Thesis

Writing an essay can be difficult. Sometimes it can be hard to organize an essay and consistently stay on topic. However, ensuring that the essay has a strong thesis and thesis statement can help keep the paper concise, orderly, and easily understandable. 

Thesis Thesis

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Table of contents
    Thesis hands typing on a laptop Study SmarterFig. 1 - A strong thesis statement sets a paper's tone.

    Thesis Statement Definition

    A thesis statement helps you to choose a side.

    A thesis statement is a sentence — or two — that summarizes the central claims of an essay.

    A thesis statement should be short and to the point but can cite specific evidence that the essay will expound upon later. Thesis statements are usually found in the first paragraph of the essay, the introduction, and often create the “roadmap” for the rest of the essay for both the writer and the reader.

    Importance of a Thesis Statement

    Writing a thesis statement is essentially the same as declaring one's thoughts and desires at the beginning of a conversation– it outlines what will be discussed and introduces what the speaker thinks. Though the thesis statement might seem like a small part of the essay, it's extremely important.

    Imagine you're in the middle of a conversation with a friend when another person arrives and jumps into the middle of a discussion, not knowing what is actually being talked about. At that point, you have to explain the topic and the conversation's point. It's both tiring, and repetitive. Similarly, that's what it's like when an essay does not have a strong thesis statement.

    A strong thesis statement introduces the paper's main ideas and helps readers relate to the author's feelings or central argument. Simultaneously, the thesis statement is an anchor for the entire paper and connects all the ideas expressed in the essay. Without it, the author would have to continually explain what they were writing about and why their ideas are significant.

    Is a thesis statement and thesis different?

    A thesis is a theory or statement – put forth as a premise – that an author is trying to prove.

    A thesis statement is one or two sentences that summarize the main point of an essay, research paper, or other written piece.

    Often, a thesis statement explains a thesis.

    Different Types of Thesis Statements

    There are several types of thesis statements: analytical, argumentative, and explanatory.

    Looking at and knowing, each of these thesis statement types in depth can help a writer write a fantastic thesis statement that perfectly fits their specific essay.

    Thesis pencil and question mark Study SmarterFig. 2 - Brainstorm multiple theses before writing.

    Expository Thesis Statements

    Like all thesis statements, an expository thesis statement sets out to explain the main points of an essay. However, this type of thesis statement is not usually meant to support any specific claim, rather it presents various concepts and how they will be discussed in the essay. Expository thesis statements do not necessarily need to be arguable but should make a strong point.

    An expository thesis statement provides readers with a detailed description of what the essay will be about by providing loose examples of what will be mentioned in the essay.

    It provides an exact roadmap for what significant concepts will be presented in the essay, and in which order they will be presented. Unlike many other thesis statements, expository thesis statements are mostly fact-based, as no stand or opinion is interjected into the statement. Take, for example, the statement below:

    The life of a typical high school student involves going to class, interacting with teachers and friends, completing homework, and taking part in a multitude of various extracurricular activities.

    The above expository thesis explains what the life of a typical high school student consists of by listing characteristics that can be expounded upon later. This statement does not take any significant stand but instead sheds light on a subject. Like all thesis statements, be prepared to follow up on each of the components mentioned in the thesis statement later in the essay. Such information should be evidence that reinforces an expository thesis statement.

    Argumentative Thesis Statements

    An argumentative thesis statement is exactly as it sounds — a statement that presents an argument.

    An argumentative thesis statement is most often used in argumentative essays to clearly make a claim and take a stand that the author then presents evidence for in the body of the essay.

    Unlike an expository thesis statement, argumentative thesis statements allow room for the author to take a particular stance on the issue. However, because argumentative thesis statements typically require some personal input, the evidence presented in the essays must usually be supported by a lot of reliable research. Any arguments made in the essay inevitably relate back to the argumentative thesis statement because it is essentially what is trying to be proved. Consider the example below:

    There is a definite correlation between the geography of Swinging London, the hierarchical class structure in Britain, and renewed consumerism, all of which ultimately excluded lower-class individuals and barred them from being part of this cultural phenomenon.

