How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay. It usually comes near the end of your introduction.

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

Example: Thesis statement
Despite Oscar Wilde’s Aestheticist claims that art needs no justification or purpose, his work advocates Irish nationalism, women’s suffrage, and socialism.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  1. Start with a question
  2. Write your initial answer
  3. Develop your answer
  4. Refine your thesis statement

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

Placement of the thesis statement

The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction.

Example of an essay introduction

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

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Step 1: Start with a question

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis, early in the writing process. As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic, you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

Has the internet had a positive or negative impact on education?

Or:

What impact did the invention of braille (the raised-dot reading system used by blind and visually impaired people) have?

Step 2: Write your initial answer

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 research process and writing process.

The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.
The invention of braille improved the lives of blind people.

Step 3: Develop your answer

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

Argumentative thesis statement

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

Expository thesis statement

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

Step 4: Refine your thesis statement

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

Example: Improved thesis statement on internet use
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: it facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
Example: Improved thesis statement on the invention of braille
The invention of braille transformed the lives of blind people in the 19th century, but its success depended on mainstream acceptance by sighted teachers, and this process was shaped by debates about disabled people’s place in society.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Types of thesis statements

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay, your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay, you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
Example: Argumentative essay thesis statement
Although surveillance is viewed negatively by many people, its positive social effects outweigh its downsides. Greater surveillance in public areas helps maintain public order and ensures the personal safety of citizens.
Example: Expository essay thesis statement
The European Renaissance is closely linked to the economic wealth of Italy in the Middle Ages. The development of Italian port towns as major trading posts during the Crusades, along with the establishment of banking systems, made patronage of the arts and sciences possible.

Frequently asked questions about thesis statements

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay. Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

Why do I need a thesis statement?

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

How can I come up with a thesis statement?

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement:

  1. Ask a question about your topic.
  2. Write your initial answer.
  3. Develop your answer by including reasons.
  4. Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

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Shona McCombes

Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.