Thesis Statement: How to Write a Good Thesis Statement



Thesis Statement: How to Write a Good Thesis Statement

Essay and Thesis Writing Series



Grant Andrews

Academic Coaching



Copyright © 2017 by Grant Andrews


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below.

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Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: It All Starts with a Question

Chapter 3: What Does a Thesis Statement Do?

Chapter 4: Be Clear and Concise

Chapter 5: Things to Remember

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The Academic Coaching team offers free content to help anyone writing a thesis, essay or article. We provide free short books on every topic relating to thesis writing, as well as step-by-step guides on how to plan, research and write your academic piece. If you would like to request that we compile a tutorial or eBook that you need, or if you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].

Our services also include editing, coaching and counseling. We coach our clients through all stages of thesis writing, and host online workshops and writing marathons. You can find our pricing guide on our website, www.writeyourthesis.com.

We hope this short guide can help you to make a success of your academic work!

Chapter 1: Introduction

Academic writing can be extremely confusing, especially when you don’t have much experience. When you’re just starting out writing a thesis or getting used to writing academic essays and research papers, there’s a lot to learn that might be incredibly intimidating or frustrating, and many people feel like they’ve been thrown into the deep end.

Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there to help you along the way. This guide will try to give you all of the basics about one of the main questions budding researchers have: what is a thesis statement, and how do you write one that will make your thesis stand out?

The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any piece of academic writing. However, it’s also one of the most confusing, and the thing that many students find most challenging. This one part of your essay or dissertation has to accomplish a lot of different things.

In this short book we’ll break down all of the different components that go into writing a thesis statement. We’ll explain how a thesis statement has to answer a question, even when it seems like no question is being asked. We’ll tell you about how your thesis statement is the rudder that guides the course of your entire essay or thesis. We’ll also explain how the thesis statement has to be clear and concise so that your intention is clear right from the start. Finally, we’ll show you how to make your statement interesting and original so that readers will want to learn more about your ideas, and we’ll show you examples of good thesis statements so that you can see how all the different components are put into practice.

We’ve tried to make this guide as informative and as brief as possible. It’s important to get thesis statements right, so we’ve given you information about all of the common pitfalls which we’ve seen in our students’ writing over the years, and you’ll find tools that we’ve developed over many years of teaching and lecturing. We wrote the book in a very accessible, easy-to-read style, and take you step-by-step through writing a good thesis statement. You don’t have to make the same mistakes that many other students make if you have all the tools right now.

Hopefully, the guide will help you on your journey to writing your essay or thesis. If you have any questions at the end, be sure to email us; our details are at the front of the book. We love hearing from other researchers and students!

For now, let’s take a look at direct and indirect questions that will help you to craft your thesis statement.

Chapter 2: It All Starts with a Question

A thesis statement can be defined as a very brief statement of what the main point or contention of your essay or dissertation is. Essentially, you are stating what you will be writing about. However, there’s a little more to writing a good thesis statement than only this basic function.

Every thesis statement is an answer to a question. When you look at thesis statements in this way, it becomes a lot easier to construct one. All you have to do is state what your answer to the question is.

For many undergraduate students and even those at master’s level, the question is given quite directly. You will be given a clear topic to write on and perhaps you’ll be asked to respond to a particular discussion with your own point of view. An example of a direct question is given below:

Write an essay discussing the idea of freedom in the story Beauty and the Beast. Do you think that Belle was truly “free” in the story?

For this question, you are given a very direct question, one which requires a yes or no answer. (You might also consider a “maybe” answer, but in the chapter later in this book that advises you to be clear and concise, you’ll see that it’s more effective to pick a side rather than to remain vague and noncommittal). In the case of such a direct question, your thesis statement will have to answer the question clearly, and it will have to do so in a way that will also contain the question so that any readers who might stumble across your essay without knowing the original question will still know what’s going on.

For example, the following thesis statement might seem incomplete:

Yes, Belle was truly free.

If I picked up your essay and read that thesis statement, I would be completely lost. I would ask myself: is this writer speaking in code? Who is this “Belle” they’re writing about? And what do they mean when they say that she was free?

A much better thesis statement, one that doesn’t leave your reader with the same amount of questions, could be written as follows:

This essay will argue that the character Belle from the story Beauty and the Beast truly achieved freedom in the story when she fell in love with the Beast.