    From the above argumentative thesis statement, one can deduce that the body of the essay will assert that there is a correlation between the geography of the social movement "Swinging London," class, and consumerism and that this correlation caused the exclusion of lower-class individuals from this movement.

    Based on this thesis statement, the reader of the essay can expect the author to write several paragraphs on Swinging London as a cultural phenomenon, followed by how class and consumerism are related to the social movement. These explanations would then most likely transition into the essay's main argument: that lower-class individuals were excluded from the movement. This would be supported by specific arguments and followed by a conclusion.

    Analytical Thesis Statements

    Analytical thesis statements stand to analyze a specific topic or problem.

    As one might guess, the goal of an analytical thesis statement is to present the issue at hand and then discuss ways that may solve any concerns surrounding the topic.

    These types of thesis statements are used in analysis papers, often in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. These fields typically necessitate the most data analysis or problem-solving. When writing an analytical thesis statement, it is still necessary to be mindful of the order in which the topic and possible solutions and analyses are presented. This means that an analytical statement should be precise, organized, and thorough, giving readers a brief overview of what's to come in the essay.

    Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe all striking tributes to her pain.

    Based on this thesis statement, we can expect the author to expound upon how the rhetorical devices mentioned in the thesis statement are used in Sylvia Plath's poetry, most likely in that order. This specific thesis statement tells readers exactly what to expect in this analysis.

    Elements That Make a Great Thesis Statement

    Great thesis statements have the following characteristics:

    • specific

    • concise

    • arguable

    • demonstrable

    • confident

    Let's examine each attribute of these in-depth to see why they matter by again examining the previous analytical thesis statement on Sylvia Plath.

    Specificity

    As previously discussed in this article, a thesis statement must be focused on a specific topic or aspect of a broader theme. It is hard to write an efficient essay and make a strong claim if the writer is focused on more than one subject. When creating a thesis statement, it's best to focus on one specific aspect of a larger topic. Not only does this make writing the essay easier, but it also makes researching the topic easier, as it narrows down exactly what is to be explained and justified in the essay.

    The analytical thesis statement on Plath is specific because it focuses solely on Plath's use of rhetorical devices, as highlighted below.

    Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe all striking tributes to her pain.

    Conciseness

    A strong thesis statement should be concise. A writer only has one to two sentences to present the topic, explain the argument, and make a claim/take a stance. That's a lot to get done in two sentences! Consequently, word choice is extremely important. Don't use confusing words or jargon that you might require an explanation for–that's what the body of the essay is for! Always remember that a writer mustn't fit everything into the thesis all at once. It's just meant to be an introduction, so keep your thesis statements short and clear!

    The analytical thesis statement on Plath is concise because it explains in plain language what the essay will be explaining by making a clear claim and including relevant examples. No confusing jargon is used, and the word choice is exact.

    Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe all striking tributes to her pain.

    Ability to be Argued

    A thesis statement must present a specific claim that can be fully explored or argued. That means that while thesis statements can be based on previous knowledge or facts, a thesis statement itself cannot be factual. For instance, "junk food is bad for your health" is not an arguable thesis statement, as most people believe that junk food can negatively impact one's health.

    Thesis donuts – junk food Study SmarterFig. 3 - "Junk food is bad for your health" is a one-sided argument and thus a poor thesis.

    The analytical thesis statement on Plath is easily arguable. Perhaps one might disagree with this thesis statement and argue that Plath's writing style is too emotional and messy to be "controlled and detail-oriented."

    Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe all striking tributes to her pain.

    Ability to be Demonstrated

    A thesis statement is a claim or theory, but what's a theory without evidence? Evidence is necessary so that your thesis statement is strong. Without reliable demonstrated evidence, a thesis statement is just a thought or an opinion, with no real ability to claim or pronounce anything true. Remember, your thesis statement is demonstrated in the body of your essay, not the thesis.

    The analytical thesis statement on Plath is easily demonstrable. For instance, in the body of the essay, the author could expound upon Plath's Nazi imagery by writing:

    Plath describes herself as "bright as a Nazi lampshade," an allusion to the cruel skinning of Jews to make lampshades ("Daddy," Line 5).

    This would clearly demonstrate the concept mentioned in the thesis statement.

