Knowing how to write a good thesis is crucial. Learn what a thesis statement is and does, and how to write a good thesis and avoid a bad one.
Thesis statements are a crucial element in almost any type of formal writing. A good thesis statement will keep your writing on track, while poor thesis statements will often leave readers confused as to the purpose and direction of your paper. Without a strong thesis statement, your readers are apt to lose interest, and your work may appear less credible. Thus, it is important to know how to write a good thesis in order to maintain your target audience and an air of sophistication/intelligence.
What is a Thesis Statement?
To write a thesis statement, you must first know what thesis statements are, as well as their purpose and components:
- The heart of a paper
- A unified and coherent thought
- Typically a single sentence, although it can be divided into two sentences
- A sentence that informs readers of what the paper is about and the angle/view being expressed
- The answer to a central question or issue that you raised with regards to your topic
- A sentence that provokes intelligent discussion — can be argued against, but has enough evidence to be supported
- Conclusion you have reached about your topic after analyzing related sources
- Sentence that typically comes at the beginning of the introduction, or within the last couple of sentences of the introductory paragraph
Why Do You Need a Thesis Sentence/Statement?
If you do not know the function thesis statements serve, it is unlikely that you will be able to write a good one. Two main reasons for writing a thesis include:
- To keep you focused while writing the paper — everything you write should support your thesis
- To inform readers of your topic and point of view so that they will not have to guess what your paper is about, or finish reading your work and still not know what you are trying to argue/achieve
How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
Even if you know what thesis statements are and why they are important, they can still often be difficult to write. Thus, it is important to know the difference between a good thesis statement and a bad one so that when you write your own, it will be strong.
- Research the subject you have chosen to get a general idea of what it is about, then create a working thesis and jot down a few potential supporting arguments
- Keep in mind your purpose and audience — what do you want to achieve in your paper and who (aside from your prof) would be interested in reading it? (this will determine your point of view/slant)
- Is your thesis specific? (if your topic is broad, narrow it down; if it is too narrow, look at other possible angles to expand it)
- Is your topic/argument suitable for the given page length and time you have?
- Will your argument engage readers?
- Is your thesis statement persuasive/argumentative, and not merely descriptive?
- Is it possible to argue against your thesis, but also have strong/convincing evidence to support it
- Does your thesis answer “so what?”
If you are not sure how to go about writing a thesis statement, try following these four steps:
- Determine the subject you will be writing about
- Narrow down the subject to one aspect or defined topic ( should not be too narrow, but also not too broad)
- Ask yourself from what angle would you like to approach the topic
- What conclusions can you make about this topic/why is it significant?, “so what?”
Example of a Strong Thesis Statement
Here is an example of a strong thesis statement, created through the four-step process described in the previous section.
- Subject: massacre
- Specific/Defined Topic: Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre in France
- Angle: the cause of Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre in France
- Conclusion/Significance: Despite scholars such as N.M Sutherland arguing that “… the massacre — primarily of protestants by catholics — was a matter of war and politics,” the Saint Bartholomew Day Massacre of 1572 was a product of religious tensions and disparities, with underlying political implications only.
Though it is not necessary to express the opposing view within your thesis, it is a simple way of demonstrating that you are taking a different approach from some other writers on the topic. This approach also indicates that the topic/thesis is argumentative. The thesis is not too broad, or too narrow, and it contains enough to spark interest in readers through encouraging debate.
Common Errors when Writing a Thesis Statement
There are numerous ways you could write a thesis statement that would make it weak:
- Posing a question but never offering a solution
- Presenting facts, but not an argument
- Reflecting your own opinion, but providing no substantial evidence/research
- Taking a common pre-existing argument, but not offering your own perspective (weak thesis)
- Having a broad thesis that cannot be argued/supported in the amount of space you have to write
- Having a thesis statement that is too narrow and not having enough to fill the given space
Example of a Weak Thesis Statement
“King Henry VIII was the worst ruler England ever had.”
This thesis is weak because in order to prove that Henry VIII was the worst ruler England ever had, you would have to compare him to every other English ruler, which would take up far too much time and space. The statement also fails to answer the crucial “so what?” question, and nothing about the sentence really sparks interest in readers.
A good paper always begins with a good thesis statement. In knowing how to write a thesis, understanding what makes thesis statements good and bad, and examining different examples of them, you can easily bring your paper from a ‘B’ or ‘C’, to an ‘A’ or ‘A+’.