Now, the reader has much more information. They know the story you’re talking about. They can even infer the original question that was asked simply by reading your thesis statement. And, most importantly, they know your answer as well as the reason you are giving your answer.

Now, this is all very simple when you are given a specific question, and you only have to write an essay responding to that question. But what if there is no real question? How can you give an answer to something that hasn’t been directly asked of you?

There are two possibilities for indirect questions that you could be given. The first is when you are required to write a discursive essay, rather than an argumentative essay, or in other words an essay where you’re required to discuss something rather than debate or argue for something. A discursive essay looks at many different aspects of a particular topic, explaining what these aspects are all about. This might be a type of comparative essay, where you compare different things without evaluating which one is better overall. A discursive essay topic might be presented to you in the following way:

Discuss the various characters in the story Beauty and the Beast, and explain how they relate to their environments.

In this essay topic, you’re not being required to evaluate anything or to argue anything. You’re merely being directed to look at various characters in detail. There is no simple “yes” or “no” that you can respond with. However, there are indirect questions being asked that you can respond to through your thesis statement. Try and take a few minutes to read through the topic again and think of the types of questions that are indirectly being asked of you. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it just yet. I’ll help you with this one so that you can practice it with the rest of the topics in this chapter.

We’ll catch up again after the jump…


Did you find any implicit or indirect questions in the topic above? If not, have a look at some of the questions that you might not have been able to notice, and it’ll be much easier to think of the types of thesis statements you could write that would be answers to these questions.

Some of the indirect questions were:

What are the differences between the various characters in the story?

What are the differences between the various environments in the story?

How do the characters feel in the spaces they find themselves in?

Do any characters move between spaces, and how do these movements affect them?

There are many more implicit questions, but these are the big ones that your essay could respond to. The nice thing about writing an essay or thesis is that you’re given the freedom to write the essay as you choose, as long as you are covering all of the points of the original topic. If your answer covers the different characters and shows how they relate to their environments, you will be on the right track.

Now, let’s look at what a thesis statement that responds to this topic would look like. A thesis statement which answers most of the indirect questions in a clear, focused and unambiguous way could look as follows:

This essay will discuss how the characters in the story Beauty and the Beast, namely Belle, the Beast and the castle’s staff, tend to feel trapped and restrained in the castle setting, and are able to find happiness only when they move outside of the castle walls.

You’ll notice that I don’t simply repeat the question as my thesis statement. This is a mistake many budding academics make. Your answer has to tell me what you’ll be doing in your essay, it shouldn’t just tell me what the question is. An inexperienced writer might give the following thesis statement in response to the topic above:

This essay will discuss the various characters in the story Beauty and the Beast, and explain how they relate to their environments.

You’ll see that this thesis statement gives the reader absolutely nothing in the way of new information. You’re not giving them any idea of what your essay will be about or which points you will cover. Compare it to the thesis statement I gave before. The first one gives a clear answer to the question, telling me which characters will be looked at, which environments will be explored, and how the characters relate to these environments. The second one only tells me what the original question was and doesn’t give any type of answer to the question. This is the major difference which you need to master as early as possible. Your thesis statement needs to answer the question, not just restate or reiterate it.

You’ll also notice that even though the topic didn’t seem to ask any direct or clear question, we were able to find many indirect questions and then respond to each one in our thesis statement. If you’re given a topic, make sure that you find all of the direct and indirect questions contained in the topic before trying to write your thesis statement, and make sure that your thesis statement actually answers the question instead of merely rewriting it in a different way.

There’s another situation where you’ll be required to write a thesis statement without being given a direct question. In fact, you might not be given any topic at all. This is the case when you have to write a master’s or doctoral thesis. In this situation, you’ll not only have to figure out your answer, but you’ll also have to figure out your own question or even multiple questions! Luckily, you have a supervisor to help you here. Additionally, there are very good places to discover questions that are worth finding answers to.

Firstly, you could do a literature review in your subject. In many fields, researchers will include questions for future research at the end of their papers. If you read enough papers, you’ll start to discover patterns of where there are gaps in research that you could respond to with your thesis. Use these researchers’ unanswered questions as your point of departure, and start to think about the types of fieldwork or hypotheses you could formulate to try and answer these questions or respond to these concerns.

The second place you could find questions worth answering is simply by thinking about what interests you. What are some things in your field that you’ve always wondered about? What are some ideas that you’ve always wanted to explore? Or better yet, did you find any of the ideas in the articles you’ve read so far to be lacking or incomplete, and do you have unanswered questions after reading these articles? If you can list a few of these, review the literature and speak to your supervisor about whether they could be good research topics.

