Defining What a Thesis Statement Is

So, What Are Theses Statements?

It is common for every written piece to have a central theme, message, idea, or point. Then any argument(s) a writer makes in the remainder of their paper should be linked to this central point. The thesis statement in a paper is one or two fairly short sentences that set out the writer's position with regards to the main point or idea in their paper.

What Length Should a Thesis Statement Be?

The thesis statement in a written piece focuses the writer's ideas into one sentence or two at most. The role of this statement is to present the overall topic of the work and indicate the writer's position in respect of that topic. A thesis statement should let readers know what a written piece is all about and the writer should use it to guide their writing and to keep their argument(s) in focus.

Some Questions to Consider When Developing a ThesisStatement

Where Should a Thesis Statement be Placed?

The thesis statement should be presented early on in an essay 0 usually in the introductory section or, in the case of longer papers, at least in the paragraph after the introduction. The reason for this is to set out your position in good time and provide readers with a sort of roadmap or direction.

Useful Tip: Take note of the following to ensure your thesis statement is successful:

  • Do not use vague or obscure words in a thesis statement - make it as specific and clear as you possibly can.
  • When you think you have developed a really good thesis statement do not bury it mid-way through a paragraph or near the end of your paper.
  • State what the main point or idea of your written work is but try not to use sentences such as "The main point of this essay is ..."

Check That the Thesis Statement You Have Written Is Specific

As mentioned earlier, it is important a thesis statement is as specific and clear as it possibly can be. Writers usually continue to fine-tune these statements as their argument(s) develop. Therefore, thesis statements often evolve and become better defined as the writer gets more of a feeling for where their argument is heading.

Useful Tip: Keep a check on your central thesis statement:

  • Is your thesis made up of two fairly sizable statements loosely connected by a conjunction (e.g., "and," "or," "for," "nor," "but," "yet," "so")?
  • Do you think a conjunction (of the subordinating variety) would help (e.g. "although," "because," "since," or "though") as a way of signaling that the two sentences are related?
  • Or is it the case that both statements in your thesis give the impression that it is woolly and unfocused?
  • If you think this is so, decide on one definite focus, which you can go on to develop a bit further.

Does the Thesis Statement You Have Written Feel Too Broad or General?

A thesis needs to be sufficiently limited so that it covers only what is achievable within the number of words or pages allowed to the writer. The topic should be shaped to enable you to get directly to the "heart" of the matter. Giving a paper a specific focus will make it more effective and successful than if you write about broad and general things that do not convey a great deal. Your aim should not be to settle for two pages of text 0 or even three 0 where you do nothing more than skim the surface of a topic.

While a sprawling, superficial, and broad-ranging thesis is not recommended, you should aim for the opposite, which is a crisp, narrow, and highly focused thesis. Compare the first thesis below, which is too broad and general, with the three revised versions, which are more highly focused and where each approaches the same subject in a distinctly different way:

  1. Original or first thesis:
  • Modern horror movies give rise to some serious objections.
  1. Three revisions of the above thesis:
  • Because today's techniques allow moviemakers more scope to be graphic, the youth of America has developed a desensitized attitude towards violence.
  • Both genders are degraded by the pornographic nature of the violence in "bloodbath" horror-slashed movies.
  • The horror movies of the modern age do not have the same emotional impact as this same genre of movie did in the 1930s.

How clear is the thesis statement you have written?

There is little or no difference between writing thesis statements and other types of writing. These need to be as concise and clear as you can possibly make them. Writing a clear thesis statement will help readers understand your exact meaning.

Useful Tip: Here is some advice on making your writing clear:

  • Do not use technical terminology or language unless the project you are working on is a technical paper. Avoid unnecessary jargon at all times or unless you are sure your readers are familiar with or understand it.
  • Words of an abstract nature are best avoided. Examples of these are "culture," "society," "values," and so on.
  • Words with vague meanings should be avoided. Examples are "difficult," "exciting," "interesting," "negative," "unusual."

