How to write a Thesis Statement
Every good essay is built around a strong thesis statement.
"A given assignment may not tell you that you need to come up with a thesis and defend it, but these are the unspoken requirements of any scholarly paper," says the Harvard College Writing Center.
According to the Harvard Writing Center, "a good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should ‘telegraph’ how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay."
Crucially, the Harvard Writing Center also states what a thesis is not: a question, a list, or vague. "An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim."
Formulating your thesis
"A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself," according to the University of North Carolina Writing Center. "The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel."
Although your thesis should be based on your research, it should be your own, original idea. It should not be a summary of someone else's views, or a composite of a few scholarly sources. While your thesis should be based on patterns you've observed in the research you've done, it should take a new direction.
"Use your own words in thesis statements; avoid quoting," says the Center for Writing Studies at the University of Illinois. "Crafting an original, insightful, and memorable thesis makes a distinct impression on a reader. You will lose credibility as a writer if you become only a mouthpiece or a copyist; you will gain credibility by grabbing the reader with your own ideas and words."
Remember, a thesis "makes a claim that others might dispute," according to the UNC Writing Center.
To make sure your thesis meets this criterion, the UNC Writing Center recommends asking yourself: "Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument."
Refining your thesis
At some point, you may realize that is has become necessary to rework your thesis.
"It is a good exercise throughout the writing process to stop periodically and reformulate your thesis as succinctly as possible so someone in another field could understand its meaning as well as its importance," says Harvard's Writing Center. "A thesis can be relatively complex, but you should be able to distill its essence."
To see how a weak thesis statement can be improved, take a look at these original and revised versions from the Center for Writing Studies.
Harvard College Writing Center: Developing a Thesis
University of North Carolina Writing Center: Thesis Statements