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Tips For Developing a Thesis Statement of An Essay

Writing essays often presents a mental challenge for beginning writers. What to put in the introduction, how to transition between paragraphs, how to cite outside information: students and new writers often have many questions when it comes to the right and wrong way to do things in an academic paper. One such area concerns perhaps the most important part of any essay, the one or two sentences that tie the whole thing together. These sentences are called the thesis statement.

You may have heard of a thesis, and think that the word refers to an overly long and dull paper composed by a graduate student in order to get his or her degree. While these papers are called “thesis papers,” in general the word thesis refers not to these opaque academic monstrosities, but to a much simpler part of any essay.

The thesis statement of an essay is the topic sentence of that essay. It compresses the main point of the essay—what the writer is trying to show or prove—into a single sentence or paragraph, and uses the rest of the paper as supporting evidence to demonstrate this claim.

That paragraph was both an explanation of a thesis statement and, itself, a thesis. So now you have an example to work from. But what is it that really makes a thesis a thesis and not just another sentence in the essay?

An essay contains, most basically, three kinds of sentences.

Fluff

There are “fluff” sentences, with which many high school and college students forced to write 10-page papers on topics they don’t like will be familiar. These sentences neither state the writer’s purpose, nor add any supporting evidence. If the student is a good writer, they’ll probably have some sort of entertainment or interest value—they can pique the reader’s interest if well constructed, but they add little technical value to the paper. Use these sentences sparingly, if at all.

Supporting Evidence

These sentences will make up the largest portion of your essay (if you’re doing it right, of course). If you’ve done any essay reading—which is always a good idea—then you’ve probably seen these kinds of sentences. They will often refer directly back to whatever research or source material the essay is based on. What they do not do, however, is restate the point of the paper. For example, it would be incorrect in this paragraph of this article to repeat that “a thesis is the topic sentence of the essay.” You read that in the paragraph above, so you already know that. What you’re looking for in this paragraph is supporting evidence showing you how and why “a thesis is the topic sentence of an essay.” This paragraph serves to do that by drawing a distinction between a thesis and supporting evidence.

Thesis

With those other two kinds of sentences in mind, it should be a bit clearer how a thesis differs from these other kinds of sentences. The supporting evidence sentences will show why and how the thesis is correct, or they may show how a different thesis is incorrect.

Developing a thesis consists in taking all the evidence, the “why and how,” out of your main point, and simply writing that point down. For a quick mnemonic device you can use when you’re writing an essay that’s due in two hours (and you really need that “A”), to write a thesis, answer the question: what is my point?