The form of your thesis statement depends on the type of paper you’re writing, but it should always directly state the main point you want to make. It might make a strong argumentative claim, summarize your perspective on a topic, or outline the key information you’ll discuss.
Why is the thesis statement important?
The thesis statement is one of the most important sentences in your paper. Its functions include:
- Establishing the purpose of your paper
- Stating your position on the topic
- Guiding the reader through your argument
- Keeping your writing focused
You should keep your thesis statement in mind throughout the writing process: the main body should expand on this statement, support it with evidence, and argue for its validity.
Thesis statement examples
The form of your thesis statement will look different depending on the aim of your paper.
If the goal of your paper is to persuade your reader of a claim, your thesis statement should take a clear, specific position and introduce the reasoning you’ll use to argue for it.
- The Brexit referendum result was driven by political frustration.
- The Brexit referendum result was driven by working-class frustration with the political elite, caused by austerity policies that have eroded public services and fragmented communities; the referendum offered an alternative to the status quo.
The first example takes a position, but doesn’t tell the reader anything about how you will build your argument. The second example condenses the key ideas and evidence that you will use to convince your reader.
You might not want to make a strong persuasive argument, but to analyze, interpret and evaluate various aspects of a topic. In this case, your thesis statement should map out the key points of your analysis and introduce the conclusions you will draw from it.
- The UK has always been hostile to the EU.
- The history of the UK’s relationship to the EU is complicated; from the beginning, Britain has been reluctant to fully integrate into Europe, both economically and culturally, but the politics of EU membership has changed throughout the past 50 years.
The first example makes a generalizing statement – it isn’t clear what will be analyzed or why. The second example is much more specific, and guides the reader through the historical analysis that your paper will undertake.
If you are writing an expository essay that only aims to explain and discuss the facts of a topic, your thesis statement should summarize the main points that you will cover.
- Many demographic factors affected how people voted in the Brexit referendum.
- Polling and surveys shed light on the demographics of the Brexit vote: the key factors that influenced voters’ choices were age, region, and level of education.
The first example is vague and obvious. The second example clearly lays out the sources and categories of information that your paper will explore.
How to write a thesis statement
Step 1: Formulate a research question
Come up with a research question that you want to answer, or extract the question from your assignment prompt. In the examples given above, that question would be:
What were the main factors that led to the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum?
Step 2: Find an answer and take a position
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the process of researching and writing.
If you’re writing an argumentative paper, the answer should pick a side and take a strong position on the issue. In the first example above, the initial thesis statement might be:
Brexit was driven by political frustration.
Step 3: Support your answer with reasoning and evidence
This is the research process! The answer to your question is likely to change as you discover more evidence and sources. As you write the paper, keep developing and refining your thesis statement.
In the example above, the final thesis statement doesn’t just state a position but summarizes the overall argument:
The Brexit referendum result was driven by working-class frustration with the political elite, caused by austerity policies that have eroded public services and fragmented communities; the referendum offered an alternative to the status quo.
What makes a strong thesis statement?
The best thesis statements are concise, contentious and coherent.
A good essay or research paper builds up to a central argument. Your reader wants to know what that argument is and how you will make it – your thesis statement should tell them in a sentence or two.
A thesis statement is not a simple statement of fact that your reader will easily accept. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence, analysis or argument to back it up – your audience needs a reason to keep reading! Particularly in an argumentative paper, if you can imagine someone questioning or disagreeing with your statement, that’s a sign of its strength.
Your thesis statement might have several parts, but they should all add up to a coherent whole, and it should clearly relate to the rest of your paper. Make sure that the main points of your thesis statement appear in your section headings or topic sentences.
Ready to start writing or looking for guidance on other sections of your research paper? Read our step-by-step guide on how to write a research paper.