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Thesis Statements

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is a complete, grammatically correct sentence (or a few sentences) that:

  • Identifies the topic.
  • Gives a general outline.
  • Takes a position on the topic.

Thesis statements appear in essays, research papers, and any persuasive piece of writing. Your thesis statement may evolve over the course of the writing process.

Thesis statements do not necessarily have to be:

  • A single sentence.
  • A complete outline or summary of your essay.
  • Finalized before you start writing.
  • Located at the end of the first paragraph.

Adapted from Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges: "Developing a Thesis" and Virginia Tech Libraries: Information Skills Modules: "Choosing and Focusing a Topic" found at Saylor.org.

How to Develop a Thesis Statement

To develop a thesis statement:

  • Figure out the type, purpose, and audience of your paper.
  • Start with your research question and answer it with your thesis statement.
  • Take a position on the topic and make sure that it is provable.
  • Give the thesis statement two parts: a clear topic or subject matter, and a brief summary of what you will say. 

Adapted from wikiHow.com article on How to Write a Thesis Statement.

Common Problems with Thesis Statements

The “non-thesis” thesis.

A thesis statement needs to take a position on an issue. It is different from a topic sentence in that a thesis statement is not neutral.

Weak: This paper will consider video game learning in the classroom.

Strong: Video games represent a promising teaching tool in the classroom.

The incontestable thesis.

A thesis statement must be arguable. In order for it to be arguable, it must take a position that someone might reasonably disagree with.

Weak: Students should not cheat.

Strong: Cheating is not simply a problem in schools; it may affect people’s future workplace behavior.

The overly broad thesis.

It is not possible to write a college-level paper about the history of America in five pages. A topic should be specific enough for you to address it thoroughly.

Weak: Teachers need to stop students from cheating.

Strong: New computer technology may be able to help teachers stop some forms of cheating.

The “list” thesis.

A thesis statement should allow the reader to anticipate how arguments are related to one another, rather than merely stating a series of facts without connecting them in a logical order.

Weak: There are many ways that video games could enhance education, including system thinking, collaborative tasks, and what James Paul Gee calls “situated meanings.”

Strong: Among the many learning tools James Paul Gee cites in video games, the most significant ones—system thinking, collaborative tasks, and situated meanings—all share an emphasis on seeing information as a whole, rather than as disconnected facts typically presented in the classroom.

Adapted from Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges: Developing a Thesis found at Saylor.org.

 

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This guide is maintained by Daria O. Carle.

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