The Thesis Statement

Contributor: Jodi Powell. Lesson ID: 11707

Every large building has a foundation to anchor and guide the rest of the structure. The foundation of a research paper is the thesis statement, and it must be strong and clear to direct your writing!

categories

Writing

subject
English / Language Arts
learning style
Visual
personality style
Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Thesis statement #1: Many people in the world are victims of stereotyping.

Thesis statement #2: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.

Which is the stronger thesis statement? What makes it so?

The thesis statement is arguably the most important part of the research paper.

The thesis statement is a declarative sentence that states the main point of the paper and identifies the aspects of the topic that will be addressed throughout the writing. The thesis statement will almost always appear as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. In short, the thesis statement serves as the foundation for writing your paper from start to finish. It serves not only as a guide for you as the writer, but also — perhaps more importantly — for the reader. A weak thesis statement is a foretaste of a weak paper.

Before you go on, if you missed or need to review the Writing a Research Paper introduction lesson or other Related Lessons on topic selection and research, you can find them in the right-hand sidebar.

According to The High School Student's Guide to Writing a Great Research Paper, by Erika Eby, an effective and well written thesis statement should accomplish the following:

  • It is a statement of the paper's overall message and purpose.
  • It must be declarative.
  • It has a clear direction or frame of the paper.
  • It needs to have a hook to make it interesting.
  • It must be clearly worded and concise.
  • It must be void of weak language.

Another important tip is to avoid wordiness in your thesis statements. Look at the example below, provided by The High School Student's Guide to Writing a Great Research Paper, by Erika Eby:

"Though the narrator assures the reader several times that he is not mad it seems as though he is trying to convince himself of this fact, rather than the reader, as these instances only work to further illuminate his insanity."

There are many unnecessary words in this sentence. First, prune it down:

"Though the narrator assures the reader several times that he is not mad it seems as though he is trying to convince himself of this fact, rather than the reader, as these instances only work to further illuminate his insanity."

Now that the excess has been trimmed, add words to make it a complete sentence:

"The narrator assures the reader repeatedly he is not mad, but he is actually trying to convince himself of this, as each instance further illuminates his insanity."

Watch the following video for further instruction on how to write a thesis statement: The Thesis Statement: Research Paper, by Chandra Martz:

 

Read over the following thesis statement dos and don'ts. Take notes from this section keep it handy so you can use it to guide you as you create your own thesis statement.

The following examples have been taken from the Teacher's Discovery textbook, Research Paper Procedure: High School, by Amy M. Kleppner and Cynthia Skelton (2009):

What a good thesis statement is

  1. A good thesis statement is a declarative sentence stating clearly and concisely the author's main point.

    Example: The perceived injustices of the Treaty of Versailles made it a major cause of World War II.

  2. A good thesis statement is a sentence embodying a judgement, evaluation, or criticism, and is apparent in its use of value terms, e.g.,good, better, best, valuable, worthwhile, desirable, favorable, major, most important, effective, significant, insightful, or should.

    Example: The major obstacles that made the Treaty of Versailles difficult to enforce concerned disarmament, reparations, and the punishment of war criminals.

  3. A good thesis statement is a statement that can be considered significant because it contributes to scholarly understanding of a subject. A thesis statement should indicate to the reader that the author has something worth saying.

    Example: Instead of the thesis, "Playing video games is fun," develop a more significant idea about video games, like, "Video games are an important developmental tool for young people because they enhance eye-hand coordination, develop complex problem-solving skills, and promote self-confidence."

  4. A good thesis statement may suggest a comparison or a contrast.

    Example: The treaty that followed World War II was radically different from the one that concluded World War I.

  5. A good thesis statement may focus primarily on the causes or effects of a particular event, condition, or change.

    Example: A number of economic and political developments in Europe made World War I almost inevitable.

  6. A good thesis statement may propose a solution to a problem or recommend a policy.

    Example: Community service should be mandatory for all high school students, and should take place during the school hours.

What a good thesis statement is not

  1. A good thesis statement is not a statement of fact.

    Example: The Treaty of Versailles was signed by the four major powers and became effective January 1920.
    Revised: The competing national interests of the four major powers who negotiated the Treaty of Versailles led to some deeply problematic provisions.

  2. A good thesis statement is not merely the expression of personal opinion.

    Example: I think the Treaty of Versailles was a foolish mistake.
    Revised: The severe punishments, loss of territory, and steep reparation payments required by the Treaty of Versailles created turmoil in Germany, which later spread to the rest of Europe.

  3. A good thesis statement is not a generalization.

    Example: The Treaty of Versailles caused the world a lot of problems.
    Revised: German resentment toward the war-guilt clause in the Treaty of Versailles directly contributed to the rise of Adolph Hitler.

  4. A good thesis statement is not written in the form of a question.

    Example: Was the Treaty of Versailles a major force in precipitating World War II?
    Revised: The Treaty of Versailles was a major force in precipitating World War II.
  • According to these lists, what would you say is the biggest difference between a good thesis statement and a weak thesis statement?

Visit Purdue Online Writing Lab at Purdue University for their explanation: Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements. Take note of any new information mentioned in this article.

Before revising thesis statements yourself in the next activity, read over this handout from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Thesis Statements, to prepare you to fix weak thesis statements on your own. For each one, answer the question, "What makes this a weak thesis statement?"

In the Got It? section, you will apply what you've learned by evaluating thesis statements and writing your own.

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