Guidelines on How to Write a Good Thesis Statement

sfasfEvery academic experience requires at one point a thesis or a research paper. The thesis is a scholarly written work based on a research problem pursued by the researcher.

What is a thesis statement?

According to, a thesis statement is a sentence or two that accurately captures the essence of the text at hand. It should not contain or attempt to contain the whole argument, but someone should be able to read your thesis and have a good sense of what is to come in the rest of the text. Think of your thesis as a promise you are making to your reader about what you are up to. That’s why so important that your thesis be accurate and straightforward, especially in academic writing. A vague or inexact thesis can be very damaging to your credibility as a writer.

Essential components

Most good academic thesis statements contain two essential parts:

1. The claim
2. The support of the claim (the so-called “because clause”)

1. The claim is where you take a stand and you state your main point as succinctly and powerfully as possible. One of the biggest mistakes that inexperienced writers often make with their thesis statement is hedging too much. They don’t come out and stand their position either because they are afraid of not sounding too “academic” or seeming too bold. So they throw in a lot of unnecessary language, such as excessive conditionals, that usually just ends up getting in the way of their actual argument.

An even more prevalent persona among beginning writers is the swashbuckling thesis writer. This is basically the opposite of the hedging writer: the usage of a lot of superlatives such as “best”, “worst”, etc. and lots of absolutes “never”, always”, “forever”, etc.

These two practices are deleterious in academic writing and must be avoided!

2. The “because clause” is where you point to the support that you will rely upon to make the argument for your claim. It is also the place where you will define the terms of your claim. Here you want to answer the question “why my claim is valid?”.

Not every “because clause” has to contain the word “because”. You can simply reverse the order of the clauses in your thesis, thus emphasising the reason that supports the claim.


What makes a good thesis?

As we have already seen, the main characteristics are:

  • accuracy (to your overall argument)
  • clarity

Accuracy refers to how well your thesis reflects the actual argument of your entire text, both in terms of content and narrative.

Clarity, however, is a difficult thing to define in writing because what is clear for one person might not be clear for another. The main requirement for clarity is to make an informed estimation about who you are writing to and what their expectations and knowledge about your topic may be. No matter what your audience and their familiarity with the subject, they will expect you to clearly define your terms of the argument.

Defining the way you build your argument and your thesis is a balancing act between not overstating your case and not understating it to the point when it carries no weight.

According, another even more helpful metaphor for an effective thesis is “the governing claim”. It means that every secondary claim on a paper must be governed by the big one, otherwise, they are simply digressions. Each particular topic of discussion needs to be tied directly into the persuasive goal in your thesis. By ensuring the shared focus from point to point as each must relate to and support the overall purpose, you can guarantee that the text will consistently stay on topic and not work against itself at any point. The constitution of your essay is your thesis, the governing claim that dictates what is included and what is excluded from your academic paper.

However, don’t be too inflexible. If most of your ideas fit properly and relevantly with the claim, then your final project will reflect a harmony between your thesis and the body of the text.

How to go about writing an effective thesis?

The question of putting ideas into the actual use is always where the rubber meets the road. This is made particularly more complicated because no two people share exactly the same writing styles, processes or techniques. What works for one person may only throw up roadblocks for the next person.

Nonetheless, there are some tried-and-true bits of advice that will be of use to many academic writers of any experience level.

1. Thesis statements do not necessarily have to be single sentences, especially if you have a particularly lengthy list of points or a complex bit of logic to work through. It is usually better to break these kinds of things down into manageable units of thought and writing than it is to go through a feat of linguistic gymnastics to make something work automatically.

2. Don’t spend too much time trying to write a perfect thesis before you actually write the rest of your text. In all likelihood, your ideas and arguments will evolve as you proceed with the writing and you won’t actually be able to match your thesis to your text until you go back over both in a revision.

3. Put things inelegantly at first. Many published academic writings have a thesis that begins “This essay will show that…”. While it might not be the most poetic phrasing in the world, it does two important things. First, it unequivocally signals to readers that “here comes my thesis”, and secondly – it creates and active structure for writing what follows, in other words, “will show that…”.

4. Strive for as narrow of an argument as your support can stand. In other words, be specific and avoid general statements. Us specific, exact examples that allow you to be more specific and straightforward in your thesis. An over generalised and superficial thesis is an indication that you don’t have anything significant to add to a topic or that your topic is too broad to start with.

5. Rely on your own examples and research. Don’t be afraid to adopt techniques that other successful academic writers employ because they probably borrowed them from someone else anyway.

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