Writing a Thesis Statement
A Thesis Statement is a sentence(s) that expresses the main ideas of your paper and answers the
question(s) posed by your paper.
- A thesis statement generally consists of two parts: your topic, and then the analysis,
explanation(s), or assertion(s) that you’re making about the topic.
- In some kinds of writing, such as narratives, descriptions, or even freewriting (yes, you
even have a focus when freewriting), a thesis is less important, but you may still want to
provide some kind of statement in your first paragraph that helps to guide your reader
through your paper.
- A thesis statement is a very specific statement – it should cover only what you want to
discuss in your paper, and be supported with specific evidence. The scope of your paper
will be determined by the length of your paper and any other requirements that might be
- Generally, a thesis statement appears at the end of the first paragraph of an essay, so that
readers will have a clear idea of what to expect as they read.
- As you write and revise your paper, it’s okay to change your thesis statement –
sometimes you don’t discover what you really want to say about a topic until you’ve
started (or finished) writing! Just make sure that your “final” thesis statement accurately
shows what will happen in your paper.
In an Argumentative paper, you are making a claim about a topic and justifying this claim with
reasons and evidence. This claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-
and effect statement, or an interpretation. However, this claim must be a statement that people
could possibly disagree with, because the goal of your paper is to convince your audience that
your claim is true based on your presentation of your reasons and evidence. An argumentative
thesis statement will tell your audience:
- Your claim or assertion
- The reasons/evidence that support this claim
- The order in which you will be presenting your reasons and evidence
Example: Barn owls’ nests should not be eliminated from barns because barn owls help farmers
by eliminating insect and rodent pests.
A reader who encountered this thesis statement would expect to be presented with an argument
and evidence that farmers should not get rid of barn owls when they find them nesting in their
Questions to ask yourself when writing an argumentative thesis statement:
- What is my claim or assertion?
- What are the reasons I have to support my claim or assertion?
- In what order should I present my reasons?
The So-What Factor
I like ice cream. (Yes, and? Good for you… I guess.)
Ice cream tastes really good. (That’s nice…)
Ice cream is the best dessert served in restaurants worldwide. (hmm… what other countries do
you think would question that?)
Anyone who dines out should not bother to order any dessert other than ice cream. (Oh really?
Why is that? I like chocolate lava cake. What’s so special about ice cream?)
When you are writing an essay about an article, essay, novel or other text, and your subject is
from the text, you should be writing in the present tense.
Example: Dan Rather meets up with the Northern Alliance soldiers when he lands in
(Every time you pick up that article, this event remains the same – it doesn’t change.)
But, if the event you are describing takes place before the time of the article, use the past tense:
Example: The Chinese immigrants believed they were going to find their American
Dream when they risked everything to come to New York.
(When we read the article, the Chinese immigrants are already in NY. This sentence is
talking about something that occurred in time “before” the time of article.)
This writer uses the present tense to describe the appearance of a dragonfly on a particular July
morning. However, both past and future tenses are called for when she refers to its previous
actions and to its predictable activity in the future:
A dragonfly rests on a branch overhanging a small stream this July morning. It is newly
emerged from brown nymphal skin. As a nymph, it crept over the rocks of the stream
bottom, feeding first on protozoa and mites, then, as it grew larger, on the young of other
aquatic insects. Now an adult, it will feed on flying insects and eventually will mate.
The mature dragonfly is completely transformed from the drab creature that once
blended with underwater sticks and leaves. Its head, thorax, and abdomen glitter; its
wins are iridescent in the sunlight. (adapted from an article in the magazine Wilderness)
A topic sentence is a sentence that indicates in a general way what idea the paragraph is going to
deal with. Although not all paragraphs have clear-cut topic sentences, and despite the fact that
topic sentences can occur anywhere in the paragraph (as the first sentence, the last sentence, or
somewhere in the middle), an easy way to make sure your reader understands the topic of the
paragraph is to put your topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph. (This is a good
general rule if you’re not yet comfortable with the concept, although it is not the only way to do
Developing Your Paragraph
Some methods to make sure your paragraph is well-developed:
• Cite data (facts, statistics, evidence, details, and others)
• Examine testimony (what other people say such as quotes and paraphrases)
• Define terms in the paragraph
• Compare and contrast
• Evaluate causes and reasons
• Examine effects and consequences
• Analyze the topic
• Describe the topic