Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes

upload-your-document-ai-proofreader

Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing

The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

College essays

  • Choosing Essay Topic
  • Write a College Essay
  • Write a Diversity Essay
  • College Essay Format & Structure
  • Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, August 15). How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved March 11, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/thesis-statement/

Is this article helpful?

Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

Other students also liked, how to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples, how to write topic sentences | 4 steps, examples & purpose, academic paragraph structure | step-by-step guide & examples, what is your plagiarism score.

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.

Introduction

Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. 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.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I create a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
  • 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.
  • 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 thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to  be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:

Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.

You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.

  • Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?

After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:

Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.

This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.

Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

You begin to analyze your thesis:

  • Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.

Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
  • Do I answer the question? Yes!
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”

After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Make a Gift

Developing a Thesis Statement

Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.

Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements . If in doubt, please consult your instructor for assistance.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement . . .

  • Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic.
  • Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper.
  • Is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.
  • Is generally located near the end of the introduction ; sometimes, in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.
  • Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.

Not all papers require thesis statements! Ask your instructor if you’re in doubt whether you need one.

Identify a topic

Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper.

Consider what your assignment asks you to do

Inform yourself about your topic, focus on one aspect of your topic, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts, generate a topic from an assignment.

Below are some possible topics based on sample assignments.

Sample assignment 1

Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II.

Identified topic

Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis

This topic avoids generalities such as “Spain” and “World War II,” addressing instead on Franco’s role (a specific aspect of “Spain”) and the diplomatic relations between the Allies and Axis (a specific aspect of World War II).

Sample assignment 2

Analyze one of Homer’s epic similes in the Iliad.

The relationship between the portrayal of warfare and the epic simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64.

This topic focuses on a single simile and relates it to a single aspect of the Iliad ( warfare being a major theme in that work).

Developing a Thesis Statement–Additional information

Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic, or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. You’ll want to read your assignment carefully, looking for key terms that you can use to focus your topic.

Sample assignment: Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II Key terms: analyze, Spain’s neutrality, World War II

After you’ve identified the key words in your topic, the next step is to read about them in several sources, or generate as much information as possible through an analysis of your topic. Obviously, the more material or knowledge you have, the more possibilities will be available for a strong argument. For the sample assignment above, you’ll want to look at books and articles on World War II in general, and Spain’s neutrality in particular.

As you consider your options, you must decide to focus on one aspect of your topic. This means that you cannot include everything you’ve learned about your topic, nor should you go off in several directions. If you end up covering too many different aspects of a topic, your paper will sprawl and be unconvincing in its argument, and it most likely will not fulfull the assignment requirements.

For the sample assignment above, both Spain’s neutrality and World War II are topics far too broad to explore in a paper. You may instead decide to focus on Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis , which narrows down what aspects of Spain’s neutrality and World War II you want to discuss, as well as establishes a specific link between those two aspects.

Before you go too far, however, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts. Try to avoid topics that already have too much written about them (i.e., “eating disorders and body image among adolescent women”) or that simply are not important (i.e. “why I like ice cream”). These topics may lead to a thesis that is either dry fact or a weird claim that cannot be supported. A good thesis falls somewhere between the two extremes. To arrive at this point, ask yourself what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about your topic.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times . Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Derive a main point from topic

Once you have a topic, you will have to decide what the main point of your paper will be. This point, the “controlling idea,” becomes the core of your argument (thesis statement) and it is the unifying idea to which you will relate all your sub-theses. You can then turn this “controlling idea” into a purpose statement about what you intend to do in your paper.

Look for patterns in your evidence

Compose a purpose statement.

Consult the examples below for suggestions on how to look for patterns in your evidence and construct a purpose statement.

  • Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis
  • Franco turned to the Allies when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from the Axis

Possible conclusion:

Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: Franco’s desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power.

Purpose statement

This paper will analyze Franco’s diplomacy during World War II to see how it contributed to Spain’s neutrality.
  • The simile compares Simoisius to a tree, which is a peaceful, natural image.
  • The tree in the simile is chopped down to make wheels for a chariot, which is an object used in warfare.

At first, the simile seems to take the reader away from the world of warfare, but we end up back in that world by the end.

This paper will analyze the way the simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64 moves in and out of the world of warfare.

Derive purpose statement from topic

To find out what your “controlling idea” is, you have to examine and evaluate your evidence . As you consider your evidence, you may notice patterns emerging, data repeated in more than one source, or facts that favor one view more than another. These patterns or data may then lead you to some conclusions about your topic and suggest that you can successfully argue for one idea better than another.

For instance, you might find out that Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis, but when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from them, he turned to the Allies. As you read more about Franco’s decisions, you may conclude that Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: his desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power. Based on this conclusion, you can then write a trial thesis statement to help you decide what material belongs in your paper.

Sometimes you won’t be able to find a focus or identify your “spin” or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn . Thus, you might begin with something like this:

  • This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression.
  • I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society’s authority.

At some point, you can turn a purpose statement into a thesis statement. As you think and write about your topic, you can restrict, clarify, and refine your argument, crafting your thesis statement to reflect your thinking.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Compose a draft thesis statement

If you are writing a paper that will have an argumentative thesis and are having trouble getting started, the techniques in the table below may help you develop a temporary or “working” thesis statement.

Begin with a purpose statement that you will later turn into a thesis statement.

Assignment: Discuss the history of the Reform Party and explain its influence on the 1990 presidential and Congressional election.

Purpose Statement: This paper briefly sketches the history of the grassroots, conservative, Perot-led Reform Party and analyzes how it influenced the economic and social ideologies of the two mainstream parties.

Question-to-Assertion

If your assignment asks a specific question(s), turn the question(s) into an assertion and give reasons why it is true or reasons for your opinion.

Assignment : What do Aylmer and Rappaccini have to be proud of? Why aren’t they satisfied with these things? How does pride, as demonstrated in “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” lead to unexpected problems?

Beginning thesis statement: Alymer and Rappaccinni are proud of their great knowledge; however, they are also very greedy and are driven to use their knowledge to alter some aspect of nature as a test of their ability. Evil results when they try to “play God.”

Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.

Main idea: The reason some toys succeed in the market is that they appeal to the consumers’ sense of the ridiculous and their basic desire to laugh at themselves.

Make a list of the ideas that you want to include; consider the ideas and try to group them.

  • nature = peaceful
  • war matériel = violent (competes with 1?)
  • need for time and space to mourn the dead
  • war is inescapable (competes with 3?)

Use a formula to arrive at a working thesis statement (you will revise this later).

  • although most readers of _______ have argued that _______, closer examination shows that _______.
  • _______ uses _______ and _____ to prove that ________.
  • phenomenon x is a result of the combination of __________, __________, and _________.

What to keep in mind as you draft an initial thesis statement

Beginning statements obtained through the methods illustrated above can serve as a framework for planning or drafting your paper, but remember they’re not yet the specific, argumentative thesis you want for the final version of your paper. In fact, in its first stages, a thesis statement usually is ill-formed or rough and serves only as a planning tool.

As you write, you may discover evidence that does not fit your temporary or “working” thesis. Or you may reach deeper insights about your topic as you do more research, and you will find that your thesis statement has to be more complicated to match the evidence that you want to use.

You must be willing to reject or omit some evidence in order to keep your paper cohesive and your reader focused. Or you may have to revise your thesis to match the evidence and insights that you want to discuss. Read your draft carefully, noting the conclusions you have drawn and the major ideas which support or prove those conclusions. These will be the elements of your final thesis statement.

Sometimes you will not be able to identify these elements in your early drafts, but as you consider how your argument is developing and how your evidence supports your main idea, ask yourself, “ What is the main point that I want to prove/discuss? ” and “ How will I convince the reader that this is true? ” When you can answer these questions, then you can begin to refine the thesis statement.

Refine and polish the thesis statement

To get to your final thesis, you’ll need to refine your draft thesis so that it’s specific and arguable.

  • Ask if your draft thesis addresses the assignment
  • Question each part of your draft thesis
  • Clarify vague phrases and assertions
  • Investigate alternatives to your draft thesis

Consult the example below for suggestions on how to refine your draft thesis statement.

Sample Assignment

Choose an activity and define it as a symbol of American culture. Your essay should cause the reader to think critically about the society which produces and enjoys that activity.

  • Ask The phenomenon of drive-in facilities is an interesting symbol of american culture, and these facilities demonstrate significant characteristics of our society.This statement does not fulfill the assignment because it does not require the reader to think critically about society.
Drive-ins are an interesting symbol of American culture because they represent Americans’ significant creativity and business ingenuity.
Among the types of drive-in facilities familiar during the twentieth century, drive-in movie theaters best represent American creativity, not merely because they were the forerunner of later drive-ins and drive-throughs, but because of their impact on our culture: they changed our relationship to the automobile, changed the way people experienced movies, and changed movie-going into a family activity.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast-food establishments, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize America’s economic ingenuity, they also have affected our personal standards.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast- food restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize (1) Americans’ business ingenuity, they also have contributed (2) to an increasing homogenization of our culture, (3) a willingness to depersonalize relationships with others, and (4) a tendency to sacrifice quality for convenience.

This statement is now specific and fulfills all parts of the assignment. This version, like any good thesis, is not self-evident; its points, 1-4, will have to be proven with evidence in the body of the paper. The numbers in this statement indicate the order in which the points will be presented. Depending on the length of the paper, there could be one paragraph for each numbered item or there could be blocks of paragraph for even pages for each one.

Complete the final thesis statement

The bottom line.

As you move through the process of crafting a thesis, you’ll need to remember four things:

  • Context matters! Think about your course materials and lectures. Try to relate your thesis to the ideas your instructor is discussing.
  • As you go through the process described in this section, always keep your assignment in mind . You will be more successful when your thesis (and paper) responds to the assignment than if it argues a semi-related idea.
  • Your thesis statement should be precise, focused, and contestable ; it should predict the sub-theses or blocks of information that you will use to prove your argument.
  • Make sure that you keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Change your thesis as your paper evolves, because you do not want your thesis to promise more than your paper actually delivers.

In the beginning, the thesis statement was a tool to help you sharpen your focus, limit material and establish the paper’s purpose. When your paper is finished, however, the thesis statement becomes a tool for your reader. It tells the reader what you have learned about your topic and what evidence led you to your conclusion. It keeps the reader on track–well able to understand and appreciate your argument.

which sentence is the thesis in this paragraph quizlet

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

Logo for M Libraries Publishing

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

9.2 Writing Body Paragraphs

Learning objectives.

  • Select primary support related to your thesis.
  • Support your topic sentences.

If your thesis gives the reader a roadmap to your essay, then body paragraphs should closely follow that map. The reader should be able to predict what follows your introductory paragraph by simply reading the thesis statement.

The body paragraphs present the evidence you have gathered to confirm your thesis. Before you begin to support your thesis in the body, you must find information from a variety of sources that support and give credit to what you are trying to prove.

Select Primary Support for Your Thesis

Without primary support, your argument is not likely to be convincing. Primary support can be described as the major points you choose to expand on your thesis. It is the most important information you select to argue for your point of view. Each point you choose will be incorporated into the topic sentence for each body paragraph you write. Your primary supporting points are further supported by supporting details within the paragraphs.

Remember that a worthy argument is backed by examples. In order to construct a valid argument, good writers conduct lots of background research and take careful notes. They also talk to people knowledgeable about a topic in order to understand its implications before writing about it.

Identify the Characteristics of Good Primary Support

In order to fulfill the requirements of good primary support, the information you choose must meet the following standards:

  • Be specific. The main points you make about your thesis and the examples you use to expand on those points need to be specific. Use specific examples to provide the evidence and to build upon your general ideas. These types of examples give your reader something narrow to focus on, and if used properly, they leave little doubt about your claim. General examples, while they convey the necessary information, are not nearly as compelling or useful in writing because they are too obvious and typical.
  • Be relevant to the thesis. Primary support is considered strong when it relates directly to the thesis. Primary support should show, explain, or prove your main argument without delving into irrelevant details. When faced with lots of information that could be used to prove your thesis, you may think you need to include it all in your body paragraphs. But effective writers resist the temptation to lose focus. Choose your examples wisely by making sure they directly connect to your thesis.
  • Be detailed. Remember that your thesis, while specific, should not be very detailed. The body paragraphs are where you develop the discussion that a thorough essay requires. Using detailed support shows readers that you have considered all the facts and chosen only the most precise details to enhance your point of view.

