- Awards Season
- Big Stories
- Pop Culture
- Video Games
How to Create an Effective Thesis Statement in 5 Easy Steps
Creating a thesis statement can be a daunting task. It’s one of the most important sentences in your paper, and it needs to be done right. But don’t worry — with these five easy steps, you’ll be able to create an effective thesis statement in no time.
Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas
The first step is to brainstorm ideas for your paper. Think about what you want to say and write down any ideas that come to mind. This will help you narrow down your focus and make it easier to create your thesis statement.
Step 2: Research Your Topic
Once you have some ideas, it’s time to do some research on your topic. Look for sources that support your ideas and provide evidence for the points you want to make. This will help you refine your argument and make it more convincing.
Step 3: Formulate Your Argument
Now that you have done some research, it’s time to formulate your argument. Take the points you want to make and put them into one or two sentences that clearly state what your paper is about. This will be the basis of your thesis statement.
Step 4: Refine Your Thesis Statement
Once you have formulated your argument, it’s time to refine your thesis statement. Make sure that it is clear, concise, and specific. It should also be arguable so that readers can disagree with it if they choose.
Step 5: Test Your Thesis Statement
The last step is to test your thesis statement. Does it accurately reflect the points you want to make? Is it clear and concise? Does it make an arguable point? If not, go back and refine it until it meets all of these criteria.
Creating an effective thesis statement doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With these five easy steps, you can create a strong thesis statement in no time at all.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
MORE FROM ASK.COM
- Utility Menu
- Questions about Expos?
- Writing Support for Instructors
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?
- Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
- Asking Analytical Questions
- What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common?
- Anatomy of a Body Paragraph
- Tips for Organizing Your Essay
- Strategies for Essay Writing: Downloadable PDFs
- Brief Guides to Writing in the Disciplines
- Schedule an Appointment
- English Grammar and Language Tutor
- Drop-in hours
- Harvard Guide to Using Sources
- Departmental Writing Fellows
- Writing Advice: The Harvard Writing Tutor Blog
- Skip to Content
- Skip to Main Navigation
- Skip to Search
Indiana University Bloomington Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington
- Mission, Vision, and Inclusive Language Statement
- Locations & Hours
- Undergraduate Employment
- Graduate Employment
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Newsletter Archive
- Support WTS
- Schedule an Appointment
- Online Tutoring
- Before your Appointment
- WTS Policies
- Group Tutoring
- Students Referred by Instructors
- Paid External Editing Services
- Writing Guides
- Scholarly Write-in
- Dissertation Writing Groups
- Journal Article Writing Groups
- Early Career Graduate Student Writing Workshop
- Workshops for Graduate Students
- Teaching Resources
- Syllabus Information
- Course-specific Tutoring
- Nominate a Peer Tutor
- Tutoring Feedback
- Schedule Appointment
- Campus Writing Program
Writing Tutorial Services
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.
[ Back to top ]
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.
Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Writing Tutorial Services social media channels
What Is a Thesis?
Writing a thesis is often required in US university degree programs. But what exactly is a thesis? Do you know the difference between a thesis statement and a thesis project? Read on to learn more.
If you are considering studying in the US, you may have come across the term “thesis” in your research. Writing a thesis is an important part of completing your degree. Read our guide to find out what a thesis is in the US, the benefits of writing a thesis, and why colleges in the US value them.
In the US, students may use the term “thesis” to describe two distinct academic requirements:
Thesis statement—the focus of an academic paper. Papers with a clear thesis statement are typically required in liberal arts classes, such as literature or history, and can vary in length and citation style.
Final thesis—a longer academic paper required to complete a degree program. These often require months (or even years) of research and may be defended in front of a university committee.
Let us take a closer look at both meanings.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement is one to three sentences in the introduction of an academic essay outlining what the reader can expect. It is an argument, or claim, that will be defended through your research. A strong thesis statement identifies the topic to be discussed, summarizes the main arguments, and persuades your audience to continue reading.
