Essays need a thesis statement to provide a focus for research findings. Understanding how to craft a strong and relevant statement helps you succeed when tasked with this type of assignment.

 

This guide is adapted from the Douglas College Learning Centre and the University of Toronto Scarborough Writing Centre handouts on thesis statements.

The thesis is a key sentence in your paper. It tells your reader about the paper’s focus. Because thesis statements should be short and focused, they should usually only be one sentence.

The thesis almost always comes as the final sentence of the first paragraph in the introduction.

The thesis idea usually appears again in the first sentence of the conclusion, although using different words. This reminds the reader of your point and allows the reader to evaluate how well you have developed and supported your point-of-view.

 

1. THE "POINT-OF-VIEW" THESIS

This type of thesis makes one central point which can also be described as the key insight you are explaining, the central argument you are putting forward, the case you are arguing or the claim you are making.

The purpose of your entire paper is to provide evidence and explanation that back up the thesis.

 

Attributes of a “Point-of-View” Thesis

  1. Suitable

    1. Make sure your topic and thesis stem directly from the assignment instructions for the paper.

    2. Make sure it connects to key concepts you are learning in the course.

 

  1. Specific/focused/limited

    1. The thesis needs to focus your paper on a particular piece, aspect or side of a general topic.

    2. Limiting the topic to one specific group of people, to one time period, to one geographical location, to a particular character, to only the problem or to just the solution. Any number of these limiting factors can be combined to make the thesis specific.

 

  1. Feasible

    1. You need to have enough material to fully support the thesis you have chosen. If you are not able to find enough research, or you don’t have enough examples, reasons, expert opinions/quotations, facts and explanations to fill up the size of the paper that you need to write, then you might have chosen the wrong topic.

    2. At the same time, if you have too much material for the size of the paper you were assigned, you need to further limit your thesis (see #2 above) so that it doesn’t turn into a book.

 

  1. Insightful

    1. Have a point to make that is worth making. Your main point or central idea should not be so obvious that most readers will already know what you are going to discuss or explain in the paper. Instructors do not want to read through points that are already common knowledge.

 

  1. Significant

    1. It needs to be about what the audience (instructor or maybe classmates) will take seriously or care about. If your audience can say “So what?” or “Why does that matter to us?” you might not have a significant case to make.

 

 

2.  THE "SCOPE" THESIS

For some assignments, students are not expected to take a point of view. Instead, they are expected to answer a series of questions or give information about a topic. For these types of assignments, the thesis simply states what the paper is about. Sometimes, it may even include a shortlist of sub-topics covered.

 

Example

“This paper explores the challenges faced by people with bipolar disorder and suggests strategies communities can take to assist them.”

 

Attributes of a scope thesis

  1. Short and clear.

  2. Suitable for the assignment instructions.

  3. Identifies a scope that is feasible considering the assigned length of the paper.

 

CHARACTERISTICS 

 

  1. Restricted

    1. Keeps to the idea(s) to be developed.

    2. Weak example: Pollution is a serious problem. (Too general. Lacks focus).

    3. A strong example: Increasing smog in the Toronto area is largely due to under-occupied cars commuting from the suburbs.

  2. Unified

    1. Connects ideas using appropriate words such as “although,” “as a result,” “because.”

    2. Weak example: Many of the silent letters in English were once pronounced. The pronunciation changed, but the old spelling was standardized. (Two ideas here. It could be two papers).

    3. A strong example: Many silent letters in English words are a result of standardizing the spelling while the pronunciation was still changing.

  3. Precise

    1. Avoids vague language and generalities such as “interesting,” “inspiring,” “unusual.”

    2. Weak example: Plato’s Republic is one of the most fascinating and brilliant books ever written. (Too vague. Language is inappropriate).

    3. A strong example: By linking the issue of personal justice to an account of justice in the city, Plato’s Republic connects ethics with politics and invites reflections on both.

  4. Arguable

    1. The claim made is open to debate.

    2. Weak example: Art means different things to different people. (Self-evident claim).

    3. Strong statement: Van Gogh’s paintings were the work of a madman.

 

From the University of Toronto Scarborough Writing Centre’s The Thesis Statement

 

  1. A question. 
    Instructors do not want you to raise questions in your thesis. They want you to provide answers. Instructors especially do not want to see rhetorical questions (questions that have either no answer or have implied ones and are made only to argue a point, not to provide insightful analysis that leads to solutions).
  2. Statements of fact that need no further support or proof.
  3. A detailed list of everything that you will try to include in the paper.

Don’t attempt writing your thesis statement until you have explored your topic through research and brainstorming. You can’t take a position until you’ve done your research!

 

STEPS FOR WRITING A THESIS
  1. Re-state the assignment or topic.

  2. Take a position on the issue.

  3. Briefly state your reasons why/how.

  4. Revise. Take out any wordiness or vague ideas, and make sure the thesis relates to the topic.

 

POINTS TO REMEMBER
  1. Your thesis statement articulates your position.

  2. Your essay supports your thesis.

  3. The paragraphs in the body of your essay must connect with each other as well as with your thesis statement.

  4. Revise and/or refocus as necessary (thesis, body paragraphs or both) if further research causes your position to change, or to maintain coordination between thesis statement and body.

 

From the University of Toronto Scarborough Writing Centre’s The Thesis Statement.