Prewrite to Identify Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement

Recall that when you prewrite you essentially make a list of examples or reasons why you support your stance. Stemming from each point, you further provide details to support those reasons. After prewriting, you are then able to look back at the information and choose the most compelling pieces you will use in your body paragraphs.

Choose one of the following working thesis statements. On a separate sheet of paper, write for at least five minutes using one of the prewriting techniques you learned in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .

  • Unleashed dogs on city streets are a dangerous nuisance.
  • Students cheat for many different reasons.
  • Drug use among teens and young adults is a problem.
  • The most important change that should occur at my college or university is ____________________________________________.

Select the Most Effective Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement

After you have prewritten about your working thesis statement, you may have generated a lot of information, which may be edited out later. Remember that your primary support must be relevant to your thesis. Remind yourself of your main argument, and delete any ideas that do not directly relate to it. Omitting unrelated ideas ensures that you will use only the most convincing information in your body paragraphs. Choose at least three of only the most compelling points. These will serve as the topic sentences for your body paragraphs.

Refer to the previous exercise and select three of your most compelling reasons to support the thesis statement. Remember that the points you choose must be specific and relevant to the thesis. The statements you choose will be your primary support points, and you will later incorporate them into the topic sentences for the body paragraphs.

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

When you support your thesis, you are revealing evidence. Evidence includes anything that can help support your stance. The following are the kinds of evidence you will encounter as you conduct your research:

  • Facts. Facts are the best kind of evidence to use because they often cannot be disputed. They can support your stance by providing background information on or a solid foundation for your point of view. However, some facts may still need explanation. For example, the sentence “The most populated state in the United States is California” is a pure fact, but it may require some explanation to make it relevant to your specific argument.
  • Judgments. Judgments are conclusions drawn from the given facts. Judgments are more credible than opinions because they are founded upon careful reasoning and examination of a topic.
  • Testimony. Testimony consists of direct quotations from either an eyewitness or an expert witness. An eyewitness is someone who has direct experience with a subject; he adds authenticity to an argument based on facts. An expert witness is a person who has extensive experience with a topic. This person studies the facts and provides commentary based on either facts or judgments, or both. An expert witness adds authority and credibility to an argument.
  • Personal observation. Personal observation is similar to testimony, but personal observation consists of your testimony. It reflects what you know to be true because you have experiences and have formed either opinions or judgments about them. For instance, if you are one of five children and your thesis states that being part of a large family is beneficial to a child’s social development, you could use your own experience to support your thesis.

Writing at Work

In any job where you devise a plan, you will need to support the steps that you lay out. This is an area in which you would incorporate primary support into your writing. Choosing only the most specific and relevant information to expand upon the steps will ensure that your plan appears well-thought-out and precise.

You can consult a vast pool of resources to gather support for your stance. Citing relevant information from reliable sources ensures that your reader will take you seriously and consider your assertions. Use any of the following sources for your essay: newspapers or news organization websites, magazines, encyclopedias, and scholarly journals, which are periodicals that address topics in a specialized field.

Choose Supporting Topic Sentences

Each body paragraph contains a topic sentence that states one aspect of your thesis and then expands upon it. Like the thesis statement, each topic sentence should be specific and supported by concrete details, facts, or explanations.

Each body paragraph should comprise the following elements.

topic sentence + supporting details (examples, reasons, or arguments)

As you read in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , topic sentences indicate the location and main points of the basic arguments of your essay. These sentences are vital to writing your body paragraphs because they always refer back to and support your thesis statement. Topic sentences are linked to the ideas you have introduced in your thesis, thus reminding readers what your essay is about. A paragraph without a clearly identified topic sentence may be unclear and scattered, just like an essay without a thesis statement.

Unless your teacher instructs otherwise, you should include at least three body paragraphs in your essay. A five-paragraph essay, including the introduction and conclusion, is commonly the standard for exams and essay assignments.

Consider the following the thesis statement:

Author J.D. Salinger relied primarily on his personal life and belief system as the foundation for the themes in the majority of his works.

The following topic sentence is a primary support point for the thesis. The topic sentence states exactly what the controlling idea of the paragraph is. Later, you will see the writer immediately provide support for the sentence.

Salinger, a World War II veteran, suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, a disorder that influenced themes in many of his works.

In Note 9.19 “Exercise 2” , you chose three of your most convincing points to support the thesis statement you selected from the list. Take each point and incorporate it into a topic sentence for each body paragraph.

Supporting point 1: ____________________________________________

Topic sentence: ____________________________________________

Supporting point 2: ____________________________________________

Supporting point 3: ____________________________________________

Draft Supporting Detail Sentences for Each Primary Support Sentence

After deciding which primary support points you will use as your topic sentences, you must add details to clarify and demonstrate each of those points. These supporting details provide examples, facts, or evidence that support the topic sentence.

The writer drafts possible supporting detail sentences for each primary support sentence based on the thesis statement:

Thesis statement: Unleashed dogs on city streets are a dangerous nuisance.

Supporting point 1: Dogs can scare cyclists and pedestrians.

Supporting details:

  • Cyclists are forced to zigzag on the road.
  • School children panic and turn wildly on their bikes.
  • People who are walking at night freeze in fear.

Supporting point 2:

Loose dogs are traffic hazards.

  • Dogs in the street make people swerve their cars.
  • To avoid dogs, drivers run into other cars or pedestrians.
  • Children coaxing dogs across busy streets create danger.

Supporting point 3: Unleashed dogs damage gardens.

