Writing a Thesis StatementWhat is a Thesis Statement?
Although every well-written essay has an introduction, a thesis statement not only introduces your topic but also alerts the reader to your conclusion. An essay introduction may be an announcement, a statement of fact, or just an observation, while a thesis statement is an assertion that defines the point (or argument) of your essay. A thesis statement is your answer to the question your essay explores.
For example, think of a thesis statement as the opening statement in a trial. The question is "who done it?" As the prosecuting attorney, your thesis statement lays out your case for your reader, the jury. The defendant had motive, opportunity, and access to the weapon or method used to commit the crime. Your opening statement or thesis introduces this evidence to your reader. The trial (body of your essay) supports your evidence and proves the validity of your argument.
A Good Thesis Statement Follows Certain Criteria:
- It is easily identifiable: It clearly defines what follows in the essay body and tells the reader what to expect from the rest of your essay.
- It is narrow: It brings focus to the central point of your essay.
- It is an assertion: It "takes a stand" on a certain subject and shows the strength of your argument.
- It is specific: It is the conclusion that is supported point by point in the body of your essay.
Just as a thesis statement puts your paper into focus for the reader, it can also help you to organize and develop your argument by describing the main point of your paper in one or two sentences. As you write your paper, your thesis statement can serve as a reference that keeps your paper on topic.
A thesis statement can serve as a short outline of your topic. It asks the question, gives the answer, and introduces your evidence in the order it will be presented.
Exploring the Thesis Statement
Example 1: "Miss Rose, who is a notorious criminal and a three-time loser, mugged Professor Plum in the library with the bookends."
Example 1 is not a thesis statement. Although it is an assertion, it does not clearly define what is to follow in the body of the essay and it is unsupported by any evidence.
Example 2: "Although Miss Rose appears clueless, her nail file and stiletto heels are the evidence that it was she who broke into the library and literally put her enemy, Professor Plum, in between two heavy copper book-ends.
Example 2 is a well-structured thesis statement that:
1. Identifies your argument
2. Is specific
3. Is narrow (stays on topic)
4. Is an assertion
Also, note that example 2 uses an introductory clause to acknowledge that there is another "side" to the argument (Miss Rose appears to be clueless). This is a frequently employed technique that both identifies and attempts to negate an alternative theory, even using it to make your argument appear stronger.
The body of this essay would provide the details that connect Miss Rose's nail file and shoes to the crime, thereby proving that she was the culprit.
Thesis Statement Misconceptions
Although a thesis statement is typically at the end of the first paragraph of the essay introduction, it can be presented in the opening sentences of your essay or it may need one or more paragraphs of introduction. In addition, although some thesis statements may be presented in a single sentence, others may need two or more sentences to state your position. More important than length or position is that it is easily identifiable and clearly states your position.
While it's always great to have three or more points to support your argument, if you can do it in two... well, less is more sometimes. Just be sure that whatever evidence you present, relates directly to your thesis statement and clearly supports your conclusion.
A thesis statement can frustrate many writers because they believe the thesis must be definitive before the paper is written. However, more often than not you'll find that as you write the arguments that support your position, your thesis will evolve. In some cases, you may find that in writing the arguments, your position will be completely reversed! Pat yourself on the back for being so persuasive and redefine your thesis statement to express your new position! Use a thesis statement to organize your essay for yourself and your readers. Let it be the guide that focuses your thoughts, introduces your argument and your evidence and helps prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt!