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Osceola Writing Center

Thesis Statements

What is it?

A thesis statement is a statement that shares the main idea of your paper or the main point you're trying to make in your paper. While it's possible for a thesis to be made up of more than one sentence, for most of your assignments at the undergraduate level, you will usually only need one sentence (and that's what most teachers tend to look for).

A thesis can be very basic, or it can include the specific areas that you are going to use to support your paper - it depends on what your teacher wants and the kind of assignment.

Example:

Basic:
People should stop smoking because of its negative consequences.
Specific:
People should stop smoking because it harms one's personal health, it harms others' health, and it can create financial strain.

 

Why do I need it?

 

Academic writing in English is often concise and direct. By having a thesis statement at the end of your introduction, your reader does not have to wonder what your paper is going to be about or what the point is that you're trying to support.

Unless you're employing a specific technique where you're trying to get the reader to deduce something from what you're writing without saying it outright (kind of rare for academic writing in college), it is preferable to spell everything out for the reader. The less the reader has to do to figure out what you're trying to say, the better, because if you provide opportunity for someone to have to figure something out, it's possible that they will figure the wrong thing out.

Consequently, having a direct thesis statements sets a good starting point for your paper, and maps out specifically what you're going to discuss.

 

How do I write one?

 

A basic thesis statement should have 2 parts: narrowed topic + focus*

A specific thesis statement will have 3 parts: narrowed topic + focus + supporting points

Definitions:

Narrowed Topic: the specific topic you're writing about

Focus: the aspect/area within your topic that you want to discuss

Typical Focus Options: cause, effect, comparison, contrast, definition, classification, problem and solution, process, argument

Supporting points: the major points you will use to support your point or the specific areas within which you will discuss your point.

When creating your thesis, the order of the parts is not necessarily important as long as your thesis is concise and makes sense. For example, your supporting points could be at the beginning of the sentence or at the end.

Example:

Narrowed Topic: English in the USA and English in India

Focus: contrast (differences)

Supporting points: vocabulary, intonation, purpose

Thesis A: English in the USA is different than English in India in terms of vocabulary, intonation, and purpose.

Thesis B: Vocabulary, intonation, and purpose are three differences between American English and the English used in India.

Thesis C: Three differences between English in the US and English in India are vocabulary usage, intonation, and the purpose for learning the language.

*Among other things, the "focus" may be called a "claim type." Some may consider the focus as part of the narrowed topic, so you may not always see it separated.

What NOT to Do

 

Don't just give a fact.

Example: There are trees in Russia.

This is a basic fact, but it doesn't create a debatable claime (which is normally what you want to do with a thesis statement).

Better: Trees in Russia are causing problems for allergy sufferers.

Don't be too vague.

Example: The main character in this novel is motivated by love because...

Which character? What's the name of the novel? Even if you mentioned those things earlier in your introduction, you'll want to be clear in your thesis by stating the names.

Better: In The Hunt for Christopher, Mrs. Bee's motivation comes from love because...

Don't "announce."

Example: In this paper, I will discuss how people can gain muscle.

Rather than saying that you're going to discuss something (which is obvious by the fact that you've written something), you simply want to remove the "announcement" and keep the "meat" of the thesis.

Better: People can gain muscle by...

 

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