  • They step on flowers and vegetables.
  • They destroy hedges by urinating on them.
  • They mess up lawns by digging holes.

The following paragraph contains supporting detail sentences for the primary support sentence (the topic sentence), which is underlined.

Salinger, a World War II veteran, suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, a disorder that influenced the themes in many of his works. He did not hide his mental anguish over the horrors of war and once told his daughter, “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose, no matter how long you live.” His short story “A Perfect Day for a Bananafish” details a day in the life of a WWII veteran who was recently released from an army hospital for psychiatric problems. The man acts questionably with a little girl he meets on the beach before he returns to his hotel room and commits suicide. Another short story, “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor,” is narrated by a traumatized soldier who sparks an unusual relationship with a young girl he meets before he departs to partake in D-Day. Finally, in Salinger’s only novel, The Catcher in the Rye , he continues with the theme of posttraumatic stress, though not directly related to war. From a rest home for the mentally ill, sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield narrates the story of his nervous breakdown following the death of his younger brother.

Using the three topic sentences you composed for the thesis statement in Note 9.18 “Exercise 1” , draft at least three supporting details for each point.

Thesis statement: ____________________________________________

Primary supporting point 1: ____________________________________________

Supporting details: ____________________________________________

Primary supporting point 2: ____________________________________________

Primary supporting point 3: ____________________________________________

You have the option of writing your topic sentences in one of three ways. You can state it at the beginning of the body paragraph, or at the end of the paragraph, or you do not have to write it at all. This is called an implied topic sentence. An implied topic sentence lets readers form the main idea for themselves. For beginning writers, it is best to not use implied topic sentences because it makes it harder to focus your writing. Your instructor may also want to clearly identify the sentences that support your thesis. For more information on the placement of thesis statements and implied topic statements, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .

Print out the first draft of your essay and use a highlighter to mark your topic sentences in the body paragraphs. Make sure they are clearly stated and accurately present your paragraphs, as well as accurately reflect your thesis. If your topic sentence contains information that does not exist in the rest of the paragraph, rewrite it to more accurately match the rest of the paragraph.

Key Takeaways

  • Your body paragraphs should closely follow the path set forth by your thesis statement.
  • Strong body paragraphs contain evidence that supports your thesis.
  • Primary support comprises the most important points you use to support your thesis.
  • Strong primary support is specific, detailed, and relevant to the thesis.
  • Prewriting helps you determine your most compelling primary support.
  • Evidence includes facts, judgments, testimony, and personal observation.
  • Reliable sources may include newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books, encyclopedias, and firsthand testimony.
  • A topic sentence presents one point of your thesis statement while the information in the rest of the paragraph supports that point.
  • A body paragraph comprises a topic sentence plus supporting details.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Thesis Sentences

Thesis sentence definition.

What's the Big Idea?

In order to provide insight, analysis, and/or interpretation, an essay needs a focus. An essay’s focus occurs in a thesis sentence, a sentence that provides the author’s main idea or argument in succinct form.

Most college essays will require a thesis sentence, a sentence in which you make a claim or proposition that you then support with evidence and examples, in order to prove the validity of that claim.  The thesis, which often comes toward the start of an essay, is the key idea of the whole essay, encapsulated in one sentence.

When you’re asked to write an “essay” as a course assignment, most likely you will be asked to write a thesis-support essay.

Thesis-support essays are just what their name implies. They offer a thesis near the start of the essay, usually at the end of the introductory paragraph, and then follow with supporting ideas and information. Usually, each unit of support starts with a topic sentence which extracts an idea from the thesis and makes a point about that part of the thesis idea.

Here’s a way to visualize a basic thesis-support essay:

diagram of thesis-support essay showing 5 consecutive parts: 1. Thesis, 2. Topic Sentence 1 with details, 3. Topic Sentence 2 with details, 4 Topic Sentence 3 with details, and 5 Conclusion Thesis

Writing a good thesis sentence is key to academic essay writing, as it captures the essence of the writer’s insight. The rest of the essay can then develop from, elaborate on, and offer evidence for the thesis sentence’s idea. In other words, the thesis sentence makes a promise, or sets up an expectation, for the type of information to follow in the essay.

View the following videos for definitions and examples of thesis sentences.

The first video deconstructs three thesis statements to show the topic, claim, and detailed points of each.

Note: Some content in the video “Writing an Effective Thesis Statement” is presented visually. You may listen to this video with audio description .

  • Thesis Sentence Definition. Authored by : Susan Oaks. Provided by : Empire State College, SUNY OER Services. Project : College Writing. License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
  • image graphic of thesis-support essay structure. Authored by : Jane Greiner, Susan Oaks. Provided by : Empire State College, SUNY OER Services. Project : College Writing. License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
  • image of man with words What's The Big Idea?. Authored by : Kerr Photography. Located at : https://www.flickr.com/photos/23992930@N04/4650354737 . License : CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives
  • video The Elements of an Effective Thesis Statement. Provided by : Gaston College Writing Center. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-0o5bnmRYs . License : Other . License Terms : YouTube video
  • video Writing an Effective Thesis Statement. Authored by : tlusaccprof. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sx42_C10zw . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • Paragraph Development
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

A paragraph is a group of related sentences that support one main idea. In general, paragraphs consist of three parts: the topic sentence, body sentences, and the concluding or the bridge sentence to the next paragraph or section. Paragraphs show where the subdivisions of a research paper begin and end and, thus, help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.

Arnaudet, Martin L. and Mary Ellen Barrett. Paragraph Development: A Guide for Students of English . 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents, 1990.

Importance of Constructing Good Paragraphs

Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers . Without well-written paragraphs that flow logically from one idea to the next and that inform and help support in some meaningful way the central research problem being investigated, your paper will not be viewed as credible and, well, you'll probably receive a poor grade.

