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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis Statement

Updated on
September 27, 2021
Students
The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a sentence in a paper or essay (in the opening paragraph) that introduces the main topic to the reader. As one of the first things your reader sees, your thesis statement is one of the most important sentences in your entire paper—but also one of the hardest to write! 

In this article, we explain how to write a thesis statement in the best way possible. We look at what to include and the steps to take for writing your own, along with plenty of thesis statement examples to guide you. 

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What is a thesis statement?

The goal of a thesis statement is to let your reader know what your paper or essay is about. It helps your reader understand the greater context and scope of your topic, plus it lets your readers know what to expect from the rest of the work. 

A secondary benefit of a thesis statement is that it makes it easier to search for papers on a particular topic, especially in the realm of academic writing like research papers and thesis papers (which are sometimes known as dissertations when written for doctoral degrees). For example, if you’re writing a paper of your own, you’ll want to look up other papers to use as evidence and sources. You can simply scan the thesis statements of several papers to see which match your topic and could be worthwhile sources to cite. 

The thesis statement is located at the beginning of a paper, in the opening paragraph, making it an essential way to start an essay. A thesis statement isn’t necessarily the first sentence in an essay; typically you’ll want to hook the reader in an engaging way in the opening sentence before inserting your central idea or argument later in the first paragraph. A thesis statement is often confused with a topic sentence, the first sentence in a paragraph, because they both introduce the central idea of what follows. You can think of thesis statements as the topic sentence of your entire paper.  

What to include in a thesis statement (with examples)

Thesis statements are a necessary part of paper and essay writing, but different formats have different rules and best practices. Below, we break down how to write a thesis statement for the most common types of papers. 

How to write a thesis statement for expository and argumentative essays

Expository and argumentative essays are some of the most common types of academic papers. Because they don’t have a formal abstract like research papers, they rely on their thesis statements to provide an overview of what’s discussed. 

Thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays should use strong and decisive language; don’t be wishy-washy or uncertain. You want to take a stand right in the opening so that your readers understand what your paper is trying to show. 

Moreover, thesis statements for these essays should be specific, with some minor details to hint at the rest of the paper. It’s not enough to merely make your point; you also want to provide some basic evidence or background context to paint a full picture. 

If your paper dives into different subtopics or categories, try to fit them into the thesis statement if you can. You don’t have to get into details here, but it’s nice to mention the different sections at the top so that the reader knows what to expect. 

 Thesis statement examples

Despite the taboo, insects make an excellent food source and could stem humanity’s looming food shortage, based on both their protein output and the sustainability of farming them. 

The backlash to rock ’n’ roll music in the ’50s by religious groups and traditionalists actually boosted the genre’s popularity instead of diminishing it as intended.

How to write a thesis statement for persuasive essays

Similar to argumentative essays, persuasive essays follow many of the same guidelines for their thesis statements: decisive language, specific details, and mentions of subtopics. 

However, the main difference is that, while the thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays state facts, the thesis statements for persuasive essays state clear opinions. Still, the format is the same, and the opinions are often treated like facts, including conclusive language and citing evidence to support your claims. 

Furthermore, unlike with other essays, it’s appropriate to make emotional connections in a thesis statement in persuasive essays. This can actually be a clever strategy to start your essay off on a more personal, impactful note. 

Thesis statement examples

Advertising should not be allowed in public schools because it’s a distraction from studies and may lead to misguided priorities among the school board, to say nothing of the materialist culture it promotes. 

Exotic pets provide the same love and companionship as conventional pets, so the laws regulating which animals can and cannot be kept as pets should be more relaxed. 

How to write a thesis statement for compare-and-contrast essays

Thesis statements for compare-and-contrast essays are tricky because you have at least two topics to touch on instead of just one. The same general guidelines apply (decisive language, details, etc.), but you need to give equal attention to both your topics—otherwise, your essay will seem biased from the start. 

As always, your thesis statement should reflect what’s written in the rest of your essay. If your essay spends more time comparing than contrasting, your thesis statement should focus more on similarities than differences. 

It sometimes helps to give specific examples as well, but keep them simple and brief. Save the finer details for the body of your essay. 

 Thesis statement examples

Sean Connery and Daniel Craig are the two most popular actors to portray James Bond, but both have their own distinct and at times contradictory interpretations of the character. 

While capitalism and communism are often viewed as diametric opposites, the truth is that, in practice, both ideologies tend to “borrow” principles from one another. 

How to write a thesis statement in 3 steps

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to sit down and write your own thesis statement. To keep you on track, here are three easy steps to guide you. 

1 Brainstorm the best topic for your essay

You can’t write a thesis statement until you know what your paper is about, so your first step is choosing a topic. 

If the topic is already assigned, great! That’s all for this step. If not, consider the tips below for choosing the topic that’s best for you:

  • Pick a topic that you’re passionate about. Even if you don’t know much about it, it’ll be easier to learn about it while writing if you’re genuinely interested. 
  • Narrow down your topic to something specific; otherwise, your paper will be too broad and perhaps too long. Just make sure it’s not too specific, or you won’t have enough to write about. Try to find a happy medium. 
  • Check beforehand that there are enough strong, credible sources to use for research. You don’t want to run out of referential material halfway through. 

Once you’ve chosen a topic—and the angle or stance you want to take—then it’s time to put the idea for your thesis sentence into words. 

2 Phrase your topic as a question and then answer it

It’s not always easy to fit your entire thesis into just one sentence, let alone one that’s written clearly and eloquently. Here’s a quick technique to help you get started. 

First, phrase your topic as a question. For example, if you want to write about Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, ask yourself, “What influences did Gandhi have on society after his death?” 

If you already know the answer, write it down—that’s a good start for your thesis statement. If you don’t know the answer, do some preliminary research to find out; you can certainly use what you discover as evidence and sources in your essay’s body paragraphs

3 Add some polish

Chances are, your first attempt at a thesis statement won’t be perfect. To get it to its best, try revising, editing, and adding what’s missing. 

Remember the core traits for thesis statements we mentioned above: decisive language, a happy medium of specific but not too specific details, and mention of subtopics. If you’re struggling to contain everything in a single sentence, feel free to move the secondary information to the following sentence. The thesis statement itself should only have what’s most necessary. 

If you’re in doubt, read your thesis statement to a friend and ask them what they think your paper is about. If they answer correctly, your thesis statement does its job. 

Next comes the hard part—writing the rest! While the bulk of the writing lies ahead, at least you’ve nailed down your central idea. To plot out your supporting argument, follow our advice on essay structure and let your ideas flow. 

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