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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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Reading Worksheets, Spelling, Grammar, Comprehension, Lesson Plans
How to Write a Thesis Statement
About this worksheet:.
Practice developing thesis statements with this writing introduction worksheet! Students will learn how to improve their writing with a strong, attention grabbing thesis statement. This activity helps build writing skills by asking students to create a statement for the topics provided, such as: “What was the greatest challenge in your life?”.
4th grade writing
by: Jessica Kelmon | Updated: August 4, 2022
In fourth grade, study skills play an important role in your child’s writing. Kids do research using multiple sources. They also learn to take notes on what they research, read. and hear. And even stories are more advanced, with more developed characters who show their feelings and react to what happens. And perhaps most important, your child is expected to analyze a book’s structure, logic, details, and evidence in their writing. It’s all pretty impressive!
Building 4th grade study skills
This year taking notes is an important skill. Fourth graders are expected to use books, periodicals, websites, and other digital sources to conduct research projects — both on their own and as part of group work with peers. Your child should keep track of all the sources they check — noting what they learn, the name of the source and page number or url so they can find it again and create a source list or bibliography later.
Also, taking notes while reading fiction will help your child when it comes time to analyze what they’ve read or to give an in-depth description of a character, setting, or story event drawing on specific details.
Check out this related worksheet: • Finding key points
bttr, better, best!
Last year’s prewriting step — planning — becomes more essential in your child’s writing process this year. Before your child sits down to write, they should use their organized notes to help create the structure of whatever they’re writing. While planning , your child may brainstorm ideas for a story or decide how to organize facts into a cohesive set of points. The more knowledge your child builds during the prewriting stage, the easier it will be to write. Encourage reading and rereading, taking notes, finding additional sources, discussing aloud how new knowledge fits in with what your child knew before, and visually organizing what they plan to write about. After the first draft is written, the teacher and possibly other students will offer feedback: asking questions to elicit new details or clarify an argument or suggest new sources of information. They should check that there’s a clear introduction and conclusion, and that the order of points or events makes sense. Your child will then do a revision (or two), adding, reordering, and refining their writing to show deep understanding.
After making revisions, your child does a final edit focusing on spelling, grammar, punctuation, and strengthening word choices. These steps — planning, writing a first draft, revising, and editing the final piece — help fourth graders understand that research, organizing, clarifying ideas, and improving grammar and presentation are all essential to strong writing.
See what your fourth grade writing looks like
Fourth grade writing: opinion pieces
Your child’s opinions always need to be supported by evidence. Persuasive writing should start by clearly introducing an opinion on a topic. To support their opinion, kids need to present their argument, which is a list of reasons why they hold that opinion. Each of their reasons needs to be supported by facts and details (a.k.a. evidence). After presenting all of their research-supported reasons, kids should close their arguments with a concluding statement or paragraph that sums up how their evidence supports their opinion.
Check out this example of good fourth grade opinion writing: • “ Zoos should close ”
Fourth grade writing: informative writing
This year, your child’s informative writing gets more organized, with headers, illustrations and even multimedia components to support specific points. To begin, your child should introduce the topic. Then they should use facts, definitions, details, quotes, examples, and other information to develop their topic into a few clear, well thought-out paragraphs. Your fourth grader should use advanced linking words (e.g. also, another, for example, because ) to form compound and complex sentences connecting their research and ideas to the point they’re making. Finally, to wrap it up, your child should have a conclusion — either a statement or, if necessary, a section labeled conclusion.
Check out these three examples of good fourth grade informational writing: • “ John Cabot and the Rediscovery of North America ” • “ Big Book of Evolution ” • “ Book report: A Tale of Despereaux ”
Can your fourth grader write an informational essay?
Fourth grade writing: narratives
A narrative means writing a story. This year your child will be expected to use storytelling techniques, descriptive details, and clear sequences to tell compelling tales. Whether inspired by a favorite book, real events, or your child’s imagination, your child’s story should use dialogue, descriptive words, and transitional language. Look for precise language and sensory details that bring characters to life. Finally, your child should keep pacing and sequence of events in mind. The events should unfold naturally, bringing the story to a natural conclusion. Are surprise endings okay? Sure… so long as the details and events plausibly lead there.
