Writing a strong thesis can be challenging. The thesis is, quite literally, the crux of any paper. In one sentence, you should be summing up your entire argument. No pressure…
Sometimes coming up with a solid thesis is difficult because you aren’t sure what you’d like to say. While other times you know exactly what you want to say but can’t break it down into a bite sized piece. Personally, I go all over the board and everywhere in between when it comes to thesis writing, and my thesis definitely evolves quite a bit as my paper does.
What Makes a Good Thesis?
A thesis statement is one sentence that tells your reader what your topic is, and what your argument is about that topic. It needs to be a statement that show, explains, or proves something. And it should be written in a specific and confident way. It typically appears at the beginning of your paper (usually near the end of your introduction).
Your thesis should only reflect what is covered in your paper. It should be able to stand on its own as a complete statement, as well. Watch out for vague terms or unclear pronoun references.
When writing a strong thesis, state clearly what you want the reader to know or believe after they have read your paper. Don’t ask a question that the reader has to answer. You aren’t just announcing the topic or asking why it should be discussed. Instead, you are STATING the topic and SUMMARIZING the overall argument that you have proof for in your paper (in your supporting points).
How to Know Your Thesis Works
Many students wonder if their thesis meets all the requirements necessary. Does it actually state what I am showing or proving in my paper? Will it reflect my argument accurately? Does it make sense??
Never to fear – there are a few things you can do to avoid second guessing your thesis. Here’s how to write a strong thesis.
1: Make a few and try them out!
This is best if you aren’t quite sure which direction you want your paper to go. I find that I need a thesis to get my research/writing started, so sometimes I’ll make a few and just get to work. That way I can focus on the body of what needs to be on paper instead of trying to get the one-sentence-synopsis down before anything else occurs. As your paper begins to take shape, a clear direction towards one of those theses you made should become evident. If not, write a new one! Tweak them. Remake them.
Don’t worry too much if you can’t come up with the perfect thesis at first. Like all good things, it comes with time!
2: Write the body – then revise your thesis!
This is best if you know exactly what you want to say overall but have trouble narrowing it down into a sentence or two. Go ahead and write what is called a “preliminary thesis,” keeping in mind that some of it might not make it into your final product. Get all the content down in your supporting paragraphs. Then go back and make sure your thesis statement reflects everything you wrote.
Using this method, the thesis may jump out at you in the middle of writing, or perhaps you will end up going back at the end and reading your work to brainstorm. If you do the latter, just remember that ALL of your points need to fit squarely under the umbrella of your thesis. Look for the overall theme of what you wrote and figure out how a thesis can accommodate your points or theme.
3: Change it!
Have you ever written a thesis, written your paper, and then realized that you talked about nothing you intended to when you wrote that thesis? I certainly have. This can be a really frustrating moment for writers! When this occurs, it’s good to take a step back and evaluate whether you’d like to change the direction of your project or change your thesis. Usually, the latter is more practical, but sometimes we have to adjust our supporting paragraphs, too. Use your best judgement!
Checking Your Thesis
So we’ve covered some tips on getting your thesis together, but how exactly do we put this into practice? Writing a strong thesis isn’t always easy. Let’s look at this basic outline for a paper comparing Apple and Microsoft processors.
Thesis: Although Apple computers are commonly used at this university, Microsoft processors are more adept for the kinds of processes students are required to perform.
1: The origins of Microsoft
– Built processors for efficiency
2: The origins of Apple
– Built processors for speed
3: Steve Jobs wanted fast processors, Bill Gates wanted efficiency
– Efficiency is more effective than speed
This plan has some serious weak spots. First, the paper is actually a discussion on the origins of companies and their leaders’ intent, rather than focusing on which computers are better for use at the university. Second, this thesis has a strong opinion about a specific situation and NONE of that is addressed or proven with any hard data in the body of the paper.
Either this author needs to change their thesis of change their points. If the thesis is changed, a better one would be:
Apple and Microsoft have different goals – speed vs. efficiency – and Bill Gates’ focus on the latter is what makes Microsoft a superior company today.
If the author wanted to instead focus on what the university should do, a complete re-write of the supporting points is necessary. Here is a better outline with appropriate supporting points.
Thesis: Although Apple computers are commonly used at the university, Microsoft processors are more adept for the kinds of processes students are required to perform.
1: Students in Graphic Design
– Apple wins in visual, but Microsoft has advanced chips to speed things up
2: Students in Coding
– Apple limits, Microsoft does not – more flexibility
3: Students doing Word Processing
– Apple is fancy and more expensive but not better; Microsoft is affordable and faster on paper
Now, our writer has listed what we can assume are the main uses of computers for a university student and compared the two brands in each category. THIS is an effective way to back up the original thesis, and our writer is writing a strong thesis.
Every thesis will look different because every paper – and every writer – is different! The crux of thesis writing, as I mentioned above, is ensuring that your points fit under the umbrella of your thesis. If they don’t, either make that umbrella bigger or get yourself a better one. No matter what, you’ll weather the storm!
Written by James Hahn
James Hahn took classes from Write from the Heart for four years. In the years since his graduation, James has continued to hone his skills and works as a freelance writer. He has recently begun working with Write from the Heart as a blog writer.