Many students have trouble understanding exactly what a thesis statement is, how to write one and what to do with it once it's written. Although a thesis is introduced at the beginning of a paper, that doesn't mean it's always the first piece of the paper you write. In fact, many thesis statements go through several revisions while the paper is being written. Although tweaking is normal, the essence of your statement should remain the same throughout numerous revisions.
What a Thesis Is … And What It Isn't
When you break it down, a thesis statement is simply the declaration of the position you are taking on a topic for your paper. There are five different types of thesis statement and each one sets the tone for the approach the paper will take to a specific topic.
- Consequences – A thesis statement which takes a current situation and extends it into the future in order to draw a conclusion. This approach allows the writer to address social, environmental, cultural or political problems not for the problems they may present in the future, but how allowing them to continue can eventually lead to serious problems down the road. This approach is commonly used when writing about climate change, terrorism investigation techniques and the future role / dependence of people on the internet and social media.
- Alternative Solutions – An approach that uses alternative solutions offers new ways of thinking about problems for which many people think there is no real solution. This is an excellent way of beginning a fresh dialogue about timeless issues such as prison overcrowding and the successful rehabilitation of criminals.
- New Information – Some papers simply seek to inform and this approach opens the door to informing readers about little known corners of history. This can be an effective approach when discussing topics like genetically modified food, the power of lobbyists on the retail market and historic (and subversive) government programs such as MK-Ultra.
- Cause and Effect – Perhaps one of the most popular approaches to a paper and thesis statement, this simply uses the formula that A leads to B. Cause and effect is more powerful if the effect it links to isn't commonly associated with it. For example, carbon emissions have been linked to climate change which, in turn, may be leading to a higher incidence of skin cancer due to the depletion of the ozone layer. So the focus isn't on climate change, but instead focuses on how that affects the health of the world.
- Parallel (aka It's All Connected) – An approach that draws a parallel attempts to show readers how two topics are actually connected. This is a popular approach when comparing things such as the history of human exploration on a global scale with how it fuels space research.
Using one of these approaches when crafting a thesis statement will ensure you have set the tone for the paper and determined its direction. When writing this thesis statement be sure not to fall into common pitfalls of what a thesis statement isn't.
A thesis statement is not...
- A simple title or outline
- A definition of your topic
- Other people's opinion about your topic
- Collections or statements of facts
Writing Your Thesis Statement – From Rough Draft to Final Product
Crafting an effective thesis statement doesn't happen by accident. You should craft a working statement as you begin your paper. Consider your topic, the position you plan to take and how you want your paper to empower the reader. This will let you find the approach that best fits the tone, style and aim of your paper. Next, use this formula to help write the first draft of your thesis statement:
Topic + Verb / Action / Present situation + Results, effects, predictions, information or connection (depending on the statement style you've chosen)
This simple formula won't result in one of your finest literary moments, but it will give you the basis on which to build your paper, and your final statement. From there, you can build an outline and begin to flesh out the paper itself, all which being able to tweak the original thesis statement as needed. As you outline the body and conclusion of your paper, be sure to check back on your original thesis statement often to ensure the paper still fits with that statement. This will help to prevent your thoughts and writing from going off tangents which may confuse or distract your readers.
This simple approach to writing your thesis statement allows you to include the introduction of your topic, set the tone on the direction of the paper and even allude to your final conclusions. This bring a unity to your thoughts and ties your paper together even from the beginning. Finally, I gives you a chance to organize your own thoughts, determine your direction and begin your paper on the right foot.
How do you write your thesis statements? Offer up your best advice, tips and pointers in the comments section below!