Writing Effective Thesis Statements

A good thesis statement can be the difference between making an argument about something, and simply re-stating what someone else has already said. In your thesis statement, you want to make a claim that you will continue to develop throughout the paper. It should represent your own ideas–perhaps in response to something someone else has said–but ultimately, it is your argument. As such, a good thesis statement should have 3 main traits. A good thesis:

  • Can be developed with evidence throughout your paper. In other words, you should be able to say it in 1-2 sentences, but that shouldn’t be all that there is to say on the topic.
  • Is argumentative, not in a negative sense, but in that it can be supported and may have counter-arguments. Test this by asking “Could I argue the reverse of this?”
  • Should explain what, why, and how. What are you arguing? Why are you arguing that? And how will you show it? Think of the “what” as your basic position, the “why” as your reasoning, and the “how” as your evidence (theories, sources, etc.)

In all, the thesis is the backbone of your paper. In the rest of your paper, something in each paragraph should directly relate back to the paper. If you get lost in the writing process, you’ll want to be able to come back to your thesis and say, “this is what I’m arguing.” And remember, thesis statements can evolve with the paper. Once you’ve got your draft written, read through and make sure that what you’re saying in your paper matches up with what your thesis statement says you’re going to be saying.

Here are a few helpful links to get you started:

The Purdue OWL (Purdue University) is a great source for writing, and this page goes into detail on the different types of thesis statements.

Here’s another great source from the University of North Carolina with some tips and examples of strong thesis statements.

It can be useful to play around with and see examples, but DO NOT use it to create your actual thesis, as this may be considered plagiarism!

Best of luck with your writing endeavors!

–Your friends at the PLU Writing Center