Writing Effective Thesis Statements


What Is a Thesis Statement?

  • A “mini argument”
  • A sentence or two that briefly describes the main idea of your paper and the main argument that you are trying to make
  • Offers your readers a quick preview of what your paper is going to be about
  • Makes an argumentative assertion
  • Focuses your paper on a very specific, debatable point
  • Gives your audience guidance about the conclusions you draw in the paper


How Should I Write a Thesis Statement?

The structure and nature of your thesis statement will depend on the type of paper you are writing, so there’s not really a trick to thesis statements that works every time. However, below you will find some strategies that will help you develop strong thesis statements.


Claim + Reason = Thesis Statement

This is an easy formula to remember to help you ensure that you have included both elements of the thesis statement. The claim is the assertion or main idea that you are making. Then, you will want to make sure you that you include the reason or support for that claim. A nice word to substitute for the + part of the equation is “because.” You don’t have to use this exact word or this style every time, but it often works quite well.


Example: You might be writing a paper on sexist language in textbooks and state this thesis: “Sexist language in college textbooks is harmful.” This is a good start and makes clear the claim part of your thesis. However, to make it more powerful and specific, try adding in the “because clause” and reason: “Sexist language in college textbooks is harmful because it reinforces negative stereotypes about many groups and individuals.” The section of the sentence after “because” makes clear the reason to support your claim, so you now have claim + reason = thesis statement.


The “So What” Question

Many times, writers will write what they think is a powerful thesis statement and, in fact, that statement makes no real argumentative assertion. This means that your reader may ask “so what?”


Example: You might state, “Many people in the world are victims of stereotyping.” While this may be a true statement, as a reader, I would ask, “so what?” What is so important or problematic about the fact that people are stereotyped? What more can you add to your conclusion or argument to make it more interesting and more complex?


A better thesis statement might be something like this: “Prejudgments are harmful because they limit the lives of the stereotyped individual and the person doing the stereotyping.”





  1. Name your focus topic

EXAMPLE: The Beverly Hill’s Diet


  1. Ask a question (make sure it’s not obvious!) about your focused topic

EXAMPLE: Is the Beverly Hill’s Diet advisable for the typical college student?


  1. Revise the question into a declarative statement

EXAMPLE: The Beverly Hills Diet is inadvisable for the typical college student.


  1. Add a group of words summarizing your key ideas

EXAMPLE: Because it is inconvenient, unhealthy, and provide only temporary weight loss.


  1. Recognize the opposition

EXAMPLE: Although it does provide quick weight loss.


  1. Call upon editing to put it all together

EXAMPLE: Although it does provide quick weight loss, the Beverly Hills Diet is inadvisable for the typical college student because it is inconvenient, unhealthy, and provides only temporary weight loss.



Occasionally after drafting a paper, you may find you aren’t entirely sure what you’re claiming. In such situations, it may helpful to fill in formulaic templates that force you to think directly about your claims.



I am studying (name your topic) _____________________________________________ because I want to find out who/what/why (imply your question) ________________________________ ________________________________in order to understand (state the rationale for the question and the project) _______________________________________________ .




In the end, you may have spent a good deal of time writing your thesis and still not know if it’s a good one. Here are some questions to ask yourself.


  • Does my thesis sentence attempt to answer (or at least to explore) a challenging intellectual question?
  • Is the point I’m making one that would generate discussion and argument, or is it one that would leave people asking, “So what?”
  • Is my thesis too vague? Too general? Should I focus on some more specific aspect of my topic?
  • Does my thesis deal directly with the topic at hand, or is it a declaration of my personal feelings?
  • Does my thesis indicate the direction of my argument? Does it suggest a structure for my paper?
  • Does my introductory paragraph define terms important to my thesis? If I am writing a research paper, does my introduction “place” my thesis within the larger, ongoing scholarly discussion about my topic?
  • Is the language in my thesis vivid and clear? Have I structured my sentence so that the important information is in the main clause? Have I used subordinate clauses to house less important information? Have I used parallelism to show the relationship between parts of my thesis? In short, is this thesis the very best sentence that it can be?


Adapted from www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/ac_paper/develop.shtml