-The statement of the author’s position on a topic or subject.
-Clear, concise, and goes beyond fact or observation to become an idea that needs to be supported.
-Often a statement of tension, where the author refutes or complicates an existing assumption or claim (counterargument).
-Often answers WHY or HOW questions related to the topic at hand.
A Thesis Statement is Not:
- A statement of fact or observation (no matter how astute the observation).
- A statement of personal conviction or opinion.
-A generalization or overly broad claim.
For the writer, the thesis statement:
-Helps the writer determine the essay’s real focus. What are you trying to say with the evidence presented? A thesis provides a theory to be tested by evidence.
-Serves as a planning tool. The component parts of the thesis often correspond with the essay’s topic sentences.
For the reader, the thesis statement:
-Serves as a “map” to guide the reader through the paper. In the same way the thesis helps you organize your paper, the thesis helps organize the reader’s thinking. Once a solid thesis is presented, the reader will understand that all of the evidence presented is in service of proving the thesis.
-Creates a reason to keep reading, to discover the support behind the thesis.
If you are having trouble coming up with a thesis...
…ask yourself a genuine, difficult question about the topic (usually a “how” or “why” question), and state your response, even if you are not sure why you want to give that answer. Your response may very well be a workable thesis, and the pursuit of proving that answer may reveal to you more about your sources of evidence.
…think of a strong statement or observation you have made about the subject beginning with the words “In this essay, I will…” then ask yourself why this observation is important, or “So What?”1 Answer the question with “I believe this because…” In the draft stage you might phrase a working thesis as the following:
In this essay, I plan to explain how Mark Twain’s Adventure of Huckleberry Finn contrasts his river and shore scenes. I believe Twain is telling us that in order to find America’s true democratic ideals one must leave “civilized” society (the shore) and go back to nature (the river).
Then revise out the “I” statements. A revised version of this thesis might look like this:
Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.