Once you have a good enough question, your thesis statement will be much easier to put together. Next, we’ll look at all the different things a thesis statement should do so that you can make sure you are writing one that fulfills all of the main functions.

Review Your Learning:

p<>{color:#000;}. A thesis statement is an answer to a question

p<>{color:#000;}. The original question is contained in the thesis statement

p<>{color:#000;}. A thesis statement doesn’t merely restate the question, but gives new information and a clear answer

p<>{color:#000;}. Many topics contain indirect questions.

Chapter 3: What Does a Thesis Statement Do?

There are many different functions of a thesis statement, and we’ll explore them in this chapter. Your job is to make sure that whenever you write a thesis statement, that it performs all of its functions so that it can help you to write a good essay or thesis. We’ve covered the first function in the previous chapter, but I’ll repeat it here so that you can have a complete list of the functions of a thesis statement.

A thesis statement needs to do the following:

p<>{color:#000;}. Be an answer to the main question (direct or indirect) posed in your given topic

p<>{color:#000;}. Steer the course of your essay or thesis

p<>{color:#000;}. Clearly state your argument or main point

p<>{color:#000;}. Indicate the type of writing that you are doing

p<>{color:#000;}. Not just state something known, but state something disputable that requires support or evidence

p<>{color:#000;}. Make the reader interested in your essay

Let’s look at each of these points that we haven’t covered yet and see if we can craft a better thesis statement by the end of this chapter.

Your thesis statement should steer the course of your essay or thesis

A thesis statement needs to act like a rudder that steers the massive ship (your essay or thesis) in the same direction. You can’t have an essay where you have a million tiny boats all going in different directions. This will confuse the reader, and you won’t be able to make a compelling point. Whenever you’re worried that you might be veering off course, you can just turn back to your thesis statement which will show you whether your points are all aligning with the same intention.

This means that your thesis statement is that one part of your essay that ensures that the whole body of work has meaning and is coherent. Your thesis statement comes at the start of your written work, in the introduction, and it tells the rest of your essay which direction it should be going in. This helps your entire thesis or essay to make sense and for the various points you are making to all lead to one conclusion.

The reason why this is important is because of everything you’ve learned in the previous chapter, namely the fact that a thesis statement (and, by extension, an essay or thesis) needs to be the answer to a question. Imagine you are trying to answer someone’s question and instead of making points that support your answer, you tell them a hundred different things on a hundred different topics, with no logical link between your points. Your answer won’t have any meaning for the listener. Take a look at the example below. Imagine a friend of yours asks you the question:

What’s the weather like today?

A good answer to this question will usually start with a main point, or a thesis statement that all of your other points will support. This main point could look as follows:

The weather is dreadful today!

Now, once you give your friend this main point, you could spend the next ten minutes talking about all of the reasons why the weather is dreadful. You could tell your friend how you’ve hung your laundry on the washing line outside and as soon as you left home it started raining. You could tell your friend that there is a prediction of hail in the afternoon. You could tell her that your dog is sleeping in his kennel on the porch and has probably left wet paw prints all over your freshly-washed patio rug. All of these points support your main answer to the question, and help to illustrate the main point that you are making.

However, imagine that in response to your friends initial question, you simply say the following:

I had chocolate milk with breakfast today. I was watching TV and suddenly got a headache. My mother likes raspberries.

These points seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the question. Your friend won’t be able to get any meaning out of your response, and you’ll notice that the response is very incoherent, meaning that the points have nothing to do with one another and they definitely have nothing to do with the question that your friend asked. There is no logic to your response because it wasn’t steered or directed by a clear thesis statement.

That’s the main role of a thesis statement: to provide a central point which all of your other points need to support, and which directly answers the question. You’ll also notice that I didn’t just restate the question here. What an inexperienced student might do is answer with something like this:

In the next few minutes, I’m going to tell you what the weather is like today.

This is simply restating the question, and doesn’t provide an answer to it. Your friend already knows what the question is, and they now want an answer to it. If you give the type of response that merely restates the question, the person asking the question won’t know how all of the points fit together, and they won’t be able to follow your meaning in a logical, coherent way. I’m putting those words in bold because they’re essential for you to remember when you craft a thesis statement. You need to say something meaningful, and the rest of your points all need to “fit” with that central idea.

