What’s a Thesis Statement?

July 28, 2014

A thesis statement:

  • Tells the reader your opinion / point of view / interpretation of the subject under discussion. 
  • Indicates the direction the essay will take by stating the main points. 
  • Makes a claim that others might dispute. This aspect makes your thesis debatable, which is key to writing an analytical essay. Theses that aren’t debatable tend to be descriptive, summarizing a text rather than formulating an opinion from textual evidence.

How do I write a thesis? 

  • A thesis is a product of thoughtful close reading, analysis, and brainstorming.  
  • Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize detailed textual evidence.  
  • Once you close read and interpret the text, you will probably have a “working thesis,” an argument that you think you can support with evidence (but may need adjustments as you write). 

When reviewing your working thesis, ask yourself the following: 

Do I answer the question?  

Re-reading the question after constructing a working thesis helps you focus and make sure that you're on the right track. 

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 or describing the text, rather than making an argument. 

Is my thesis statement specific enough?   

Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”? 

Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering off topic?  

If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. Your thesis statement should be like a thread that is weaved in throughout your entire essay. 

Does my thesis answer “how” or “why”? 

If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too general. Answering these questions will help you be more specific and as a result will outline your main points to the reader. 

For Example

Suppose your topic is asking you to write an essay that makes an argument about the importance of one of the primary themes of the "Story of An Hour" by Kate Chopin.  

Your immediate thought might be: 

"The story of an hour" is about how a woman feels when her husband dies. 

This thesis simply summarizes the story without providing the theme. A reader might think, “How does she feel? And why does she feel that way?” Ask yourself these same questions! 

As you think about these ‘hows’ and ‘whys,’ you should begin recalling specific examples from the text. 

The woman in "the Story of an Hour" feels relieved and liberated when she learns that her husband died, because she was in an unhappy marriage. 

Next, push your thesis towards an interpretation. Look for detailed, textual evidence to explain the how and the why. 

The theme of "The Story of an Hour" focuses on a woman’s freedom from a male-dominated relationship.  

Notice how the above statement still does not answer the ‘how’ question. Perhaps you would like to discuss how the language of the story indicates that the woman was indeed oppressed by her husband, and that as a result of this oppression she became ill.  

The theme of "The Story of An Hour" focuses on a woman’s lack of freedom from a male-dominated relationship, and we see this theme played out in the oppressive language, the illness of the character, and the imagery of life and nature only seen through a window. 

Compare the above thesis to the original working one. This final thesis presents a way of interpreting evidence that reflects the significance of the question. Keep in mind that this is just an example of many possibilities you can write about!

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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Filed Under

  • Literacy
  • Critical Thinking
  • English Language Arts
  • 9-12 High School

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