Here are some suggestions for troubleshooting common problems associated with developing paragraphs:

1.  The paragraph has no controlling idea . Imagine each paragraph as having three general layers of text. The core content is in the middle. It includes all the evidence you need to make the point. However, this evidence needs to be introduced by a topic sentence in some way or your readers don't know what to do with all the evidence you have given them. Therefore, the beginning of the paragraph explains the controlling idea of the paragraph. The last part of the paragraph tells the reader how the paragraph relates to the broader argument and often provides a transition to the next idea. Once you have mastered the use of topic sentences, you may decide that the topic sentence for a particular paragraph really should not be the first sentence of the paragraph. This is fine—the topic sentence can actually go at the beginning, middle, or end of a paragraph; what's important is that it is there to inform readers what the main idea of the paragraph is and how it relates back to the broader thesis of your paper.

2.  The paragraph has more than one controlling idea . This is the most common reason why a paragraph is too long. If a paragraph is more than a page long, it likely contains more than one controlling idea. In this case, consider eliminating sentences that relate to the second idea, with the thought that maybe they don't really inform and help support the central research problem, or split the paragraph into two or more paragraphs, each with only one controlling idea.

3.  Transitions are needed within the paragraph . You are probably familiar with the idea that transitions may be needed between paragraphs or sections in a paper. Sometimes they are also helpful within the body of a single paragraph. Within a paragraph, transitions are often single words or short phrases that help to establish relationships between ideas and to create a logical progression of those ideas in a paragraph. This is especially true within paragraphs that discuss multiple examples or discuss complex ideas, issues, or concepts.

Arnaudet, Martin L. and Mary Ellen Barrett. Paragraph Development: A Guide for Students of English . 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents, 1990; Paragraph Development: Importance of Constructing Good Paragraphs. AP English Literature and Composition. Edublogs, 2012; Paragraphing. Centre for Applied Linguistics. University of Warwick.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  General Structure

Most paragraphs in an essay parallel the general three-part structure of each section of a research paper and, by extension, the overall research paper, with an introduction, a body that includes facts and analysis, and a conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating the meaning you intend to covey to the reader.

Introduction : the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.

Body : follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.

Conclusion : the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea. For long paragraphs, you may also want to include a bridge sentence that introduces the next paragraph or section of the paper. In some instances, the bridge sentence can be written in the form of a question. However, use this rhetorical device sparingly, otherwise, ending a lot of paragraphs with a question to lead into the next paragraph sounds cumbersome.

NOTE:   This general structure does not imply that you should not be creative in your writing. Arranging where each element goes in a paragraph can make a paper more engaging for the reader. However, do not be too creative in experimenting with the narrative flow of paragraphs. To do so may distract from the main arguments of your research and weaken the quality of your academic writing.

II.  Development and Organization

Before you can begin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will be, you must consider what is the most important idea that you are trying to convey to your reader. This is the "controlling idea," or the thesis statement from which you compose the remainder of the paragraph. In other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship between your controlling idea and the information in each paragraph. The research problem functions like a seed from which your paper, and your ideas, will grow. The whole process of paragraph development is an organic one—a natural progression from a seed idea to a full-blown research study where there are direct, familial relationships in the paper between all of  your controlling ideas and the paragraphs which derive from them. The decision about what to put into your paragraphs begins with brainstorming about how you want to pursue the research problem . There are many techniques for brainstorming but, whichever one you choose, this stage of paragraph development cannot be skipped because it lays a foundation for developing a set of paragraphs [representing a section of your paper] that describes a specific element of your overall analysis. Each section is described further in this writing guide. Given these factors, every paragraph in a paper should be :

  • Unified —All of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea [often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph].
  • Clearly related to the research problem —The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or the thesis, of the paper.
  • Coherent —The sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development.
  • Well-developed —Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph's controlling idea.

There are many different ways you can organize a paragraph . However, the organization you choose will depend on the controlling idea of the paragraph. Ways to organize a paragraph in academic writing include:

  • Narrative : Tell a story. Go chronologically, from start to finish.
  • Descriptive : Provide specific details about what something looks or feels like. Organize spatially, in order of appearance, or by topic.
  • Process : Explain step by step how something works. Perhaps follow a sequence—first, second, third.
  • Classification : Separate into groups or explain the various parts of a topic.
  • Illustrative : Give examples and explain how those examples prove your point.

Arnaudet, Martin L. and Mary Ellen Barrett. Paragraph Development: A Guide for Students of English . 2nd edition. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall Regents, 1990; On Paragraphs. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Organization: General Guidelines for Paragraphing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; The Paragraph. The Writing Center. Pasadena City College; Paragraph Structure. Effective Writing Center. University of Maryland; Paragraphs. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Paragraphs. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Paragraphs. University Writing Center. Texas A&M University; Paragraphs and Topic Sentences. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Weissberg, Robert C. “Given and New: Paragraph Development Models from Scientific English.” TESOL Quarterly 18 (September 1984): 485-500.

Writing Tip

Coherence of Ideas is What Matters, Not Length!

Do not think of developing paragraphs in terms of their length. Length and appearance do not determine whether a part in your paper is a paragraph. It is the unity and coherence of ideas represented in a sentence or among sentences that constitutes to a good paragraph.

Bahl, Vik. Paragraph Development. English 127 Research Writing syllabus. Green River Community College.  

  • << Previous: Making an Outline
  • Next: Research Process Video Series >>
  • Last Updated: Mar 8, 2024 1:02 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

  • An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
  • An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college
  • The Student Experience
  • Financial Aid
  • Degree Finder
  • Undergraduate Arts & Sciences
  • Departments and Programs
  • Research, Scholarship & Creativity
  • Centers & Institutes
  • Geisel School of Medicine
  • Guarini School of Graduate & Advanced Studies
  • Thayer School of Engineering
  • Tuck School of Business

Campus Life

  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Athletics & Recreation
  • Student Groups & Activities
  • Residential Life
  • [email protected] Contact & Department Info Mail
  • About the Writing Center
  • Hours & Location
  • Appointments
  • Undergraduate Sessions
  • Graduate Sessions
  • What To Expect at a Session
  • Student Guides
  • Guide for Students with Disabilities
  • Sources and Citations Guide
  • For Faculty
  • Class Support
  • Faculty Guidelines
  • Work With Us
  • Apply To Tutor
  • Advice for Tutors
  • Advice to Writing Assistants
  • Diagnosing Problems: Ways of Reading Student Papers
  • Responding to Problems: A Facilitative Approach
  • Teaching Writing as a Process

Search form

  • About Tutoring

Just as many of your essays will depend upon a thesis to assert and control its argument, so will many of your paragraphs require a topic sentence to assert and control their main ideas. Without a topic sentence, or claim, paragraphs can seem jumbled. Readers may find themselves confused.

