Thesis Statement Guidelines
you write should develop around a clear central thesis.
Your thesis is the backbone of your paper:
the main point, the central idea. In
fact, if you ask yourself, “What is the main point of this paper?” your
answer should resemble your essay’s thesis statement.
The thesis statement focuses your central ideas into one or two
Developing a well-crafted thesis statement and revising that statement as you write will help you discover what your essay is really about, what you really want to say. The suggested guidelines below show how to evaluate and refine your thesis statements, and thus how to best showcase your ideas.
č WHERE IS YOUR THESIS STATEMENT?
You should provide a thesis early in your essay – paragraph #1, or in longer essays #2 – in order to establish your position and give your reader a sense of direction. Avoid burying a great thesis statement in the middle of a paragraph or late in the paper.
YOUR THESIS STATEMENT UNIFIED ?
Choose one single focus for development. Don’t split your energy between two bulky topics.
|Original Thesis||Revised Thesis|
|Queen Victoria set the tone of the British Empire, and she allowed powerful prime ministers to take political control of Britain.||Victoria set the tone for later monarchs by ruling through a series of prime ministers.|
|The United Nations Organization has major weaknesses and cannot prevent a major war.||The organization of the UN makes it incapable of preventing a war between major powers.|
|Printing has had a long and complex history during which it has brought about social and cultural reforms.||The development of printing sparked a series of social and cultural reforms.|
|Mutual funds have grown rapidly in this country and offer advantages for the smaller investor.||Mutual funds have grown rapidly in this country because they offer advantages for the small investor.|
Check Your Thesis: Are
there two large statements connected loosely by a coordinate conjunction (and,
but, or, for, nor, so, yet)? Would
a subordinate conjunction help (through, although, because, since) to signal a
relationship between the two sentences, or do the two imply a fuzzy unfocused
thesis? If so, settle on ONE focus
and proceed with further development.
YOUR THESIS STATEMENT RESTRICTED?
1.) Your thesis statement should provide a restricted or limited focus for your essay. Narrow the field of your discussion to a specific line of reasoning/argumentation within a broad topic area.
2.) Your thesis should be limited to what can be accomplished in the specified number of pages. Shape your topic so that you can get straight to the “meat” of it – don’t settle for three pages of merely skimming the surface.
opposite of a focused, narrow, crisp thesis is a broad, sprawling, superficial
thesis. Compare this original
thesis with three
movies fail to deliver the emotional catharsis that 1930s horror films did.
YOUR THESIS STATEMENT CLEAR?
1.) Avoid vague words such as “interesting,” “negative,” “exciting,” “unusual,” and “difficult.” Avoid abstract words such as “society.” These words tell the reader next to nothing.
you are writing a technical report, avoid technical language.
Always avoid jargon.
see if you need to define your terms (“socialism,” “conventional,”
“commercialism,” “society”), and then decide the
most suitable place to do so.
double check the cause and effect relationships you set up, and make sure all
potential confusion is eliminated.
Original: Although the timber wolf is a timid and
gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated.
If it’s so timid and gentle, why is
it being exterminated?
Revised: Although the timber wolf
is actually a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated
because people wrongfully believe it to be a fierce and cold-blooded killer.
YOUR THESIS STATEMENT ANALYTIC?
The thesis statement should do more than merely
announce the topic; it must reveal what position you will take in relation to
that topic, how you plan to analyze/evaluate the subject
or the issue. In short, instead of
merely stating a general fact or resorting to simplistic pro/con statements, you must decide what it is you have to say.
merely announcing the topic; your original and specific “angle” should be
In this paper, I
will discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
Revised: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.
2.) Avoid making universal or pro/con judgments that oversimplify complex issues.
Original: We must save the
Because our planet’s health may depend upon biological diversity, we
should save the whales.
3.) When you make a (subjective) judgment call, specify and justify your reasoning.
Original: Socialism is the
best form of government for Kenya.
If the government takes over industry in Kenya, the industry will become
4.) Avoid merely reporting a fact. Go further with your ideas – say more.
administration was rocked by scandal.
The many scandals of Hoover’s administration revealed basic problems
with the Republican Party’s nominating process.
5.) Note that arriving at an analytical thesis doesn’t happen magically. Continue to revise your essay and ideas will develop.
Character in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale subvert
certain audience expectations.
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale, the sexual behaviors
of such characters as Alison, Nicholas, and Absolon subvert audience expectations raised by the courtly love tradition in The Knight’s Tale.
IS YOUR THESIS STATEMENT ORIGINAL AND ENERGETIC?
1.) AVOID generic arguments and formula statements. They work well to get a rough draft started, but will easily bore a reader. Keep revising until the thesis reflects your real ideas. Compare the following:
Original: There are
advantages and disadvantages to using statistics.
Revisions: Careful manipulation of data allows a researcher to use statistics to support any claim she desires.
In order to ensure accurate reporting, journalists must understand the real significance of the statistics they report.
consciously and unconsciously manipulate data, every consumer should learn how
to evaluate statistical claims.
2.) Avoid formula and generic words. Search
for concrete subjects and active verbs, revising as many “to be” verbs as
possible. A few suggestions below
show how specific word choice sharpens and clarifies your meaning.
is . . .” [who is this society
and what exactly are they doing?]
n men and women will learn how to…, writers can generate…, television addicts may chip away at…, American educators must decide…, taxpayers and legislators alike can help fix…
n the new breed of television reporters, advertisers, hard hitting print journalists, horror flicks, TV movies of the week, sitcoms, national public radio, Top 40
are, was, to be”
“to do, to make”
n any great action verb you can concoct:
to generate, to demolish, to batter, to revolt, to discover, to flip, to signify, to endure
Use your own words in thesis statements, avoiding quotation.
Crafting an original, insightful, and memorable thesis makes a distinct
impression on a reader. You will
lose credibility as a writer if you become only a mouthpiece or a copyist; you
will gain credibility by grabbing the reader with your own ideas and words.
A well-crafted thesis statement reflects well-crafted ideas.
It signals a writer who has intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm.
Home | Handouts
and Worksheets | Writing
Advice | Bibliography Formats |
Regents Exam | Videos | Dept. of Writing and Linguistics | GSU | Links
This page is maintained by the Georgia
Southern University Writing Center
Please send comments and corrections to the webmaster.
This page last updated on 8/28/01