When it comes to perfecting the dark art of thesis statements, there’s good news and bad news:
The bad news: Your thesis statement may well be the single, most important sentence in your essay, so you can’t mess it up.
The good news: It’s actually really, really easy to write a great thesis statement without wasting too many brain cells.
Luckily, despite what you may have been told, writing a thesis statement is actually incredibly easy. And we’re about to share a simple trick that will help you nail your statement every single time.
But before we get to the only thesis statement you’ll ever need, let’s take a look at the basics.
What is a Thesis Statement?
- A single sentence that is located at the end of your introduction.
- Tells the reader what your opinion is and what paper is going to prove.
- Directs your reader to the main pieces of evidence you will explore.
If you want to learn more, check out Purdue’s guide to thesis statements. If you’re ready to get started on crafting the perfect statement, read on.
Thesis Statements That Suck
I’m going to describe Shakespeare’s love life.
This essay will examine the life of a politician.
What’s so wrong?
These statements provide the reader with an idea about what the essay, dissertation or thesis will discuss, but don’t actually put anything on the line. There’s nothing at stake, no specific issue to be resolved and absolutely nothing to make the reader want to learn more. Many of the essays we come across as part of our student proofreading services contain this basic mistake.
Stating the obvious
Shakespeare wrote a lot about love.
Politicians work long hours.
What’s so wrong?
If very few people are actually likely to disagree with the issues you discuss in your essay, what’s the point in wasting your time analyzing them? Your thesis statement needs to make a claim that someone may disagree with. You will then spend your essay arguing why your claim is true. Check out our guide to writing argumentative essays for more deets.
Asking a question
Did Shakespeare ever get married?
Why are politicians paid so much?
What’s so wrong?
Your thesis statement should be clearly stating your position and the purpose of the essay, not posing a question. These questions are weak and do not give your reader any idea about what you’re intending to prove in your paper.
So, now we know what a poor statement looks like, how do you write a fabulous one?
The Only Thesis Statement Formula You Will Ever Need
Simply fill in the blanks related to the topic of your essay and what you intend to prove and you’re done.
By examining <claim one>, <claim two> and <claim three> it is clear that <opinion>.
See it in action:
By examining politicians’ long working hours, depth of responsibility, and the important role they play in the social and economic wellbeing of the country, it is clear that they are not overpaid.
Yep. It really is that easy.
And to make your life even easier, we’ve crammed all this great info into a free printable PDF. Print the poster out and refer to it when you’re in the process of crafting your next thesis statement.
How to Write a Thesis Statement
This is not an exhaustive list of bad thesis statements, but here're five kinds of problems I've seen most often. Notice that the last two, #4 and #5, are not necessarily incorrect or illegitimate thesis statements, but, rather, inappropriate for the purposes of this course. They may be useful forms for papers on different topics in other courses.
A thesis takes a position on an issue. It is different from a topic sentence in that a thesis statement is not neutral. It announces, in addition to the topic, the argument you want to make or the point you want to prove. This is your own opinion that you intend to back up. This is your reason and motivation for writing.
Bad Thesis 1
- : In his article Stanley Fish shows that we don't really have the right to free speech.
Bad Thesis 2: This paper will consider the advantages and disadvantages of certain restrictions on free speech.
Better Thesis 1: Stanley Fish's argument that free speech exists more as a political prize than as a legal reality ignores the fact that even as a political prize it still serves the social end of creating a general cultural atmosphere of tolerance that may ultimately promote free speech in our nation just as effectively as any binding law.
Better Thesis 2: Even though there may be considerable advantages to restricting hate speech, the possibility of chilling open dialogue on crucial racial issues is too great and too high a price to pay.
A thesis should be as specific as possible, and it should be tailored to reflect the scope of the paper. It is not possible, for instance, to write about the history of English literature in a 5 page paper. In addition to choosing simply a smaller topic, strategies to narrow a thesis include specifying a method or perspective or delineating certain limits.
Bad Thesis 1
- : There should be no restrictions on the 1st amendment.
Bad Thesis 2: The government has the right to limit free speech.
Better Thesis 1: There should be no restrictions on the 1st amendment if those restrictions are intended merely to protect individuals from unspecified or otherwise unquantifiable or unverifiable "emotional distress."
Better Thesis 2: The government has the right to limit free speech in cases of overtly racist or sexist language because our failure to address such abuses would effectively suggest that our society condones such ignorant and hateful views.
A thesis must be arguable. And in order for it to be arguable, it must present a view that someone might reasonably contest. Sometimes a thesis ultimately says, "we should be good," or "bad things are bad." Such thesis statements are tautological or so universally accepted that there is no need to prove the point.
Bad Thesis 1
- : Although we have the right to say what we want, we should avoid hurting other people's feelings.
Bad Thesis 2: There are always alternatives to using racist speech.
Better Thesis 1: If we can accept that emotional injuries can be just as painful as physical ones we should limit speech that may hurt people's feelings in ways similar to the way we limit speech that may lead directly to bodily harm.
Better Thesis 2: The "fighting words" exception to free speech is not legitimate because it wrongly considers speech as an action.
A good argumentative thesis provides not only a position on an issue, but also suggests the structure of the paper. The thesis should allow the reader to imagine and anticipate the flow of the paper, in which a sequence of points logically prove the essay's main assertion. A list essay provides no such structure, so that different points and paragraphs appear arbitrary with no logical connection to one another.
Bad Thesis 1
- : There are many reasons we need to limit hate speech.
Bad Thesis 2: None of the arguments in favor of regulating pornography are persuasive.
Better Thesis 1: Among the many reasons we need to limit hate speech the most compelling ones all refer to our history of discrimination and prejudice, and it is, ultimately, for the purpose of trying to repair our troubled racial society that we need hate speech legislation.
Better Thesis 2: None of the arguments in favor of regulating pornography are persuasive because they all base their points on the unverifiable and questionable assumption that the producers of pornography necessarily harbor ill will specifically to women.
In an other course this would not be at all unacceptable, and, in fact, possibly even desirable. But in this kind of course, a thesis statement that makes a factual claim that can be verified only with scientific, sociological, psychological or other kind of experimental evidence is not appropriate. You need to construct a thesis that you are prepared to prove using the tools you have available, without having to consult the world's leading expert on the issue to provide you with a definitive judgment.
Bad Thesis 1
- : Americans today are not prepared to give up on the concept of free speech.
Bad Thesis 2: Hate speech can cause emotional pain and suffering in victims just as intense as physical battery.
Better Thesis 1: Whether or not the cultural concept of free speech bears any relation to the reality of 1st amendment legislation and jurisprudence, its continuing social function as a promoter of tolerance and intellectual exchange trumps the call for politicization (according to Fish's agenda) of the term.
Better Thesis 2: The various arguments against the regulation of hate speech depend on the unspoken and unexamined assumption that emotional pain is either trivial.