Thesis statements are hard to write. There, I said it. As an English major people usually assume that I have some sort of internal thesis generator that spits out finely tuned arguments instantly. This is not true. I often spend an embarrassing amount of time wading through poorly drafted theses (yes, that is the plural) before I finally land on something that works.
That being said, your thesis is important and it deserves a lot of time and attention. It can be difficult to figure out exactly what a good thesis looks like, especially because many professors seem to be unable to present a good definition of what a thesis is. Basically, a thesis statement is a sentence (or several sentences) that outlines the argument you will be defending in your paper. This can seem like a bit of a vague definition, but if you break up the goals of your thesis, it becomes a lot more manageable.
A good thesis statement accomplishes three purposes:
- It introduces the topic at hand and gives a reader an idea of what to expect out of the paper.
- It presents your argument.
- It demonstrates the importance of your argument, giving the reader more reason to be invested in your essay.
Let’s look at some examples of possible thesis statements, and see whether or not they accomplish these goals.
- This is a paper about Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions.
This thesis accomplishes goal number 1, but it doesn’t accomplish the other two goals. For a thesis to successfully present the argument of your paper, someone needs to be able to disagree with it. Because there is no opposing viewpoint to this statement, it does not function as a successful thesis. Your thesis should be a strong argument, which the reader can choose to agree or disagree with.
- Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions introduced several conventions to the field of autobiography, which helped to create and define the genre of the confessional.
This thesis is better, in that it does present an argument. A potential reader could disagree with the idea that Confessions defined the confessional genre, so this thesis accomplishes both of the first two goals of a successful thesis. However, this thesis does not accomplish the third goal. There should be some sort of importance to your argument; maybe your thesis has implications outside of the specific argument that you’re making, or maybe there is a specific benefit to thinking about the topic in the way that you advocate. In argumentative essays, an easy way to demonstrate the importance of your argument is to provide a “call to action”, in which you ask the reader to do something with your information, such as advocate a change in policy. In literary critiques, it can be helpful to pull your thesis outside of the text and talk about broad implications of your arguments. It is difficult to create a thesis that accomplishes all three of your goals, but it is crucial for having a successful essay.
- Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions introduced several conventions to the field of autobiography, which helped to create and define the genre of the confessional. Because many of these conventions persist within the confessional genre to this day, gaining an understanding of the devices used within Confessions can provide valuable context to contemporary confessional novels.
Although this thesis is a bit wordy, it does accomplish all three of the goals of a successful thesis. The reader knows what you plan to discuss in the paper, what you are going to argue about your topic, and why it is important. Presenting a fully developed thesis, such as this one, will allow you to write a strong essay.
Writing a thesis with this much depth is tricky. Personally, I find it extremely difficult to break through to a thesis that accomplishes more than the first two goals right away. Something that I have often noticed in my own writing is that I will write an entire paper on what I think is my thesis, only to find that a more in-depth, well-developed thesis appears in for the first time in the conclusion. If you’re having trouble with your thesis, it may be a good idea to begin writing your paper, and only finalize your thesis once you have already started analyzing your topic. Not only does this take the pressure off of you in the beginning, it allows you plenty of time to truly develop your ideas before you draft your actual thesis.
Thesis statements are hard, but they are important, and they are certainly writeable. If you have a good understanding of your topic and its importance, your thesis is in there somewhere. The only real obstacle is teasing it out and refining it so that it best reflects your thoughts. Good luck.
A thesis statement is one sentence that expresses the main idea of a research paper or essay. It makes a claim, directly answering a question. A thesis statement must be very specific, indicating statements that are about to be made in your paper and supported by specific evidence. Generally, your thesis statement can be the last line of the first paragraph in your research paper or essay.
It's worth reiterating that a good thesis statement is specific. If you find yourself using general words like "good," then you're not digging deep enough. For example, "European travel is a good way to spend your summer," is not specific enough. Why is European travel good? Further examine the heart of your topic and focus on very specific areas of European travel that you can realistically cover and support with solid evidence. "Solo European travel requires independence which, in the end, bolsters personal confidence." Now, you can hone in your research on solo travel through Europe, the need for independence, and its positive effect on personal confidence.
