How to Write a Thesis Statement in 5 Simple Steps
Hungry for tacos? Feel like you can’t fully concentrate on your writing assignment until you make a trip for a late-night snack?
As tempting as a few tacos and a burrito sound right now, don’t rush to satisfy your cravings just yet.
Instead continue reading, as this blog post contains important information you’ll need to write that paper—in particular, how to write a thesis statement in 5 simple steps. This blog post discusses tacos, too, so that alone should give you incentive to keep reading!
What’s the Purpose of a Thesis Statement?
The short answer
The purpose of a thesis statement is to inform readers of:
- the subject of your paper.
- your claim (or opinion) of the topic.
The longer answer
A thesis statement generally appears at the end of the introductory paragraph; it tells your readers what you’re writing about and tells your readers your opinion of the topic. The thesis essentially serves as a mini outline for the paper.
A thesis statement is necessary to focus your paper. It helps you articulate your ideas and helps readers understand the purpose of your paper.
Don’t think you really need an effective thesis? Think again!
Have you ever read the first one or two paragraphs of a paper and wondered, “What’s the point?” or “So what?”
Has someone ever read one of your papers and said, “I don’t get it. What’s this paper about?”
If so, chances are the paper is missing a thesis statement. Without a thesis statement, readers are less likely to understand the main point (or focus) of the paper and are less likely to keep reading.
5 Essential Steps to Writing a Thesis Statement
Okay, so here’s where we talk tacos.
No, tacos aren’t part of essay writing or thesis statement writing…though they can be. It’s always good to maintain your strength, and you shouldn’t write on an empty stomach, so feel free to make that trip for tacos after reading this post.
First, let’s go through the five essential steps of how to write a thesis statement.
How to write a thesis statement step #1: Pick a topic
To write an effective thesis statement, you first need a topic for your paper.
Today’s paper topic: Taco Bell.
Now that you have a topic for your paper, think about what you want to say about the topic.
This is where you’ll begin to develop an effective thesis statement.
How to write a thesis statement step #2: Be specific
Let’s say you started developing your ideas with the following working thesis: A lot of people go to Taco Bell.
The first problem with this thesis is that it’s not specific at all. Ask yourself “Who goes to Taco Bell?” Ask “Why do they go to Taco Bell?”
Let’s try again: College students often go to Taco Bell late at night because it’s open 24 hours.
This time, you’ve managed to be a bit more specific, but readers are still going to say, “So what?” You’ve included a topic, but you haven’t yet included your opinion about the topic.
Let’s move on to the third component and revise again.
How to write a thesis statement step #3: Be arguable
Our most recent revision (College students often go to Taco Bell late at night because it’s open 24 hours) doesn’t provide any form of argument. It’s merely a statement.
Think about how you could create an argument about Taco Bell. What is it you want to say about Taco Bell?
Pretend you and a group of friends are sitting around late at night trying to think of where you should go to eat. A friend mentions another fast food restaurant, but you argue for Taco Bell. What would you say to convince your friend that you should eat there?
Let’s try thesis statement revision #2: College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around.
Now we’re getting somewhere. We have a specific statement that is arguable.
But it’s still missing something; it doesn’t explain why Taco Bell is so great and doesn’t tell readers the key points of your paper.
Because the thesis statement still isn’t perfect, we’ll move on to the next essential component.
How to write a thesis statement step #4: Create a mini-outline of the paper
A basic thesis statement will provide readers with a clear outline of your paper. It will tell readers what to expect in the upcoming paragraphs.
Your thesis doesn’t do that yet.
When your readers see your current thesis, they know the subject and the stance of your paper, but they don’t yet know what they’ll be reading in the body of the paper.
Let’s revise again.
Thesis revision #3: College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around and has cheap prices, good food, and is open 24 hours.
This thesis statement seems to meet all of the requirements, right? It includes a topic and offers your opinion. It is specific and arguable, and it creates a mini-outline for your paper.
While your thesis does include all of the required elements, the wording is less than perfect, and you still need to revise for clarity and style.
How to write a thesis statement step #5: choose your words wisely
“Are we done yet?”
Not yet. Let’s look at your current thesis statement again: College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around and has cheap prices, good food, and is open 24 hours.
Ask yourself these questions to refine your wording.
- Do all college students go to Taco Bell? Clearly not all college students do, so you might revise to say “Many college students…”
- Are the words “cheap” and “good” the most effective word choices? Probably not. These words are boring and general. Use more specific wording. You might try “inexpensive” and “delicious” instead.
Let’s try our 4th (and hopefully final) revision: Many college students believe Taco Bell is the best fast-food restaurant because it is inexpensive, offers delicious food, and is open 24 hours.
