A thesis statement is the answer to a question and an expression of your point of view.
So it needs to be good.
But you know that, that’s why you’re looking for information on how to write a thesis statement. So let’s get to it.
First, let’s look the meaning of the word.
A thesis, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved. It is also the name given to a researched dissertation, usually submitted for a post graduate degree. (such as PhD)
In order to distinguish between these two meanings of the word, we usually refer to the first as a thesis ‘statement’.
In academic writing a thesis statement usually forms part of the introduction to any essay, paper or report, especially where the writer is expected to use his or her critical faculities.
At it’s simplest, a thesis statement is the answer to the question you have been asked, reduced to a couple of sentences. And there lies the most important part of a thesis statement, it must be relevant to and answering the question you have been asked. And it must express a point of view.
The most common way to fail a subject or get low marks, is to fail to answer the question you have been asked. This applies at school and at college. It is vital that you keep the question in mind throughout your research and writing. Your thesis statement will provide a succinct version of your answer, but since you don’t, at the start, know what your answer will be, you can’t write your thesis statement at the beginning.
Begin writing your paper, essay or dissertation with the argument portion, and leave the introduction, which contains the thesis statement, until the end.
Read the question and be sure you understand it. If you don’t understand the question see if you can get further clarification from your teacher, lecturer or tutor.
- Research the material thoroughly.
- Form a point of view
- Create an outline
- select 3-5 points good points (or more) which support your view
- explain each point and
- say why it supports your view
- say why some people disagree and what their view is
- say why you are not convinced by their argument
- Consider the major argument(s) against your point of view. Did you mention it in the points above? If not, write what that view (or views, if several) is and why you believe it to be wrong.
- As you write be prepared for your view to change.
- Once your argument is complete, you can construct your thesis statement for inclusion in your introduction.
But suppose there is no obvious question?
Sometime it is difficult to see a question in the assignment you have been given.
You might, for example, be asked to pick an example of something and evaluate it. In that case there is a question, you have to decide if the object or process you are evaluating is good or bad, or how to compares to its competition. First you need to formulate the question, and then the thesis statement follows from that.
Assignments which begin ‘Discuss the importance of … ‘ are asking whether something was important, and if so why, so although there is no explicit question, one can easily be constructed.
When I was at University, my tutor enjoyed questions which employ quotations, for example
Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny. ~Edmund Burke. Discuss.
This sort of open ended essay is very difficult; a general discussion of the topic could easily consume volumes, not merely pages. The best way to tackle this sort of question is to narrow the field and answer the question with respect to one or two specific instances, and again, it can be useful to check this out with your teacher or tutor. Your thesis statement will make it clear that you have chosen a particular angle on the subject.
In the example above you might, for example, look at a specific case of social injustice, such as the apartheid laws in South Africa, or you might look at the whole question of war crimes. Can it be just to condemn people for carrying out their order and obeying the law? Even when you narrow the topic like this, there is a great deal to say.
So, in summary, a good thesis statement will:
- be relevant to the question
- state a definite point of view
- be succinct
- appear in the first, introductory paragraph
- be well constructed.
- tell the reader what to expect
How do I Form a Thesis?
There are two ways to do this. Absorb what you believe is the commonly held view and trot out the usual suspects, the same reasoning as you found in the books. Depending on your course you may already have been given all the information, your tutor may be checking that you have understood it by asking you to organize it into a logical argument.
Read the material and think about it carefully. Where there is a commonly held view, consider the opposite and whether you feel you could construct a valid argument for a different point of view.
When you are hoping to score high marks in any subject it is worth remembering these points
Examiners/tutors/teachers get very bored by students who churn out the same old answers year after year.
They like to see their students actually engage with the topic.
As a result, coming up with a supportable, contrary view can be very successful, but it requires thought.
Whether you follow the accepted view, or try to find something new to say, your thesis statement will set the tone for your essay or dissertation. Don’t promise a new view and then fail to deliver, but do make sure that this, first impression of your writing and reasoning power is a good one.