Tips for Writing That Perfect Thesis

Your thesis serves as the roadmap and lifeblood of any academic writing, regardless of discipline. It tells your reader what you're writing about, but it does so much more. Depending on your purpose, your thesis statement clarifies your position or introduces a complicated analysis. With finals coming up, you want to make sure you nail those term papers — but how can you write an effective thesis? You need to include certain elements, but also grab the readers' interest. Here's how to wow your prof and make the writing process easier on yourself with a solid thesis statement.

What Are the Parts of an Excellent Thesis Statement?

Even if you're writing about nursing or experimental physics, take a tip from journalism majors when it comes to writing an effective thesis statement. You don't need to answer all four Ws and the H in every situation, but your thesis should answer the following.

  • What: Typically, your introduction leads to the what, but your thesis solidifies it. For example, if you're writing to persuade people to eat less meat, you might begin your thesis with, 'Human beings need to decrease their meat consumption because...'.

  • Why: Sometimes, as with an expository essay, your goal is to explain. Your reader still needs to know this. For example, you might say, 'In the novel "Under the Dome", Stephen King creates an allegorical depiction of life in an end-stage society...'.

  • How: For analytical thesis statements, you'll need to explain how one action leads to another. For example, 'Supplementing with magnesium compounds leads to an increase in brain plasticity by strengthening neural connections...'.

Depending upon your topic, you may also answer the questions 'who' and 'where'. For example, 'The protagonist Ayla in Jean M. Auel's "Earth Children" saga represents the Biblical Eve,' or, 'The setting in "Our Town" depicts the everyday living situation of Americans during the early part of the 19th century'.

What Are Different Types of Thesis Statements?

There are three fundamental types of thesis statements — expository, argumentative and analytical. You'll probably write expository thesis statements most often because they seek to explain knowledge. They're common in university-level writing to demonstrate your understanding of the subject matter you studied.

In an argumentative thesis, you seek to persuade the reader, offering both the main point of the essay and your perspective on it. Despite its name, you want to maintain a neutral tone and pass on deriding the opposing point of view in your thesis statement.

If you're a medical or nursing student, you'll likely write your fair share of analytical thesis statements — in which you present several points and expand upon them throughout your paper. Many analytical thesis statements combine elements of expository and argumentative styles.

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Questions to Ask to Evaluate Your Thesis

How do you know if you have a strong thesis? Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I taken a clear position?

Even when writing an expository essay, you do well to state an opinion others can oppose. Otherwise, you risk writing a summary, not providing new and relevant insights to your reader.

Is my thesis statement-specific?

For example, 'Humans must do more to combat global warming' is not an effective thesis because it's too vague and general in scope. 'Human beings can combat global warming by telecommuting, reducing their meat consumption and recycling' is better because it addresses specific points in your argument.

Does it meet the 'so what' test?

For example, 'Edgar Allan Poe is a great writer' leaves your reader thinking, 'And Martha Stewart is a great baker. So what'? To get your reader hooked, you need to explain the why. For example, 'Edgar Allan Poe transformed the literary world by introducing the first modern mystery tale well before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle invented Sherlock Holmes'. Now, you've piqued your readers' interest.

Your Thesis Statement Makes or Breaks Your Paper

Your thesis statement acts as a roadmap, providing the backbone through which you expand the rest of your ideas. A solid thesis statement tells your reader where you're going, grabs their interest and doesn't let go.

Thanks for writing for us, Alyssa!

Alyssa Abel is an education blogger with a particular interest in student life, study skills and helping all students reach their potential. Read more of her work on her blog, Syllabusy, connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

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