Let’s look at one more example of how your thesis statement can steer the direction of your essay or thesis. If you have a question like this:

What do you think the city of Kampala should do to boost its economy?

You could either answer like this:

In this essay, I will tell you what the city of Kampala should do to boost its economy.

Or one like this:

[_ In this essay, I will argue that the city of Kampala should switch from primary economic activities to focus on manufacturing and technology in order to boost its economy by 15% by the year 2035. _]

Which thesis statement do you think is better? Which one do you think provides more meaning that can be explored through an essay or thesis? Which one do you think will lead to a more coherent answer, where each of the points will fit with the other points to create a compelling argument, and which one do you think will simply lead to rambling, incoherence and disjointed points because the author clearly doesn’t know where they are going or what they want to say?

Your thesis statement should clearly state your argument or main point

To build on the previous function, it’s important to remember that your thesis statement is a part of your written work that clearly states your main point. This means that you need to tell the reader what you are about to spend a few pages (or a few hundred pages) talking about, in no uncertain terms.

Many students and researchers are confused by the thesis statement only being one main point, since some questions might seem to require you to talk about more than one thing. However, there needs to be a unifying idea between the various points. Your thesis statement is not the only part of your introduction. Your introduction also has an overview of your points where you can spend more time elaborating on the different elements of your essay or thesis. (You can find our more about introductions by visiting www.writeyourthesis.com). But your thesis statement doesn’t have to do all of that. It only gives the main thrust of your discussion and unifies all of the different elements.

Let’s look at an example. You might get a question with many different components like the one given below:

Discuss the instigating factors in the French Revolution. What were the roles of the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolutionary War in the conflicts leading up to 1789? How did Enlightenment ideals influence social changes leading up to the Revolution?

This might seem like an extremely complex topic, and you’ll have to find a way to provide an answer to the indirect questions that can act as a steering statement for all of the points you make in your essay when you respond to this topic. Let’s list some of the implicit or indirect questions:

Which factors led to the French Revolution?

How important was the influence of the Seven Years’ War in the French Revolution?

How important was the influence of the American Revolutionary War in the French Revolution?

What were the conflicts leading up to 1789?

What are the Enlightenment ideals, and how did they influence the French Revolution?

What were the social changes leading up to the French Revolution?

How can you possibly write a thesis statement that responds to all of these questions? The answer is that your thesis statement doesn’t have to say it all, it just has to say the main point that you want to look at, the point that unifies all of the other ideas. You need to give your own perspective, based on your research, on these topics under one unifying idea. Let’s consider the following thesis statement as a response to the topic:

In this essay, I will show how the influence of the American Revolutionary War was one of the most significant instigating factors in the French Revolution, causing greater consciousness of particular Enlightenment ideals like the separation of church and state, and thereby creating unrest with the impoverished French population that led to the Revolution. I will compare the influence of the Seven Years’ War to show that it was relatively less significant in the social ethos of the French Revolution.

This thesis statement is slightly longer since it’s responding to a much more complex topic. However, can you see that it responds to all of the direct and indirect questions being asked? Can you see how it unifies all of the points to actually give a direct answer to the question rather than simply rephrasing the question? If you write a thesis statement like the one above, you are already setting up what your essay will be about. You are telling the reader that you will show how the American Revolutionary War was a more significant factor than the Seven Years’ War. You are highlighting the Enlightenment ideal that you think is the main factor involved, namely the separation of church and state. You are showing the social factor you’ll focus on, namely the unrest of the impoverished French society, so you’ll be focusing on what the poverty meant and how it came about. You’ve said a lot in only 80 words.

Importantly, the reader now knows what your main point is, namely that the American Revolutionary War was more significant than the Seven Years’ War. This is, of course, not a statement of fact. It is a highly debatable point that requires you to provide a lot of evidence to support it. And that’s what makes it a good thesis statement. You are saying something disputable and interesting. Everyone knows that both wars were significant instigating factors, but you’re coming at the question from a different angle and actually answering the question in the process. Your essay or thesis will be much more interesting and impactful (if you do the right amount of research) than someone who simply writes the following thesis statement:

In this essay I will look at the influence of the American Revolutionary War and the Seven Years’ War in instigating the French Revolution.

