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.
- I am researching ________to better understand ________.
- My paper hopes to uncover ________about ________.
- How does ________relate to ________?
- How does ________work?
- Why is ________ happening?
- What is missing from the ________ debate?
- What is missing from the current understanding of ________?
Other questions to consider:
- How do I state the assigned topic clearly and succinctly?
- What are the most interesting and relevant aspects of the topic?
- In what order do I want to present the various aspects, and how do my ideas relate to each other?
- What is my point of view regarding the topic?
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:
- WHAT – claim about topic
- HOW – the events, ideas, sources, etc. that you choose to prove your claim
- WHY – the significance of your idea in terms of understanding your position as a whole (answers the "so what?" question)
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.