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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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement is a sentence in a paper or essay (in the opening paragraph) that introduces the main topic to the reader. As one of the first things your reader sees, your thesis statement is one of the most important sentences in your entire paper—but also one of the hardest to write!
In this article, we explain how to write a thesis statement in the best way possible. We look at what to include and the steps to take for writing your own, along with plenty of thesis statement examples to guide you.
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What is a thesis statement?
The goal of a thesis statement is to let your reader know what your paper or essay is about. It helps your reader understand the greater context and scope of your topic, plus it lets your readers know what to expect from the rest of the work.
A secondary benefit of a thesis statement is that it makes it easier to search for papers on a particular topic, especially in the realm of academic writing like research papers and thesis papers (which are sometimes known as dissertations when written for doctoral degrees). For example, if you’re writing a paper of your own, you’ll want to look up other papers to use as evidence and sources . You can simply scan the thesis statements of several papers to see which match your topic and could be worthwhile sources to cite.
How to write a thesis statement: Basics
Before we get into details, here are the basic steps for how to write a thesis statement:
- Develop the best topic to cover in your paper
- Phrase your topic as a question-and-answer
- Add some polish
We ’ ll describe each of those steps in more detail below, but we wanted to share a quick guide. Also, we ’ ll provide some thesis statement examples and talk about how to write a thesis statement for different kinds of essays: persuasive, compare-and-contrast, expository, and argumentative essays.
The thesis statement is located at the beginning of a paper, in the opening paragraph, making it an essential way to start an essay . A thesis statement isn’t necessarily the first sentence in an essay; typically you’ll want to hook the reader in an engaging way in the opening sentence before inserting your central idea or argument later in the first paragraph. A thesis statement is often confused with a topic sentence , the first sentence in a paragraph, because they both introduce the central idea of what follows. You can think of thesis statements as the topic sentence of your entire paper.
What to include in a thesis statement (with examples)
Thesis statements are a necessary part of paper and essay writing , but different formats have different rules and best practices. Below, we break down how to write a thesis statement for the most common types of papers.
How to write a thesis statement for expository and argumentative essays
Expository and argumentative essays are some of the most common types of academic papers. Because they don’t have a formal abstract like research papers, they rely on their thesis statements to provide an overview of what’s discussed.
Thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays should use strong and decisive language; don’t be wishy-washy or uncertain. You want to take a stand right in the opening so that your readers understand what your paper is trying to show.
Moreover, thesis statements for these essays should be specific, with some minor details to hint at the rest of the paper. It’s not enough to merely make your point; you also want to provide some basic evidence or background context to paint a full picture.
If your paper dives into different subtopics or categories, try to fit them into the thesis statement if you can. You don’t have to get into details here, but it’s nice to mention the different sections at the top so that the reader knows what to expect.
Thesis statement examples
Despite the taboo, insects make an excellent food source and could stem humanity’s looming food shortage, based on both their protein output and the sustainability of farming them.
The backlash to rock ’n’ roll music in the ’50s by religious groups and traditionalists actually boosted the genre’s popularity instead of diminishing it as intended.
How to write a thesis statement for persuasive essays
Similar to argumentative essays, persuasive essays follow many of the same guidelines for their thesis statements: decisive language, specific details, and mentions of subtopics.
However, the main difference is that, while the thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays state facts, the thesis statements for persuasive essays state clear opinions . Still, the format is the same, and the opinions are often treated like facts, including conclusive language and citing evidence to support your claims.
Furthermore, unlike with other essays, it’s appropriate to make emotional connections in a thesis statement in persuasive essays. This can actually be a clever strategy to start your essay off on a more personal, impactful note.
Advertising should not be allowed in public schools because it’s a distraction from studies and may lead to misguided priorities among the school board, to say nothing of the materialist culture it promotes.
Exotic pets provide the same love and companionship as conventional pets, so the laws regulating which animals can and cannot be kept as pets should be more relaxed.
How to write a thesis statement for compare-and-contrast essays
Thesis statements for compare-and-contrast essays are tricky because you have at least two topics to touch on instead of just one. The same general guidelines apply (decisive language, details, etc.), but you need to give equal attention to both your topics—otherwise, your essay will seem biased from the start.
As always, your thesis statement should reflect what’s written in the rest of your essay. If your essay spends more time comparing than contrasting, your thesis statement should focus more on similarities than differences.
It sometimes helps to give specific examples as well, but keep them simple and brief. Save the finer details for the body of your essay.
Sean Connery and Daniel Craig are the two most popular actors to portray James Bond, but both have their own distinct and at times contradictory interpretations of the character.
How to write a thesis statement in 3 steps
Now that you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to sit down and write your own thesis statement. To keep you on track, here are three easy steps to guide you.
1 Brainstorm the best topic for your essay
You can’t write a thesis statement until you know what your paper is about, so your first step is choosing a topic.
If the topic is already assigned, great ! That’s all for this step. If not, consider the tips below for choosing the topic that’s best for you:
- Pick a topic that you’re passionate about. Even if you don’t know much about it, it’ll be easier to learn about it while writing if you’re genuinely interested.
- Narrow down your topic to something specific; otherwise, your paper will be too broad and perhaps too long. Just make sure it’s not too specific, or you won’t have enough to write about. Try to find a happy medium.