    Confidence

    A thesis statement must be confident and believable. Though the body paragraphs are what will convince readers of a thesis statement, the thesis statement itself must first entice readers. Using phrases like "I believe" or "I think" actually weakens readers' confidence in the writer, as it suggests that any evidence to be presented in the essay is opinion-based and lacks substance.

    By strongly stating your thesis without the aforementioned phrases, readers are more likely to read the rest of the essay, feeling confident in any arguments that support the thesis statement.

    Consider the Sylvia Plath thesis statement below:

    Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. Her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe all striking tributes to her pain.

    Now, read it again, but this time with the words "I think" and "I believe" in it.

    I think Sylvia Plath's poems, characterized by consistent stanza structures and carefully chosen repetitions, demonstrate that she is controlled and detail-oriented. I believe her writing is emotional and bold, riddled with unsettling Nazi imagery, intimate extended metaphors, and apostrophe all striking tributes to her pain.

    Which do you find to be a more compelling and confident thesis statement?

    Examples of Strong Thesis Statements

    Let's take a look at some strong thesis statements.

    By fusing these paradoxes with his own perceptions of death and life, and utilizing key literary devices such as allusions, exclamation, repetition, alliteration, enjambment, and rhetorical questioning, John Keats creates palpable tensions that not only resonate with his readers but also convey the confusion and strain he feels in relation to his melancholy tranquility.

    Why is this a strong thesis statement? This thesis statement focuses solely on what rhetorical devices John Keats uses to create tension in his writing. It lists the evidence in the essay in plain, understandable language.

    Europe's influence has spanned oceans and is recognized because of its extensive involvement in imperial colonization and exploration, its hand in warfare, and its developments regarding social and economic reform, all of which have contributed to the creation of modern western civilization.

    Why is this a strong thesis statement? The argument in this statement is concise (Europe's influence has contributed to the creation of modern western civilization). The argument lists exactly what the evidence will be in the essay that supports this claim (i.e. warfare, social and economic development, and imperial colonization all impacted western civilization).

    Mina Harker née Murray in Dracula embodies the submissive woman, as seen through her understated relationship with Jonathan Harker, her desire to be "useful" to her husband, and her choice to be a school teacher at a time when women were able to branch out into other professions.

    Why is this a strong thesis statement? This thesis statement is straightforward and simply written. The argument is that Mina Harker embodies the submissive woman and then gives clear, demonstrable examples of why this is so. One can easily deduce these points will be addressed later in the essay.

    As a play, Hamlet highlights free will and alludes to the significant social and political changes occurring at the time in which it was written.

    Why is this a strong thesis statement? This statement is shorter than the previous thesis statements, but it's still just as good! Why? It presents a clear, focused argument! A writer does not always have to include examples in their thesis statement, but they do need to make sure their statement is specific, concise, arguable, demonstrable, and confident!

    Thesis - Key Takeaways

    • A thesis statement is a sentence — or two — that summarizes the central claims of an essay.
    • A thesis is a theory or statement–put forth as a premise–that an author is trying to prove.
    • Without a thesis statement, the author would have to continually explain what they were writing about and why their ideas are significant.
    • There are three main types of thesis statements: expository, argumentative, and analytical.
    • Thesis statements should be: specific, concise, arguable, demonstrable, and exude confidence.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Thesis

    What is a thesis?

    A thesis is a theory or statement–put forth as a premise–that an author is trying to prove.

    What is a thesis statement?

    A thesis statement is one or two sentences that summarize the main point of an essay, research paper, or other written piece.

    What is an example of a thesis statement?

    An example of a thesis statement could be, “As a play, Hamlet highlights free will and alludes to the significant social and political changes occurring at the time in which it was written.”

    How do I write a thesis statement?

    The best way to write a strong thesis statement is to keep the statement specific, concise, arguable, and demonstrable, while also appearing confident.

    What is the importance of a thesis statement?

    A thesis statement is important because a strong thesis statement introduces the paper's main ideas in an orderly manner and helps relate the author's feelings or central argument to readers. Without it, the author would have to continually explain what they were writing about and why their ideas are significant. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    How long should the average thesis statement be?

    A thesis statement should be:

    A thesis can present detailed evidence.

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