Typically, a good thesis statement consists of two components:
Topic—tells the reader what your essay is about.
Argument about the topic—explains your logical claims and ideas about the topic.
Start of Sticky Service Ad
What Are the Different Types of Thesis Statements?
The thesis statement you write may vary depending on the type of academic paper you are writing.
Argumentative—presents a topic which is debatable and reasons supporting the topic.
Analytical—presents a claim and explains how it is supported.
Expository—presents a topic and explains what the reader will learn in your paper.
How to Write a Good Thesis
When looking at how to write a thesis statement, it is important to understand the meaning of a thesis. A thesis identifies a question on a topic that relates to your degree program, which you then have to answer with a sensible argument, using credible research and findings.
Here are some tips you can use when you are writing a thesis:
Research and identify your thesis topic —To write a good thesis, consider what your thesis is going to be about. Are there any areas in your field that you would like to explore further? Research is an important foundation to your thesis. Give yourself enough time to conduct enough research to support your central argument. (Professors and advisors can help you with time management and making a research plan.) Collecting evidence to support your claims and reading a wide range of sources on the topic can help you build a sound foundation for your thesis.
Work on a strong thesis statement —A good thesis needs a strong opening statement. Your thesis statement gives those who are reading and grading your work a summary of what will be discussed, why your claim is important, and persuades them to read more. Consider the following scenario: If someone asked, “what is a thesis statement?” and you showed them your paper, would they be able to identify the thesis right away? You always want to be as clear and convincing as possible when putting together your central argument.
Put all your information together —Once you have built a strong thesis statement, organize all your research and supporting information. Analyze your data and identify whether it is relevant to your research topic. A thesis should be persuasive. Acknowledge that there could be multiple sides to your argument, while also keeping your thesis specific, comprehensive, and decisive.
Build a solid structure —It is important that the flow of your thesis is logical and straightforward. Make an outline to organize your ideas and provide a roadmap before you start writing.
Review and take your time to edit —Take time to edit your thesis. As you revise, reevaluate your points, see where you can strengthen your arguments, and fill in any gaps.
Include citations —Citing your sources provides credibility – and also ensures you won’t plagiarize another scholar’s work.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help —You can speak to your professor, an advisor, or a classmate for guidance on how to write a thesis statement, the structure of your thesis, or any other sections you want to clarify. They can provide valuable feedback to improve your project.
Some important questions to ask yourself during the thesis writing process are:
What is a thesis and why am I writing it?
Will the reader understand my thesis statement meaning and intention?
Have I answered the question my thesis is based on?
Do I have a strong thesis statement?
Does my thesis add value to my field?
Remember: Your professors and advisors want you to succeed. Speak to your Shorelight advisor if you’re struggling with writing a thesis paper or final thesis – our academic counselors are here to help!
Which Subjects Require a Thesis Statement in Academic Papers?
Many college professors assign academic papers for students to explore subject topics further — this information can be found on your course syllabus , giving you plenty of time to prepare! In almost every undergraduate-level subject you study, you may be required to develop thesis statements for your academic papers. Writing a thesis statement paper helps improve your critical thinking skills, as it requires you to identify and analyze multiple sources of information to form strong arguments — a useful skill in both the classroom and the workplace.
How Is a Thesis Statement Graded?
Your thesis statement will be evaluated based on how well you have used research to support your argument, and how effectively you have communicated your ideas (e.g., whether your paper is well written, clear, and specific). How your thesis statement is evaluated will vary depending on your subject area and the university, but your course syllabus should include detailed grading requirements.
What Is a Final Thesis or Dissertation?
