If you’re wondering how to write a thesis statement, you’re
most likely in the preparatory stages of writing an academic
thesis: a substantial academic paper written on an
original topic of research, usually presented as one of the final
requirements for the Master’s or Ph.D. degree.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
It is important to note that an “academic
thesis” should not be confused with a “thesis
statement”. A thesis statement is:
basic argument” that clearly articulates what the Master’s
or Doctoral thesis is expected to demonstrate
- One of the initial building blocks to your immense
- A sentence or
paragraph that summarizes the argument you plan to make in your
thesis, as well as the supportive evidence you plan
to use to back up that argument.
- Provides a “roadmap” for
the reader of where you plan to go with your thesis.
importantly, the thesis statement must convince the reader that the claim is important
to your academic field, and that it is likely to be true based
on the evidence provided.
Good Thesis Statements:
• Make a knowledge
claim that purports to offer a new approach or idea
in a particular field, and to explain why it is new. The
purpose of any academic thesis is to add to the existing
pool of knowledge in a particular area, or to “fill
in the gaps of knowledge.” As such, your knowledge
claim should clearly state why the information/knowledge
that you have to offer is new within your field, and should
also convince the reader that your claim is likely to be
true based on the evidence provided
• Make an argumentative
assertion that summarizes the conclusions you have
reached about your topic after reviewing the literature. This
assertion should be focused and specific enough to be “proven” within
the boundaries of your paper. It should also identify
the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are
• Outline the scope, purpose and direction of
your paper. After finishing your thesis statement, the
reader should clearly know the essence of your intended project,
and also the boundaries you intend to place on it. Your
thesis statement should not make the reader expect more than
you are prepared to present in your final document.
Keep in mind that your thesis topic should address
an unresolved problem or knowledgegap in your subject area that
needs to be explored and that concerns society as a whole. Your
thesis topic should be unique in that it should add something
new to the existing literature. Merely digging up
answers that already exist does nothing to contribute to an academic
or professional field of knowledge.
Simply put, a thesis
topic should be based on new knowledge and new solutions to existing
problems—not on simply churning up old answers. However,
conducting research on questions that have already been answered
is considered part of the literature review and is a useful exercise
to find out if someone has already conducted research on your proposed
Types of Thesis Statements
There are three basic forms
that your thesis statement can take:
• Analytical: a statement
that breaks down an idea piece by piece and analyzes and evaluates
each individual part;
• Expository: a statement
that explains an idea or concept to an audience.
• Argumentative: a statement
that claims a position that is open to debate and justifies the
truth of that position through concrete examples and evidence.
What Type of Thesis Statement Should You Use?
What type of approach you choose to take will depend
upon the nature of your research. Analyzing why you are writing
this thesis can provides important clues regarding the approach
you should take. For example:
Are you proposing a new point
of view, or agreeing someone else’s point of view with some
disagreement or alternative interpretations?
Are you trying
to make an existing point of view clearer or better in some way? Or
are you criticizing or dismissing an existing point of view because
of its inadequacy or irrelevance?
The answers to these questions can help you pinpoint
the type of thesis statement you should write.
What Is the Relationship Between a
Thesis Statement and a Research Question?
The thesis statement is a preliminary
answer to the research question you have posed. A
strong introductory thesis statement, followed by thorough
research in the body of the paper, should convince the reader
that you are, indeed, addressing and resolving a pertinent
research question. The strategic restatement of the
thesis statement in the conclusion should carry a convincing
rhetorical effect to the reader that your research problem
has been resolved.
You will find that you are able to narrow down your
thesis statement by brainstorming a list of responses to your research
question. Your task is to turn your working research question
into a thesis statement.
The type of questions that can be helpful to ask
yourself when drafting your thesis statement are:
• What am I analyzing, explaining or describing,
or what am I claiming or asserting?
• What are the reasons/evidence I have to
support my claim or assertion?
• What did I discover in my analysis?
• How can I categorize my discoveries or organize
• In what order should I present my discoveries,
and the different parts of my explanations and reasons?
Where Should Your Thesis statement Appear in the Document?
Because a thesis is such a lengthy
document, it is important to continually remind the reader of the
research question your document is designed to resolve. Hence,
each result chapter in your thesis should have an introduction
and a thesis statement. In particular, as in any paper, the
last paragraph of the introduction should guide the reader through
the material to be presented, and should make the reader aware
of the logic, organization, and goals of the text to follow.
Finding a starting point for writing a good thesis statement
Getting started is always tough, but the first step
to writing an effective thesis statement is to begin with your
purpose and audience. What purpose do you wish to achieve? What
do you want to describe or explain? What viewpoint do you
wish your reader to adopt?
Articulating the answers to these questions is the major part of
the battle. Don’t attempt to write anything polished
when beginning; just try to get your thoughts down on paper. Once
that’s accomplished, the rest will flow much more easily.
This article was written by Dr. Carter for FinishLine, the
monthly newsletter of TA-DA!™ Helping graduate students
complete their thesis is our primary mission. That's why every month Dr. Carter
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