Check out this related worksheet: • Putting sentences in order
Gettin’ good at grammar
You may want to review all those parts of speech your child learned last year because fourth grade grammar is expected to be quite accurate. Your child should know relative pronouns (e.g. who, whose, whom, which, that ), relative adverbs (e.g. where, when, why ), adjective ordering (e.g. short dark hair and small red bag ), descriptive prepositional phrases (e.g. in the air, down the block, on the grass ), progressive past, present, and future verbs (e.g. I was walking, I am walking, I will be walking ), and verbs used with other verbs to express mood or tense (aka modal auxiliaries, e.g. can, may, must, should, would ). Also, your child needs to master the distinctions between frequently confused words like to , too , and two and there , their , and they’re . Finally, your child should be able to recognize and correct run-on sentences.
Check out these related worksheets: • Prepositions • Compound sentences • Punctuating a paragraph • Its or it’s?
Learning to use language precisely
- Recognizing and explaining common idioms (e.g. bending over backwards )
- Distinguishing between similes and metaphors (e.g. quiet as a mouse and the sun is a yellow beach ball ).
- Identifying and using synonyms and antonyms
- Using increasingly specific words in writing (e.g. glamorous instead of pretty, pre-dawn instead of morning, quizzed instead of asked )
Your fourth grader should now be using relevant academic words in informational writing and research reports. Although accurate spelling should be the norm in fourth grade, when faced with spelling more academic words, your child should use a dictionary and thesaurus (print and digital versions).
Check out these related worksheets: • 4th grade weekly spelling lists • Making metaphors • Simile or cliché?
Sharing their work
Most classrooms will encourage (if not require) kids to use technology to produce and publish their writing. Your fourth grader should be able to type up to a full page in one sitting. While teachers should be there to help, your child should be doing the work. Students will also be expected to interact with peers about each other’s work. What might that look like? Your child might read a classmates’ published work online and comment on it, or cite a peer’s work when answering a question in class.
Updated August 2022
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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements
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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.
Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement
1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:
- An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
- An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
- An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.
If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.
2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.
3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.
4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.
Thesis Statement Examples
Example of an analytical thesis statement:
The paper that follows should:
- Explain the analysis of the college admission process
- Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors
Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:
- Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers
Example of an argumentative thesis statement:
- Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college
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How to write a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.
Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.
Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?
- to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
- to better organize and develop your argument
- to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument
In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.
How Can You Write a Good Thesis Statement?
Here are some helpful hints to get you started. You can either scroll down or select a link to a specific topic.
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned
Almost all assignments, no matter how complicated, can be reduced to a single question. Your first step, then, is to distill the assignment into a specific question. For example, if your assignment is, “Write a report to the local school board explaining the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class,” turn the request into a question like, “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” After you’ve chosen the question your essay will answer, compose one or two complete sentences answering that question.
Q: “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are . . .”
A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve . . .”
The answer to the question is the thesis statement for the essay.
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How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned
Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about.
A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:
- take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
- deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment
- express one main idea
- assert your conclusions about a subject
Let’s see how to generate a thesis statement for a social policy paper.
Brainstorm the topic . Let’s say that your class focuses upon the problems posed by changes in the dietary habits of Americans. You find that you are interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume.
You start out with a thesis statement like this:
This fragment isn’t a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about sugar consumption.
Narrow the topic . Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy.
You change your thesis to look like this:
Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.
This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one segment of the population: elementary school children. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, because while most people might agree that children consume more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic.
Take a position on the topic. After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children consume.
You revise your thesis statement to look like this:
More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.
This statement asserts your position, but the terms more attention and food and beverage choices are vague.
Use specific language . You decide to explain what you mean about food and beverage choices , so you write:
Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.
This statement is specific, but it isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of making an assertion.
Make an assertion based on clearly stated support. You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this:
Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.
Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce sugar consumption by children, and who should do it?” When you started thinking about the paper, you may not have had a specific question in mind, but as you became more involved in the topic, your ideas became more specific. Your thesis changed to reflect your new insights.