A final thesis, sometimes known as a dissertation, is a compilation of research on a specific topic. Typically, a thesis or dissertation is required to complete a master’s degree in the US. While it is not common, you may be expected to write a thesis to complete your bachelor’s degree. For example, in some liberal arts colleges, writing a thesis is a degree requirement, a way to showcase what you have learned over your program of study, and may even add to the body of research in your specialization. A final thesis or dissertation is significantly longer than a thesis statement, and may take months or even years to complete.
What Are the Main Components of a Final Thesis or Dissertation?
Generally, a final thesis consists of five major sections.
Introduction —The introduction of your thesis explains the topic and central argument to the reader at a high level. The introduction should go over why you chose the topic, and act as a summary of what you will be covering in the pages to follow.
Literature Review —This section includes research papers, studies, and articles related to your topic area. You also are expected to identify gaps and weaknesses in existing research, which helps you build counterarguments and develop a strong claim.
Methodology —This section explains the methods and data used to conduct your research.
Results —The results section presents the findings of your study.
Discussion and Conclusion —This section summarizes why and how you conducted your research, the results of your research, and presents conclusions based on the results.
What Is a Citation in a Thesis?
When writing either a shorter academic paper with a thesis statement or a final thesis, you are required to include your research sources. Throughout your work, when you directly quote another text or paraphrase ideas, you must cite the source. There are two types of citations:
In-text citation —this reference is included in the text at the point of mention, such as an on-page footnote or parenthetical citation.
End-of-paper citation —also known as endnotes, these are references included at the end of your paper or dissertation.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Thesis?
A final thesis to earn a master’s degree requires you to be familiar with previous work in the field and demonstrate your capability of carrying out independent research. From conducting in-depth research to listening to feedback from professors, completing a thesis can be a major commitment.
Many universities in the US may require you to dedicate a semester or longer to complete your research. You will have to work with a faculty committee member to ensure your research and writing is on track. As you compare different graduate programs, you can get a better sense of each program’s dissertation requirements (looking at time, research, and more) and which best align with your academic and professional plans .
How Is a Thesis Graded?
Generally, a master’s thesis or dissertation in the US is not graded, but you will have to defend it, or present your research and findings before a university committee. For example, at American University , a thesis is evaluated based on how students demonstrate their capacity to conduct independent research. However, the evaluation of your thesis may vary depending on the university and your subject area.
So, once you have completed your thesis, the next important step is to prepare well for your thesis defense.
What Is a Thesis Defense?
If you are pursuing a master’s degree, you are required to meet with a thesis committee upon completion of your thesis to defend what you worked on. At this stage, you will have already worked closely with faculty advisors and received ongoing evaluations. A thesis defense can take many forms, from presenting in front of a panel and taking questions and answers to a more informal discussion with select faculty and advisors. Your individual program will have a clear and established process regarding this important final task required for your degree.
End of Sticky Service Ad
Are a Thesis and a Dissertation the Same?
The terms thesis and dissertation may be used interchangeably. While they are similar in terms of the structure, in the US, there are differences between a thesis and a dissertation.
Type of degree
Generally required to complete a master’s degree
Required at the doctoral level
Will vary by program, but expect at least 60–80 pages plus the bibliography
At least double the length of a thesis or more
Proves how well you understood what you learned during your graduate program
Contribution of a new study or knowledge to your field
Is Writing a Thesis Mandatory?
Whether writing a thesis is required or not depends upon the program you choose to study. For example, if you are pursuing a liberal arts degree consisting of a wide variety of majors, including literature, history, and philosophy, writing a thesis can help you make connections across subjects.
Some universities and colleges in the US may offer both a thesis and a non-thesis option. For example, if you are a student who is interested in taking more classes to learn about your subject, you could choose the non-thesis option. So, instead of writing a thesis, you could either work on a research project or complete supervised fieldwork.
Whether you are writing a shorter paper with a thesis statement for a single class or working on a longer final thesis for your degree, making an argument and supporting that argument with established research gives you a skillset that is versatile and applicable to many fields. While conducting research for the thesis, you will refer to multiple sources, analyze information, and learn how to form strong arguments that will set you up for success wherever you go.