- Check beforehand that there are enough strong, credible sources to use for research. You don’t want to run out of referential material halfway through.
Once you’ve chosen a topic—and the angle or stance you want to take—then it’s time to put the idea for your thesis sentence into words.
2 Phrase your topic as a question and then answer it
It’s not always easy to fit your entire thesis into just one sentence, let alone one that’s written clearly and eloquently. Here’s a quick technique to help you get started.
First, phrase your topic as a question. For example, if you want to write about Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, ask yourself, “What influences did Gandhi have on society after his death?”
If you already know the answer, write it down—that’s a good start for your thesis statement. If you don’t know the answer, do some preliminary research to find out; you can certainly use what you discover as evidence and sources in your essay’s body paragraphs .
3 Add some polish
Chances are, your first attempt at a thesis statement won’t be perfect. To get it to its best, try revising , editing , and adding what’s missing.
Remember the core traits for thesis statements we mentioned above: decisive language, a happy medium of specific but not too specific details, and mention of subtopics. If you’re struggling to contain everything in a single sentence, feel free to move the secondary information to the following sentence. The thesis statement itself should only have what’s most necessary.
If you’re in doubt, read your thesis statement to a friend and ask them what they think your paper is about. If they answer correctly, your thesis statement does its job.
Next comes the hard part—writing the rest! While the bulk of the writing lies ahead, at least you’ve nailed down your central idea. To plot out your supporting argument, follow our advice on essay structure and let your ideas flow.
How To Write 3 Types Of Thesis Statements
A thesis statement is “a short summary of the main idea, purpose, or argument of an essay that usually appears in the first paragraph.” It’s generally only one or two sentences in length.
A strong thesis statement is the backbone of a well-organized paper, and helps you decide what information is most important to include and how it should be presented.
What is a good thesis statement?
This thesis statement, for example, could open a paper on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s importance as a civil rights leader: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most influential figures of the American civil rights movement. His moving speeches and nonviolent protests helped unite a nation divided by race.”
This example lays out the writer’s basic argument (King was an important leader of the American civil rights movement), offers two areas of evidence (his speeches and nonviolent protests), and explains why the argument matters (united a divided nation).
A good thesis statement delivers a clear message about the scope of the topic and the writer’s approach to the subject. In contrast, poor thesis statements fail to take a position, are based solely on personal opinion, or state an obvious truth. For example, “Democracy is a form of government,” is a weak thesis statement because it’s too general, doesn’t adopt a stance, and states a well-known fact that doesn’t need further explanation.
What are the different types of thesis statements?
Thesis statements can be explanatory , argumentative , or analytical . The type of paper determines the form of the thesis statement.
1. Explanatory thesis statement
An explanatory thesis statement is based solely on factual information. It doesn’t contain personal opinions or make claims that are unsupported by evidence. Instead, it tells the reader precisely what the topic will be and touches on the major points that will be explored in the essay. An explanatory thesis statement is sometimes also called an expository thesis statement .
For example: The core components of a healthy lifestyle include a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
2. Argumentative thesis statement
In an argumentative essay, the writer takes a stance on a debatable topic. This stance, and the claims to back it up, is the argument . Unlike an explanatory thesis statement, an argumentative thesis statement allows the writer to take a position about a subject (e.g., the deeper meaning of a literary text, the best policy towards a social problem) and to convince readers of their stance. The body of the argumentative essay uses examples and other evidence to support the writer’s opinion.
For example: Shakespeares’s Taming of the Shrew uses humor, disguise, and social roles to criticize the lack of power women had in Elizabethan England.
3. Analytical thesis statement
An analytical thesis statement analyzes, or breaks down, an issue or idea into its different parts. Then, it evaluates the topic and clearly presents the order of the analysis to the reader.
For example: The school’s policy to start its school day an hour later revealed three related benefits: students were more alert and attentive in class, had a more positive about school, and performed better in their coursework.
How to write a thesis statement
Writing a thesis statement requires time and careful thought. The thesis statement should flow naturally from research and set out the writer’s discoveries. When composing a thesis statement, make sure it focuses on one main idea that can be reasonably covered within your desired page length. Try not to write about the entire history of America, for example, in a three-page paper.
Although deciding upon a thesis statement can be challenging and time-consuming, a strong thesis statement can make the paper both easier to write and more enjoyable to read. Don’t worry: we’re not going to leave you hanging! We’ve got a whole article to help you write an effective thesis statement here .
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Developing a Thesis Statement
Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.
Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements . If in doubt, please consult your instructor for assistance.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement . . .
- Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic.
- Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper.
- Is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.
- Is generally located near the end of the introduction ; sometimes, in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.
- Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.
Not all papers require thesis statements! Ask your instructor if you’re in doubt whether you need one.
Identify a topic
Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper.
Consider what your assignment asks you to do
Inform yourself about your topic, focus on one aspect of your topic, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts, generate a topic from an assignment.
Below are some possible topics based on sample assignments.
Sample assignment 1
Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II.
Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis
This topic avoids generalities such as “Spain” and “World War II,” addressing instead on Franco’s role (a specific aspect of “Spain”) and the diplomatic relations between the Allies and Axis (a specific aspect of World War II).