How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
1. a strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand..
Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper for a class on fitness, you might be asked to choose a popular weight-loss product to evaluate. Here are two thesis statements:
There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.
This is a weak thesis statement. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase negative and positive aspects is vague.
Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.
This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.
2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion.
Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:
My family is an extended family.
This is a weak thesis because it merely states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.
While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.
This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.
3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.
Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:
Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and Web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.
This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or Web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:
Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using Web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.
This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because , since , so , although , unless , and however .
4. A strong thesis statement is specific.
A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say:
World hunger has many causes and effects.
This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, world hunger can’t be discussed thoroughly in seven to ten pages. Second, many causes and effects is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. A revised thesis might look like this:
Hunger persists in Glandelinia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.
This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic, and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.
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How to Write a Thesis Statement
Last Updated: September 19, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was reviewed by Gerald Posner . Gerald Posner is an Author & Journalist based in Miami, Florida. With over 35 years of experience, he specializes in investigative journalism, nonfiction books, and editorials. He holds a law degree from UC College of the Law, San Francisco, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley. He’s the author of thirteen books, including several New York Times bestsellers, the winner of the Florida Book Award for General Nonfiction, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He was also shortlisted for the Best Business Book of 2020 by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 3,183,935 times.
Whether you’re writing a short essay or a doctoral dissertation, your thesis statement can be one of the trickiest sentences to formulate. Fortunately, there are some basic rules you can follow to ensure your thesis statement is effective and interesting, including that it must be a debatable analytical point, not a general truism.
Crafting Great Thesis Statements
- Thesis: "Computers allow fourth graders an early advantage in technological and scientific education."
- ' Thesis: "The river comes to symbolize both division and progress, as it separates our characters and country while still providing the best chance for Huck and Jim to get to know one another."
- Thesis: "Through careful sociological study, we've found that people naturally assume that "morally righteous" people look down on them as "inferior," causing anger and conflict where there generally is none."
- Ex. "This dynamic between different generations sparks much of the play’s tension, as age becomes a motive for the violence and unrest that rocks King Lear."
- Ex. "The explosion of 1800s philosophies like Positivism, Marxism, and Darwinism undermined and refuted Christianity to instead focus on the real, tangible world."
- Ex. "Without the steady hand and specific decisions of Barack Obama, America would never have recovered from the hole it entered in the early 2000s."
- "While both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while the South fought to preserve its own institutions."
- "The primary problem of the American steel industry is the lack of funds to renovate outdated plants and equipment."
- "Hemingway's stories helped create a new prose style by employing extensive dialogue, shorter sentences, and strong Anglo-Saxon words."
- "After the third and fourth time you see him beat himself, one finally realizes that Huck Finn is literature's first full-blown sadomasochist."
- "The advent of internet technology has rendered copyright laws irrelevant -- everyone can and should get writing, movies, art, and music for free."
- "Though they have served admirably for the past two centuries, recent research shows that America needs to ditch the two-party system, and quickly."
- "By owning up to the impossible contradictions, embracing them and questioning them, Blake forges his own faith, and is stronger for it. Ultimately, the only way for his poems to have faith is to temporarily lose it."
- "According to its well-documented beliefs and philosophies, an existential society with no notion of either past or future cannot help but become stagnant."
- "By reading “Ode to a Nightingale” through a modern deconstructionist lens, we can see how Keats viewed poetry as shifting and subjective, not some rigid form."
- "The wrong people won the American Revolution." While striking and unique, who is "right" and who is "wrong" is exceptionally hard to prove, and very subjective.
- "The theory of genetic inheritance is the binding theory of every human interaction." Too complicated and overzealous. The scope of "every human interaction" is just too big
- "Paul Harding's novel Tinkers is ultimately a cry for help from a clearly depressed author." Unless you interviewed Harding extensively, or had a lot of real-life sources, you have no way of proving what is fact and what is fiction."
Getting it Right
- is an assertion, not a fact or observation. Facts are used within the paper to support your thesis.
- takes a stand, meaning it announces your position towards a particular topic.
