Developing a Thesis

Now that you are familiar with thesis statements, take a few minutes to review by taking notes on what you know about thesis statements.

  • How would you define the term "thesis statement" in your own words?
  • What is the purpose of a thesis statement?
  • Have you used thesis statements in your writing before? When?
  • What do you think makes a thesis statement effective?
  • What is something you don't know about writing thesis statements?

Once you complete this brainstorming activity, read this article to continue learning about developing strong thesis statements.

A thesis statement is a sentence (or a few sentences) that states what an essay is about. A thesis statement should tell the reader what the essay's topic is, give a general outline of the essay, and take a position on the topic that can be debated.


Myths about thesis statements:

  • Thesis statements have to be one sentence
  • Thesis statements have to have a three-pronged structure that sets up the three main body paragraphs
  • Thesis statements should be the first part of the essay that you write
  • Thesis statements must be placed at the end of the first paragraph
  • The thesis statement should summarize your whole essay

A thesis statement can meet some of these criteria, but it does not have to.


Common problems with thesis statements:

The non-thesis thesis

A thesis needs to take a position on an issue. It is different from a topic sentence in that a thesis statement is not neutral.

Less: This paper will consider video game learning in the classroom.

More: Video games represent a promising teaching tool in the classroom.


The incontestable thesis

A thesis must be arguable. And in order for it to be arguable, it must present a view that someone might reasonably disagree with.

Less: Students should not cheat.

More: Cheating is not simply a problem in schools; it may affect people's future workplace behavior.


The overly broad thesis

It is not possible to write a good college-level paper about the history of America in a five-page paper. An essay topic should be specific enough for you to address the topic thoroughly in the essay.

Less: Teachers need to stop students from cheating.

More: New computer technology may be able to help teachers stop some formsof cheating.


The "list essay" thesis

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 anticipate how the arguments will follow one another. A "list essay" just states a series of facts without connecting them in a logical order. Without a strong structure for the essay, different facts and paragraphs appear arbitrary and unrelated to one another.

Less: There are many ways that video games could enhance education, including system thinking, collaborative tasks, and what James Paul Gee calls "situated meanings".

More: Among the many learning tools James Paul Gee cites in video games, the most significant ones – system thinking, collaborative tasks, and situated meanings – all share an emphasis on seeing information as a whole, rather than as disconnected facts typically presented in the classroom.

Source: Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2021, 1:03 PM