Once again, this second thesis statement is saying absolutely nothing of interest. It’s not answering the question and it’s not providing direction for the rest of the essay. This author will probably just go on to list a lot of different points that don’t lead to any meaningful conclusion, and the essay will probably be very boring and rudimentary, telling us everything we already know. There is no main point that the author is leading us towards with this thesis statement, and they’re simply rewriting the question as their thesis statement.

It’s much easier to pick up on this when you’re asked to write an argumentative essay. In this type of essay, you have to give an argument that shows your perspective on the research or topic. For example, you could be asked:

What is the best television show? Provide reasons for your answer.

For this question, you’ll have to firstly pick a television show that you think is the best, and then try to convince your reader through persuasive reasoning that your answer is the right one, even if they might initially disagree with your idea. A thesis statement in response to this topic could look as follows:

This essay will argue that Breaking Bad is the best television show because it crafted the most compelling tragic anti-hero in television history, and it excelled in terms of cinematography and foreshadowing in ways that no other television series before or after could match.

You’re clearly stating your main point or argument, namely that Breaking Bad is the best television show, and you’re showing that you’ll provide an argument based on three points, namely the tragic anti-hero character, the cinematography and the foreshadowing in the show. I know exactly what your essay will be about based on this thesis statement, and I know how you’ll reach your conclusion. I might disagree with you at the start, and think that The Vampire Diaries is the best television show, but you’ve created interest in me as a reader and I’ll be willing to listen to your argument because you’ve presented it so well.

Once again, compare the above thesis statement to a much weaker one:

In this essay, I’ll tell you what the best television show is.

The latter thesis statement again is just restating the question and not providing an answer to it. I have no idea what your main point is with the second thesis statement, and if you don’t get to a point soon, I’ll probably lose interest and wonder whether you know what you’re talking about. I’ll go on thinking that The Vampire Diaries is the best show because your thesis statement did little to draw me into your argument.

Your thesis statement should indicate the type of writing that you’ll be doing

Have you noticed how I start off many of my thesis statements with the words “This essay will argue that…” or “In this essay, I will show that…”? This is because I’m performing another one of the functions of a thesis statement, namely clarifying the type of writing that is taking place. Your thesis statement needs to let the reader know what they’re reading, because this impacts how they read your work.

For example, if you’re writing a comparative essay about different operating systems for personal computers, you should at some point explain this by saying something like the following:

This discussion will compare the Linux system to the Windows system and demonstrate that the improved functionality of Linux and the streamlined interface make it a better choice for PC owners.


In this comparative essay, the Linux and Windows operating systems will be evaluated in terms of functionality and interface, and the benefits of Windows will be explained to show that it is the better system.

There are a lot of words in both thesis statements that show the reader, firstly, that you are writing an essay, which is a short piece of writing on one topic, and secondly, that it is particularly an evaluative and comparative essay. If you were writing an argumentative dissertation, you could clarify this in your thesis statement as well. If you tell your reader what you have in store for them in your written work, they’ll start to read your work differently. If I know you’re comparing two things, I’ll start to look out for differences between those two things that you highlight in your text. If I know you’re writing an essay, I’ll know that it won’t be a very long read.

One thing to remember with stating the intention of your writing is that many fields and supervisors don’t like the informal voice. We’ll talk more about this in later chapters, and you can find guides on writing formally on the Academic Coaching website, but for now just take note of what it would look like to state your writing intention informally.

If you say something like this:

I’ll now give my opinion on this subject.

That is a very informal portion of a thesis statement, and if you are writing in an academic field, the reader will immediately start to mistrust your work. This is because academics are not merely providing opinions, but we are providing reasoned, logical, researched arguments or discussions in our essays and dissertations. The informal contraction (“I’ll” as a contraction of “I will”) also comes off as very conversational, and leads me to think that either you’re not a very serious researcher or that you don’t really respect me as your reader when you’re not using formal academic conventions like you would when addressing a professional colleague. Many professors despise the first-person voice (I, me, mine) in academic writing, because it implies that the discussion is not objective but rather subjective; you’re not looking at ideas that many people can agree are supported by facts and data, but instead only stating something that you feel. Academic writing is not about stating your personal feelings, which might not rely on any evidence, but it is about presenting persuasive argument and scientific data to support your points. For example, I feel like dogs shouldn’t sleep on couches, but this is not a scientific or verifiable point, and many other people feel differently.