- is the main idea and explains what you intend to discuss.
- answers a specific question and explains how you plan to support your argument.
- is debatable. Someone should be able to argue an alternate position, or conversely, support your claims.
- "Because of William the Conqueror's campaign into England, that nation developed the strength and culture it would need to eventually build the British Empire."
- "Hemingway significantly changed literature by normalizing simplistic writing and frank tone."
Finding the Perfect Thesis
- A clear topic or subject matter
- A brief summary of what you will say
- [Something] [does something] because [reason(s)].
- Because [reason(s)], [something] [does something].
- Although [opposing evidence], [reasons] show [Something] [does something].
- The last example includes a counter-argument, which complicates the thesis but strengthens the argument. In fact, you should always be aware of all counter-arguments against your thesis. Doing so will refine your thesis, and also force you to consider arguments you have to refute in your paper.
- There are two schools of thought on thesis timing. Some people say you should not write the paper without a thesis in mind and written down, even if you have to alter it slightly by the end. The other school of thought says that you probably won't know where you're going until you get there, so don't write the thesis until you know what it should be. Do whatever seems best to you.
- Never frame your thesis as a question . The job of a thesis is to answer a question, not ask one.
- A thesis is not a list. If you're trying to answer a specific question, too many variables will send your paper off-focus. Keep it concise and brief.
- Never mention a new topic that you do not intend to discuss in the paper.
- Do not write in the first person. Using sentences such as, "I will show...," is generally frowned upon by scholars.
- Do not be combative. The point of your paper is to convince someone of your position, not turn them off, and the best way to achieve that is to make them want to listen to you. Express an open-minded tone, finding common ground between different views.
Sample Thesis and List of Things to Include
Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.
- An effective thesis statement controls the entire argument. It determines what you cannot say. If a paragraph does not support your thesis, either omit it or change your thesis. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 0
- Think of your thesis as a case a lawyer has to defend. A thesis statement should explain to your readers the case you wish to make and how you will accomplish that. You can also think of your thesis as a contract. Introducing new ideas the reader is not prepared for may be alienating. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
You Might Also Like
- ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/how-to-write-a-thesis-statement.html
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/the_writing_process/thesis_statement_tips.html
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
- ↑ http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/planning-and-organizing/thesis-statements
- ↑ https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/writing-a-thesis
About This Article
To write an effective thesis statement, choose a statement that answers a general question about your topic. Check that your thesis is arguable, not factual, and make sure you can back it up your with evidence. For example, your thesis statement could be something like "Computers allow fourth graders an early advantage in technological and scientific education." To learn about writing thesis statements for different types of essays or how to incorporate them into your essay, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Teaching Thesis Statements with Lesson Ideas
Teaching thesis statements made easy.
Essays without thesis statements are easy to grade: simply write an ‘F’ at the top of the paper, laugh, and shuffle up the next paper. Unfortunately, not teaching thesis statements is the sign of a really bad English teacher.
A Thesis Statement Tale of Woe
On my way out the door, I noticed all the English teachers were busily grading essays. “Hey, Bob,” I shouted as I stumbled into his classroom, “Not done with those essays yet? I finished mine an hour ago.”
“How’d you grade them so fast?” he asked.
“It’s simple,” I responded, “I didn’t teach my students about writing thesis statements, so grading their essays was easy. I just gave them all F’s. While you guys waste your time teaching thesis statements and then having to actually grade their essays, we watch movies.”
“So, none of your students know anything about writing a thesis statement?”
“You’re a disgrace!” Bob shouted. He moved toward me, stapler in hand.
Next thing I remember, I was surrounded by angry tax-payers. Angry tax-payer #1 shouted, “Get up you thief! Our tax dollars pay your salary and you’re supposed to teach the children of this great state how to write a thesis statement. I suggest you start teaching thesis statements tomorrow morning, or you’ll pay dearly!” The angry tax-payer clubbed me with a ruler and knocked me out again. When I awoke, I saw lesson ideas on my desk titled “Writing a Thesis Statement.”