Sample assignment 2
Analyze one of Homer’s epic similes in the Iliad.
The relationship between the portrayal of warfare and the epic simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64.
This topic focuses on a single simile and relates it to a single aspect of the Iliad ( warfare being a major theme in that work).
Developing a Thesis Statement–Additional information
Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic, or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. You’ll want to read your assignment carefully, looking for key terms that you can use to focus your topic.
Sample assignment: Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II Key terms: analyze, Spain’s neutrality, World War II
After you’ve identified the key words in your topic, the next step is to read about them in several sources, or generate as much information as possible through an analysis of your topic. Obviously, the more material or knowledge you have, the more possibilities will be available for a strong argument. For the sample assignment above, you’ll want to look at books and articles on World War II in general, and Spain’s neutrality in particular.
As you consider your options, you must decide to focus on one aspect of your topic. This means that you cannot include everything you’ve learned about your topic, nor should you go off in several directions. If you end up covering too many different aspects of a topic, your paper will sprawl and be unconvincing in its argument, and it most likely will not fulfull the assignment requirements.
For the sample assignment above, both Spain’s neutrality and World War II are topics far too broad to explore in a paper. You may instead decide to focus on Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis , which narrows down what aspects of Spain’s neutrality and World War II you want to discuss, as well as establishes a specific link between those two aspects.
Before you go too far, however, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts. Try to avoid topics that already have too much written about them (i.e., “eating disorders and body image among adolescent women”) or that simply are not important (i.e. “why I like ice cream”). These topics may lead to a thesis that is either dry fact or a weird claim that cannot be supported. A good thesis falls somewhere between the two extremes. To arrive at this point, ask yourself what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about your topic.
As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times . Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.
Derive a main point from topic
Once you have a topic, you will have to decide what the main point of your paper will be. This point, the “controlling idea,” becomes the core of your argument (thesis statement) and it is the unifying idea to which you will relate all your sub-theses. You can then turn this “controlling idea” into a purpose statement about what you intend to do in your paper.
Look for patterns in your evidence
Compose a purpose statement.
Consult the examples below for suggestions on how to look for patterns in your evidence and construct a purpose statement.
- Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis
- Franco turned to the Allies when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from the Axis
Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: Franco’s desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power.
This paper will analyze Franco’s diplomacy during World War II to see how it contributed to Spain’s neutrality.
- The simile compares Simoisius to a tree, which is a peaceful, natural image.
- The tree in the simile is chopped down to make wheels for a chariot, which is an object used in warfare.
At first, the simile seems to take the reader away from the world of warfare, but we end up back in that world by the end.
This paper will analyze the way the simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64 moves in and out of the world of warfare.
Derive purpose statement from topic
To find out what your “controlling idea” is, you have to examine and evaluate your evidence . As you consider your evidence, you may notice patterns emerging, data repeated in more than one source, or facts that favor one view more than another. These patterns or data may then lead you to some conclusions about your topic and suggest that you can successfully argue for one idea better than another.
For instance, you might find out that Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis, but when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from them, he turned to the Allies. As you read more about Franco’s decisions, you may conclude that Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: his desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power. Based on this conclusion, you can then write a trial thesis statement to help you decide what material belongs in your paper.
Sometimes you won’t be able to find a focus or identify your “spin” or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn . Thus, you might begin with something like this:
- This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression.
- I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society’s authority.
At some point, you can turn a purpose statement into a thesis statement. As you think and write about your topic, you can restrict, clarify, and refine your argument, crafting your thesis statement to reflect your thinking.
As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.
Compose a draft thesis statement
If you are writing a paper that will have an argumentative thesis and are having trouble getting started, the techniques in the table below may help you develop a temporary or “working” thesis statement.
Begin with a purpose statement that you will later turn into a thesis statement.
Assignment: Discuss the history of the Reform Party and explain its influence on the 1990 presidential and Congressional election.
Purpose Statement: This paper briefly sketches the history of the grassroots, conservative, Perot-led Reform Party and analyzes how it influenced the economic and social ideologies of the two mainstream parties.
If your assignment asks a specific question(s), turn the question(s) into an assertion and give reasons why it is true or reasons for your opinion.
Assignment : What do Aylmer and Rappaccini have to be proud of? Why aren’t they satisfied with these things? How does pride, as demonstrated in “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” lead to unexpected problems?
Beginning thesis statement: Alymer and Rappaccinni are proud of their great knowledge; however, they are also very greedy and are driven to use their knowledge to alter some aspect of nature as a test of their ability. Evil results when they try to “play God.”
Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.
Main idea: The reason some toys succeed in the market is that they appeal to the consumers’ sense of the ridiculous and their basic desire to laugh at themselves.
Make a list of the ideas that you want to include; consider the ideas and try to group them.
- nature = peaceful
- war matériel = violent (competes with 1?)
- need for time and space to mourn the dead
- war is inescapable (competes with 3?)
Use a formula to arrive at a working thesis statement (you will revise this later).
- although most readers of _______ have argued that _______, closer examination shows that _______.
- _______ uses _______ and _____ to prove that ________.
- phenomenon x is a result of the combination of __________, __________, and _________.
