What is a thesis? (What is a thesis statement?)
A thesis is an argument. It is the main idea that a writer wants to persuade the reader to agree with.
A thesis statement often takes the form of a single sentence that states the purpose and point of a piece of writing.
|Thesis Statement –> takes a clear position within a well-defined debate or argument|
Traits of a Strong Thesis Statement
Different instructors will offer different descriptions of a good thesis statement. Those definitions will typically come back to these qualities:
- Narrowness of Focus
- Clarity of Position
- Avoidance of Neutrality
- Orientation Toward a Specific Issue of Debate
- Avoidance of Issues of Faith or Mere Preference
- The Ability to Be Supported with Evidence
Thesis & Topic Are Connected
The topic is very important for a thesis.
Topics should be:
- open to discussion
- worthy of argument
- worthy of investigation
|Example Thesis Statements|
|Example: “Teens should limit some types of phone use because internet addiction can have negative consequences for the psychological health of young adults.” |
Example: “Parents should consider reading to children at a young age as an early educational strategy.”
Example: “For public safety reasons, vaccinations should be mandatory for all children enrolled in public schools.”
Example: “Star Wars Episode VII takes the established franchise themes of identity-development and identity-politics in the Star Wars franchise and connects them to contemporary issues of diversity and gender.”
These are each arguments, which means they qualify as thesis statements.
The first and second are arguments for action and potentially for policy. The third is clearly an argument for policy. The last is an argument of interpretation, arguing for a particular a view of a creative text.
Note: Unlike opinions or simple statements of fact, arguments always take a position that needs to be explained and supported in order to be proved and validated.
Can a thesis statement be more than one sentence?
- Yes. A thesis statement can be one sentence or more than one sentence.
Often, we will first state the essay’s main argument simply to open the paper. Then we will provide background and context before stating the essay’s main argument a second time in a more elaborate and specific way. The main thing is to declare the argumentative aim of the essay clearly and directly. If that takes one sentence, that’s fine. If it takes more than one sentence, that’s fine too.
Where should the thesis statement appear?
- For most humanities courses, be sure to place your thesis in the first paragraph of the essay.
Does the thesis statement need to be the first or last sentence in the introduction?
- The short answer is no. There is no universal rule on this.
However, many English instructors do have a preference for where the thesis should be placed in the opening paragraph. However, they/we do not all agree on a single strategy. There are many methods for shaping an effective introduction. The only real rule is that every essay should take a clear position on a debatable issue in the introduction.
Be sure to ask your instructor if they have a preference about thesis placement and follow their guidelines. Over time, you will probably have a chance to explore a few different methods regarding thesis placement in the introduction. Embrace each opportunity. In the end, the fact that your instructor’s had different opinions about thesis placement will make you into a more flexible and capable writer.
Is it okay to wait until the conclusion to take a position on the essay’s topic?
- No. Take a position at the outset of the essay and defend that position through the paper. That is how academic writing works.
Other modes of writing that you might familiar with from magazines and websites will sometimes present all sides of a debate first and only take a position in the conclusion. But we are not talking about that kind of writing here. Picture your essay as a debate. You don’t win a debate by waiting to the end of the argument to tell people what you really think. You win a debate by stating a clear position and providing a variety of reasons to explain why your position is the best.
If you want to try out different methods, we recommend that you pass your ideas by your instructor first.
We’re being asked to take a position, which is an opinion. But we’re also being asked not to be biased? Isn’t that contradictory?
- Well, no, it’s not.
The difference between an opinion and an argumentative position may seem very thin. However, let’s think about how the two are different. If you say that Jurassic Park (1993) is a better film than Jurassic World (2015), you are expressing an opinion. On the other hand, if you say that Jurassic Park is a better film than Jurassic World because it presents stronger characters, better dialogue and humor, more sophisticated symbolism in its use of the dinosaurs as villains, and a more complex expression of its themes – now you are presenting an argumentative position. You have taken an opinion and added points of support. Is it a biased position? No. It’s a position based on specific evidence. That is a critical difference between an opinion and an argument.