I share it with you
Common Core Standards
Teaching thesis statements satisfies the following common core standards and establishes the basis for teaching all the common core standards in writing for all grade levels.
- W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- W.9-10.1a Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
- W.9-10.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings); graphics (e.g., figures, tables); and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
- W.9-10.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Ideas for Teaching Thesis Statements
- A quick review of how to write a thesis statement may help.
- Have students create thesis statements on a slice of paper. Collect the paper and read them to the class. Have the class vote on them.
- Do the same activity, but use individualized white boards to record judgments.
- Read thesis statements anonymously. The ones that do not qualify get tossed in the garbage (visualizing what happens to bad thesis statements is powerful). Give students chances to rewrite the thesis statement until they get it right.
- Write random topics on the board and have groups of students brainstorm good thesis statements.
- Require students get thesis statements approved before writing an essay.
Evaluating Thesis Statements
1. Have you answered the question or merely restated it? The following examples are based on this question: Does Romeo’s prior feelings for Rosaline diminish the credibility of his love for Juliet?
- Good example: Romeo’s prior feelings for Rosaline diminish the credibility of his love for Juliet.
- Bad example: This essay examines whether or not Romeo’s prior feelings for Rosaline diminishes his love for Juliet.
2. Have you tried to argue both sides of the case? It is important to acknowledge the other side and address the other position. That does not, however, excuse you from choosing a side.
- Good example: Juliet was not the first woman to capture Romeo’s fancy; she was, however, the one who affected him the most.
- Bad example: Romeo loved Juliet with all his heart, but he loved Rosaline too; It could be argued they were both his favorite.
3. Have you prejudged the issue by using loaded language? Immature writers manipulate readers through emotionally-charged language.
- Bad example: Immature, whiny, male-pig Romeo, a male harlot, ruins precious Juliet whom he loved no more than Rosaline.
I’ve taken these lesson plans and added notes, graphic organizers, and more lesson options to create what I consider an invaluable resource for middle school and high school teachers. It’s only $5.95.
It includes 10 lesson plans aligned to common core standards, notes, and over 15 assignments with answer keys. All you need to do is print out each assignment, make copies, and pass them out. Here’s a Free Topic Sentence Sample Plan to give you an idea of what the paragraph teaching guide has to offer.
Of course, you’re more than welcome to make your own handouts and assignments that took me weeks to make and years to perfect.
Last Updated on October 20, 2017 by Trenton Lorcher
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What this handout is about.
This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.
Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement:
- tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
- is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
- directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
- makes a claim that others might dispute.
- is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.
If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)
How do I create a thesis?
A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.
Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .
How do I know if my thesis is strong?
If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :
- Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
- Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.
Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:
Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.
You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.
- Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?
After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:
Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.
This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.
Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.
You begin to analyze your thesis:
- Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.
Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:
In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
- Do I answer the question? Yes!
- Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
- Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
- Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
- Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”
After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:
Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.
This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.
Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.
Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.
Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.
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Thesis Statement Examples
A thesis statement is usually one sentence that tells the main point of your piece of writing-research paper, essay, etc.
The thesis statement is then "proven" throughout the paper with supporting evidence.
When learning to write thesis statements , you may be taught to write a three-pronged thesis statement . This is a sentence that includes three reasons to support the thesis.
Example of Three-Pronged Thesis Statements:
1. We should wear school uniforms because they would help reduce discipline, be cheaper than other clothing, and help create school pride.
2. Zoos should be banned because animals need to remain in the wild, zoos cannot provide natural experiences for animals, and animals in zoos get sick and die.
1. The moral of this novel is that love always wins. (The essay would present evidence and reasons to support that this is the moral of the novel.)
2. Those running for President should be held to a higher standard of ethical behavior. (The essay would present evidence and reasons to support why those running for President should have higher standards for ethical behavior.)
3. The vaccine created by our team of researchers is promising in the fight against the virus. (The research paper would present evidence and reasons why the vaccine might work against the virus.)
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How to Write a Thesis Statement in Four Easy Steps
Everyone knows that a good thesis statement is clear, specific, and focused. It draws the reader’s attention to your topic and announces your perspective on the topic.