Finding Your Point of View
A good thesis statement is developed from the point of view of the reader. Be very careful you're not developing a topic that is of interest to you alone. This is a harsh yet necessary question to ask yourself: will my readers have any reason to care about what I'm writing? In the example above, readers might be interested in European travel but will they be interested in solo travel, and greater independence and confidence? Hopefully the answer is yes; just make sure you examine all viewpoints before investing your valuable time in a well-written piece.
A thesis statement is powerful on two fronts. First, it allows the reader to get excited about what, specifically, is coming their way. Second, it stands as the point of reference for your entire paper. Think of it as a loving mother steering her children away from danger. Essay writers run the risk of getting off track and wandering into thickly-wooded forests of needless tangents. (This is also why a well-planned outline is essential.) However, a strong thesis statement will help keep you in check; have you wandered off topic?
Thesis Statement Examples: Bad vs. Good
Bad: Everyone should exercise.
Why should I? What's in it for me?
Good: Americans should add exercise to their daily morning routine because it not only keeps their bodies at a healthy weight but also reduces the risk of high blood pressure.
Here, we've made several specifications i.e. Americans (not everyone), the morning routine (not the evening), weight maintenance, and high blood pressure prevention. Your research actually becomes easier when you have very specific objectives.
Bad: High levels of alcohol consumption are bad for you.
This is too broad. What are the specific detriments of alcohol consumption that you would like to discuss?
Good: High levels of alcohol consumption have detrimental effects on your personal health, such as weight gain, heart disease, and liver complications.
Notice we got very specific in our reasons why. In your thesis statement, you don't need to state every single detriment you're going to lay out (in fact, you shouldn't as it will risk becoming a run-on sentence) but you can point to the main areas you will explore.
Bad: Reading can develop a child's analytical mind.
Words like "can," aren't strong enough. This thesis statement begs the question of how? If you're about to write several paragraphs (or pages) about a topic make sure you can confidently defend every point you make.
Good: Reading develops a child's mind by fostering comprehension skills, increasing vocabulary, and exposing them to new worlds they might not otherwise encounter.
Now, we've not just stated that reading is good, we've provided a sampling of all the benefits we're about to bring to light in our paper.
Bad: All retirees should relocate to Florida.
Your research paper or essay will need to delve into numerous supporting claims. This broad thesis statement runs the risk of allowing you to go off on several tangents.
Good: Retirees should relocate to Florida, where 75% of Americans choose to settle, because you will afford yourself the opportunity to develop a wide array of friendships.
From here, you can introduce a paragraph on the importance of friendship and then cite studies or testimonials describing how people can discover these important new relationships.
Bad: The Internet has improved the lives of many.
Again, while readers may agree with this and your statement may be true, how has the Internet improved people’s lives? Also, you should run your thesis statement past the "What's in it for me" test. Why should readers care?
Good: The Internet serves as a means of expediently connecting people all across the globe, fostering new friendships and an exchange of ideas that wouldn't have occurred prior to its inception.
While the Internet offers a plethora of benefits, we're choosing to hone in on its ability to foster new friendships and exchange ideas. We'd also have to prove how this couldn't have happened prior to the Internet's inception – and that is good. The tighter your focus, the better your paper.
Bad: Organ donors should be financially compensated.
Why? What happens to them that causes you to take this stance?
Good: Given the grueling surgery and lifelong changes they endure, kidney donors should be financially compensated for their act of self-sacrifice.
There are many forms of living organ donation. As with any good thesis, you want to get as specific as possible. Now, our stance is clear and the reader will understand that we're about to describe the grueling process of kidney donation as well as any forthcoming lifestyle changes.
Always Be Specific
When searching for a new home, realtors will tell you there are three important factors: location, location, and location. When developing your one-sentence thesis statement, it is important for you to be: specific, specific, specific. Write your thesis statement once and then rewrite it again with greater specificity. Also, make sure your audience will want to learn these new facts and possibly embrace these new opinions. Now, you have a compass for your entire paper, keeping you safely on course.