Evaluating the Topic Sentence

Because the structure and sense of a paragraph often draws from the topic sentence or claim, the writer must craft them with care. Tutors and writing assistants will want to pay close attention to topic sentences: a weak or empty topic sentence is often followed by a paragraph that rambles aimlessly. Strong topic sentences, on the other hand, practically write the paragraphs that follow them.

When you come across a troubled paragraph, ask yourself:

  • Does the topic sentence declare a single point?  If not, sort out the ideas. Ask the writer if both of these ideas should be developed in one paragraph, or if she'd like to develop a second (or a third).
  • Is the topic sentence relevant to the thesis?  If not, ask the writer to reconsider how he might make it relevant. He might want to revise the sentence, to rewrite the thesis to accommodate this new direction, or to edit the paragraph from his final draft.
  • Is the topic sentence where you expect it to be?  If it's not, can the writer explain why?
  • Is there a clear relationship between this topic sentence and the paragraph that came before?  It's important to make sure that the writer hasn't left out any steps in the process of constructing his argument. If he makes a sudden turn in his reasoning, he needs to signify that turn to the reader by using the proper transitional phrase.
  • And perhaps most important:  does the topic sentence organize and control the paragraph?  If a paragraph seems to unravel, look at each sentence and see if it's relevant to the claim made in the topic sentence. If not, the paragraph (or the topic sentence) should perhaps be revised.

Considering the Argument

When writers compose paragraphs, they face two important questions: First, how can a writer know when a paragraph is fully developed? And second, how does a writer arrange his paragraph so that its logic is clear? As a tutor or writing assistant, you will want to ask the following questions of the paragraphs you are reading:

Are the paragraphs fully developed?

If the topic sentence is well-written, it will tell a writer how long her paragraph should be, and what it needs to do. But what do you do when you encounter a paragraph that seems to be under-developed (or over-developed)? Consider making the following kinds of observations:

  • "The evidence you offer doesn't entirely convince me. Can you offer more support?"
  • "The paragraph provides more evidence than you really need. The reader faces a list of details, but the point of those details gets lost, as does the argument as a whole."
  • "The evidence offered in this paragraph is interesting, but it doesn't seem relevant to the point you are trying to make. Can you make the relevance clearer?"
  • "You seem to be offering the same evidence over and over again, but from different sources. Why?"
  • "I've lost track of what this paragraph is about. Can you tell me in a nutshell what the purpose of this paragraph is? How does the evidence you provide fulfill that purpose?"

Is the logic of the argument clear?

The most common problem with paragraphs is that they often aren't developed logically. Writers have either failed to work out the logic of their argument, or they have problems expressing that argument clearly and coherently (more on coherence in a moment).

Often, however, the problem is that the writer doesn't understand that paragraph development benefits from analysis . Writers who have been taught to write using the five-paragraph-theme model often believe that paragraphs exist  to give examples  of the point they've declared in the topic sentence - when in fact, paragraphs exist  to develop or to analyze  that point.

For example: A student is writing a paper whose argument is that Fitzgerald's work is autobiographical. He sees this trend in three novels:  The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night,  and  The Last Tycoon.  He decides to make his first paragraph a list of all of the ways that Jay Gatsby is like Fitzgerald. The second paragraph does the same for the protagonist of  Tender is the Night.  And so on. What the writer of this paper fails to understand is 1) that each paragraph is saying essentially the same thing (the argument does not go anywhere), and 2) that  evidence  is not the same thing as  argument.

If a writer doesn't understand that paragraphs are units of a larger argument, each with the task of developing, analytically, one of the argument's points, then the argument is likely to stall. Another reason to convince young writers to abandon the five-paragraph theme!

Creating Coherent Paragraphs

Imagine that a writer has come to you having gotten this far: she has her thesis, her topic sentence, and truckloads of evidence to support the whole lot. But even though she's followed her outline and everything is "there," the essay just doesn't seem to hold together. The writer has a problem with coherence.

A lack of coherence is easy to diagnose, but not so easy to cure. An incoherent essay doesn't seem to flow. Its arguments are hard to follow. The reader has to double back again and again in order to follow the gist of the argument. Something has gone wrong. What?

Look for these problems in the paper:

  • Make sure that the  grammatical subjects  of the sentences reflects the  real subject  of the paragraph.  Sometimes a writer has written a good topic sentence, but the paragraph still falls apart. When this happens, it's a good idea to look at the sentence subjects to see whether or not they are consistent. Go through the paragraph and underline all the sentence subjects. Do the  grammatical  subjects have any connection with the paragraph's  real  subject? (See example, below.)

According to Maxwell,  the correlation  between equality and gender characterized the first regime of the women's movement that began in the late nineteenth century. Indeed,  the crafters  of the constitution never intended women to be included in the governing of the United States, but at no point did they ever envision that women might be able to vote.  The significance  of the "all men are created equal" clause of the constitution becomes clear, as Maxwell states, when one acknowledges that women were not considered to be men, as they are now. At this point,  Maxwell  highlights a key component in the success of women's suffrage:  women  needed first to convince society that they were indeed people.

When faced with a paragraph like this, you should ask the writer to think about which of the five grammatical subjects, if any, is actually the subject of the paragraph. She can then revise the paragraph accordingly.