What to keep in mind as you draft an initial thesis statement
Beginning statements obtained through the methods illustrated above can serve as a framework for planning or drafting your paper, but remember they’re not yet the specific, argumentative thesis you want for the final version of your paper. In fact, in its first stages, a thesis statement usually is ill-formed or rough and serves only as a planning tool.
As you write, you may discover evidence that does not fit your temporary or “working” thesis. Or you may reach deeper insights about your topic as you do more research, and you will find that your thesis statement has to be more complicated to match the evidence that you want to use.
You must be willing to reject or omit some evidence in order to keep your paper cohesive and your reader focused. Or you may have to revise your thesis to match the evidence and insights that you want to discuss. Read your draft carefully, noting the conclusions you have drawn and the major ideas which support or prove those conclusions. These will be the elements of your final thesis statement.
Sometimes you will not be able to identify these elements in your early drafts, but as you consider how your argument is developing and how your evidence supports your main idea, ask yourself, “ What is the main point that I want to prove/discuss? ” and “ How will I convince the reader that this is true? ” When you can answer these questions, then you can begin to refine the thesis statement.
Refine and polish the thesis statement
To get to your final thesis, you’ll need to refine your draft thesis so that it’s specific and arguable.
- Ask if your draft thesis addresses the assignment
- Question each part of your draft thesis
- Clarify vague phrases and assertions
- Investigate alternatives to your draft thesis
Consult the example below for suggestions on how to refine your draft thesis statement.
Choose an activity and define it as a symbol of American culture. Your essay should cause the reader to think critically about the society which produces and enjoys that activity.
- Ask The phenomenon of drive-in facilities is an interesting symbol of american culture, and these facilities demonstrate significant characteristics of our society.This statement does not fulfill the assignment because it does not require the reader to think critically about society.
Drive-ins are an interesting symbol of American culture because they represent Americans’ significant creativity and business ingenuity.
Among the types of drive-in facilities familiar during the twentieth century, drive-in movie theaters best represent American creativity, not merely because they were the forerunner of later drive-ins and drive-throughs, but because of their impact on our culture: they changed our relationship to the automobile, changed the way people experienced movies, and changed movie-going into a family activity.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast-food establishments, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize America’s economic ingenuity, they also have affected our personal standards.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast- food restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize (1) Americans’ business ingenuity, they also have contributed (2) to an increasing homogenization of our culture, (3) a willingness to depersonalize relationships with others, and (4) a tendency to sacrifice quality for convenience.
This statement is now specific and fulfills all parts of the assignment. This version, like any good thesis, is not self-evident; its points, 1-4, will have to be proven with evidence in the body of the paper. The numbers in this statement indicate the order in which the points will be presented. Depending on the length of the paper, there could be one paragraph for each numbered item or there could be blocks of paragraph for even pages for each one.
Complete the final thesis statement
The bottom line.
As you move through the process of crafting a thesis, you’ll need to remember four things:
- Context matters! Think about your course materials and lectures. Try to relate your thesis to the ideas your instructor is discussing.
- As you go through the process described in this section, always keep your assignment in mind . You will be more successful when your thesis (and paper) responds to the assignment than if it argues a semi-related idea.
- Your thesis statement should be precise, focused, and contestable ; it should predict the sub-theses or blocks of information that you will use to prove your argument.
- Make sure that you keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Change your thesis as your paper evolves, because you do not want your thesis to promise more than your paper actually delivers.
In the beginning, the thesis statement was a tool to help you sharpen your focus, limit material and establish the paper’s purpose. When your paper is finished, however, the thesis statement becomes a tool for your reader. It tells the reader what you have learned about your topic and what evidence led you to your conclusion. It keeps the reader on track–well able to understand and appreciate your argument.
Writing Process and Structure
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Getting Started with Your Paper
Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses
Generating Ideas for
Creating an Argument
Thesis vs. Purpose Statements
Architecture of Arguments
Working with Sources
Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources
Using Literary Quotations
Citing Sources in Your Paper
Drafting Your Paper
Generating Ideas for Your Paper
Developing Strategic Transitions
Revising Your Paper
Revising an Argumentative Paper
Revision Strategies for Longer Projects
Finishing Your Paper
Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist
How to Proofread your Paper
Collaborative and Group Writing
Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Parts of a Paper / How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement
How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement
A thesis can be found in many places—a debate speech, a lawyer’s closing argument, even an advertisement. But the most common place for a thesis statement (and probably why you’re reading this article) is in an essay.
Whether you’re writing an argumentative paper, an informative essay, or a compare/contrast statement, you need a thesis. Without a thesis, your argument falls flat and your information is unfocused. Since a thesis is so important, it’s probably a good idea to look at some tips on how to put together a strong one.
What is a “thesis statement” anyway.
- 2 categories of thesis statements: informative and persuasive
- 2 styles of thesis statements
- Formula for a strong argumentative thesis
- The qualities of a solid thesis statement (video)
You may have heard of something called a “thesis.” It’s what seniors commonly refer to as their final paper before graduation. That’s not what we’re talking about here. That type of thesis is a long, well-written paper that takes years to piece together.
Instead, we’re talking about a single sentence that ties together the main idea of any argument . In the context of student essays, it’s a statement that summarizes your topic and declares your position on it. This sentence can tell a reader whether your essay is something they want to read.
