesis, then change the essay.

Using diction in a thesis statement is important. Make sure the words comprising the statement are used correctly and help reinforce the claim.

Be direct, clear and concise. Do not use large, vague words unless they are necessary. Do not fluff the thesis statement. The goal of the thesis statement is to make sure the reader understands the topic on hand. Don't confuse him/her with a big, flowery sentence.

If the essay is argumentative, be assertive !!

A Check List:

Here is a list of questions to help determine the strength of your thesis statement. After revising the working thesis into a more effective statement, ask yourself the following:

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Thesis Statements

What is a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is a sentence (sometimes more than one sentence) in the introduction that tells the reader the following information:

Think of your paper as a human body, and your thesis statement as the spinal cord. Without it, there is no structure.

For you as the WRITER , the thesis statement:

Develops through the interrelationship of thinking, reading, and writing;

Limits your research by providing you with one controlling main idea that intrigues you;

Narrows your writing to one specific claim that you can develop or prove;

Organizes your ideas so you know the important points you want to make in your paper; and

Clarifies your writing by keeping you on target to fulfill your proposed purpose.

For your READERS , the thesis statement:

 Identifies the main point and sub-points of your essay clearly and quickly;

Functions as a road map so your readers can easily follow your ideas; and

Gives satisfaction at the conclusion of the paper when your readers discover you have fulfilled your promise by proving or developing your main point.

Characteristics of Effective Thesis Statements

An effective thesis statement must be factual and narrow . 

An effective thesis statement prepares readers for facts and details, but it cannot itself be a fact. It must always be an inference that demands proof or further development. These proofs come from the literature. 

Too Factual:   The UNT Dallas campus has two buildings.

Not Factual Enough: The UNT Dallas campus is the perfect size.

Just Right:  While some might see small universities as a disadvantage, the small campus of UNT Dallas holds many advantages for students, including a close-knit campus community, smaller class sizes, and better support from professors.

2. Narrow Topic

A good thesis should be narrow, and not too broad or too vague. If the topic is too broad, you won’t be able to cover the entire topic in your paper.  If it’s too narrow, you might not be able to find research, and your paper probably won’t be long enough. 

Too Broad:   College students have a lot of responsibilities.

Too Narrow: Student workers in the Learning Commons at UNT Dallas have many responsibilities in their course work and tutoring. 

Just Right: College students who are financially independent have many responsibilities as they must maintain good grades, pay living expenses, and balance work and school.

Remember, a thesis statement IS NOT:

Examples of Thesis Statements

A thesis statement f or a 5 paragraph essay  conta ins three parts:.

1. A Topic : the main idea of the essay

2. The Controlling Idea : what you want to say about the topic

3. The subtopics : usually 3 examples/reasons you will discuss in your paper

Here is an example  of a thesis statement.

*Note that the TOPIC is in red and the CONTROLLING IDEA is in yellow , and the SUBTOPICS are in purple .

The main topic explores the idea that regularly vsiting the writing center will help you become the best writer on the planet, and the subtopics further expand this opinion with three distinct examples: 1) tutors, 2) technology, and 3) the handouts.

Outline Example

The paper should be organized around the subtopics.  For example, for the thesis written above, the writer would write one body paragraph about the tutors, one about technology, and one about the handouts. 

Here is a sample essay outline based on this thesis:

For further assistance with the structure, see our handouts on Introductions and Conclusions and Topic Sentences.

A thesis statement for a LONG ESSAY contains two parts:

Throughout the paper, your thesis promises your readers that you will prove specific facts or develop certain ideas ; therefore, every paragraph, sentence, and word in your paper must relate to this controlling idea.

Here are some examples of thesis statements.

*Note that the TOPIC is in red and the CONTROLLING IDEA is in green .

Here is a suggested outline for a long essay and how that would look in terms of your thesis statement, topic, and controlling ideas:

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.

Introduction

Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I create a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to 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. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :

Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:

Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.

You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.

After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:

Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.

This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.

Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

You begin to analyze your thesis:

Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.

After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

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Thesis Statements

Thesis statements establish for your readers both the relationship between the ideas and the order in which the material will be presented. As the writer, you can use the thesis statement as a guide in developing a coherent argument. In the thesis statement you are not simply describing or recapitulating the material;  you are taking a specific position that you need to defend . A well-written thesis is a tool for both the writer and reader, reminding the writer of the direction of the text and acting as a "road sign" that lets the reader know what to expect. 

A thesis statement has two purposes: (1) to educate a group of people (the audience) on a subject within the chosen topic, and (2) to inspire further reactions and spur conversation. Thesis statements are not written in stone. As you research and explore your subject matter, you are bound to find new or differing points of views, and your response may change. You identify the audience, and your thesis speaks to that particular audience.

Preparing to Write Your Thesis: Narrowing Your Topic

Before writing your thesis statement, you should work to narrow your topic.   Focus statements  will help you stay on track as you delve into research and explore your topic.

Other questions to consider:

Writing a Thesis Statement

Thesis statements typically consist of a single sentence and stress the main argument or claim of your paper.  More often than not, the thesis statement comes at the end of your introduction paragraph; however, this can vary based on discipline and topic, so check with your instructor if you are unsure where to place it.

Thesis statement should include three main components:​

A Strategy to Form Your Own Thesis Statement

Using the topic information, develop this formulaic sentence:

I am writing about_______________, and I am going to argue, show, or prove___________.