For this reason, the subjective voice is something that you should use with caution. If you’re writing: “I will argue,” it’s very different from writing: “I feel that” or “I will give my opinion”. If you’re unsure, rather stick to the third-person voice: “This essay will argue that…”.

Your tone helps to indicate the type of writing that you’ll be doing in your thesis or essay, and if you take an academic, formal and professional tone, your reader will expect that your ideas are academic, formal and professional.

Your thesis statement should be disputable and require support or evidence

The main reason why people write academic essays or dissertations is in order to produce knowledge and understanding. Even if you’re still an undergraduate student, or just starting out with your master’s studies, you’re already a knowledge producer, and you need to get used to that role.

For this reason, all of your essays need to fulfill the function of producing or expanding knowledge. You need to be saying something that hasn’t been said before or that takes a new angle on something that isn’t obvious or self-evident. You need to be expanding your reader’s understanding of a subject, not merely giving them facts that they could’ve found on Wikipedia or in a quick Google search. If your thesis statement is not providing anything new, then it’s not fulfilling the function of producing knowledge or expanding understanding of a topic.

This doesn’t mean that you need to change the world with every essay that you write, or even that you need to say something groundbreaking and mind-blowing every time you put words down on paper. Your essays and even your thesis can be very simple and still be effective. But it does mean that you need to at least say something which is disputable and debatable, something with requires you to provide evidence or support.

This can be illustrated with a simple example. The first statement is not disputable or debatable, but merely provides a fact:

The stop sign is red.

This is self-evident. Anyone who looks at the stop sign can agree that it is red. If you give this as a thesis statement and write an essay about it, you are not expanding knowledge or understanding in any way. You are likely just boring your reader.

However, when you look at this from another angle, you can make it much more significant:

The fact that stop signs are red allows them to draw the attention of drivers much more quickly than other colors, and helps to reduce driving accidents by 25%.

Now, you are saying something that might not be self-evident to everyone. You are giving an idea that is disputable and that requires evidence. If I read your statement, I will want to see the data that shows that other color stop signs would increase road accidents. We are expanding knowledge with this statement and research. This topic is debatable, and new knowledge can be added to it.

For example, someone might conduct a new experiment that shows that stop signs painted yellow actually help to reduce epileptic seizures which lead to even more road accidents than intersection collisions, which red stop signs prevent. That researcher might make the argument that we should paint all of our stop signs yellow so that we can save even more lives than the red stop signs were saving. You and this other researcher are involved in a debate about which color we should use for stop signs, and each of you is providing evidence to support your points. This is what the academic and scientific pursuit is all about.

Remember to make your thesis statement something which is not self-evident, but which is a debatable point that you support with your own research and evidence. A way that you could formulate the above statement into an argumentative thesis statement is as follows:

This essay will argue that red stop signs draw drivers’ attention much faster than when other colors are used, and reduces driving accidents by 25%.

Your thesis statement should create interest

Finally, when all of the above points are taken together, you should have a thesis statement that is interesting and intriguing, and makes the reader want to read more. If you are writing something debatable, focused, coherent and clear, and something which expands knowledge and understanding of a topic, your reader will want to know what you have to say.

The best way to get your reader interested is to be interested in the topic yourself. If you are crafting an essay about a topic that you are genuinely excited about, that will usually show on the page and the reader will want to learn more. You can also work on the style of your writing to make it more interesting and vibrant. Don’t simply use long, difficult words because you think they make your work sound smarter. Usually, if you’re not completely sure of the meaning of the words you use, you could be using them out of context which will make you sound anything but smart. Rather, focus on writing for clarity. Use short, clear sentences and words that you completely understand. The formal, academic voice doesn’t need to be filled with highly-technical and convoluted language. Look at the two examples below and see which one captures your interest more:

This expansive composition endeavors to articulate the phenomenological implications of the diametrical asymmetry of adherents to romanticism and its concomitant verisimilitude as opposed to intellectuals indubitably corralled within imaginative narration.

Some words are used out of context, and the statement is unnecessarily bloated and verbose. Few people will be able to read it and make sense of it. I’ve been handed essays written like that by my students before, and I usually respond by asking them: “What are you trying to say?” In person, they can tell me clearly what they’re trying to communicate, and it’s usually much more interesting than the statements that were churned out by a thesaurus.

You could rewrite the main meaning of the above statement in a much simpler and much more interesting way by saying:

In this dissertation, I will show that romantic fiction relies on realism to create meaning, whereas science fiction uses abstract concepts to create meaning with much less reliance on realism.