But while teachers often tell you what to put in your thesis statement, they don’t always tell you how to write a thesis statement. The four steps below will show you how to write thesis statements quickly and effectively.
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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.
A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.
A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.
When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.
Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.
Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.
Descriptive thesis (not arguable)
While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.
This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.
Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)
Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.
This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.
Arguable thesis with analytical claim
While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.
This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.
Arguable thesis with normative claim
Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.
This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.
Questions to ask about your thesis
- Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?
- Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?
- Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?
- Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?
- Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement: 4 Steps + Examples
What is the purpose of a thesis statement, writing a good thesis statement: 4 steps, common pitfalls to avoid, where to get your essay edited for free.
When you set out to write an essay, there has to be some kind of point to it, right? Otherwise, your essay would just be a big jumble of word salad that makes absolutely no sense. An essay needs a central point that ties into everything else. That main point is called a thesis statement, and it’s the core of any essay or research paper.
You may hear about Master degree candidates writing a thesis, and that is an entire paper–not to be confused with the thesis statement, which is typically one sentence that contains your paper’s focus.
Read on to learn more about thesis statements and how to write them. We’ve also included some solid examples for you to reference.
Typically the last sentence of your introductory paragraph, the thesis statement serves as the roadmap for your essay. When your reader gets to the thesis statement, they should have a clear outline of your main point, as well as the information you’ll be presenting in order to either prove or support your point.
The thesis statement should not be confused for a topic sentence , which is the first sentence of every paragraph in your essay. If you need help writing topic sentences, numerous resources are available. Topic sentences should go along with your thesis statement, though.
Since the thesis statement is the most important sentence of your entire essay or paper, it’s imperative that you get this part right. Otherwise, your paper will not have a good flow and will seem disjointed. That’s why it’s vital not to rush through developing one. It’s a methodical process with steps that you need to follow in order to create the best thesis statement possible.
Step 1: Decide what kind of paper you’re writing
When you’re assigned an essay, there are several different types you may get. Argumentative essays are designed to get the reader to agree with you on a topic. Informative or expository essays present information to the reader. Analytical essays offer up a point and then expand on it by analyzing relevant information. Thesis statements can look and sound different based on the type of paper you’re writing. For example:
- Argumentative: The United States needs a viable third political party to decrease bipartisanship, increase options, and help reduce corruption in government.
- Informative: The Libertarian party has thrown off elections before by gaining enough support in states to get on the ballot and by taking away crucial votes from candidates.
- Analytical: An analysis of past presidential elections shows that while third party votes may have been the minority, they did affect the outcome of the elections in 2020, 2016, and beyond.
Step 2: Figure out what point you want to make
Once you know what type of paper you’re writing, you then need to figure out the point you want to make with your thesis statement, and subsequently, your paper. In other words, you need to decide to answer a question about something, such as:
- What impact did reality TV have on American society?
- How has the musical Hamilton affected perception of American history?
- Why do I want to major in [chosen major here]?
If you have an argumentative essay, then you will be writing about an opinion. To make it easier, you may want to choose an opinion that you feel passionate about so that you’re writing about something that interests you. For example, if you have an interest in preserving the environment, you may want to choose a topic that relates to that.
If you’re writing your college essay and they ask why you want to attend that school, you may want to have a main point and back it up with information, something along the lines of:
“Attending Harvard University would benefit me both academically and professionally, as it would give me a strong knowledge base upon which to build my career, develop my network, and hopefully give me an advantage in my chosen field.”
Step 3: Determine what information you’ll use to back up your point
Once you have the point you want to make, you need to figure out how you plan to back it up throughout the rest of your essay. Without this information, it will be hard to either prove or argue the main point of your thesis statement. If you decide to write about the Hamilton example, you may decide to address any falsehoods that the writer put into the musical, such as:
“The musical Hamilton, while accurate in many ways, leaves out key parts of American history, presents a nationalist view of founding fathers, and downplays the racism of the times.”
Once you’ve written your initial working thesis statement, you’ll then need to get information to back that up. For example, the musical completely leaves out Benjamin Franklin, portrays the founding fathers in a nationalist way that is too complimentary, and shows Hamilton as a staunch abolitionist despite the fact that his family likely did own slaves.
