An essay is only as good as its thesis statement. As hyperbolic as this may sound, it’s not far from the truth. Without a strong thesis statement to go with your essay, your argument won’t have much substance. Not to mention, your information will be all over the place. So while it’s important that you learn how to write an impressive research paper, it’s just as important to learn how to write a thesis statement.
It’s ideal to work with an English tutor to help you with this, as they can give you the most comprehensive guide on how to write a paper. This includes everything from preparing a research paper outline and writing a thesis statement to improving your grammar and writing flow. For now, make the most of this guide to learn the basics of how to write a thesis statement.
Why is a thesis statement important?
Before you can learn how to write a thesis statement, it’s crucial to understand why you should write one in the first place. The simplest explanation of a thesis statement is a sentence that describes the main idea behind your topic or argument. It summarizes the paper and provides readers with information about where you stand on the topic.
As such, a thesis statement tells readers what to expect from the essay and whether they’d want to read the entire paper. It also helps you organize your information in a logical flow while strengthening your argument. In a normal research paper format, the thesis statement typically comes just after the introductory essay paragraph.
Types of thesis statements
To understand how to write a thesis statement more effectively, you should also know what type of thesis statement you need to write. Just as you’ll find different types of essays, these essays also have different types of thesis statements to go with them.
For example, an argumentative essay will need a thesis statement that’s equally argumentative in nature. So even while writing your essay outline, you need to keep the type of essay in mind and develop a thesis statement accordingly. Check out the most common types of thesis statements:
1: Argumentative thesis statement
When writing an argumentative thesis statement, you take a stand on a subject and state how your essay will support this claim. Also known as a persuasive thesis statement, you use this type of thesis statement when persuading readers to accept your claim. You should use them for argumentative essays and back up your stance in the body of the essay.
Example: Excessive social media use has a detrimental effect on mental health and self-esteem.
2: Analytical thesis statement
As the name suggests, an analytical thesis statement explains how you analyze a certain topic in your essay. It states the subject you’re analyzing and how you’ll break it down. So you need this type of thesis statement for research essays.
Example: An analysis of how social media use affects mental health and body image.
3: Explanatory thesis statement
Also known as an expository thesis statement, an explanatory thesis statement gives readers an insight into the topic you’re explaining in the essay. It briefly lists the most important aspects of the topic using the order in which you plan to discuss them.
Example: Feminist author, Audre Lorde uses her work to promote intersectionality, explore invisible social barriers, and teach the importance of embracing differences.
What makes a strong thesis statement?
Regardless of what type of thesis statement you write, the most important thing is that it should be compelling. So what makes a thesis statement compelling? What are the qualities of a strong thesis statement?
As a general rule, a strong thesis statement should have the following qualities:
1: It should be specific
Vagueness is the main characteristic of a weak thesis statement. To write a compelling thesis statement, you need to get into the specific details of your essay. What stand are you taking? What specific findings did you make? This not only adds credibility to your paper but also helps you focus on a manageable topic.
For example, a weak thesis statement would look something like this – Exercise has many benefits for both the body and mind. This statement is weak because it’s vague and it doesn’t get into the specific benefits of exercise.
To make this thesis statement stronger, you can add specifics about the benefits you plan to discuss in your essay. For example, you can write something like – Exercise helps manage insulin levels, control weight, and minimize the risk of heart diseases. It also releases endorphins, which enhance mood and improve mental health.
2: It should express one main idea
Expressing more than one idea in your thesis can be confusing to your readers as the main subject of your paper becomes blurry. Even when you have to express two or more ideas in the thesis statement, you should clearly establish the relationship between those ideas.
For example, a weak and confusing thesis statement would look like this – The media has a powerful influence on body image and setting beauty standards, and magazines have been including more diversity in the last few years.
This is weak because the reader will have a hard time understanding whether the essay is about the media’s influence on beauty standards and body image or how the diversity wave has hit magazines. To strengthen this thesis statement, you should express how the two ideas relate to one another.
For example, you can turn it into something like – With the media’s strong influence on beauty standards and body image, magazines have been taking small steps to set new and inclusive beauty standards by adding more diversity to their model selection.
3: It should be arguable
A strong thesis statement should present an idea that isn’t obvious or common knowledge. It should take a stand on something and be arguable.
For example, a weak thesis statement would be something like – There are some benefits and drawbacks of public libraries. This is weak because it’s vague and it doesn’t take a strong stand. Plus, it’s common knowledge that in spite of the value public libraries add to the community, some people would consider the upkeep and maintenance as an unnecessary expense.
A stronger thesis statement will look like this – Libraries provide a valuable knowledge resource for communities and low-income families and therefore, should get more funding from local municipalities.
4: It should justify the discussion
Your thesis statement shouldn’t just state an observation; it should also justify your point. Of course, you can’t give a detailed explanation to support the discussion in a single sentence, so a brief summary will do.
For example, a weak thesis statement would look like this – Companies should adopt six-hour workdays. Here, you’re just stating your opinion without mentioning why you’ve formed that opinion.
Instead, you could turn it into something like this – Companies should adopt six-hour workdays and provide more work-from-home opportunities to help employees maintain a healthy work-life balance and enhance their productivity.
Basic steps on how to write a thesis statement
Now that you know why you should write a thesis statement and what makes a strong thesis, it’s time to learn how you can write one. The basic steps will vary depending on whether you already have an assigned topic to work with or you have to come up with a topic on your own.
When you have an assigned topic
It’s much easier to come up with a thesis statement when you’re working with an assigned topic because you don’t have to go through an entire process of deciding on what subject you should discuss.
Start by turning the topic into a question. For example, let’s say your assignment is, “Write an essay discussing the benefits of a six-hour workday.” So you’ll ask the question, “What are the benefits of a six-hour work day?” The answer will be something like, “A six-hour work day promotes a healthy work-life balance, improves mental health, and enhances productivity.”
This answer is your thesis statement. You can make slight tweaks to the flow and arrangement to further strengthen it and fit the voice of your target audience.
When you don’t have an assigned topic
The process of developing a thesis statement is a bit complicated when you don’t have an assigned topic to work with, so it all starts with brainstorming the topic.
Step One: Topic Brainstorming: Let’s say your class focuses on ethics and social responsibility for corporations. You’re most interested in ethical consumerism and you want to focus your paper around the topic. This alone, however, isn’t a thesis statement and is only a general subject. In addition, it doesn’t get into any specifics about what you want to say on the topic.
Step Two: Narrowing Down the Topic: Upon further research, you find that more and more Americans are becoming aware of how their purchases affect socio-ethical issues. So you further break down the topic into something like – Understanding the increasing awareness of socio-ethical issues among American consumers and its impact on their purchase decisions as well as lifestyle choices.
Step Three: Taking a Stand: Next, you have to decide what you want to say about the topic. Let’s say you want to talk about how corporations should consider consumer attitudes toward these socio-ethical issues and fulfill their social responsibility.So you further add specifics to your thesis statement and it looks like this: Because of how the increasing awareness of socio-ethical issues among American consumers affects purchase decisions and lifestyle choices, corporations should pay closer attention to fulfilling corporate social responsibility.
While this is a strong statement on its own, you can always make tweaks and improvements to better express your idea.
Although you can learn all this in theory, it’s crucial that you get English tutoring for an even more practical guide on strengthening your thesis statement. Work with a writing tutor to understand what makes your thesis statement weak and discover the necessary steps to improve it. Besides helping you learn how to write a thesis statement or how to write a paper, a writing tutor will also help you improve your overall writing skills.