Writing Lab Seminar Series May 2, 2007 Developing a Thesis How To Write a Thesis Statement What is a Thesis Statement? A one- or two-sentence condensation of your argument or analysis. In other words, the thesis is the answer to the question that your paper explores. Why Should Your Essay Contain A Thesis Statement? to better organize and develop your argument to provide your reader with a guide to your argument How Can You Write A Good Thesis Statement?
If the Topic is Assigned:
Your thesis is the answer to this question that your teacher asks. Example: Q: “What are the benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are ...” or A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve...”
If the Topic is Not Assigned:
If the assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your job is to come up with one and then answer it. The question must be something that is not necessarily obvious such as “Is violence bad?” or “Do hospitals help sick people get better?” A good thesis statement should:
discuss a subject with which reasonable people could disagree express one main idea assert your conclusions about a subject be specific (i.e. not too broad, general or vague)
How to create a good thesis statement: Step 1. Brainstorm the topic. Example: Crack babies (The topic of crack babies isn’t a thesis statement. It’s just a general subject. Your assignment is to write an essay or paper, not an informational report. Proceed to step 2.) Step 2. Narrow the topic.
Programs for crack kids
(Now you’ve announced your subject and focused on one main idea: programs. Also, you’ve chosen something with which reasonable people could disagree, because people have different views on how to help crack babies. However this is still not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic. Proceed to step 3.) 3. Take a position on the topic.
More attention should be paid to the environment crack kids grow up in.
(Now you’ve communicated that something should be done to help crack kids cope with their situation. This statement asserts your position, but “more attention” and the “environment” are vague. What exactly should be done? Proceed to step 4.)
4. Use specific language. The federal government should finance programs to supplement parental care for crack kids.
(Notice how the thesis answers the question, “Why should anything be done for crack kids, and who should do it?” You don’t need to have specific questions in mind when you begin the process of writing a thesis statement. As you learn more about the topic, your ideas will naturally become more specific and your thesis will change to reflect your new insights.)
How to Tell a Strong Thesis Sentence from a Weak One: 1. A strong thesis takes some sort of stand. Bad example: There are some negative and positive aspects to Max Herb Tea Infusion. This is a weak thesis because it fails to take a stand and the phrase “negative and positive aspects” is vague. Good example: Because Max Herb Tea Infusion promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers. This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand. 2. A strong thesis provokes discussion. Bad example: My family is an extended family. This is a weak thesis because it states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of your paper. Good example: While most American families would view consanguineal (related by blood) marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family. This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point. 3. A strong thesis expresses one main idea. Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper.
Bad example: Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and web pages can provide both advertising and customer support. This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. Good example: Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using web pages that offer both advertising and customer support. This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: clear and engaging thesis statements often contain words like “because,” “since,” “so,” “although,” “unless,” and “however.” 4. A strong thesis statement is specific. A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. Bad example: World hunger has many causes and effects. This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, “world hunger” can’t be discussed thoroughly in five or ten pages. Second, "many causes and effects" is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. Good example: Hunger persists in Appalachia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable. This is a strong thesis because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.
Information gathered from Indiana University Writing Tutorial Service http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/thesis_statement.shtml