How to write a thesis statement
What is a thesis statement?
The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any piece of academic writing. It can be defined as a very brief statement of what the main point or central message of your paper is. Essentially, your are stating what you will be writing about. You can see your thesis statement as an answer to a question. While it also contains the question, it should really give an answer to the question with new information and not just restate or reiterate it.
Your thesis statement is part of your introduction. Learn more about how to write a good thesis introduction in our introduction guide.
How can you write a good thesis statement?
A good thesis statement needs to do the following:
- Focus your ideas into one or two sentences
- Be an answer to the main question (direct or indirect) in your given topic
- Clearly state your argument or main point and comment about your position in relation to the topic
- Not just state something known, but something disputable that requires support or evidence
As previously mentioned, your thesis statement is always answering a question. Here is an example. If the question is:
What do you think the City of New York should do to reduce traffic congestion?
Answering it by simply restating the question is not enough:
In this paper, I will tell you what the City of New York should do to reduce traffic congestion.
A good thesis statement contains the question and answers it:
In this paper, I will argue that the City of New York should focus on providing exclusive lanes for public transport and adaptive traffic signals to reduce traffic congestion by the year 2035.
Can a thesis statement be a question?
A thesis statement cannot be a question. After all it is a statement that has to be debatable and prove itself using reasoning and evidence. A question, on the other hand, cannot state anything. It is a great lead into a thesis, but it cannot be the thesis statement.
How do I know if my thesis statement is strong?
First of all, the more you practice, the stronger your thesis statement will become. You can write down a thesis statement and then check if it fulfills the following criteria:
- Your statement needs to be provable by evidence. In the example above, you cannot just say that introducing adaptive traffic signals is better than introducing a congestion charge, because you don't like paying tolls.
- Your thesis statement needs to be precise and short. Do not give away too much information in the thesis statement and do not load it with unnecessary information.
- You can not just say that one solution is simply right or simply wrong as a matter of fact. You should draw upon verified facts to persuade the reader of your solution, but you cannot just declare something as right or wrong.
Here is another example. If the question is:
How can we end poverty?
Just declaring one solution as right does not fulfill the criteria of a good thesis statement:
In this paper, I will argue that introducing universal basic income is the best solution to end poverty.
A better take is the following:
In this paper, I will argue that introducing universal basic income can help reduce poverty and positively impact the way we work.
Other helpful sources that you can check out to assess how strong your thesis statement is:
- The University of Illinois Center for Writing Studies has put together a list of questions to ask when formulating your thesis
- The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina has a list of questions to ask to see if your thesis is strong
- The Aims Community College has created an exercise to practice creating thesis statements for any type of essay with any topic