Writing a Great Thesis Statement: Things to Keep in Mind

HomeWriting a Great Thesis Statement: Things to Keep in Mind

A thesis statement provides your reader with a clear guide as to what your thesis is about. Your thesis statement is your main point of view, focus, or argument on your specific thesis topic. Irrespective of whether you’re writing a persuasive essay or an analysis, it is critical to be able to state your thesis in a concise and compelling manner. So, how can you write a great thesis statement? 

A thesis statement is usually written near the beginning of an academic essay or thesis—specifically, at the end of the first paragraph or the introduction—and serves as a guide for readers. Simply put, the thesis statement gives the reader a preview of what they are going to read about. However, writing a thesis statement isn’t just important for your readers. The process of writing a thesis statement also helps you, the author, to distill your argument into just one or two sentences and organize your thoughts. This can be helpful as you go on to write the rest of your thesis.

Types of thesis statements

Just as there are different types of academic papers, there are also different types of thesis statements. Some common types of thesis statements you are likely to be asked to write as a student or young researcher are:

  1. Argumentative: Make a claim and support your claim with substantive evidence
  2. Analytical: Break an issue down and examine each aspect
  3. Informative/Expository/Explanatory: Explain or describe something

In an argumentative or persuasive thesis statement, you aim to persuade your audience to agree with your point of view. Such a thesis statement should not be confused with stating the topic or the thesis question. Instead, your thesis statement should clearly offer your interpretation or argument on the thesis topic.

Let’s imagine that the obesity epidemic in North America is your thesis topic. If you are writing an argumentative or persuasive thesis statement, you might propose a mitigation tactic to counter the rising rates of obesity like this:

Implementing a tax on processed foods with added sugar offers the dual benefits of raising revenue for the government and discouraging people from purchasing unhealthy food to counter rising obesity rates.

This thesis statement example presents an arguable position. An argumentative statement is one that is not obvious and that can be disputed.

What if you are asked to write an analytical thesis statement on the same topic? It might look something like this:

Obesity rates in North America have risen steadily and rapidly since the 1980s owing to multiple factors including federal corn subsidies, increased reliance on vehicles, and the rise of sedentary jobs.

This thesis statement example offers a clear roadmap to the reader by breaking down the causes (subsidies, reliance on vehicles, and sedentary jobs) of the issue (the obesity epidemic) and stating exactly what you will analyze and discuss.

Finally, an expository thesis statement on this topic might looks like this:

Obesity rates in North America have risen steadily since the 1980s, increasing healthcare costs and impacting quality of life for millions of people.

This thesis statement example offers a summary of some of the key impacts that the phenomenon (obesity) has caused and indicates to the reader what aspects of the issue you will be explaining.

What makes a good thesis statement?

As we saw above, there are different types of thesis statements. However, all good thesis statements have a few things in common.

A good thesis statement:

  • Is clear and concise
  • Makes a specific claim
  • Offers supporting logic for the claim
  • Avoids overly vague or subjective terms like “good” and “bad”
  • Provides the reader with a roadmap for the paper

How can you distinguish a good thesis statement from a bad one? Let’s look at some examples to better understand the points mentioned above.

Bad Thesis Statement: Surrogacy should be banned in the UK.

This thesis statement is very broad and does not tell the reader why this argument is being made. Why should it be banned? Why in the UK specifically? What about other countries? Why should the reader care about this?

Good Thesis Statement: Despite passing numerous regulatory measures, surrogacy laws in the UK fail to protect economically and socially vulnerable women.

This thesis statement clearly makes a specific claim (surrogacy laws in the UK are ineffective), explains generally what is meant by that claim (they are ineffective at protecting vulnerable women), and indicates what direction the paper is going to go in (discussing why existing regulatory measures are insufficient). However, it is not quite clear what economically and socially vulnerable women are not being protected from. While we can make some guesses, it is better to be specific.

Excellent Thesis Statement: The proposed Surrogacy Bill of 2021 in the UK, like the Surrogacy Arrangements Act of 1985, fails to remedy the loopholes that allow surrogacy contracts, which place the majority of the cost and medical risk burden on the surrogate.