What you wrote in the first blank is the topic of your paper; what you wrote in the second blank is what focuses your paper (suggested by Patrick Hartwell in  Open to Language ). For example, a sentence might be:

I am going to write about senior citizens who volunteer at literacy projects, and I am going to show that they are physically and mentally invigorated by the responsibility of volunteering.

Next, refine the sentence so that it is consistent with your style. For example:

Senior citizens who volunteer at literacy projects are invigorated physically and mentally by the responsibility of volunteering.

Here is a second example  illustrating the formulation of another thesis statement. First, read this sentence that includes both topic and focusing comment:

I am going to write about how Plato and Sophocles understand the proper role of women in Greek society, and I am going to argue that though they remain close to traditional ideas about women, the authors also introduce some revolutionary views which increase women's place in society.

Now read the refined sentence, consistent with your style:

When examining the role of women in society, Plato and Sophocles remain close to traditional ideas about women's duties and capabilities in society; however, the authors also introduce some revolutionary views which increase women's place in society.

Research and Writing Guides

Writing a paper? Don't get lost.

What is a thesis statement?

what's the purpose of a thesis statement

A thesis statement is a concise description of the goal of your work. This element is one of the most essential components of academic writing, as it tells your readers what they can expect in your paper.

💡 In short, a thesis statement informs your readers of what you are writing about in a concise way.

If you find yourself in the process of writing a thesis statement, but you don't know how to do it, you've come to the right place. In the next paragraphs, you will learn about the most important elements of a thesis statement and how to come up with one.

A thesis statement highlights the main topic, shows how it will evolve, and conveys clearly the aim of your work. It does not only share the topic but it conveys the conclusion you came up with. A good thesis statement provides directions for the development of the topic throughout the paper. In sum, this element of academic writing is crucial to sound research.

You can create a great thesis statement by following the format we outlined in our guide How to write a thesis statement .

In general, you should adhere to the following tips to write the best thesis statement:

Here's an example of a thesis statement:

In what follows, I will explore Fiorina’s position in more depth, focusing especially on her claim that technology is "a great tool for democratization." Ultimately, I argue that the primary problem with Fiorina’s stance lies in her laissez-faire understanding of technology. By granting technology a kind of independent existence apart from human motivation and intent—by positing that "technology permits anybody to play," as if it possesses an autonomy all its own—Fiorina unwittingly opens the way for the very kind of discriminatory and undemocratic mechanisms that her position seemingly rejects.

A thesis statement is part of the introduction of your paper. It is usually found in the first or second paragraph to let the reader know your research purpose from the beginning.

In general, a thesis statement should have one or two sentences. It really depends on your academic and expertise level. Take a look at our guide about the length of thesis statements, for more insight on this topic.

Here is a list of Thesis Statement Examples that will help you understand better how to write them.

Yes. Every good essay should include a thesis statement as part of its introduction. Of couse, if you are a high school student you are not expected to have an extremely elaborated statement. So a couple of clear sentences indicating the aim of your essay will be more than enough.

Here is a great YouTube tutorial showing How To Write An Essay: Thesis Statements .

what's the purpose of a thesis statement

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What is a thesis statement? I need some examples, too.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement clearly identifies the topic being discussed, includes the points discussed in the paper, and is written for a specific audience. Your thesis statement belongs at the end of your first paragraph, also known as your introduction. Use it to generate interest in your topic and encourage your audience to continue reading.

You can read chapter four of Schaum's Quick Guide to Writing Great Research Papers an eBook in our online collection, click the title to open: "How Do I Write a Thesis Statement?" .

Another option is to think of a thesis statement as one complete sentence that expresses your position .

A thesis statement is not a statement of fact.

Your readers—especially your instructors—want to read writing that engages them. Consequently, you must write thesis statements that are arguable, not factual. Statements of fact seem easy to write about because, well, they are easy to prove. After all, they’re facts. The problem is that you cannot write engaging papers around statements of fact. Such theses prevent you from demonstrating critical thinking and analytical skills, which you want to show your instructor. If you were to write a paper around the next two statements, your writing would probably be quite dull because you would be restating facts that the general public already knows.

Thesis Statements always take a stand and justify further discussion.

In order to make your writing interesting, you should develop a thesis statement that is arguable. Sometimes you will be writing to persuade others to see things your way and other times you will simply be giving your strong opinion and laying out your case for it.

Take a look at the following examples:

Statement of fact:

Small cars get better fuel mileage than 4x4 pickup trucks.

Arguable thesis statement:

The government should ban 4x4 pickup trucks except for work-related use.

Foul language is common in movies.

The amount of foul language in movies is disproportionate to the amount of foul language in real life.

State ment of fact:

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease.

Arguable thesis statement/opening paragraph:

Researchers think the incidence of celiac disease is increasing in the USA not only because of an increase in the ability and awareness to diagnose it, but also because of changes in the agricultural system. In particular, they are looking at the increased use of pesticides, insecticides, and genetically modified wheat as culprits. Some of these theories are more likely to be valid than others.

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  13. What is a thesis statement? I need some examples, too.

    What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement clearly identifies the topic being discussed, includes the points discussed in the paper, and is written for

  14. Writing a Thesis Statement

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