What is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement is a sentence containing a prime idea for a writing assignment, It should help in controlling the flow of ideas within the writing essay or paper. It often reflects the perception that a writer has made about his reading or personal experience. For instance, “Tocqueville believed that the domestic role most women held in America was the role that gave them the most power, an idea that many would hotly dispute today”.
A thesis statement is no simple topic. As you might have understood, if there’s one thing your English teacher will focus on, it will be thesis statements. Being able to write a clear convincing thesis statement is the whole foundation of a good balanced paper.
Very often, a weak thesis will cause your entire paper to appear mediocre. Your lack of focus will make organization of ideas difficult and transitions nearly impossible. The paper will sound like repeating the same points over and over again. Most of these writing mistakes are usually symptoms of a bad thesis statement.
Have you heard these critiques from teachers before? Seen the corrections glowing on the page in bright red ink?
Then, chances are that your paper was suffering from one small issue which was causing all of these other complications. That small issue was a weak thesis statement.
A good thesis statement should at the outset convey the following 3 aspects:
- setting an expectation for your reader – WHAT the essay is about?
- setting up a primary argument that YOU will discuss upon – and which the reader might disagree with
- it should answer a question
Of course, I’m assuming that you are already practicing how to write good English, if not click here!
Crafting A Good Thesis Solves Most Writing Issues
Here is the good news – crafting an effective thesis, can solve most of your writing issues. Meaning that by simply learning how to fix these weak thesis statements, you can dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your writing. It is amazing how much easy writing becomes, when you actually know what point you are trying to make. Like I consistently iterate, having a clear idea of something, helps enormously in putting it into concretion. A light bulb will go off in your head and you will begin to recognize an clear logical organizational pattern to your writing. You will start to see why transitions work and how to use them effectively.
It all comes down to this one simple step of learning how to craft a good thesis statement.
What Makes a Good Thesis Statement?
I have a question for you, dear reader! If thesis statements are so important, what exactly makes a thesis statement good? Any guesses? If you can master the process by which we create good theses (note here the plural of thesis is theses), you will be well on your way to becoming a better writer.
The good about these questions, is that there is no secret to writing a good thesis. But it all boils down to learning ‘how to do it’ AND practicing what you learn. It’s that simple, but yet difficult to master if you take this lightly.
So learning to craft a good thesis statement takes practice. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. To help you on this self-exercising, there are fortunately a couple strategies that will help you make your life easier. Think of these guidelines as “rules of thumb” that will make your thesis statements more likely to succeed.
If your thesis meets the following criteria, there’s a good chance you are a winner! And winner you should always fight to be!
A Good Thesis Statement Must Be Interesting.
Quite often, students get so caught up in the mechanics of a thesis that they forget the most important part of writing a good paper. It needs to be worth reading – make it creative and interesting! If no reasonable reader would care about the topic, then it doesn’t matter how good or insightful your argument is. Always consider the reader. No paper can succeed if it reaches no reader. Ask yourself: Do I care about this topic? Would I read this paper?
A Good Thesis Statement Must Be Specific.
Writers commonly think that choosing a broad topic will make writing the paper easier. After all, the more you have to choose from, the easier it will be, right? Actually, the exact opposite is true. Very broad thesis statements lead to information paralysis. So much can be said about the topic that the writer ends up barely saying anything at all. A thesis that’s too broad almost always results in a paper that repeats the same general statements over and over again. Usually, the writer never actually explores the topic in any kind of meaningful way.
A Good Thesis Statement Must Be Manageable.
Similar to the specificity guideline, a good thesis statement must also be manageable. You don’t want to set up an epic game plan for a three-page paper. Manageability will vary according to the length of the paper you are writing. For example, you wouldn’t want to examine all of William Faulkner’s novels in five pages, but you might for a 300-page PhD dissertation. The five-pager would be more manageable if you focused only on one of his novels, like The Sound and the Fury.
Examples of Good and Bad Thesis Statements
Bad Thesis 1: The Affordable Care Act has many pros and cons.
Let’s see how this thesis statement works according to our guidelines.
Is it interesting? Yes, some readers would find this topic interesting.
Is it specific? No, not really. We don’t know what direction the writer will go, or how many pros and/or cons will be explored. We don’t know what group will be the focus of this paper–students, retirees, families?
Is it manageable? Maybe, but because the thesis lacks specificity, we don’t know for sure whether the topic is appropriate for the assignment.
Although many special interest groups have fought the Affordable Care Act, the bill has at least three major provisions that benefit recent college graduates which is crucial to stimulating the American economy.
Do you see why this thesis is better? It focuses specifically on one group (recent college graduates) and it limits the discussion to “three major provisions,” thereby making the argument manageable.
Bad Thesis 2: Since the American Revolution, protest has been an important part of American culture.
Ask the big three questions.
- Is it interesting? Sure, many people would like to read a paper on this topic.
- Is it specific? This is a close call, but it’s probably safe to say this thesis is specific. It focuses on the single theme of protest in American culture.
- Is it manageable? Aha, here’s the problem. This topic is not manageable. Think about how many protests have occurred over the past 250 years of American history. You would have to write a whole book to cover this vast topic.
The protests that sparked the American Revolution have much in common with contemporary political movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.
This new thesis zeros in on two very focused periods in American history and compares them. This paper would leave out everything that happened in between these two historical events and, as a result, the paper’s thesis will be much more manageable.
Final Thoughts About Thesis Statements
When writing your thesis statement, keep in mind that this important sentence is flexible. It can change. We might even go as far as to say that it should change over the course of the paper. This is why we often refer to your first few attempts as a working thesis statement.
Sometimes it takes a while to figure out exactly what point you want to make. Sometimes you won’t even realize your main point until the end of the paper. I call this “writing towards your thesis.” It happens quite often, in fact. Different people write different ways. Just make sure you go back and revise your introduction when you finally realize your main point.
Whether you craft a strong working thesis in the beginning or whether you write towards your thesis, just remember those three important questions: Is it interesting, specific, and manageable? If your thesis meets these three standards, your paper is off to a good start!
That’s it! Go write your thesis and craft it to the best of your abilities!
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