This thesis statement is very specific and offers facts surrounding the issue. It makes it clear that the problem lies in who assumes the cost and medical risk burden of a surrogacy and offers a possible explanation about why that problem exists.

Developing a thesis statement will take time. Don’t feel stressed out if you can’t think of a clear and specific thesis statement right away. If you find yourself stuck and unable to further specify your thesis statement, ask yourself questions to try to narrow things down. In the above example, you might begin by asking why surrogacy should be banned, followed by what regulatory measures exist and whether they are effective. If they are not effective, you should ask why and try to narrow down on a specific thing that makes surrogacy negative. Who do the laws protect, and who do they leave out? In this way, you can arrive at a clear and specific thesis statement.

How do I write a thesis statement?

The process of writing a thesis statement begins with a question. Sometimes you will be given a thesis topic that has a question or suggests a particular angle on the topic already. Other times you will be allowed to choose your own thesis topic. Regardless, you can begin to develop your thesis statement by reading up on the thesis topic or question itself.

For example, if you are a student of Chinese literature and are asked to analyze the novel Wild Swans in relation to contemporary Chinese politics, you can start by reading Wild Swans and familiarizing yourself with the major issues in Chinese politics today. You can then identify several themes that interest you and focus your research further.

One technique that can help you draft a thesis statement is to first write a purpose statement. A purpose statement is a couple of sentences that state your thesis topic and explain how you will structure your thesis. However, a purpose statement does not include an actual argument or conclusion. Returning to our previous example of the obesity epidemic in North America, a purpose statement for an argumentative thesis could look something like this:

This study will examine some reasons why obesity rates have increased so much in North America since 1980, with a view to both individual behavior and changes in the environment.

I plan to examine changes in food availability and marketing, city infrastructure, dietary habits, and trends in exercise.

As you do more research and preliminary writing, you can refine your purpose statement into a thesis statement.

It is important to note that while you will probably have at least a rough thesis statement before you begin writing your thesis, it can change as you write! If you come across new information during your literature review, or realize as you are writing that you want to change your argument, your thesis statement can change too. In fact, you should always revisit your thesis statement as you write, both as a reference for how to structure your thesis and to make sure that it supports your final thesis statement. Many academic writers revise and refine their thesis statement continually throughout the writing process.

Finalizing your thesis statement

To finalize your thesis statement, you will need to ensure that it meets the following criteria for a strong thesis statement.

  • Does the thesis take a clear and specific position on the topic?

Make sure your thesis statement isn’t simply a vague statement about a broad topic, and avoid words that imply subjective value judgements. “Zoos maintain biodiversity” is not a strong thesis statement. “Zoos play an important role in species and biodiversity conservation as the destruction of the world’s natural habitats increases” is much more specific and clearer.

  • Does your thesis stimulate or merit discussion?

Make sure your thesis statement isn’t just a simple fact or observation. “The hanbok is back in fashion” is not a compelling thesis statement. There is nothing to discuss because this statement does not argue a particular position or offer an interpretation of an issue. It is merely a factual observation. “The renewed popularity of the hanbok in Korea can be attributed to its use in K-pop videos and a nostalgia for traditional values” is a much stronger thesis statement because it invites debate and disagreement.

  • Does your thesis statement express one key idea?

While your thesis statement can incorporate a couple of aspects of an idea, it should make one clear and fundamental argument. “Social media provides companies and brands with an effective marketing channel, but it can also be difficult for older people to use” is a thesis statement that appears to be trying to talk about two different and unrelated ideas. While the topic is social media throughout, it’s not clear to the reader if your thesis is about the difficulty that the older people have using social media, or whether it is about the role social media plays in corporate marketing, or if there is some sort of relationship between these ideas.

Writing a thesis statement can be a challenge, but it is a key skill essential for any young researcher to be successful. As you master this skill you will find yourself writing stronger and better papers with increased ease. Check out our site for more tips on how to write a good thesis/dissertation, where to find the best thesis editing services, and more about thesis editing and proofreading services.

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