I would be very interested in reading the second essay. I would be terrified of having to read the first.

Review Your Learning:

p<>{color:#000;}. A thesis statement steers the course of your essay

p<>{color:#000;}. Have one argument or main point in your thesis statement

p<>{color:#000;}. Indicate your type of writing

p<>{color:#000;}. Make your thesis statement disputable

p<>{color:#000;}. Create interest

Chapter 4: Be Clear and Concise

Everything you’ve learned about thesis statements so far should equip you quite well to write one that performs all of the major functions. However, there’s one final aspect that is very important in a thesis statement that you should practice if you want to write truly excellent essays. Your thesis statement needs to be concise to get across your main point in a way that is both clear as well as comprehensive. You don’t want to leave out anything important from your thesis statement, but at the same time it shouldn’t be any longer than one or two sentences for any length of essay or dissertation. Your thesis statement shouldn’t do anything that it doesn’t need to do. This will help you to stay on track with getting your point across effectively.

Most people end up writing long thesis statements because they’re trying to explain every aspect of their argument in the thesis statement, or they’re trying to already give evidence or support for their main point in their introduction. We’ll look closely at these two mistakes and then explain how you can avoid them.

The function of a thesis statement vs. the function of an introduction

An important distinction to make is that a thesis statement is not an introduction, it’s merely one part of an introduction. Your introduction also has two additional components, namely context and an overview. If you’d like a lot of detail about all of the things that go into an introduction, visit the Academic Coaching website, but for now it’s enough for you to know the basics of what context and overviews are supposed to look like.

Context is background information which allows the readers to orient themselves to your topic. You give them all of the information that they need to know so that they have a good idea of what’s going on, and they can understand the point you are trying to get across. In your context, you could provide the names of any important authors or texts (particularly if you are writing in literature studies or as a response to an historical or scientific text, for example), you can give your reader a brief summary of what the topic is about, and you can tell them the category or field you are working in. If you are writing an essay on the theme of gendered social conventions in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, your context could look as follows:

Jane Austen was an acclaimed English novelist who lived from 1775 – 1817. Her novel Pride and Prejudice represented the fictional Bennet family, particularly the lively protagonist Elizabeth and her journey to overcoming her own prejudices and facing the pressures of her family’s expectations on her as a young woman.

The context given here allows the reader to know a bit about the novel under discussion, and to get a sense of the field you’re talking about, without giving them any argument or discussion yet. A bit of context usually comes right at the start of your introduction, making up the first few lines of your essay after your title, and is followed immediately by your thesis statement. Once you’ve set up the type of background listed above, your argument will make much more sense to the reader. You could then give your argument in a thesis statement as such:

This essay will show that Elizabeth subverts gendered social expectations, but ultimately fulfills the roles she has been pressured to adhere to in order to improve her social standing.

You’ll notice how the context sets up the thesis statement, and the thesis statement wouldn’t have made much sense on its own. But the thesis statement is kept short, and doesn’t need to include all of the information which is better presented as part of your context.

Even after presenting this thesis statement, the reader might have a few questions about how you will support your thesis statement with evidence and which points you will be focusing on in your essay. You answer some of these questions in the third part of your introduction, namely your overview. Your overview presents the most significant ideas and points you will touch on during your essay, and provides a kind of roadmap of what you will do. Your overview could look as follows:

In support of this, I will explore the fate of Jane’s sisters, the gender expectations of her parents and the role she takes on when she meets Mr. Darcy.

Even though these might not be all of the points you will look at in your essay, you could give three or four of the main ones here, and then use them to plan your paragraphs. Based on this overview, one paragraph of your essay could deal with Elizabeth’s sisters, one with her parents and one with Mr. Darcy.

You’ll notice that even though the entire introduction, with context, thesis statement and overview, comes to 105 words, your thesis statement, or the main idea of your essay, only comes to 27 of those words. It is short and clear, and it doesn’t need to include any of the information which is better left to the context or overview sections.

Remember that your thesis statement is only a part of your introduction, and that it should only fulfill the functions which it needs to before you move on. You don’t need to overexplain things in your thesis statement. Keep it simple.