2 Categories of Thesis Statements: Informative and Persuasive
Just as there are different types of essays, there are different types of thesis statements. The thesis should match the essay.
For example, with an informative essay, you should compose an informative thesis (rather than argumentative). You want to declare your intentions in this essay and guide the reader to the conclusion that you reach.
To make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you must procure the ingredients, find a knife, and spread the condiments.
This thesis showed the reader the topic (a type of sandwich) and the direction the essay will take (describing how the sandwich is made).
Most other types of essays, whether compare/contrast, argumentative, or narrative, have thesis statements that take a position and argue it. In other words, unless your purpose is simply to inform, your thesis is considered persuasive. A persuasive thesis usually contains an opinion and the reason why your opinion is true.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best type of sandwich because they are versatile, easy to make, and taste good.
In this persuasive thesis statement, you see that I state my opinion (the best type of sandwich), which means I have chosen a stance. Next, I explain that my opinion is correct with several key reasons. This persuasive type of thesis can be used in any essay that contains the writer’s opinion, including, as I mentioned above, compare/contrast essays, narrative essays, and so on.
2 Styles of Thesis Statements
Just as there are two different types of thesis statements (informative and persuasive), there are two basic styles you can use.
The first style uses a list of two or more points . This style of thesis is perfect for a brief essay that contains only two or three body paragraphs. This basic five-paragraph essay is typical of middle and high school assignments.
C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series is one of the richest works of the 20th century because it offers an escape from reality, teaches readers to have faith even when they don’t understand, and contains a host of vibrant characters.
In the above persuasive thesis, you can see my opinion about Narnia followed by three clear reasons. This thesis is perfect for setting up a tidy five-paragraph essay.
In college, five paragraph essays become few and far between as essay length gets longer. Can you imagine having only five paragraphs in a six-page paper? For a longer essay, you need a thesis statement that is more versatile. Instead of listing two or three distinct points, a thesis can list one overarching point that all body paragraphs tie into.
Good vs. evil is the main theme of Lewis’s Narnia series, as is made clear through the struggles the main characters face in each book.
In this thesis, I have made a claim about the theme in Narnia followed by my reasoning. The broader scope of this thesis allows me to write about each of the series’ seven novels. I am no longer limited in how many body paragraphs I can logically use.
Formula for a Strong Argumentative Thesis
One thing I find that is helpful for students is having a clear template. While students rarely end up with a thesis that follows this exact wording, the following template creates a good starting point:
___________ is true because of ___________, ___________, and ___________.
Conversely, the formula for a thesis with only one point might follow this template:
___________________ is true because of _____________________.
Students usually end up using different terminology than simply “because,” but having a template is always helpful to get the creative juices flowing.
The Qualities of a Solid Thesis Statement
When composing a thesis, you must consider not only the format, but other qualities like length, position in the essay, and how strong the argument is.
Length: A thesis statement can be short or long, depending on how many points it mentions. Typically, however, it is only one concise sentence. It does contain at least two clauses, usually an independent clause (the opinion) and a dependent clause (the reasons). You probably should aim for a single sentence that is at least two lines, or about 30 to 40 words long.
Position: A thesis statement always belongs at the beginning of an essay. This is because it is a sentence that tells the reader what the writer is going to discuss. Teachers will have different preferences for the precise location of the thesis, but a good rule of thumb is in the introduction paragraph, within the last two or three sentences.
Strength: Finally, for a persuasive thesis to be strong, it needs to be arguable. This means that the statement is not obvious, and it is not something that everyone agrees is true.
Example of weak thesis:
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy to make because it just takes three ingredients.
Most people would agree that PB&J is one of the easiest sandwiches in the American lunch repertoire.
Example of a stronger thesis:
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are fun to eat because they always slide around.
This is more arguable because there are plenty of folks who might think a PB&J is messy or slimy rather than fun.
Composing a thesis statement does take a bit more thought than many other parts of an essay. However, because a thesis statement can contain an entire argument in just a few words, it is worth taking the extra time to compose this sentence. It can direct your research and your argument so that your essay is tight, focused, and makes readers think.
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Developing Strong Thesis Statements
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These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.
The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable
An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.
Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:
This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is unambiguously good.
Example of a debatable thesis statement:
This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation's money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.
Another example of a debatable thesis statement:
In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.
The thesis needs to be narrow
Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.
Example of a thesis that is too broad:
There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category "drugs"? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by "society"? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.
Example of a narrow or focused thesis:
In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.
We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:
Narrowed debatable thesis 1:
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.
Narrowed debatable thesis 2:
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.
Qualifiers such as " typically ," " generally ," " usually ," or " on average " also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.
Types of claims
Claims typically fall into one of four categories. Thinking about how you want to approach your topic, or, in other words, what type of claim you want to make, is one way to focus your thesis on one particular aspect of your broader topic.
Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact. Example:
Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur. Example:
Claims about value: These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something. Example:
Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem. Example:
Which type of claim is right for your argument? Which type of thesis or claim you use for your argument will depend on your position and knowledge of the topic, your audience, and the context of your paper. You might want to think about where you imagine your audience to be on this topic and pinpoint where you think the biggest difference in viewpoints might be. Even if you start with one type of claim you probably will be using several within the paper. Regardless of the type of claim you choose to utilize it is key to identify the controversy or debate you are addressing and to define your position early on in the paper.
