Writing a Strong Thesis Statement in Your Academic Essay

Creating a strong thesis statement is essential for writing any A-worthy paper. The strength of your statement affects your ability to capture your reader’s attention and inspire them to read your paper. Plus, it hones the quality of your supporting statements. If you start with a generic, unfocused thesis, your reader will likely think, “Who cares?” and you’ll have difficulty producing any relevant, impactful points that are original. To receive top marks on your paper, you must write a strong thesis statement.

Before we go any further, we should quickly define what a thesis statement is and what it isn’t.

It is … a sentence or two in the first paragraph that creates the focus for your paper and tells your reader what to expect. It’s the expression of a belief or an assumption to be tested. A strong thesis statement contains the following characteristics:

  • Addresses a topic that is focused, but not too narrow
  • Gives you the opportunity to defend a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
  • Expresses a singular purpose
  • Includes your personal conclusion

It isn’t … a question, but it does answer the primary, over-arching inquiry that your essay explores. Not all essays have a defined thesis. For example, a narrative essay can have an implied statement.

While the elements of your statement are always the same, your process for defining your thesis will change depending upon whether your topic is assigned to you or not. Here are some helpful tips in both scenarios.

If Your Topic Is Assigned

Since a statement answers a question, your first step must be to reduce your topic down to a specific question. Your assignment will contain a central statement about your topic. Flip that statement into a question.

For example, if your topic is about issues with higher education in the US, you would ask, “What are the issues with higher education in the US?” This is too broad of a question to answer with a strong statement. To narrow your focus, create a series of questions asking “why” the problems exist or “how” you can resolve them. Review your list of questions. Select the question that you are most passionate about or that you feel you can create an original perspective about and defend.

If Your Topic Isn’t Assigned

Without having a focus that you can flip into a central question, you need to decide on a topic that you would like to explore. It helps if you focus on topics you are passionate about or that you can discuss in an original way. If you are having difficulty selecting a topic, you may want to perform some preliminary research to help inspire ideas. Once you choose your topic, you need to create your defined central question. Then you can write your thesis statement.

Just a Draft

At this point in the process, your thesis will be a draft. Stay flexible. You may modify and hone your statement as you perform your research and write your paper. If you do modify it, be careful not to dilute it or weaken your position. Finalizing your thesis often happens when you perform the final edit of your essay.

In Conclusion

If you follow these guidelines, you will have a strong thesis statement in your opening paragraph as part of your introduction. The rest of the body of the paper will go on to clearly explain your position and refer to your supporting research. Your conclusion at the end should include your thesis along with a summary of your evidence.

A strong thesis statement can’t stand on its own. It requires your insightful points backed by relevant and valid references to lend credibility to your arguments and ultimately your statement. There are guidelines for citing these references accurately. They are defined by the various formatting styles that exist today. How do you know which one of the formatting styles is right for your paper? In most cases, your professor will assign the style to you with the topic. If not, most formatting styles match specific courses of study. If you are unsure which one to apply, ask your professor.

David Plaut is the founder of Reference Point Software (RPS). RPS offers a complete suite of easy-to-use formatting template products featuring MLA and APA style templates, freeing up time to focus on substance while ensuring formatting accuracy. For more information, log onto http://www.referencepointsoftware.com/ or write to:
info @ referencepointsoftware.com

Reference Point Software is not associated with, endorsed by, or affiliated with the American Psychological Association (APA) or with the Modern Language Association (MLA).

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