How to Write an Effective Thesis Statement

Every essay needs a strong thesis statement. Typically limited to one or two sentences, the purpose of a thesis statement is to preview the main point or primary argument of an essay or other type of paper. It provides readers with an overview of what the document is about and why they should read it.

male student writing a thesis statement male student writing a thesis statement
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Step-by-Step: How to Write a Thesis Statement

Before you can write a thesis statement, it’s important to spend some time thinking about the overall purpose of the document you are writing.

1. Choose a Specific Topic

Whether you have been assigned a general topic or are free to choose what you want to write about, it’s important to narrow the subject matter prior to drafting a thesis statement. It’s not possible to cover every aspect of a broad topic in a single essay, so start by deciding what specific aspect of the subject matter the essay will focus on.

2. Select a Related Question

Once the topic has been sufficiently narrowed, determine what question you want to investigate for your essay. Use this information to form a specific question, making sure that it is clearly related to the essay’s topic.

3. Answer the Question

Express your ideas about the answer to the question in the form of a statement. Depending on the topic, you may need to conduct initial research before deciding how the question should be answered.

4. Formulate the Thesis Statement

Tweak the answer you came up with for the question so that it becomes the thesis statement for your essay or paper. Keep in mind that the thesis statement must engage readers and get them excited about reading what you have written.

  • Be concise and engaging. Avoid vague words that don't contribute to the overall idea.
  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs, which add wordiness without conveying much meaning. Examples include words like interesting, exciting, difficult, and really.

Illustration: How to Follow the Steps

To get an idea of how to apply this step-by-step approach to writing a thesis statement, assume you were assigned to write an essay on the general topic of adoption. Before you start writing the body of your essay, you will need to craft a thesis statement. The table below illustrates the step-by-step approach described above.

steps to writing a thesis statement

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Types of Thesis Statements

Consistent with two of the primary categories of essays, argumentative (or persuasive) and informative essays, there are two main types of thesis statements.

Argumentative Thesis

In an argumentative thesis statement, you're going to make a claim. You're making an argument. That means it's not necessarily a factual statement, nor is it a personal response. Rather, it's an idea that may provoke opposition, but your supporting evidence is going to back up your claim and possibly encourage readers to adopt your viewpoint. In these essays, it's okay to be assertive.

When you turn on the television, don't be surprised if you're met with news anchors who curse at political leaders or experts and engage in face-flushing debates with pundits or activists. The landscape of television news reporting has changed so drastically that the news media has become a breeding ground for hatred.

Explanatory Essay

An explanatory thesis statement presents a specific subject to the reader. It's not necessarily a strong claim. Instead, it proposes ideas for thoughtful consideration. The goal is to explain. These kinds of thesis statements are prevalent in research essays. In a way, they're a "deeper dive" into an area of knowledge.

Gone are the days when children's grandparents lived in the in-law apartment downstairs. Today, families are scattered all across the globe, relying on technology to keep them united.

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Learn by Example

Review additional examples of thesis statements for more information and ideas. This will provide insight into what does and doesn’t work and help reinforce what you have learned about how to write a good thesis statement.

Ready to Write a Winning Essay

Once you have mastered the art of writing an effective thesis statement, you’ll be better prepared for your next academic writing assignment. You may want to further improve your academic writing skills by mastering best practices for writing an essay. Be sure to remember that all of the information in the document must be specifically related to the thesis statement.