Writing a Thesis Statement — Definition, Types, and Examples
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is a single sentence that identifies the topic and purpose of a scholarly research paper or academic writing. A thesis statement directly or indirectly presents the main points of the paper. Information presented in the essay should tie directly back to the thesis.
Overall, a good thesis statement accomplishes the following:
Identifies the purpose of the essay
Expresses the writer's position/opinion
Lists the main supports (optional)
Briefly summarizes the writer's conclusion(s)
Establish if the essay is explanatory, argumentative, or analytical
People often confuse thesis statements with topic sentences , which start each body paragraph. Typically, the thesis statement is the final sentence in the introductory paragraph and acts as a “road map” for the rest of the paper.
Types of thesis statements
The three main types of thesis statements are explanatory, argumentative, and analytical.
Explanatory thesis statements are used in expository essays that focus solely on informing the reader. Papers with this type of thesis do not contain the writer's opinion, nor do they try to persuade the reader.
The three main branches of science taught in public schools include biology, chemistry, and physics.
Argumentative thesis statements identify the writer's position or point of view on a given topic. Argumentative essays persuade the reader to agree with the writer's stance. If the reader cannot agree or disagree with the claim in the thesis, then it is not argumentative.
Public schools should place more emphasis on the arts because they encourage creativity, help improve academic development, and provide a beneficial emotional outlet.
Analytical thesis statements are used in papers that analyze how or why something does what it does. These thesis statements identify what the writer is analyzing, the parts of the analysis, and the order of those parts.
An analysis of course requirements in public schools suggests access to more electives can increase graduation rates.
How to write a thesis statement
When writing a thesis, the following guidelines apply:
Step 1: Determine the type of paper (explanatory, argumentative, or analytical).
Step 2: Identify the topic, position/claim, and supports of the essay.
Step 3: Determine if the supports should be included within the thesis. Although they are considered optional, they might be required depending on the audience and purpose of the essay.
Step 4: Compose a sentence that includes the topic, position, and supports (optional). While a thesis statement can be more than one sentence, it should not exceed two.
Step 5: Place the thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph(s). Placing it at the end of the introduction and before the supports allows the reader to focus on the paper’s main purpose.
Thesis statement examples
The following examples highlight each type of thesis statement.
Topic: Alternative Energy Sources
Explanatory Thesis: Alternative energy sources that can supplement the use of fossil fuels include solar, wind, and geothermal.
Argumentative Thesis: To combat reliance on foreign sources of fossil fuels, the United States would benefit from focusing on alternative energy options.
Analytical Thesis: Analysis suggests that replacing fossil fuels with alternative energy sources could negatively impact the economy.
Topic: Social Media
Explanatory Thesis: Three of the first platforms that influenced the world of social media include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Argumentative Thesis: Social media negatively influences society as it increases opportunities for cyberbullying, limits face-to-face interactions, and creates unrealistic expectations.
Analytical Thesis: An analysis of the use of social media suggests itis irrevocably harming the development of teenagers.
Topic: Standardized Testing
Explanatory Thesis: Standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT play a limited role in influencing college acceptance.
Argumentative Thesis: Standardized testing should not be required because it increases anxiety, does not measure progress, and cannot predict future success.
Analytical Thesis: Analysis suggests that standardized testing in elementary and high school negatively impacts students' academic success.
Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > How to write, use, and adjust your paper’s thesis statement
How to write, use, and adjust your paper’s thesis statement
A thesis statement is a necessary part of any academic paper. Without a strong thesis statement, the purpose of your paper may be unclear and confuse readers. Learn how to create an outstanding thesis statement that will enhance the papers you write.
The thesis statement is considered the most important part of any paper or essay . In order to write a powerful essay, you’ll need an impactful thesis statement. If you struggle with creating a strong thesis statement, you’re not alone.
What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is a sentence in the introductory paragraph of your paper. It is most frequently found in the final sentence of your first paragraph. You’ll see thesis statements used in academic essays.
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A thesis statement shares what the reader can expect as well as the key points of the paper. A thesis statement not only helps the reader, but the writer—the thesis statement helps the writer structure their paper. It can also help the writer stay on topic and clarify their stance on the topic of the paper as they write it.
How to write a thesis statement
Creating a thesis statement is easier than you think—follow these steps to write a thesis statement in minutes.
Step one: Ask a question
You likely received an essay prompt from your teacher or professor. To get started on your thesis, turn the prompt or the idea for your paper into a question. For example, if the prompt for your paper is to explore social media use in teenagers, you could write the question, How does social media affect teenagers?
Step two: Take a position
Answer the question that you asked yourself in step one and state your opinion or position. For example: Social media negatively impacts the mental health of teenagers.
Step three: Elaborate on your answer
To flesh out your answer in step two, think of three supporting facts to create an impactful thesis statement. For example: Social media use should be limited in teenagers because it contributes to self-image issues, cyberbullying, and social comparison.
Types of thesis statements
There are three main categories of thesis statements that you’ll come across: argumentative, explanatory, or analytical. The thesis statement you’ll use depends on the type of paper that you’re writing.
