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What is a Thesis Statement?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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A thesis statement is a statement in an essay that the writer plans to support, discuss or prove. Not all of these statements can be empirically proven, but many of them represent an argument. It should also stand out as an indicator of the clear direction in which the writer will take the essay. It should be strongly worded, impossible to miss, and in shorter essays of a few pages, it should show up in the first paragraph or introduction.

Most essays live or die by the strength of their thesis statements and by their ability to keep focused on their thesis. If the writer hasn't clearly indicated the focus or argument, it will often be difficult for him to stay focused on the issue he plans to discuss, argue or explain. Even if the essay is about how to build the perfect peanut butter sandwich, the writer will significantly improve the quality of the essay by letting readers know that this is what the subject is.

Though some people strive for an eloquently worded thesis, there’s nothing wrong in most cases with being perfectly direct. If using first person is permissible in the essay, writers can easily turn it into something like the following:

    In this essay, I will discuss how to make the best peanut butter sandwich in the world, with emphasis on bread choice, jam choice, and variants of the basic recipe.

If first person is not allowed in the essay, the writer can choose to say This essay will discuss instead of I will discuss.

To create a good thesis statement, a writer can ask himself a single question: What is the main focus of my essay? Sometimes, when a person must write on a topic that is already assigned, the answer is already provided. If a writing prompt is in the form of a question, the writer can simply restate the question into a statement, then set about creating a body of paragraphs that support that statement.

When the writer concludes the essay, he may want to briefly restate the thesis statement and refer to how he's supported it. It should be clear by the end of the essay that he has stayed focused on the topic, and done all he could to write a clear paper. At the end of the peanut butter sandwich essay, the writer might tell the audience that he has fulfilled his task.

This statement is just as valuable when writing a speech. Most experts will teach that the three key elements of a speech are for the speaker to tell the audience what he is going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what he told them. A short essay should work much in the same manner. The thesis equals telling the audience, the body is the exploration of the thesis, and the conclusion restates what the writer told the audience. With these ideas in mind, a writer can focus on writing a terrific thesis for each work that will help him clearly organize and present his thoughts for both written and spoken material.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon324177 — On Mar 08, 2013

Thanks for the help! I needed it for my speech on national debt.

By Ana1234 — On Dec 16, 2012

@bythewell - My way for keeping on task was to just ask myself over and over as I was writing, is this related to the question being asked? Even if I was the one asking the question.

For me though, it's not enough to get an explanation of what a thesis is. I had to look up some thesis statement examples before I really got a grasp on what I was supposed to do.

By bythewell — On Dec 15, 2012

@anon149883 - I would clarify that with whichever lecturer I was writing the essay for. It's also going to depend on whether your essay is for an English class or a Science class, since I think the terms are used slightly differently in each.

Generally, I would put the summaries into the introduction, rather than the thesis statement, but they might be combined in some cases.

Your lecturer was right, however, in that a thesis is a good way to test your argument. It's also really good practice to summarize each paragraph and make sure they stack up against the thesis.

But, also, when it comes down to it, eventually you're going to be writing for a general public, whether that's reports for a job, or whatever. And putting the purpose of the writing up front is a good time saver for everyone.

By anon242653 — On Jan 24, 2012

I needed this page. Thanks.

By anon234625 — On Dec 13, 2011

I was wondering if you might have some ideas on a good thesis statement for me. I'm doing an essay on death in Dickens. My main focus is on Fagin and Sydney Carton being executed, then the deaths of Paul Dombey, Little Nell and Jenny's baby, and then the murder of Nancy.

All ideas are greatly appreciated.

By anon149883 — On Feb 05, 2011

Thanks for telling me what a thesis is. Do we have to put the main ideas of the three paragraph body in the thesis? Instead of stating 'This essay will discuss', it should be 'This essay will elaborate...'. Essays don't speak. I know a lot of students probably ask why a thesis statement is necessary. I know I did when I was in college. It was once explained to me that the thesis tests your ideas by clarifying them into a sentence or two, that it helps you to better organize and develop your argument, and that it provides the reader of your paper with a "guide" to your argument. This helped me to understand it a lot better.

One of the best explanations I ever received from a college professor on compiling a thesis was to ask yourself the who, what, when, where, and why questions. If you ask yourself these while developing your thesis, then it is easier to support it in the subsequent paragraphs by answering them.

By anon131233 — On Dec 01, 2010

Thanks for telling me what a thesis is.

By anon129897 — On Nov 25, 2010

Do we have to put the main ideas of the three paragraph body in the thesis?

By anon113709 — On Sep 25, 2010

Instead of stating 'This essay will discuss', it should be 'This essay will elaborate...'. Essays don't speak.

By stacey84 — On Jul 14, 2010

introduction needs to be strong in the thesis statements

By booklife — On Jun 03, 2010

I know a lot of students probably ask why a thesis statement is necessary. I know I did when I was in college. It was once explained to me that the thesis tests your ideas by clarifying them into a sentence or two, that it helps you to better organize and develop your argument, and that it provides the reader of your paper with a "guide" to your argument. This helped me to understand it a lot better.

By love2learn — On Jun 03, 2010

One of the best explanations I ever received from a college professor on compiling a thesis was to ask yourself the who, what, when, where, and why questions. If you ask yourself these while developing your thesis, then it is easier to support it in the subsequent paragraphs by answering them.

By anon6200 — On Dec 19, 2007

help with restating our thesis statement for concluding paragraph?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen

Writer

With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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