A thesis statement is a succinct summary of an essay’s contents. Usually appearing in the last sentence of the introduction, it can answer a question, provide a position, and give the reader a quick look at the information that lies ahead. Simply put: it helps you, the writer, present your ideas in an organized, understandable way.
The Three Basic Rules
While the development of your thesis statement depends on what type of paper you’re writing (more on that below!), there are a few basic rules you should always follow. If there’s anything you remember about putting together a thesis statement, it should be these three things:
Be specific. Your statement should only contain information directly relating to the material in your paper. State exactly the points that will be addressed in the subsections below.
Summarize your main idea. Think of it as an elevator pitch. After seeing it, a reader should have a very good idea of your essay’s main idea without having to read it through entirely.
Be succinct. Thesis statements are generally no longer than one sentence. Be concise and leave out any extra fluff.
Tips To Keep In Mind
The first step in building a thesis statement is to understand what type of essay you’re writing.
There are two main types of essays that require a thesis statement: informative and argumentative. In an informative essay, your thesis statement should summarize the information your paper will include. It should present the main idea and briefly touch upon all sub-claims. The statement for an argumentative essay should do exactly the same; however, it should also clearly state your opinion or position on the given topic.
Don’t write it until the very end.
As a thesis statement lives within an essay introduction, it’s easy to think this means it should be the first thing you write. But that’s not the case. Think about it: you can’t summarize your information until you know what information you’re going to include. Instead, start by doing research on your topic. Next, put together an outline of the information you’ve collected, planning out how it will be presented in your essay. Then, write a draft of your essay. Only after you’ve done all of that should you begin to build your main statement.
Fully answer the question asked.
A thesis statement is no good to the reader unless it fully answers the question asked, whether that be summarizing information or taking an argumentative position. One great way to evaluate this is to use the “how and why?” test. Let a professor or trusted friend read through your main statement and nothing else. If the reader can ask “how?” or “why” afterward, your thesis statement doesn’t fully answer the question.
Avoid passive language.
Your thesis statement should be written with confidence, convincing the reader that you have the information necessary to fully defend your statement. Don’t use words such as “might be” or “probably” as these weaken your position.
Abstain from first-person voice.
A thesis statement should never include phrases such as “The point of my paper is…” or “My thesis is…”. This disrupts the flow of your paper and may even discredit your stance on the subject.
Perhaps the trickiest part of putting together a thesis statement is summarizing all of the necessary information while remaining concise. But it’s imperative that the statement include your main idea and all of your sub-claims. Also, it’s very common for information within an essay to change as you edit. If this is the case, be sure to go back and adjust your thesis statement to include any new information.
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