Argumentative thesis statements
If you are taking a stance on a topic, use an argumentative thesis statement. This type of thesis statement sets the stage for the writer to prove their opinion on a debatable topic. This is one of the most common types of thesis statements used. An argumentative thesis statement may be used if you are writing a paper on why teaching is the most important career for society or why the villain in a novel was a good guy despite popular belief.
To properly structure an argumentative thesis statement, be sure to include the topic, your position, and your reasoning in the sentence. For example: The Internet should be free for everybody because it enhances education, helps people find jobs, and allows users to connect with friends, family, and the rest of the world.
In this thesis statement, the topic is the internet. The position in this thesis statement is that the Internet should be free for everybody. The reasoning provided is that the Internet helps with education, finding jobs, and improving connectivity.
Explanatory thesis statements
An explanatory thesis statement is also referred to as an expository thesis statement. This type of thesis statement is another popular one for academic essays.
In an explanatory thesis statement, the writer simply states the topic and key points of the paper. Use this type of thesis for an essay that shares information you can cite. This thesis statement is different from argumentative thesis statements because no opinion is offered. For example, if you are writing a paper on the various impacts of the Great Depression on society, you may want to use an explanatory thesis statement.
To properly create an explanatory thesis statement, make sure to include the topic and key points in the sentence. For example: Adults who do not exercise daily are more likely to have anxiety, heart problems, and are prone to obesity.
The topic of this thesis statement is adults who do not exercise daily. The key points of the thesis that will be explained in the rest of the paper are anxiety, heart problems, and obesity.
Analytical thesis statements
An analytical thesis statement is used in a paper that presents and explores an issue. Analytical thesis statements are different from argumentative thesis statements because argumentative thesis statements are opinion-based while analytical thesis statements study data. For example, if you are writing a paper analyzing the ways that taking the subway is better for the environment than taking the bus, use an analytical thesis statement.
To properly create an analytical thesis statement, be sure to include what’s being analyzed, the topic of the paper, and your conclusion. For example: By comparing physical books versus e-readers, greater reading comprehension is exhibited when readers choose physical books. In this thesis statement, what’s being analyzed is physical books versus e-readers. The topic is reading comprehension levels. The conclusion is that physical books provide better reading comprehension.
Tips for creating a powerful thesis statement
If you are looking to adjust your thesis statement or need help getting started on your first draft , follow these tips:
- Be clear and specific. Your thesis statement shouldn’t make vague claims or use unclear wording. By creating a specific thesis statement, you’ll make your paper organized and easy to read. If concepts in your thesis statement are vague, make sure to revise them into a more concise statement.
- Make a strong argument. Even if you aren’t writing an argumentative essay, your thesis should be a strong statement to make your essay clear and interesting. If your thesis has claims that are hard to back up, revise them.
- Review your thesis. When you’re done writing your paper, review your thesis statement to make sure it appropriately describes your work. If it no longer describes your paper, you may need to adjust your thesis statement or the paragraphs within your essay. You may want to ask a friend or classmate to review your thesis statement to make sure that your paper backs it up.
Now that you’ve explored the ways to write a great thesis statement, you can now craft papers that are more organized, powerful, and interesting.
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Start any essay with a thesis statement
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What is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement makes an argument and identifies your point of view. Learn how to:
- Set up your essay for success with a thesis statement.
- Write your own thesis statement using a step-by-step guide.
- Adapt your thesis statement after you've completed your writing.
Start any essay with a thesis statement.
Whether you’re writing a five-paragraph essay or a 50-page dissertation, you need to make your intention or argument clear to the reader. A thesis statement does just that. It’s a one- or two-sentence summary that covers the main point or argument you plan to explore in depth throughout your essay.
Where to put a thesis statement.
Sometimes called a topic sentence, a thesis is usually the last sentence of your introductory paragraph. It offers a specific point of view that will be expanded upon in the body paragraphs and pages to follow. This argument needs to be backed up by supporting facts, analysis, and research.
Your thesis statement may adapt.
Keep in mind that writing a paper is a process. It often takes several rounds of writing and editing to get to the final product. As you edit your essay, gather feedback and comments , and conduct more research, your thesis may need to change or adjust. That’s perfectly fine, but always make sure the following arguments tie back to your main point.
Five steps for writing a thesis statement.
A thesis statement should come before any essay. After all, you can’t continue the writing process if you don’t know what you’re writing about. But just because you write it first, your thesis statement doesn’t have to come out perfect right off the bat. Landing on it is a process:
1. Ask yourself a question.
A good working thesis starts as a question you ask yourself and helps guide the direction and structure of your essay. What are you trying to solve or prove in your paper? When you’ve identified that question, start gathering some research.
2. Answer your question.
After you’ve done some preliminary analysis, formulate an answer to your topic question.
3. Develop your stance.
Using more research and analysis, consider your answer again. If you’re writing an argumentative essay, figure out how to convince your reader to agree with your viewpoint. Start drafting an outline to organize your points and keep your essay clear and concise.
4. Refine your statement.
Your final thesis statement needs to summarize your argument or topic. Instead of just stating your position, it should identify your point of view and set you up to make a compelling argument for it.
