Thesis Statements

21 Nov

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is a sentence (or, sometimes, a couple of sentences) within the introduction of an essay. This sentence needs to show the reader where the essay is going; it should identify the writer’s scope and focus, and provide the reader with a general understanding of the writer’s overall approach in the paper. A thesis statement is a contract between the writer and the reader. Writers should uphold that contract by delivering whatever was promised in the thesis statement.

Thesis statements should also be defensible, they should not be obvious, and they should pass the “So What?” test. As The Whitman College Writing Center’s most recent blog post, “Cathy wears blue pants” explains, writers want to construct a thesis statement that is non-obvious and highly defensible. They provide some general examples to explain:

Thesis 1: Cathy wears blue pants.

This thesis statement is very obvious and not very defensible. As it is descriptive, it is stating a fact that does not need further elaboration. Cathy wears blue pants in the novel, and our sentence illustrates this for the reader. Since this sentence is so obvious, it leaves little room for our writer to defend it and it does not give them much to work with as they begin to develop the body of their essay.

Thesis 2: Cathy likes the color blue, because she is found wearing blue pants in every scene in the book.

In this revised example, the thesis statement is less obvious and more defensible. The reader is inferring that, as Cathy is shown wearing blue pants frequently, she must like the color blue. This is something that would not have been stated directly in the novel, and the writer is identifying it as something significant.

There is only one problem. This thesis statement does not pass the “So What?” test. When reviewing this thesis statement, readers can understand that Cathy wears blue pants and possibly likes the color blue, but the writer has provided no indication of the significance of this data. This allows readers to ask “So What?” or “Why does it matter if Cathy likes the color blue?”, showing that the thesis statement needs further development. The writer needs to identify the significance of Cathy and her choice of blue pants for the reader, as this is something that they would address and defend within their essay.

Thesis 3: Cathy tends to wear blue pants because of her deceased mother’s affinity for the sea.

While it could still benefit from further development, the third thesis statement shows the most promise. In this thesis statement, readers can observe that Cathy wears blue pants, but they are also shown why Cathy wears blue pants, and the writer has begun to develop their reasoning and analysis here. They have started to answer the “So What?” question posed when considering the second example, but they would want to push a bit further here to fully illustrate the importance of this topic and to begin to show where they are going in their essay.

 Thesis Statement Tips:

  • When constructing your thesis statement, first determine the type of assignment. An analytical paper will have a different approach (and a different thesis) than an argumentative paper! Make sure that your thesis is in line with your assignment.
  • Thesis statements should be specific! Your thesis statement should only include ideas or points that you will cover in your paper, and you should be able to support these points with specific evidence.
  • Thesis statements should appear in the first paragraph – or introduction – of your essay. In some cases, placing your thesis statement as the last sentence of your introduction allows it to function as an effective transition from that introduction into the first body paragraph.
  • You can always change your thesis! As you are writing and researching, your approach to your topic may change and it may be necessary to revise your thesis statement accordingly. This is ok!

5 Responses to “Thesis Statements”


  1. Topic Sentences | The Christ College Writing Center - November 27, 2013

    […] week, we took a look at thesis statements. Just as the thesis statement establishes the main idea and focus for the complete essay, topic […]

  2. The Problem with Thesis Statements | The Christ College Writing Center - March 13, 2014

    […] often one of the most challenging parts of writing a paper. As we discussed in a previous post on thesis statements, a thesis statement is a sentence (or, occasionally, two sentences) in an essay’s […]

  3. Paragraph Construction & Development | The Christ College Writing Center - June 12, 2015

    […] get into the topic and illustrate your purpose. Your introductory paragraph will also contain your thesis statement. While there are many different ways to approach your introduction, there are a few strategies that […]

  4. Overcoming Writer’s Block and Writing Procrastination | The Christ College Writing Center - November 11, 2015

    […] Techniques can help you to get started. Unsure of where to begin? Try constructing your Thesis Statement. (Thesis statements should offer a clear picture of where you are going in the assignment, but they […]

  5. Resources for Getting Started | The Christ College Writing Center - March 1, 2016

    […] Thesis Statements […]

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