  • Make sure that the sentences look backward as well as forward.  In order for a paragraph to be coherent, each sentence should begin by linking itself firmly to the sentence that came before. If the link between sentences doesn't seem firm, advise the writer to use an introductory clause or phrase to connect one idea to the other.
  • Follow the principle of moving from old to new.  If a writer puts the old information at the beginning of the sentence, and the new information at the end, he will accomplish two things. First, he ensures that his reader is on solid ground, moving from the familiar to the unknown. Second, he creates sentences that end emphatically. Advise the writer to shift less important ideas to the front of the sentence, and to shift more important ideas to the end.
  • Use repetition to create a sense of unity.  Repeating key words and phrases at appropriate moments will give your reader a sense of coherence in your work. Don't overdo it, however. You'll risk sounding redundant.
  • Consider the transitions between sentences.  Sometimes a writer neglects to indicate shifts in her line of argument by making an appropriate transition. Or she hasn't articulated for herself the connection between her ideas and so relies on transition phrases to bring sense to muddled prose. Work with writers to make sure that they don't overuse transitional phrases - and that when they do use them, they use them well.

logo

Have an account?

Suggestions for you See more

Quiz image

Argumentative Writing

Indefinite and definite articles, 8th -  11th  , transitional words, kg -  2nd  , 6th -  8th  .

pencil-icon

Thesis Statements

9th - 10th grade.

User image

16 questions

Player avatar

Introducing new   Paper mode

No student devices needed.   Know more

  • 1. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt What is a thesis statement? A general idea of what the essay is about A summary of the main idea A statement that explains the main idea of an essay A suggestion that you should read the essay
  • 2. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt True or False: The thesis statement should express a main idea that links to supporting points in the body paragraphs. True False
  • 3. Multiple Choice Edit 1 minute 1 pt Where should a thesis statement appear? first paragraph anywhere in the essay last paragraph the first sentence of every paragraph
  • 4. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt How long is a thesis statement? 1-2 sentences 1-2 paragraphs 1-2 words 1-2 pages
  • 5. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt How many parts should there be in a thesis statement? Four Three Two  One
  • 6. Multiple Choice Edit 30 seconds 1 pt What three parts make up a thesis statement? identification of topic/focus, the purpose/claim, and at least 3 subtopics/supporting points topic sentence, introduction, and conclusion introduction, a quote or paraphrase, and conclusion why I chose the topic, why it is a great topic, my personal connection to the topic
  • 7. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt When creating a thesis statement, it is important to think about your... topic purpose audience all of the above
  • 8. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt A formal style and an objective tone will... show a respectful and professional attitude toward your readers help readers focus on your ideas ensure readers take your ideas seriously all of the above
  • 9. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt True or False: It is best to use a quote in your thesis statement to support your point of view. True False
  • 10. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt True or False: The best thesis statements are formed into a question. True False
  • 11. Multiple Choice Edit 20 seconds 1 pt True or False: There is a difference between the thesis statement and the topic sentence. True False
  • 12. Multiple Choice Edit 30 seconds 1 pt Which of the following is not a function of a thesis statement? To announce the topic of your paper to your reader To reflect a perspective on a topic To leave a final impression on your reader To provide a blueprint of your essay to the reader
  • 13. Multiple Choice Edit 1 minute 1 pt Which of the following is a strong thesis statement? Violent video games are harmful for young people to play. Violent video games are harmful to young people, and it should be stopped. Violent video games are harmful for young people to play because  it promotes a sedentary lifestyle, encourages violence, and can cause children to become desensitized to death. Violent video games are harmful for young people because they should be reading a book.
  • 14. Multiple Choice Edit 45 seconds 1 pt Which of the following is a strong thesis statement?  I would like to become a chef when I finish school because I like to cook.  Although both chefs and cooks can prepare fine meals, chefs differ from cooks in   education, professional commitment, and artistry. Both chefs and cooks prepare meals but are different in several ways. A career in the culinary arts is a good choice for many reasons.
  • 15. Multiple Choice Edit 45 seconds 1 pt Which topic sentence DOES NOT belong with the thesis below? Although there are those who claim otherwise, sports are not overrated because they keep people active, provide entertainment, and instill valuable life lessons in those that play them. To begin with, sports can be an important part of an active lifestyle. Next, sports teams help build a sense of community and pride in a school. Moreover, even if you aren't playing a sport, it is relatively cheap entertainment to watch. Finally, the learning that occurs on the field is as important as that which occurs in the classroom.
  • 16. Multiple Choice Edit 45 seconds 1 pt Which topic sentence DOES NOT belong with the thesis below? Schools should start later in the day because it would allow for more sleep, aid efforts at better nutrition, and be more convenient for both students and parents. To begin, if school started later, it would also get out later. Also, teens would be able to sleep in longer and feel more rested for the start of the day. Furthermore, it will be easier to eat a healthy breakfast if there is more time to do so. Most importantly, a later start time would be easier for parents and students to plan around.

Explore all questions with a free account

Google Logo

Continue with email

Continue with phone

IMAGES

  1. How To Write A Thesis Statement (with Useful Steps and Tips) • 7ESL

    which sentence is the thesis in this paragraph quizlet

  2. Download Thesis Statement Examples Quizlet Full

    which sentence is the thesis in this paragraph quizlet

  3. Parts of an Essay Diagram

    which sentence is the thesis in this paragraph quizlet

  4. Parts of a Thesis Sentence

    which sentence is the thesis in this paragraph quizlet

  5. 25 Thesis Statement Examples (2024)

    which sentence is the thesis in this paragraph quizlet

  6. How to Write a Basic Thesis Sentence

    which sentence is the thesis in this paragraph quizlet

VIDEO

  1. Writing Your Thesis paragraph: 2/4/2024 (Create)

  2. Quick Writing Tips: How do I write a Five-Paragraph Essay? Short

  3. Thesis Paragraph Development Directions

  4. Writing a Thesis Statement

  5. How to Start your Writing

  6. Module 4 Comparison Contrast Essay and Thesis Statement

COMMENTS

  1. Week 2: Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences

    Select all that apply. Declarative sentence. Fill in the blank to complete the following statement. In academic contexts, a thesis is typically expressed in the form of a _________. -Can be supported with evidence from the text under consideration. -Makes an arguable claim about the text's meaning or purpose.

