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The thesis is usually considered the most important sentence of your essay because it outlines the central purpose of your essay in one place. A good thesis will link the subject of an essay with a controlling idea. Consider, for example, the following thesis:
People in the past spent a great deal of effort protecting themselves from witches.
Subject: people feared witches
Controlling Idea: people spent a great deal of effort protecting themselves
In a short essay, a thesis statement appears at, or near, the end of the introductory paragraph of the paper so that readers know the topic of the essay before they see the writer's statement of the central purpose of the essay. This way the first paragraph helps the reader understand why the writer is writing.
A thesis should be narrow in focus in order to allow the fullest exploration of its issues as possible, and it should reflect the type of paper that follows, whether it be persuasive or informative. Narrowing the focus of the thesis may require posing questions about it to yourself before committing to a final version.
What follows is a method for writing thesis statements that many writers have found useful (we found it in Chapter 3 of The Allyn & Bacon Handbook).
1. Decide what you are writing about:
A clear, concise thesis statement does more than outline the subject in question; it makes the reader aware of the writer's stand on the subject in question, connecting a subject with a controlling idea.
2. Think about all the elements your paper will deal with:
A thesis generally consists of a subject that contains within itself a number of smaller facts; the topic sentence of each paragraph that makes up the body of the paper should refer (in some clear way) back to the ideas contained within the thesis statement in order to keep the paper from digressing.
3. Think about the purpose and tone of your paper:
A thesis statement should contain the main point of the paper and suggest to the reader a direction that the paper will take in exploring, proving, or disproving that main point.
4. State your main point in a sentence or two:
A good writer can assert the main idea of a short, coherent essay briefly. Instead of rambling, be as straightforward as possible.
5. Revise your thesis as you develop your paper:
A final version of a thesis statement will only be available after a draft of the paper it is a part of has been completed. The focus of the paper may change and evolve over the period it is written in; necessarily, the thesis statement should be revised to reflect the alterations in the paper.
Few writers finish a paper writing about the exact topic they begin with. While you write a paper, your main point may change. As you're finishing, make sure your thesis statement has changed along with the subject and controlling ideas of your paper.
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A thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any successful essay. A thesis statement controls the subject matter of the essay and states something significant to the reader. It is the one statement that summarizes the main point of the essay and states why the essay is important and worth reading. An essay that lacks a strong thesis will be inadequate and often lacking in focus.
The following are qualities of a well-crafted thesis statement:
- A thesis statement should identify a specific purpose, a specific way to accomplish the purpose, and oftentimes a specific audience (depending on the type of essay).
- A thesis statement should assert something about the essay.
- A thesis statement should be easily identifiable by a reader and should be clear and not ambiguous.
- A thesis statement generally comes toward the end of the introduction.
Examples of thesis statements:
"In order to succeed in the classroom, college students need to utilize the resources available to them throughout their academic careers." Notice how this thesis statement includes a specific audience (college students), a specific purpose (success in the classroom) and the specific way this can be accomplished (utilizing available resources).
"The United States government needs to implement a nationalized healthcare system to lower the cost of healthcare and improve the overall health of all citizens." Notice how, much like the above example, this thesis statement also has a specific purpose (lowering the cost of healthcare and improving health) and a specific way to do so (implementing national healthcare). What this thesis does not address, because of the nature of the essay and topic, is a specific audience. A thesis statement for an argument essay does not always address a specific audience since it is written to broader audience with the attempt to persuade others to a specific viewpoint.
Just as the contents of the essay may change during the writing process, so, too, may the thesis statement. It is important to create a thesis statement before writing the paper, but this type of thesis is generally referred to as a working thesis and may change along with the contents of the essay. It is important that a writer uses the thesis to direct the creation of the essay, but it is also important that the writer is open to changing the thesis as necessary.
A reader should be able to easily identify the thesis in any essay. If someone reads your essay and cannot identify where the thesis statement is located, take this as a sign that the thesis is not clear and/or is not as specific or strong as it can be. Make sure that the thesis stands out and can be easily interpreted.
For more information on writing an effective thesis statement, please see the thesis statement exercise.