Working Thesis Statement Examples

A thesis can be found in many places—a debate speech, a lawyer’s closing argument, even an advertisement. But the most common place for a thesis statement (and probably why you’re reading this article) is in an essay.

Whether you’re writing an argumentative paper, an informative essay, or a compare/contrast statement, you need a thesis. Without a thesis, your argument falls flat and your information is unfocused. Since a thesis is so important, it’s probably a good idea to look at some tips on how to put together a strong one.

What is a “thesis statement” anyway?

You may have heard of something called a “thesis.” It’s what seniors commonly refer to as their final paper before graduation. That’s not what we’re talking about here. That type of thesis is a long, well-written paper that takes years to piece together.

Instead, we’re talking about a single sentence that ties together the main idea of any argument. In the context of student essays, it’s a statement that summarizes your topic and declares your position on it. This sentence can tell a reader whether your essay is something they want to read.

2 Categories of Thesis Statements: Informative and Persuasive

Just as there are different types of essays, there are different types of thesis statements. The thesis should match the essay.

For example, with an informative essay, you should compose an informative thesis (rather than argumentative). You want to declare your intentions in this essay and guide the reader to the conclusion that you reach.

Example:

To make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you must procure the ingredients, find a knife, and spread the condiments.

This thesis showed the reader the topic (a type of sandwich) and the direction the essay will take (describing how the sandwich is made).

Most other types of essays, whether compare/contrast, argumentative, or narrative, have thesis statements that take a position and argue it. In other words, unless your purpose is simply to inform, your thesis is considered persuasive. A persuasive thesis usually contains an opinion and the reason why your opinion is true.

Example:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best type of sandwich because they are versatile, easy to make, and taste good.

In this persuasive thesis statement, you see that I state my opinion (the best type of sandwich), which means I have chosen a stance. Next, I explain that my opinion is correct with several key reasons. This persuasive type of thesis can be used in any essay that contains the writer’s opinion, including, as I mentioned above, compare/contrast essays, narrative essays, and so on.

 2 Styles of Thesis Statements

Just as there are two different types of thesis statements (informative and persuasive), there are two basic styles you can use.

The first style uses a list of two or more points. This style of thesis is perfect for a brief essay that contains only two or three body paragraphs. This basic five-paragraph essay is typical of middle and high school assignments.

Example:

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series is one of the richest works of the 20th century because it offers an escape from reality, teaches readers to have faith even when they don’t understand, and contains a host of vibrant characters.

In the above persuasive thesis, you can see my opinion about Narnia followed by three clear reasons. This thesis is perfect for setting up a tidy five-paragraph essay.

In college, five paragraph essays become few and far between as essay length gets longer. Can you imagine having only five paragraphs in a six-page paper? For a longer essay, you need a thesis statement that is more versatile. Instead of listing two or three distinct points, a thesis can list one overarching point that all body paragraphs tie into.

Example:

Good vs. evil is the main theme of Lewis’s Narnia series, as is made clear through the struggles the main characters face in each book.

In this thesis, I have made a claim about the theme in Narnia followed by my reasoning. The broader scope of this thesis allows me to write about each of the series’ seven novels. I am no longer limited in how many body paragraphs I can logically use.

Formula for a Strong Argumentative Thesis

One thing I find that is helpful for students is having a clear template. While students rarely end up with a thesis that follows this exact wording, the following template creates a good starting point:

___________ is true because of ___________, ___________, and ___________.

 

Conversely, the formula for a thesis with only one point might follow this template:

___________________ is true because of _____________________.

 

Students usually end up using different terminology than simply “because,” but having a template is always helpful to get the creative juices flowing.

The Qualities of a Solid Thesis Statement

When composing a thesis, you must consider not only the format, but other qualities like length, position in the essay, and how strong the argument is.

Length: A thesis statement can be short or long, depending on how many points it mentions. Typically, however, it is only one concise sentence. It does contain at least two clauses, usually an independent clause (the opinion) and a dependent clause (the reasons). You probably should aim for a single sentence that is at least two lines, or about 30 to 40 words long.

Position: A thesis statement always belongs at the beginning of an essay. This is because it is a sentence that tells the reader what the writer is going to discuss. Teachers will have different preferences for the precise location of the thesis, but a good rule of thumb is in the introduction paragraph, within the last two or three sentences.