5. Write your essay.
Now’s the time to flesh out your paper. Draft an introduction and put your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph. This gives you a chance to build up to your main point. From there, continue outlining your supporting arguments and use that as a roadmap for the rest of your essay. When you’re done, save your essay as PDF to make it easier to share with your professor or editor and gather comments.
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The qualities of a strong thesis statement.
Starting with an effective thesis statement is the key to writing a good paper. This single sentence should tell the reader what position you take and why you take that position. It should also explain what the reader will learn from your paper and briefly outline the highlights of your argument. A weak thesis statement means you’re building your essay on unsteady ground. If the statement is obvious, ambiguous, or not a complete sentence, you’ll need to hit the drawing board again.
Your thesis should follow these guidelines.
1. Concise . Keep it short and clearly state your point.
2. Contentious. Don’t write a simple statement that’s obvious or self-evident. Make sure your thesis statement is an argument that requires explanation and discussion.
3. Coherent. Anything mentioned in your thesis must be explained with facts and points throughout the rest of your paper.
Explore different kinds of thesis statements.
Your thesis statement will depend on your writing assignment. So before jumping in to write a thesis, explore these different types of essays (and different types of thesis statements) to identify the style of writing you need to employ.
This is a piece of writing that identifies a topic, often in the form of a specific question, and initially takes a neutral, balanced stance. For this essay, you’ll need to gather information from different credible sources and provide a well-supported critical analysis without necessarily persuading the reader to one side over the other. Analytical essays are a standard form of academic writing and can dissect research findings, analyze books, and so much more.
Analytical thesis statement example:
Topic: How does Shakespeare use metaphors in his sonnets?
Thesis statement: In Sonnet 60, Shakespeare uses metaphors and imagery to explain how individuals experience the passage of time differently.
This style of essay communicates factual information and educates the reader. These papers are clear and let the facts speak for themselves. This isn’t about being clever or argumentative — it’s about analyzing the information and explaining the process of how you reached a specific conclusion.
Expository thesis statement example:
Topic: Explore the elements of a healthy lifestyle.
Thesis statement: The core components of a healthy lifestyle include a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
This is your chance to investigate a specific topic, collect evidence, and establish a concrete position. As the name suggests, you’ll need to form an argument and gather detailed research. Whether it’s a research paper or an academic essay, argumentative writing aims to sway a reader to your point of view. This style of essay can also include counterarguments, followed by the author’s response to those counterpoints.
Argumentative thesis statement example:
Topic: Identify how social media affects mental health.
Thesis statement: Although social media platforms have a positive place in most people’s lives, with nearly 2.85 billion users currently active on Facebook, the long-term effects on those users’ mental health are proving to be quite damaging.
This type of writing tells a story and doesn’t require a thesis statement. Narratives can expand upon a personal experience or explore an imaginary story. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, narrative writing follows characters and can include dialogue.
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When the review process is streamlined, you get to focus on what matters — drafting a compelling thesis statement and writing a stellar essay.
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You are here, 5 types of thesis statements.
What is a thesis statement? Read more about different types of thesis statements and examples to help you develop a more effective thesis statement of your own.
What is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement identifies the main point or central idea of your paper.
Where should I put it?
In most, but not all, academic papers, your thesis will be explicitly stated in one or two sentences near the beginning of your paper.
What are the most common kinds of thesis statements?
1. argument: state a point of view and support it with evidence..
Parts: Topic + position + reasons Example: Volunteer tourism in southeast Asia (topic) should be more strictly regulated (position) to prevent economic, social, and cultural exploitation (reasons).
2. Evaluation: Assess strengths and weaknesses.
Parts: Evaluation + reasons Example: Abraham Poincheval’s installation, Pierre, is a landmark in performance art (evaluation), not just because of its unique concept--a man living inside of a rock--but also because of the unique and deeply-felt responses it evokes from visitors of all ages (reasons).
3. Analysis: Examine the components of a text, object, or idea, and discuss how these components work together.
Parts: Components + effect(s) they produce Example: In Jane Eyre, the use of supernatural elements, mythic references, and fairy tale motifs contribute to a sense of unease throughout the book, making a conventional happy ending implausible.
4. Comparison: Examine the similarities and differences of texts, objects, or ideas.
Parts: Objects of comparison + conclusion Example: A comparison of the mechanisms and outcomes of immunotherapy and chemotherapy (objects of comparison) shows that immunotherapies are more effective in treating cancer and cause fewer harmful side effects for cancer patients (conclusion).
5. Cause and Effect: Focus on how actions or events contributed to specific outcomes.
Parts: Type of relationship + components Example: Many people believe the Great Depression was the result of the Stock Market Crash of 1929; however, the economic crisis in Canada (effect) was worsened by global trade agreements and government inaction
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- The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples
The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples
Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.
Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type.
In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.
Table of contents
Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.
An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.
Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.
The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:
- The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
- The body presents your evidence and arguments
- The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance
The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.
A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.
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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.
Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.
The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.
A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.
The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.
A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.
Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.
A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.
Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.
Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.
Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.
A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.
The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.
A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.
Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.
A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.
Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.
On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.
My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.
With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…
Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.
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Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.
A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.
The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.
The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.
The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.
King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.
A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.
Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.
The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.
Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.
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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.
Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”
The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.
Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:
- In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
- In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
- In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory
An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.
An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.
The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.
Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.
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