Writing a Thesis Statement

Writing a Thesis Statement

By Saige Brown


Writing a thesis statement can seem daunting at first: knowing where to start is oftentimes the hardest part. Describing the main topic and goal of your essay in one statement can feel like a challenge, especially when not equipped with the proper tools. So, this post is here to help with writing thesis statements and understanding what they mean and why they're important to essay creation.

Understanding the Definition

Before we jump into the more complicated parts of thesis creation, we first need to look at what a thesis actually is. A thesis statement not only represents the main idea of your paper, but it also lays out how your ideas are organized throughout your essay. Your goal with your thesis should be to set the readers' expectations on the ideas it has and the support it provides for said ideas. Strong thesis statements can be debated, not just grandiose claims that are written for the sake of writing them.

For example, you wouldn't say “Humans are flawed” as a thesis statement for your essay. That statement is not something that can be debated. It is simply true and infallible without the need to prove anything. Rather, you might instead say “Humans are flawed because of their desire for power.” That statement is something that people can debate over. Some may believe that power is the cause for humans being flawed, while others may find different reasons and could argue for those in turn.

Ask Yourself…

  • What type of essay is this?

From the more common types of essays such as persuasive, argumentative, analytical, and compare and contrast to the more elusive types such as definition, personal, reflective, and process, knowing what kind of essay you're writing will help you with formulating a thesis statement that fits the theme you're going for.

  • What is the subject of my essay?
“Subject” in the case of thesis statements does not mean the same thing as “main idea.” The subject of your essay will not be the main topic but instead, the person/place/thing/idea being discussed.
For example, if you’re writing your essay about how a certain book is trying to achieve a specific goal, then your subject would be the book itself and the main idea would be achieving that specific goal.
  • What is the main idea of my essay?

The main idea of your essay is truly what ties the entire piece together. Having a specific focal point to discuss makes your writing feel not only more cohesive but also more intentional. The main idea could be any topic as long as it fits within the guidelines of the kind of essay you are trying to write. However, as previously mentioned, it is important to be careful not to pick a main idea that is irrelevant to what's being asked of you.

  • What is the significance of my main idea?

This last part is certainly just as important as the other three, but oftentimes people will forget to tell their readers why their main idea is significant in the first place. Without a motivation for why the main idea matters, readers will not only be less interested but the thesis statement itself will also fall flat without something to back it up. Readers need to know why they should care. Your main idea doesn't have to be world-ending and heart-wrenching by any means, but it does need to have enough significance that your essay will have something to develop and discuss. Asking yourself that “why?” question is essential to creating a well-rounded thesis statement.

Quick Tip

  • Use the language in the prompt

This does not by any means imply that you need to directly copy the wording of your teacher's prompt in your thesis statement. Instead, using some of the language (not all of it) can help you display that you understand what's being asked of you.

As an example…
Prompt: What are some ways the author subverted the audience's expectations throughout the novel and how did that subversion affect the characters in the story?
Thesis: In the novel, the author implies that their main character is one person before killing them off halfway through the story and switching to a new character, subverting expectations and displaying that the characters are disposable tools used to push the story forward.
This thesis statement provides something to be debated over. Does the killing off of the previous main character show that they are disposable? Some may believe that, and some may not. Now the essay can discuss the reasons for this belief and back the statement up with evidence and elaboration.

Claim Types

Not every claim will fall under one of these four categories perfectly, but they are great baselines for understanding how to classify the information you're using.

  • The Cause and The Effect
This type of claim states that one thing has either caused another or affected another.
Ex: The lack of clean water in ____ directly reduces the health of its citizens.
  • Providing a Solution
This type of claim tries to provide ways to solve the issues being discussed throughout the essay.
Ex: Instead of placing so much emphasis on success, which causes burnout, people need to focus more on intrinsic fulfillment to gain happiness.
  • Worth
This type of claim questions the value of something and can either emphasize or dismiss the worth that an issue has.
Ex: The importance of good hygiene is much higher than outward looks.
  • Fact or Not?
This type of claim asks if a piece of information is factual or if it can be disproven.
Ex: Though the public has become more accepting of mental health as a valuable topic of discussion, the idea that negative bias no longer exists towards those who experience mental health crises is not accurate.

To End Off…

Once you understand what makes up a thesis statement and how to approach it, it becomes less intimidating and allows you to focus more on making sure that your statement is cohesive and that the rest of the essay that follows stays in line with the main idea you are trying to convey. For more insight on essay writing, check out Pivot’s blog!

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