Blog Posts: October 2011
Most traditional essays include a thesis statement, which is where a writer states the paper's central point. Though there are exceptions, basic thesis statements are generally one sentence long and located at the beginning or end of the paper's introductory paragraph.
A strong thesis statement...
- ...makes an argument. Ask yourself: Can I support my argument with evidence--as opposed to personal opinion? Also, could someone make a rational counterargument? If your statement is indisputable, meaning that someone could not reasonably argue against it, you probably don't have a thesis-worthy argument.
- ...is specific. "Animals deserve rights" may be an argumentative thesis statement, but it's way too broad for a reader to know where you're going with your argument. "Zoo-bound animals deserve rights" is a step in the correct direction. "Zoo-bound animals deserve the right to privacy" is even better.
- ...hints at the structure of your paper. Often, a strong thesis statement gives a reader some idea of how you'll prove your argument. Perhaps you've provided a list of factors A, B, and C, so readers suspect you'll write about those elements in order. Or you might provide a cause-and-effect relationship in the thesis statement, which would also give readers a sense of what's to come.
- ...includes a how/why element. Sure, "All bears should be given T-shirts" is an argumentative statement, but it doesn't tell me why all bears should be given T-shirts. Instead, try "All bears should be given T-shirts to provide support for the animal fashion movement." Now I know where this paper is headed.
Once you've written a thesis statement, you want to make sure that your topic sentences support it. I recommend writing your thesis statement and topic sentences before you tackle the rest of your paper. You might need to sort evidence/quotes into the paragraphs where they'll eventually go, but don't write out your entire paper until you're sure that the structure is strong and logical.
To read more about creating effective thesis statements:
Read "Creating a Strong Thesis" from the University of Texas at Austin.
Check out Virgil, an online writing tutorial from the UT Undergraduate Writing Center. They walk you through any topic, prompting you with questions to provide more accurate assistance. Here's part of the thesis segment. The UWC also has helpful handouts.