  2. The Body Paragraphs Flashcards

    The Body. • The body of an essay is the main part of the essay. • It provides the supporting ideas or arguments to prove your. thesis. • Each body paragraph should begin with the topic sentence that states the main idea of the paragraph and repeats or refers to the thesis. The topic sentence can also provide a transition between paragraphs.

  3. Thesis Sentence Flashcards

    one sentence. IS A THESIS WRITTEN IN THE FORM OF A STATEMENT OR A QUESTION? statement. WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A THESIS STATEMENT? identifies the subject/topic of the essay. Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like WHAT IS A THESIS?, A THESIS SHOULD BE..., A STRONG THESIS MUST and more.

  4. unit 4 progress check ap lang Flashcards

    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like DOUGLASS Which of the following statements most directly expresses the author's thesis in the passage?, DOUGLASS In the second paragraph, the author develops a comparison between life and "a thousand arrows shot from the same point and aimed at the same object" primarily to suggest that, DOUGLASS The discussion of the "greatest ...

  5. Paragraph Development InQuizitive Flashcards

    The following paragraph is taken from an argument by Jada Jones. Select the sentence or sentences that use the strategy of analyzing cause and effect. Because health care facilities are administering low-quality care to Black women, many feel as if their pregnancy is less important and that their medical needs are not being taken seriously.

  6. INTRODUCING AN ARGUMENT AND BUILDING AN OUTLINE Flashcards

    a sentence that presents a subject and makes claims about it to be proven later. Identify the thesis statement in the paragraph below. 1I am writing on behalf of the Seasoning Department (SD) concerning the recent addition of cinnamon in the pancake mixture. 2As the SD leader, I want to commend your willingness to try new things. 3I would also ...

  7. Writing Workshop: Conducting Research to Write an Informative ...

    Study with Quizlet and memorize flashcards containing terms like When revising an informative essay draft, writers must ensure they have, Read the citation below, which is from a computer file.3"Underground Railroad." ... helped to give the average citizen an equal share of opportunities.Which sentence is the thesis of this paragraph? Theodore ...

  8. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

  9. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    The thesis statement is located at the beginning of a paper, in the opening paragraph, making it an essential way to start an essay. A thesis statement isn't necessarily the first sentence in an essay; typically you'll want to hook the reader in an engaging way in the opening sentence before inserting your central idea or argument later in ...

  10. Thesis Statements

    A thesis statement: tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper. directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself.

  11. PDF Tutorial #26: Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences

    5. A troublesome thesis is a fragment; a good thesis statement is expressed in a complete sentence. Example: How life is in New York after September 11th. Better: After September 11th, the city of New York tends to have more cases of post-traumatic disorder than other areas of the United States and rightfully so.

  12. Developing a Thesis Statement

    In this section you'll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one. Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements. ... in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph. Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.

  13. 9.2 Writing Body Paragraphs

    Choose Supporting Topic Sentences. Each body paragraph contains a topic sentence that states one aspect of your thesis and then expands upon it. Like the thesis statement, each topic sentence should be specific and supported by concrete details, facts, or explanations. Each body paragraph should comprise the following elements.

  14. Thesis Sentence Definition

    The rest of the essay can then develop from, elaborate on, and offer evidence for the thesis sentence's idea. In other words, the thesis sentence makes a promise, or sets up an expectation, for the type of information to follow in the essay. View the following videos for definitions and examples of thesis sentences. The first video ...

  15. Paragraph Development

    A paragraph is a group of related sentences that support one main idea. In general, paragraphs consist of three parts: the topic sentence, body sentences, and the concluding or the bridge sentence to the next paragraph or section. ... This is the "controlling idea," or the thesis statement from which you compose the remainder of the paragraph ...

  16. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement. 1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.; An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.; An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies ...

  17. Read the paragraph. Some people think that healthy snacks lack flavor

    The above thesis statement compared to other statements focuses on the main point to be conveyed. As the above paragraph talks about the healthy snack, popcorn, it primarily focuses on its consumption level and how it is a healthy snack at a cheaper rate. Hence, a sentence which is the thesis in this paragraph is A)

  18. Solved Select the best topic sentence for the paragraph

    Question: Select the best topic sentence for the paragraph below. The paragraph is part of a persuasive paper with the following thesis: "Public schools should use paper straws rather than plastic to reduce pollution levels, reduce global warming, and to motivate students to be involved caring for their environment." " [Insert topic ...

  19. Paragraphs

    Writers who have been taught to write using the five-paragraph-theme model often believe that paragraphs exist to give examples of the point they've declared in the topic sentence - when in fact, paragraphs exist to develop or to analyze that point. For example: A student is writing a paper whose argument is that Fitzgerald's work is ...

  20. Identifying Effective Thesis Statement

    For each set of sentences below, select the one that you think would make the more effective thesis in the introductory paragraph of a short essay (approximately 400 to 600 words). Be reminded that an effective thesis statement should be sharply focused and specific, and not just a general statement of fact.

  21. Thesis Statements

    the first sentence of every paragraph. 4. Multiple Choice. 20 seconds. 1 pt. How long is a thesis statement? 1-2 sentences. 1-2 paragraphs. 1-2 words. 1-2 pages. 5. Multiple Choice. 20 seconds. ... True or False: There is a difference between the thesis statement and the topic sentence. True. False. 12. Multiple Choice. 30 seconds. 1 pt.

  22. In this paragraph, which sentence states the thesis? Paragraph below In

    Note: A thesis statement is one to two sentences in the introduction of an essay that the writer uses to "set the stage" for the reader. The thesis statement provides the focus for the writing that follows and lets the reader know what the essay is going to be about. In this paragraph, which sentence states the thesis?

  23. Solved 2. Focusing Your Topic Sentence Aa Aa A topic

    Expert-verified. 2. This topic sentence is unfocused because some places and spineless …. 2. Focusing Your Topic Sentence Aa Aa A topic sentence must be tightly focused. A vague, fuzzy, or unfocused topic sentence most often leads to a paragraph that touches only on the surface of its subject or that wanders away from the main idea of the essay.