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Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is the main idea of a piece of writing. It’s typically one or two sentences that sum up the main points/argument and showcase the reason for writing. In most cases, the thesis statement is located at the end of the introduction and or the end of the first paragraph. It’s one of the most important components of writing, but what is the purpose of a thesis statement? The thesis statement definition is clear, but the application and purpose can be more difficult to understand. This lesson will go into detail on the process of crafting a thesis statement and the different ways a thesis statement can appear in writing.

What is the Purpose of a Thesis Statement?

The purpose of a thesis statement is to showcase the main idea and or the main argument of an essay. Without it, the reader doesn’t have a foundation for understanding the arguments, examples, and information the writer provides throughout the essay. For example, if a writer were to give several stats about football but didn’t provide a thesis statement to connect to those stats, the reader couldn’t understand the point of the stats. However, if the writer wants to prove that a certain football quarterback is the best in their league, they can start with that thesis statement and prove it based on multiple claims and supporting evidence, such as stats and other important facts relating to the QB.

Without a thesis statement, a paper would consist of random facts and ideas. A thesis statement offers an end goal and the structure for how a writer will reach that end goal. Without a thesis statement, a paper is similar to giving someone directions in random order with no destination in mind.

A thesis statement is just like a driving destination in that it offers clear direction and provides understanding.

A driving destination and thesis statement are on in the same

Thesis Statement vs. Statement of Fact

A thesis statement is an overarching argument that a writer intends to prove, but when a thesis is presented, there will be statements of facts, otherwise known as claims, that will help support that thesis. For example, if a writer wants to talk about later start times for high school students, the thesis could read: later start times are more beneficial to high school students because of scientific research that connects to teenage physiology.

This sentence is the thesis statement. It’s the main argument the writer wants to prove. From here, the writer will make claims/statements of facts that will help prove the main argument in favor of later start times.

For example, the writer could make the following claims to support their thesis:

  • More sleep helps teens process what they learned the day before.
  • More sleep gives teens more energy to learn the following day.
  • More sleep helps teen bodies grow and process emotions which will provide them with a better quality of life.

After the writer adds these claims to their writing, they will also add statistics and other information from case studies to proves the claims. These claims will ultimately help the writer prove their overall thesis for later start times, as claims and the thesis statements go hand in hand to make the writer’s argument.

Examples of Thesis Statements

When it comes to understanding a thesis statement, the reader needs two things from the writer:

  • The thesis statement: a clear objective/argument
  • A line of reasoning: all the facts presented in an organized way

When presented in a clear and organized way, the reader can fully understand the writer’s point of view.

Here are a few examples of solid thesis statements:

  • Playing soccer has many benefits for school-aged children, as it provides an opportunity for gaining teamwork skills, practicing an active lifestyle, and building social skills.
  • The most difficult class in school is math, because it requires many practice problems, includes boring reading material, and can be very confusing.
  • Reducing a person’s carbon footprint has become a focus in recent years, and if a person wants to limit their impact on the planet, they can recycle, carpool or take public transportation, and practice energy efficiency in their home.

Types of Thesis Statements

Thesis statements come in all shapes, sizes, and forms and will look different based on the topic and type of writing. Below are multiple examples of thesis statements based on writing type and form.

Analytical Essays

An analytical essay is a piece of writing that aims to examine a specific topic in detail, typically with regards to literature, history, politics, science, and many more. This type of essay is mainly used in an academic setting, such as formal education and academia, but analytical writing is also found in places such as magazines, newspapers, and various journals.

When it comes to an analytical essay, the thesis statement is very important because analyzing means having a lens and or reason for the analysis. A thesis statement clearly anchors the piece of writing by stating what the author intends to analyze or critique. For this type of essay, the thesis statement will be located either in the abstract if it’s a case study/research report and/or will be found at the end of the introductory paragraph(s).

Example: In the fairytale, Sleeping Beauty, also known as Briar Rose, Freud’s latent stage of psychosexual development comes to life as the young girl pricks her finger and falls into a cursed sleep. This sleep represents a person’s latent years of development, which ultimately shifts to the genital stage after puberty as shown by a kiss from the Prince.