Just present your argument, don’t make your argument yet

Lots of researchers also end up with a long, confusing thesis statement because they’re trying to already persuade the reader of their main point. Your thesis statement isn’t the place to start making your argument; instead, simply tell the reader what your argument is. Avoid using any citations, quotes or explanations in your thesis statement. These can come later. Simply tell the reader what the point is that your essay will make.

An example of unnecessary explanation, citation and a quote as part of a thesis statement could be the following:

[_ In this essay, I will show that early intervention for childhood ADHD, meaning intervening between the ages of four- and seven-years-old, is the most effective at reducing long-term developmental deficits, which might mean that the child has better outcomes or that the child can develop emotional intelligence. These long-term deficits, which are shortcomings that might persevere even into adolescence, include social and cognitive problems like shyness and poor study skills. Isaacs (2005, 24) supports this conclusion by stating that “adolescents who receive intervention after the age of 7 suffer greater developmental deficits.” _]

This information comes across as disorganized and might be too much information for your reader to handle in such a short segment of writing. Instead, simply give the reader a clear, concise thesis statement which tells them what you’ll be doing, and put the rest of the information in your body paragraphs. A better thesis statement, making the same point, would be:

This essay will show that early interventions to treat childhood ADHD were the most effective at reducing long-term developmental deficits.

Your intention is much clearer with the second thesis statement, and all of the unnecessary explanation is removed. When you can be clear and concise in your thesis statement, you make your essay much easier to understand, and your ideas can be more persuasive, more compelling and easier to follow.

Review Your Learning:

p<>{color:#000;}. A thesis statement should be clear and concise

p<>{color:#000;}. Don’t confuse your reader, and don’t give unnecessary detail

p<>{color:#000;}. Stick to the functions of a thesis statement, and remove information that should be part of your context or overview

p<>{color:#000;}. Just present your argument instead of already trying to support it or explain it in detail

Chapter 5: Things to Remember

You’ve now been introduced to all of the skills you need in order to write a good thesis statement. But even when we know what we’re supposed to be doing, it takes a while to become an expert. Practice writing thesis statements as often as you can. Go through this guide again if you need a refresher. And whenever you read a new article, try and identify the thesis statement, and even think of ways that you can improve it.

Ask yourself the following questions every time you write a thesis statement:

p<>{color:#000;}. Are there indirect questions in the topic? What are they?

p<>{color:#000;}. Is your thesis statement an answer to the question(s), or are you just restating the topic?

p<>{color:#000;}. Does the thesis statement indicate the type of writing that you are doing? For example, do you clearly indicate that you are writing an argument, comparison or discussion?

p<>{color:#000;}. Is your thesis statement debatable, or is it self-evident? Does it require evidence, or is it an indisputable, obvious point?

p<>{color:#000;}. Is your thesis statement interesting?

p<>{color:#000;}. Is your thesis statement clear and concise?

Keep these questions in mind and you should be able to write a good, effective thesis statement. Good luck!

Are you feeling unsure of your academic strengths and challenges? Go to the following link and you can take a short quiz to get a free, personalized report on your readiness for writing an academic essay or thesis, as well as tips and guidelines to improve your skills: [+ www.writeyourthesis.com/p/dissertation-readiness-survey.html+]

If you still struggle with your academic writing, our team at Academic Coaching also offers editing so that you can be sure you’re handing in the best piece of work every time you write an essay or when you work on your thesis. Visit www.writeyourthesis.com to get a free quote. We will also help you to plan and structure your essay or thesis if you’re not sure how to do this, and we offer academic counseling if you struggle with writer’s block, time management or other challenges.

All the best with your studies!

Grant and Malan

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Thesis Statement: How to Write a Good Thesis Statement

A Step-by-Step, Quick Guide to Writing a Good Thesis Statement. Everything you need to know about a thesis statement is contained in this short guide. You'll learn how to use a thesis statement to respond to direct and indirect questions, how to make it clear and concise, and all of the different functions which a thesis statement should fulfill. Whether you're writing an essay or a master's or doctoral thesis, this guide will be useful for making sure that you start your journey of academic writing on the right foot. You'll be able to master the skill in just over 30 minutes. The guide is written by Dr. Grant Andrews, who has been teaching academic writing for years, and who knows the common pitfalls that students experience in academic writing.

  • ISBN: 9781370593132
  • Author: Grant Andrews
  • Published: 2017-07-09 20:20:09
  • Words: 8124
Thesis Statement:  How to Write a Good Thesis Statement Thesis Statement:  How to Write a Good Thesis Statement