Discover how Shorelight can help you find your ideal US university >
Services that set you up for success
- ― Detailed school information
- ― School match and compare
- ― Events calendar
- ― Advisory services
- ― Connect with students
- ― Comprehensive application review
- ― Localized entry requirements
- ― Rapid admissions turnaround
- ― Transfer services
- ― Timeline management
- ― Dedicated visa app guidance
- ― Visa interview preparation
- ― Pre-arrival checklist
- ― University-specific preparation
- ― International-friendly add-ons
- ― Airport pickup
- ― Dorm setup and bedding
- ― Campus orientation
- ― Cultural group outings
- ― Student advising
- ― Needs assessment and testing
- ― Transfer placement
- ― Academic counseling
- ― Customized English courses
- ― Virtual study programs
- ― Career preparation
- ― Upskill development
- ― Resume and cover letter prep
- ― Professional networking
- ― OPT placement
Have a language expert improve your writing
Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.
- Knowledge Base
- What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples
What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples
Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023.
A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master’s program or a capstone to a bachelor’s degree.
Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation , it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: choosing a relevant topic , crafting a proposal , designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .
You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.
Download Word template Download Google Docs template
Table of contents
Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about theses.
You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.
- A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarize the central points of your academic essay .
- A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement for Master’s programs, and is also sometimes required to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts colleges.
- In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.
- In other countries (particularly the UK), a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.
Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services
Discover proofreading & editing
The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:
- Your discipline
- Your theoretical approach
Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.
In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section , results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .
We’ve compiled a short list of thesis examples to help you get started.
- Example thesis #1: “Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807” by Suchait Kahlon.
- Example thesis #2: “’A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man’: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947″ by Julian Saint Reiman.
The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:
- Your full title
- Your full name
- Your department
- Your institution and degree program
- Your submission date.
Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.
Read more about title pages
The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.
Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces
An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.
Read more about abstracts
A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.
Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.
Read more about tables of contents
While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the “Insert Caption” feature.
Read more about lists of figures and tables
If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.
Read more about lists of abbreviations
Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialized or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetize the terms you want to include with a brief definition.
Read more about glossaries
An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:
- Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
- Define the scope of your work
- Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
- State your research question(s)
- Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed
In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.
Read more about introductions
A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:
- Selecting relevant sources
- Determining the credibility of your sources
- Critically evaluating each of your sources
- Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps
A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:
- Addressing a gap in the literature
- Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
- Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
- Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
- Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate
Read more about literature reviews
Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyzes the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.
Read more about theoretical frameworks
Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.
A methodology section should generally include:
- Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
- Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
- Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
- Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
- The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
- A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods
Read more about methodology sections
Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.
Your results section should:
- State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
- Explain how each result relates to the research question
- Determine whether the hypothesis was supported
Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.
Read more about results sections
Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.
For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.
Read more about discussion sections
Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasize what your research specifically has contributed to your field.
Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.
Read more about conclusions
In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.
Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.
Create APA citations Create MLA citations
In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.
Read more about appendices
Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!
Consider using a professional thesis editing service or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect.
Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.
After your defense , your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.
If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
- Survivorship bias
- Self-serving bias
- Availability heuristic
- Halo effect
- Hindsight bias
- Deep learning
- Generative AI
- Machine learning
- Reinforcement learning
- Supervised vs. unsupervised learning
- Grammar Checker
- Paraphrasing Tool
- Text Summarizer
- AI Detector
- Plagiarism Checker
- Citation Generator
The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.
If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .
If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.
When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .
A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.
Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:
- Your anticipated title
- Your abstract
- Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)
A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.
Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:
- Plan to attend graduate school soon
- Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
- Are considering a career in research
- Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
George, T. (2023, November 21). What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved November 28, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/thesis/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, dissertation & thesis outline | example & free templates, writing strong research questions | criteria & examples, 10 research question examples to guide your research project, what is your plagiarism score.