Now this is a thesis statement!
It includes the topic and your opinion. It is clear, specific, arguable, and provides readers with a mini-outline of your paper. And, of course, it is now worded effectively.
This is a thesis that deserves a celebration! It’s time to make that trip for tacos. You’ve earned it!
You can use this checklist I made to make sure that your thesis statement covers all the bases:
If you want to read more about thesis statements before you go on a taco run, I recommend reading 10 Thesis Statements to Inspire Your Next Argumentative Essay and this quick Thesis Statement Handout.
If you need additional assistance with your paper, Kibin editors are always willing to help.
Psst… 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays .
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No matter what type of writing that you do, whether you are writing an essay in a nursing class or an essay for a literature class, it has a main topic. In college level writing, most professors agree that this topic should be expressed in a thesis sentence. The thesis is a very important part of an essay because it summarizes what you have in mind for this essay and guides the reader in reading your essay accurately.
What a thesis IS:
- It is a claim (not a fact) that can be supported by a reason or reasons;
- It directly answers the question of the assignment;
- It is a statement that unifies the paper by stating the writer’s most important or significant point regarding the topic;
- It is usually one sentence that does not discuss many topics;
- It forecasts the content and order of the essay;
- It is placed most often in the beginning of the essay, preferably towards the end of the introduction, but at least within the first or second paragraph; and
- It is sometimes – but rarely – implied rather than stated outright.
Developing Your Thesis
Now that we know what a strong thesis statement is, we can begin to craft one of our own. Most effective thesis statements often answer these three questions:
- What is the essay’s subject?
- What is the main idea that will be discussed about the topic?
- What is the evidence or support that will be used to support the main idea?
Let’s suppose that I want to write an essay about playing sports. I might begin with a sentence like this:
Playing sports is really good for people.
This is a good start because it does express my position without announcing it; unfortunately, it is vague and general and therefore ineffective. It is not all that exciting for my reader, and it leaves my audience too many unanswered questions. WHY is playing sports good for people? HOW does playing sports benefit people? WHICH people benefit from playing sports? Asking questions about the topic is a great way to find more specific information to include in my thesis.
Let’s suppose now that after asking these questions, I’ve decided I want to narrow my topic into children and sports. I might next have a thesis like this:
Playing sports is really good for children.
Now my thesis is more specific, but I still haven’t really answered the WHY and HOW questions. Maybe I think that playing sports helps children develop better cooperation skills, better coordination, and better overall health. I might have a thesis that ends up like this:
Playing sports is beneficial for children because it helps them develop better cooperation skills, better coordination, and better overall health.
Notice that I have beefed up my vocabulary a bit by changing “really good” to “beneficial.” For help with specific vocabulary, check out the Using Precise Language page.
Notice that I also now have the three major elements of a thesis statement:
1) A subject: playing sports
2) A main idea: playing sports is beneficial for children
3) Support or Evidence: better cooperation, better coordination, and better overall health.
Most effective thesis statements contain this type of structure, often called an action plan or plan of development. This is such an effective type of thesis because it clearly tells the reader what is going to be discussed; it also helps the writer stay focused and organized. How can you now use this pattern to create an effective thesis statement?
Remember, this is not the only type of effective thesis statement, but using this pattern is helpful if you are having difficulty creating your thesis and staying organized in your writing.
What a thesis is NOT:
- A thesis is not an announcement.
Example: I am going to tell you the importance of ABC.
I don’t need the announcement element of this thesis. I can simply write, “The importance of ABC is XYZ.”
- A thesis is not introduced by an opinion phrase such as I think, I feel, I believe.
Example: I feel that good hygiene begins with the basics of effective hand-washing.
I don’t need to write that “I feel” this because if I am writing it, then chances are that I feel it, right?
- A thesis is not a statement of fact.
Example: George Will writes about economic equality in the United States.
Discussing a statement of fact is extremely difficult. How will I continue the discussion of something that cannot be disputed? It can easily be proven that George Will did in fact write about equality in the United States, so I don’t really have a strong position because it is simply a fact.
- A thesis is not a question.
Example: What makes a photograph so significant?
Remember, a thesis states your position on your topic. A question cannot state anything because it is not a statement. A question is a great lead in to a thesis, but it can’t be the thesis.
- A thesis is not a quote.
Example 5: George Will writes, “Economic equality is good for the United States.”
This quote tells us George Will’s position, but it does not clearly express my position. It therefore can’t be my thesis.
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Comments about these pages should be directed to: Mike Hill , RSCC Learning Center Director.