Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
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What Is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement, often simply referred to as a thesis, is the guiding statement in an essay. Typically one sentence long in most essays, the thesis is the most important part of an essay because it explains the main point of the essay and the writer’s position. A well-written thesis statement helps the reader as it introduces the points to be made in the essay, allowing for greater comprehension. It also allows researchers to quickly get to the main point of an essay instead of having to read the whole thing.

While thesis statements are generally one sentence long, they can be longer if the point of the essay is complex or if the essay itself covers a multitude of topics. Most college essays at the undergraduate level, for example, are not long or complex enough to justify a thesis of more than one sentence. Higher-level courses at the graduate level, however, may justify a longer thesis, though most instructors still prefer to keep thesis statements at one sentence.

How to Write a Thesis Statement

Before a writer can even write an essay, they must brainstorm to understand what they are writing about. Research is usually a part of the brainstorming process as it allows the writer to develop an opinion on the topic at hand. A writer needs to have a solid grasp of the argument being made before the essay is written so as to remain focused. It’s possible that an argument might not have a clear answer, but even then, this position must be clearly understood so it can be explained in the essay.

A thesis can be most easily written by following the “should… because” format. This allows a writer to clearly state their position and reasoning. The first half of the essay states the writer’s position without any ambiguity while the second half presents the major points the essay will cover. These points are typically the topics of body paragraphs which will present evidence based on brainstorming and research.

Assessing Thesis Development

Once a writer has a thesis statement, they can assess it by comparing it to the goals of a thesis. Two key points to keep in mind are that a thesis should not many any points that aren’t included in the paper and that the thesis should not be vague. A thesis is designed to be quickly read in order to understand the general contents of an essay. Likewise, if a thesis is vague, readers might misinterpret the argument being made, defeating the purpose of the entire essay.

Thesis Examples

The following thesis statement examples show variations on how the standard thesis format can be used to introduce an essay and its content.

Thesis Statement Explanation
In the end, The Hunt for Red October remains one of the best political thrillers of the 1990s due to its superb acting, its high-stakes plot, and its complex characters. This thesis statement for a movie review of the film The Hunt for Red October is straightforward in its praise for the movie in the first half. It is very specific about its intent, too. It is going to specifically talk about the movie in the context of political thrillers in the 1990s. This is a good distinction to make since it means it will not address films from other decades. This can be very useful information for a film studies student, for example, looking specifically for a review focusing on a particular decade. Likewise, the second half lists the acting, plot, and characters as elements that make the film one of the best. A good writer would follow this thesis statement with paragraphs, in that order, to address each of these topics in turn.
The grant money should be used to help lower-income students since many can’t buy their textbooks at the beginning of the year and administrative fees have increased the cost of classes faster than salaries have gone up While a thesis statement does not need the word “should” to make its intent clear, it helps. In this case, the thesis clearly states that the essay will argue where grant money should be used: helping lower-income students. It then lists two reasons: the high cost of textbooks and the rising cost of administrative fees. Note that the thesis doesn’t go into too much detail about which books are costing students more or provide numbers on the cost of administration or how it compares to the average increase in pay in the community. These are details that should be addressed in the body paragraphs, not the thesis.
The Orville is not a show on par with classics like Star Trek, but it remains enjoyable due to its lighthearted approach to science fiction and tongue-in-cheek humor. At first glance, this thesis appears to lack a clear position. It states The Orville is not a great show yet then praises it. However, this is not a contradiction. Some positions are not entirely on one side or another. For essays like reviews, for instance, it’s likely that the writer’s position may fall in the middle. This thesis, then, should precede an essay where both the negatives and positives of the show are outlined. Since it ends by stating two positives, it follows that the rest of the essay will be primarily positive, however that praise will be tempered by some critiques of the show. While those critiques are not in the thesis, the inclusion of a conditional implies they should make an appearance before the end of the essay.

Lesson Summary

A thesis statement is the most important part of an essay. If well-written, it informs the reader of the essay’s key points and position. Good thesis statements come from ideas generated during prewriting and brainstorming so the writer can draft the because clause in the thesis statement. In other words, brainstorming helps writers determine their position on a subject.

A thesis is generally formatted as “should… because” in persuasive essays because it allows writers to state their position and reasoning clearly. This simple format helps prevent overly detailed or vague thesis statements, both of which can make it difficult for the reader to follow an argument.

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