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.
Make a Gift
- Generating Ideas
- Drafting and Revision
- Sources and Evidence
- Style and Grammar
- Specific to Creative Arts
- Specific to Humanities
- Specific to Sciences
- Specific to Social Sciences
- CVs, Résumés and Cover Letters
- Graduate School Applications
- Other Resources
- Hiatt Career Center
- University Writing Center
- Classroom Materials
- Course and Assignment Design
- UWS Instructor Resources
- Writing Intensive Requirement (Writing in the Majors)
- Course Application for Instructors
- Criteria and Learning Goals
- What Students Learn in UWS
- Teaching Resources
- FAQ for Instructors
- FAQ for Students
- Journals on Writing Research and Pedagogy
- University Writing Program
- Degree Programs
- Majors and Minors
- Graduate Programs
- The Brandeis Core
- School of Arts and Sciences
- Brandeis Online
- Brandeis International Business School
- Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
- Heller School for Social Policy and Management
- Rabb School of Continuing Studies
- Precollege Programs
- Faculty and Researcher Directory
- Brandeis Library
- Academic Calendar
- Undergraduate Admissions
- Summer School
- Financial Aid
- Research that Matters
- Resources for Researchers
- Brandeis Researchers in the News
- Provost Research Grants
- Recent Awards
- Faculty Research
- Student Research
- Centers and Institutes
- Office of the Vice Provost for Research
- Office of the Provost
- Housing/Community Living
- Campus Calendar
- Student Engagement
- Clubs and Organizations
- Community Service
- Dean of Students Office
- Spiritual Life
- Graduate Student Affairs
- Directory of Campus Contacts
- Division of Creative Arts
- Brandeis Arts Engagement
- Rose Art Museum
- Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts
- Theater Arts Productions
- Brandeis Concert Series
- Public Sculpture at Brandeis
- Women's Studies Research Center
- Creative Arts Award
- Brandeis Tickets
- Our Jewish Roots
- The Framework for the Future
- Mission and Diversity Statements
- Distinguished Faculty
- Nobel Prize 2017
- Notable Alumni
- Working at Brandeis
- Offices Directory
- Faculty & Staff
- Alumni & Friends
- Parents & Families
- 75th Anniversary
- COVID-19 Response
- New Students
- Shuttle Schedules
- Support at Brandeis
Features of a successful thesis.
This handout is available for download in DOCX format and PDF format .
- A thesis must consist of a claim. Questions are not claims; nor are simple descriptions. A thesis is not a topic or theme, either. It is a contention —something to be argued.
- A thesis should not be obviously true or false. If a claim is obviously true, there is no need to argue for it; and if is it obviously false, there is no reason to argue for it, either. Rather, the claim should be plausible, but in need of argument and evidence to establish its veracity.
- A thesis should not be overly abstract or general. It must be specific enough to be arguable, that is, specific enough to support with the evidence available to you.
- A thesis should be original. It should not merely recapitulate another writer’s argument. However, this does not mean that a thesis cannot be based on or influenced by the arguments of other writers.
- There must be evidence available to support the claim made in the thesis.
- The claim must be of an appropriate scope such that it can be adequately argued within the length of the paper.
- A thesis should be clear. Remove as much ambiguity as possible from your thesis statement, and define any technical or ambiguous terms (e.g., “Durkheim-Boas tradition,” “reductionism”) that appear in your thesis or essay.
- A thesis should be concise. Generally, a thesis will be contained within a single sentence, although sometimes more complex theses are developed over two or three sentences.
- A thesis should be obvious to your reader. Often, a thesis statement begins with a phrase like “I will argue…,” “In this essay I will contend…,” etc. Theses are often stated in the first paragraph or in introductory paragraphs.
University Writing Program Brandeis University
- Resources for Students
- Writing Intensive Instructor Resources
- Research and Pedagogy