Step 4: Revise and refine your thesis statement before you start writing
Read through your thesis statement several times before you begin to compose your full essay. You need to make sure the statement is ironclad, since it is the foundation of the entire paper. Edit it or have a peer review it for you to make sure everything makes sense and that you feel like you can truly write a paper on the topic. Once you’ve done that, you can then begin writing your paper.
When writing a thesis statement, there are some common pitfalls you should avoid so that your paper can be as solid as possible. Make sure you always edit the thesis statement before you do anything else. You also want to ensure that the thesis statement is clear and concise. Don’t make your reader hunt for your point. Finally, put your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph and have your introduction flow toward that statement. Your reader will expect to find your statement in its traditional spot.
If you’re having trouble getting started, or need some guidance on your essay, there are tools available that can help you. CollegeVine offers a free peer essay review tool where one of your peers can read through your essay and provide you with valuable feedback. Getting essay feedback from a peer can help you wow your instructor or college admissions officer with an impactful essay that effectively illustrates your point.
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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
- 1. Getting Started
- 2. Topic Ideas
- 3. Thesis Statement & Outline
- 4. Appropriate Sources
- 5. Search Techniques
- 6. Taking Notes & Documenting Sources
- 7. Evaluating Sources
- 8. Citations & Plagiarism
- 9. Writing Your Research Paper
About Thesis Statements
Qualities of a thesis statement.
- state the subject matter and main ideas of a paper.
- appear in the first paragraph and announces what you will discuss in your paper.
- define the scope and focus of your essay, and tells your reader what to expect.
- are not a simple factual statement. It is an assertion that states your claims and that you can prove with evidence.
- should be the product of research and your own critical thinking.
- can be very helpful in constructing an outline for your essay; for each point you make, ask yourself whether it is relevant to the thesis.
Steps you can use to create a thesis statement
1. Start out with the main topic and focus of your essay.
youth gangs + prevention and intervention programs
2. Make a claim or argument in one sentence. It can be helpful to start with a question which you then turn into an argument
Can prevention and intervention programs stop youth gang activities? How? ►►► "Prevention and intervention programs can stop youth gang activities by giving teens something else to do."
3. Revise the sentence by using specific terms.
"Early prevention programs in schools are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement by giving teens good activities that offer a path to success."
4. Further revise the sentence to cover the scope of your essay and make a strong statement.
"Among various prevention and intervention efforts that have been made to deal with the rapid growth of youth gangs, early school-based prevention programs are the most effective way to prevent youth gang involvement, which they do by giving teens meaningful activities that offer pathways to achievement and success."
5. Keep your thesis statement flexible and revise it as needed. In the process of researching and writing, you may find new information or refine your understanding of the topic.
You can view this short video for more tips on how to write a clear thesis statement.
An outline is the skeleton of your essay, in which you list the arguments and subtopics in a logical order. A good outline is an important element in writing a good paper. An outline helps to target your research areas, keep you within the scope without going off-track, and it can also help to keep your argument in good order when writing the essay. Once your outline is in good shape, it is much easier to write your paper; you've already done most of the thinking, so you just need to fill in the outline with a paragraph for each point.
To write an outline: The most common way to write an outline is the list format. List all the major topics and subtopics with the key points that support them. Put similar topics and points together and arrange them in a logical order. Include an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
A list outline should arrange the main points or arguments in a hierarchical structure indicated by Roman numerals for main ideas (I, II, III...), capital letters for subtopics (A, B, C...), Arabic numerals for details (1,2,3...), and lower-case letters for fine details if needed (a,b,c...). This helps keep things organized.
Here is a shortened example of an outline:
Introduction: background and thesis statement
I. First topic
1. Supporting evidence 2. Supporting evidence
II. Second Topic
III. Third Topic
I. Summarize the main points of your paper II. Restate your thesis in different words III. Make a strong final statement
You can see examples of a few different kinds of outlines and get more help at the Purdue OWL .
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- Last Updated: Apr 18, 2023 12:12 PM
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