thesis statement


noun

a short statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, etc., and is developed, supported, and explained in the text by means of examples and evidence.

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What is a thesis statement?

In academic writing, a thesis statement is generally a sentence or two that summarizes the main point that an essay, research paper, or speech is making. It is typically located at the end of the introductory paragraph(s).

Thesis statements are kind of like roadmaps, laying out for the reader/listener where the writer/speaker is headed (argument) and how they are going to get there (evidence).

The thesis statement is widely taught in the humanities, especially in English classes in high school and college, to teach students how to make persuasive arguments that cite and analyze evidence and examples researched from literary, historical, or other texts.

Why is a thesis statement important in an essay??

Thesis comes from a Greek word that literally means “a setting down.” In the 300s BC, Aristotle defined thesis as when a philosopher puts forth a new idea that conflicts with general opinion.

Fast forward to today, when we use thesis to mean a “proposition” or “argument” one formally presents and defends. In academic settings, a thesis can be short for a thesis statement (our focus here) in an essay or shorter research paper. It can also be used for those much, much longer dissertations graduate students research, write, and defend for their degree (e.g., master’s thesis or doctoral thesis).

Let’s look at statement real quick. It is a declaration or assertion. Sound redundant? The idea is that a thesis statement is the point in a paper or presentation that explicitly states the thesis. Usually in a sentence or two, the thesis statement summarizes the argument that’s going to be developed in the evidence and examples to come.

So, a thesis statement is just a sentence that gets the main point across. But, learning how to write these ain’t easy. That’s why educators, especially in English classes in high school and college, spend a lot of time teaching students how to craft effective thesis statements.

Why? Because in school, work, and life, we have to persuade people of our ideas and our point of view. These ideas might concern an analysis of literature or history, like a play by Shakespeare or a moment in the Civil Rights Movement. Or, these ideas might be a call to action, such as eating a certain diet or pursuing a business strategy.

So, let’s say you read a text, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, or researched a topic, the health benefits of kale. Then you formed an opinion about it—a claim you want to make about it and why others should care. You found evidence—quotes, examples, facts, statistics—in your resources that you think back up your argument. Your thesis statement brings all these together: point of view, evidence, and significance. It lays out where the entire paper or presentation is going, which is why educators often liken it to a roadmap.

Here’s an example:

Kale is good for you because it is nutrient-dense, cancer-fighting, and loaded with antioxidants.

The argument here—which a first-year high-schooler might make in a persuasive essay—is that “kale is good for you” (despite how some think it tastes). The claims it’s using to back up this assertion are that it’s 1) “nutrient-dense”; 2) “cancer-fighting”; and 3) “loaded with antioxidants.” The reader can expect that the rest of the essay will develop these claims, that is, cite and analyze evidence for them.

Here’s a thesis statement for a literary analysis of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. This resembles more of a college-level example:

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night suggests that, when women do not reciprocate a man’s love, they are unjustly made out to be sexually deviant. This is illustrated in how the character Olivia is condemned as asexual because of her rejection of Duke Orsino.

Note how this thesis statement makes its claim in two sentences. Its argument centers on how women characters are vilified when they reject a man, and its evidence will be interactions between characters in Shakespeare’s play.

What are real-life examples of thesis statement?

The term thesis statement is generally used by teachers and students in junior high, high school, and college, especially in English, Social Studies, and other classes in the humanities.

 

The thesis statement is taught in what’s called the five-paragraph essay (or theme). This essay has an introduction which “funnels into” the thesis statement, including three reasons backing up the main argument. The next three paragraphs develop each of these claims, respectively, citing evidence and examples, such as literary texts, historical documents, or scientific reports. The final paragraph, the conclusion, restates the thesis statement and summarizes the paper and its broader significance.

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Even after we are no longer in the classroom, people continue to reference thesis statements. While “real-life” thesis statements may not be as formal as the ones seen in five-paragraph essays, having a thesis statement—a point, a position, or a theory of the case—is considered informative, persuasive, and valuable in work, in the community, and in our personal lives.

The thesis statement is so widely taught and familiar that sometimes people joke about them. On social media, for instance, people may humorously end a post with “In this essay, I will …” when expressing a deeply felt but ultimately low-stakes opinion on some popular topic. The phrase In this essay, I will alludes to the signposting language some people use in their thesis statements.