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Thesis Statement Definition

A thesis statement shows the reader the purpose and focus of the paper.  The paper should then provide support and evidence for the thesis.

Why You Need a Thesis Statement

A good thesis brings clarity to your paper--both for you and for your audience.  First, writing your thesis forces you to articulate the main idea of your paper. Now, instead of a vague idea of what you are trying to accomplish, you have a statement that explains your purpose.  Then, your thesis statement gives your reader the key to understanding the meaning of your paper.  

Your thesis statement maps out the direction your paper will take.  Again, this helps both you and your reader make sense of your paper.

Your thesis is the heart of your paper.  Everything about your paper revolves around your thesis.

What Makes a Good Thesis Statement?

Your thesis should contain one main idea that will be the topic of your paper.  Every point your paper makes should support your thesis.  If you have a great idea, but it doesn't add to the argument for your thesis, write it down and save it to use on another paper.

It will probably take several drafts before you come up with the final version of your thesis.  That's good!  When you are first brainstorming your thesis, go ahead and let your ideas pour forth from your mind unhindered.  But before you finalize what you are going to use for your essay, make sure the thesis is logical and well-articulated.

Avoid vague
statements.  Avoid being too broad.  Once you have chosen your topic, work to narrow it down to something that you can actually address within the scope of your paper.

Your thesis should NOT just be a statement of fact.  It should be debatable.  Your entire paper will need to explain the reasons for your thesis.

Your thesis should also NOT just be a statement of opinion.  You need to be able to make a logical argument for your position using facts.

Be able to answer the question "So what?"  Demonstrate to your reader why your topic and your position on the topic are important.


Where Does Your Thesis Statement Go?

In a traditional academic paper, the thesis should be the last sentence of the first paragraph.  You should also restate the thesis at the beginning of the last paragraph.  Use different wording when restating your thesis.  Don't change the thesis itself, just the way it's phrased.  Instead of introducing the main point of your paper, you are concluding, and the wording of the thesis here should reflect that.

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What a Thesis Statement is NOT

A Restatement of the Prompt
​When your professor gives you a prompt for an essay, that is a great place to start, but that is NOT your thesis.  For example, if the prompt  is: Describe a formative experience in your life, a good thesis is NOT "I had a formative experience in my life."  A good theisis could be , "My trip to the Grand Canyon was formative because of what I learned about myself, my family and God."

Another Person's Idea
A thesis statement is NOT a direct quote.  An intriguing quote can certainly be inspirational to your paper, but it should not be your thesis.  This is YOUR paper!  Use research and other people's ideas, but not as a substitution for your own thinking about the subject.  Properly cited quotes add depth to your paper, but the correct place for them is NOT in your thesis.  


A Question
Questions are excellent tools in the thinking process.  They can provoke deeper thoughts about issues.  However, by the time you formulate your thesis statement, you should be prepared not only to answer a question about your topic, but to defend your position.  Do not leave the most important part of your paper up for interpretation.  State your position clearly and decisively.

An Announcement
Do NOT say, "In this paper, I will demonstrate how the culture in the epic Beowulf values women, but in a way that the modern reader finds offensive."  Don't tell the reader what you are going to do, do it!  Say instead, "The culture portrayed in the epic Beowulf values women, but in a way that the modern reader finds offensive."

An Apology
Do NOT use phrases like, "In my opinion. . ." or "I think . . ."  or "I could be wrong, but . . ."  A thesis is supposed to be arguable.  That means that some peole will disagree with you, but that doesn't mean you have to back down.  State your view strongly.  Be prepared to present facts to support it, but don't apologize for it.