Strength: Finally, for a persuasive thesis to be strong, it needs to be arguable. This means that the statement is not obvious, and it is not something that everyone agrees is true.

Example of weak thesis:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy to make because it just takes three ingredients.

Most people would agree that PB&J is one of the easiest sandwiches in the American lunch repertoire.

Example of a stronger thesis:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are fun to eat because they always slide around.

This is more arguable because there are plenty of folks who might think a PB&J is messy or slimy rather than fun.

Composing a thesis statement does take a bit more thought than many other parts of an essay. However, because a thesis statement can contain an entire argument in just a few words, it is worth taking the extra time to compose this sentence. It can direct your research and your argument so that your essay is tight, focused, and makes readers think.


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November is the month for research papers. It is also the time of the semester when the formulation of a proper Thesis Statement becomes essential. And sure, this topic may seem overdone, but the thesis happens to be the life-blood of any decent paper.

Thesis statements dictate the logical sequence of your paper. If you are having trouble with transitions or with fitting in a certain quote, always look back to your thesis. The thesis also acts as a signpost for your reader, letting them know what you will introduce next or what points you will address in relation to your argument. Theses clarify what you have to say and rid your paper of extraneous information. They do not summarize or make general statements. They are arguments that must be open to debate. All arguments contain two key parts:

1) a Claim and

2) a Support for that claim.

A claim is the point you are arguing. A support answers the WHY and HOW of your claim: I am arguing this (claim) because of this reason (support). Often the words because or since will let you know when you’re about to read a given claim’s support. Sometimes the support isn’t so explicit, but should be clear anyway.

Without these two parts, your sentence isn’t a Thesis Statement. For example, take the sentence:

                        "Gandhi had a better understanding of poverty than Marx."

What is the claim here? Gandhi had a better understanding of poverty than Marx. But what is the support? How or why does Gandhi understand poverty better than Marx? This sentence lacks a support and is merely a statement; not a Thesis Statement.

On the other hand, what if the sentence read as follows:

                        "Gandhi’s understanding of poverty, which takes into account the spiritual side of human nature, is better than that of Marx, whose analysis is solely economic."

This sentence contains the same claim as the previous sentence (Gandhi understands poverty better than Marx), but takes it one step further by saying exactly how Gandhi’s understanding is better than Marx’s: because Gandhi’s understanding of poverty takes into account the spiritual side of humanity, whereas Marx only accounts for the economic aspects. The writer argues that Gandhi’s understanding of poverty is more comprehensive than Marx’s because he includes the spiritual side of things. Not only is this a complete thesis (contains both a claim and support), but it’s arguable: people can disagree and, in the following paper, the writer will have to examine how Gandhi addresses the spiritual side of poverty and make it clear that Marx doesn’t.

Contrast this thesis with another thesis statement:

                        "Machiavelli’s philosophy could never work because he advocates lying and liars always get caught."

This thesis claims that Machiavelli’s philosophy can’t work. The support is that Machiavelli advocates lying and liars get caught. This thesis contains both a claim and support for it. However, both the claim and support are very weak. The claim is too broad: what aspect of his philosophy can’t work? It’s too much to say that all of Machiavelli’s philosophy is wrong because the term philosophy covers so much ground.

The support is also lacking. The key words here are “always” and “never.” If things are always one way, can anyone argue against them? This statement doesn’t open itself to debate. The way it’s presented is not arguable. Also, be wary anytime someone uses ultimatums like “always” or “never” because they are almost always wrong. Not all liars get caught.

Now that you know the two basic ingredients of a thesis, you can use them to check for faulty theses and write your own. One question remains: where should the thesis statement go? To this I would say, the sooner the better. However, not all papers are created equal. You might want to start your paper off with a hook that grabs your readers’ attention or sets up some context of different arguments so that the reader can see where your argument will fit in. A compact and “punchy” Thesis Statement might provide a great opening line. However late your Thesis Statement comes, it needs to stand out. Make it sharp and clear so that you don’t bury it.

More information regarding writing a Thesis or Thesis statement can be found on the Writing Center website handouts along with other strategies for writers. You can also schedule an appointment with our tutors.

November 11, 2014

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