Argumentative Essays

An argumentative essay aims to make a claim about a particular topic and provide ample research to reinforce that claim. This type of essay has the objective in the name: it argues for or against something specific. For example, when researchers were working on the mRNA vaccine for COVID, they compiled extensive data to ensure the vaccine was safe and effective before exposing it to the public. Many types of literature were written on the topic, most in the form of argumentative essays found in medical journals, case studies, magazines, and newspapers. These essays involved heavy research, various claims that must be proven with significant evidence, and clear thesis statements that drive the entire piece of writing. In these essays, the writers will be making a claim for or against their topic.

Like the analytical essay, this essay type will contain a clear thesis that will be located either in an abstract at the beginning of the case study or the end of the introductory paragraph(s) before making claims and providing any evidence.

Example: The mRNA COVID 19 vaccine is safe and effective, as it has been tested using CDC and FDA guidelines and has gone through the appropriate number of participant trials.

Expository Essays

An expository essay explores a particular topic. Like the argumentative essay, expository writing investigates an idea and evaluates evidence, but the length and content of this essay type will be far shorter and less researched-based. These essays can be written in various ways and use techniques like compare and contrast, reflection, or step-by-step instructions in the form of ‘~how to’manuals.

For this type of essay, the thesis should be located in the first few lines and or the first paragraph of the writing, as these essays serve as a form of simple reflection when compared to the other writing types.

Example: There are six simple steps to changing the oil in a car. Follow the procedure below and save money by doing it at home.

Narrative Essays

Narrative essays are vastly different from the other types of writing listed here, as they rely on a storytelling format. They can be structured in various ways and include things like dialogue, opinion, and personal information. Memoirs, fictional stories, short essays, and even blog posts all take on the form of narrative writing. For this essay type, there may not be a thesis in a traditional sense, as stories don’t normally present who or what they will explore, but a reader can find a thesis nearing the end in the form of a lesson or theme.

This doesn’t mean a thesis isn’t present in narrative writing. The writer always has an objective and or purpose when they write, but it will not appear in one specific spot in storytelling. A thesis, when it comes to narrative writing, will vary from author to author and story to story. The author may make a clear point at the end, or they may simply tell their tale and provoke the reader to think about what they personally took away from the piece. At the end of the day, all stories need a point, and that point is the thesis in narrative writing whether it’s direct or implied.

How to Write a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is typically a sentence or two in length, as it aims to condense the main argument/idea of a piece of writing into a chewable bite. In some cases, a thesis may even come in the form of a question that the author wishes to answer, as they create their argumentation and line of reasoning.

A strong thesis statement can sum up short essays of five paragraphs and longer papers over 50 pages in length.

A thesis statement condenses an entire paper into a few sentences.

When creating a thesis statement, the direction is key, and the writer should ensure their point is clear.

  • Direct Prompt: If a person is given a prompt and asked to respond, the thesis shell is already created. When answering a direct prompt, rewriting the prompt and adding a specific answer is often all that it takes to create a clear and concise thesis statement.
  • Generalized Prompt: Sometimes, a prompt isn’t necessarily looking for one answer in that it may be open-ended. In this case, a writer can use part of the prompt as their thesis and again add in their own thoughts and ideas they aim to prove.
  • Creating one’s own: In some cases, a person will be asked to create their own objective, especially when it comes to analysis and argumentative writing. In this case, it’s important to know exactly what point the writer wants to make and stating it clearly after evidence collection.

No matter the prompt type or reason for writing, creating a thesis should be done after research is completed, and a writer has created an outline. In some cases, writing a rough draft may help the writer find, create, and or modify the initial thesis as a clearer argument presents itself or more research is collected. After thesis completion, it’s important to reread the thesis and ensure that it fits the essay claims

After a writer completes their essay, they need to go back and take a look at their thesis statement because the thesis must match the essay claims presented. The thesis should always leave the audience with a clear plan of what’s coming or, in the case of narratives, what’s happened.

Lesson Summary

A thesis statement is the main idea of a piece of writing. It typically occurs at the end of the introduction and or the first paragraph and tells the reader the overall argument which will later be proven using statements of facts, otherwise known as claims. When creating a thesis, a prompt can be used as a template and should be no longer than a few sentences.

While thesis statements will look different based on writing type and topic, they are found in all forms of writing, specifically the ones listed below:

When creating a thesis, it’s important to assess the following areas:

  • Have I responded to the prompt/task?
  • Do I have enough evidence to prove my thesis?
  • Does my essay present a clear line of reasoning that directly connects to and proves my thesis?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, take the time to write an outline, do more research, write a rough draft, and revise as needed.

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