Readers gain nothing from words like these unless you explicitly explain their meaning. Even if you understand what a sentence means, you should not assume its meaning is obvious to other people. Do your best to establish if any terms you use need to be defined (e.g., "commercialism," "conventional," "socialism," "society," "traditionalist," etc.). You then need to decide the most suitable place for explaining these meanings. For instance, do not take it for granted that your readers will understand the word "socialism" in the same way you do. You need to be very specific to prevent any misunderstandings.

Look at the first thesis below (which is not sufficiently clear and specific) and compare it with the second version (which is much improved in terms of being clear and specific):

  1. First thesis: Even though it is a gentle and timid creature, the timber wolf is facing systematic extermination. [If this animal is so harmless, why exterminate it?]
  2. Second (revised version) thesis: Even though it is a gentle and timid creature, the timber wolf is facing systematic extermination purely because some people mistakenly take it for a fearsome animal that kills in cold blood.

Check That the Thesis You Have Written Gives an Indication of your Stance on the Topic

The role of a thesis statement is such that it does more than just indicate what a paper's topic is. It should also say what the writer's stance on that topic is and how they intend to evaluate and/or analyze the subject matter or problem. Put simply, rather than just making a general statement (e.g., announcing an already-known fact) or making a simplified statement on the pros or cons of an issue, it is important to carefully work out what you want to state or say.

Additional Tips:

  • Do not just announce what your paper's topic is. Make clear what your specific "take" on that topic is i.e. the angle you will discuss or examine it from. This will enable you to let readers know why your position on a particular issue is important.

First thesis: Within this essay, I intend to examine the relationship between childhood and the telling of fairy tales.

Second (revised version) thesis: A lot more than bedtime stories for children, fairy tales are known to throw important light on the psychological development of children.

  • Try not to make general judgments of the pro and con variety since these can tend to make complex matters seem overly simple.

First thesis: The world's whales must be saved.

Second (revised version) thesis: Since the health of the planet is thought to largely depend on biological diversity, the whales of the world must be saved.

  • If your thesis is based on a judgment (of the subjective variety), your reasons will need to be justified. Saying "merely because" is not sufficient reason or a good basis for a sound argument.

First thesis: The most feasible type of government system for the Kenyan people is socialism.

Second (revised version) thesis: In the event Kenya's industrial sector is taken over and run by the country's government, industrial efficiency will be much improved.

  • Try not to rely solely on reporting facts. Go further and provide more information than is already known or proven. Push your points or ideas further. Why otherwise would your ideas or points matter?

First thesis: Scandal rocked the Hoover administration.

Second (revised version) thesis: The series of scandals that marked the Hoover administration exposed a number of weaknesses in republican party processes and most notably in the nomination of candidates.

It is unrealistic to expect to develop a complete and final thesis statement before your paper is fully finished. It is inevitable that you will need to make changes to your thesis as your ideas develop and you do various rounds of revision. This is fine! Begin with a working thesis and review it as the rest of your work progresses and develops.

Check the Originality of the Thesis Statement You Have Written

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to avoid 0 at all costs 0 thesis statements that are based on generic ideas or arguments or are formulaic in nature. These are fine for putting a rough or first draft together, but readers will easily become bored with them. Continue revising until your true thoughts and ideas are reflected in your thesis.

Useful Tip: Any points a writer makes in his or her paper should be relevant and important:

  1. Therefore, when it comes to a thesis statement, you should be ready to address the "why it matters" question.
  2. Every point you make needs to be worthy of being included in your paper so be ready to explain the worthiness of your points. For what reason should readers want to read your work?

Look at the following thesis statements and compare the first version to the revised versions:

  1. First thesis:
  • Statistics have advantages and they have disadvantages (use a formula of your choice).
  1. Revised version thesis:
  • By carefully manipulating data, a researcher can make optimum use of statistics to support a variety of claims.
  • If they are to report information accurately, it is essential for journalists to understand the true meaning of any statistics they are reporting on.
  • Because many advertisers are prone to manipulating data, both in a conscious and unconscious manner, it is vital that consumers know how to evaluate various types of statistics-based claims.

Generic-type words and formula should be avoided. Look for active voice verbs and solid subjects and revise "to be" type verbs wherever possible. Feel free to check our website for ways of sharpening and clarifying the meaning of words you use.