Before you can write effective essays and papers, you must learn how to write a thesis statement. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you.
In the essay writing process, a thesis statement is an important part of the overall piece. It is the foundation on which you build the rest of your writing, hanging each of your points in a single sentence. In addition, it tells the reader why the writing assignment is important and what they will learn by reading the essay or article. Learning how to write a thesis statement is not easy, and it takes a lot of thought to write a strong one.
This guide will walk you through the process from start to finish. If you follow these steps, you will end with a strong thesis statement that will make your paper effective.
- Materials Needed
- Step 1: Create a Working Thesis
- Step 2: Craft an Answer
- Step 3: Know Your Main Idea
- Step 4: Start Your Research
- Step 5: Choose the Type of Essay
- Step 6: Make Your Answer More Detailed
- Step 7: Identify the Structure
- Step 8: Refine Your Statement
- Step 9: Check for a Weak Thesis Statement
- Step 10: Align the Thesis Statement
- Research materials and sources
- Computer with writing software
- Writing materials – pen, paper, notebooks
- Grammar checking software
Step 1: Create a Working Thesis
Before writing a solid thesis statement, you must start with a working thesis. A working thesis is a question you will try to answer through your academic essay or report. Your final thesis statement will not be a question, but starting with a question will guide your research and help you fine-tune your thesis at the end.
Here are a few examples of good working thesis statements:
- How has social media impacted the social skills of modern teenagers?
- What impact has the invention of the Internet had on the modern workforce?
Use the working thesis to help you create your outline and the road map of the rest of your paper. You will return to it later after you know the answers to your question and turn it into an authentic thesis.
Check out our guide on how to write an expository essay.
Step 2: Craft an Answer
Craft a tentative answer to your working thesis question if you have any basic topic knowledge or have done some preliminary research. The answer can be pretty straightforward, as you will flesh this out later in the writing and research.
Here is an example of an initial answer to the working thesis statements above:
- Social media has negatively impacted the social skills of modern teenagers.
- The invention of the Internet has made the modern workforce more streamlined and effective.
Both of these are purposefully vague. However, this basic answer will guide your research as you move forward with your piece. You might also be interested in learning how to write a case study.
Step 3: Know Your Main Idea
The thesis statement should cover just one main idea, and that idea should be the theme for the rest of your paper. Define this main idea before writing the thesis statement. If you are unfamiliar with your topic, use your research to help. On the other hand, if you know some things about your topic, you may already have an idea. Of course, as you research your topic, you will add points to this central idea, but it is a good starting point.
Step 4: Start Your Research
Your working thesis gives you a place to start your research. First, find the arguments and counterarguments that help you answer your question. Then, take some time to brainstorm all possible directions you could take your paper. You may find many points you could cover in your paper. This step is when you narrow down your options. Remember, your thesis statement and essay template will allow three main arguments and points, so choose the most important ones. Use these answers and arguments to write your outline.
When writing an argumentative paper, you must choose a side of the argument you will build from. If you are writing an informative paper, find the answer to your question that you will use for your body paragraphs, and write an outline.
Step 5: Choose the Type of Essay
Before writing your thesis statement, you must know what type of essay you are writing. This will help you decide the route you will take for your paper so you can write the statement effectively.
There are three main types of thesis statements you can write. These are:
- Argumentative thesis statement: With this essay, you are trying to draw the reader to your conclusion about a topic, so your thesis will outline your position on the argument.
- Expository thesis statement: An expository essay strives to explain or inform on a topic, with no desire to convince so that the thesis will be a statement of fact.
- Analytical thesis statement: In an analytical essay, you will break down an issue or idea into its parts so that the thesis statement will outline these parts for the reader.
You must choose the type of essay before choosing the thesis statement because the two are directly connected. For example, sometimes you can be asked to write a narrative essay that tells a story, or a descriptive essay, which describes something using sensory terms. These particular essay types do not necessarily have a thesis statement, but the other three types of essays do.
Step 6: Make Your Answer More Detailed
Now you are ready to fine-tune your working thesis into an effective thesis statement for your paper. Refining the thesis statement means you will write a sentence that tells:
- Why do you hold the position you hold
- What the essay will show them
- What your critical viewpoints in your specific argument will be
Make some notes about these details, and you are ready to write your topic sentence.
Step 7: Identify the Structure
A thesis statement is one complete sentence at the end of the first paragraph. It serves as the outline for the rest of the paper. It may be a long sentence because it contains so much information, but it is just one sentence.
Immediately after the thesis statement, you will start your first body paragraph. A solid thesis statement will naturally transition into each body paragraph, and each paragraph covers a point in your outline. Typically, an academic essay will have three main points, which should all be part of your thesis statement.
Step 8: Refine Your Statement
Now that you have done the research and understand the basic structure, you are ready to finalize your thesis statement. Make sure you include all of your main points in the statement and refine it, so it is just one sentence. Make your main idea clear and concise within the statement.
Here are some thesis statement examples from our earlier statements:
- Social media has caused negative impacts on teenagers, including shortened attention spans, increased anxiety, and fewer social connections.
- The positive impacts of the internet on the workplace outweigh the negative impacts: it has created more accessible communication, faster access to information, and streamlined data storage, even while it creates some distractions for workers.
Both are strong and direct, clearly outlining the points of the paper. This makes them good thesis statements.
Step 9: Check for a Weak Thesis Statement
Finally, check your thesis statement to see if it is weak, and fix it if it is. How can you identify a weak thesis statement? Look for these signs:
- Vague: Your thesis statement must be direct and identify and define your argument.
- Plot summary: You don’t want a plot summary in your thesis statement.
- Simple factual statement: Even with an expository essay, you should have some points to outline in the statement.
- Unprovable: Do not make a paper that centers around a thesis statement you can’t prove.
- Unimportant: You must give your reader a reason to read the paper, so use the thesis statement to share why your paper is essential.
Here are some examples of weak thesis statements:
- Social media has had a negative impact on teenagers. (Vague and factual statement)
- Social media has had a negative impact on teenagers socially and academically. (Still a bit vague)
- Social media has destroyed the modern teenager. (Unprovable)
Each of these needs significant improvement to be strong. Avoid these mistakes as you craft your thesis statement.
Step 10: Align the Thesis Statement
Finally, ensure your thesis statement aligns with the rest of the paper. It should have all of the main points. You should also ensure the final paragraph re-states it in different wording. As you write and develop your paper, you may find that the thesis statement also changes a bit. This is normal. When you are finished with the essay or paper, look to ensure that the thesis statement aligns with the rest of the piece and make any final adjustments. Making one last revision of the thesis statement will give you a powerful statement that drives the rest of the paper.
Check out our guide packed full of transition words for essays.