What's the Point? How to Write a Great Thesis Statement

Tips and tricks to writing a thesis statement

A female student is sitting at a desk with a textbook and a laptop computer open in front of her. She is staring off into space, and tapping a pencil against her temple. She is trying to write a thesis statement.
Students are often stumped when it
comes to creating interesting
thesis statements.

Movie buffs know that great films grab the viewer with a compelling opening scene. Bookworms can tell a best-selling novel from a dud within the first few paragraphs. The same is true of any term paper or research paper you write. You must provide a clear, insightful thesis statement in the introductory paragraph in order to engage the reader's interest.

That sounds easy enough, but when you're starting a topic that asks you to "Evaluate Thomas Carew's depiction of John Donne as the monarch of wit" or "Compare and contrast two political historians' views of the U.S. Constitution," crafting a complete yet pointed response can feel daunting. Use the following guidelines and examples from our research paper and essay editing staff to help you narrow your focus and write an excellent thesis statement.

Write about your interests

If at all possible, within the constraints of your topic, choose a subject that offers you some enjoyment. For example, if you are free to write on any of the novels discussed during the term, write on the ones you liked best (or hated the least). If the topic asks you to analyze a character, pick the one who angered you the most or seemed most like you. You'll have more opinions if you have some attachment to the topic. In subjects that bore you to tears, choose the approach that offers the most pieces of evidence, e.g., the longest book, the topic your professor spent the most time on, etc.

Unearth evidence for your research paper

When you have a general idea of what you hope to discuss, start searching for facts to back up your case. Pore over the texts, your notes, and approved secondary sources for arguments that support your theory. Remember that all good papers aim to prove a point, and you'll do that successfully only if you have evidence to back up your claims. A preliminary fact-finding mission will help you determine the validity of your theory. It will also provide ideas to shape the thesis statement.

Thesis Statement Examples

A poor thesis statement usually has one or more of the following characteristics: 1) it merely restates the topic, 2) it offers superfluous information as padding for its lack of specificity, or 3) it is so generic that you could insert it into any paper. Read the theses below, with one generic and one specific example for each of the two topics mentioned above, and consider the differences.

An English literature example:

Thomas Carew, a contemporary of the poet John Donne, said that Donne was the king of wit and that means he used his humor and intelligence to show his opinion of things in his time. (Generic)

Thomas Carew's depiction of John Donne as "The universal monarch of wit" declares the supremacy of the poet's humor and intelligence in relation to contemporary circles. However, such a depiction fails to consider Donne's shortcomings and his conversational approach to writing. (Specific)

A social science example:

John Roche and Charles Beard had different views of the U.S. Constitution because they had different backgrounds. (Generic)

The polar backgrounds of John Roche and Charles Beard serve to form their quite distinct views of the U.S. Constitution. An analysis of their arguments shows Roche to be a dedicated and intelligent reformer, whereas Beard portrays a calculating desire to undermine America's poor. (Specific)

Thesis statements require editing too

After completing your paper, reread your thesis. Is it still a comprehensive road map of your ideas? Did you develop a new line of thinking that does not appear in your thesis statement? Good writers often find themselves exploring new avenues of thought along the way. If, for whatever reason, your thesis no longer matches the body of your paper, change the thesis. This is a completely acceptable proposition and one that is much simpler than rewriting entire sections of your paper. You can also submit your paper to our essay editors for a second opinion on your paper's arguments.

Don't postpone the inevitable

You may be tempted to leave the difficult work of honing your thesis statement until after you've written the first draft of your paper; however, laboring over it at the beginning of the essay writing process will make your life easier. Once you know where your paper is headed and what you are trying to prove, the writing process will flow much more smoothly than if you launch yourself into the labyrinth without a guide. 

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Want to learn more? Check out How to Write an Essay in 5 Easy Steps, available now on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

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