Tips on how to write a thesis –
What is a thesis?
In short, your thesis is your “point” – what you are trying to argue.
To understand the definition of a thesis statement, you must first understand its function. While there’s more, which we’ll get into below, a thesis acts as a sort of summary of your argument—your (clear) position on a (relevant) issue.
What are some examples of theses?
Note that some of these are “better” than others (e.g. more precise, more convincing, etc.). The point is to demonstrate the types of statements that could be strengthened to create quality thesis statements.
Climate change is not a future possibility but a current reality and as a planet we urgently need to adapt.
Social media has done more harm than good.
The rich should pay more taxes than the poor.
Given the state of our country and the world itself, Wendell Berry is America’s foremost living essayist.
So a thesis statement is what you are trying to prove to your audience – what you are trying to get them to understand, and the whole point of the media you create is to convince your audience to accept that thesis as true, or valid.
Sometimes when you argue with someone, you throw out points and facts that are valid but disorganized. When you and a friend are arguing about which movie to watch and point you to all the reasons why you should watch the movie you prefer (it has great special effects, it has a particular actor or actress who Cinematography is amazing etc – these are all yours supporting details. But your thesis is a broader message – we should watch this particular film.
How to write a thesis
Step 1: Brainstorm Topics
Let’s say your class focuses on the problems arising from changes in Americans’ diet. You find yourself interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume. You start with a thesis statement like this:
Step 2: Brainstorm topics with the given topic
This fragment is not a thesis. Instead, it simply displays a general theme. Also, your reader doesn’t know what you’re trying to say about sugar consumption.
Step 3: Research your topic
The goal of research is to identify relevant knowledge about your topic so that you can narrow down your topic. This is done in part by helping you learn more about your topic. If you research global warming, you may be more interested in the development of solar energy.
Research sources: Articles in research journals, personal accounts/testimonies, books, social media posts
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Step 4: Narrow down the topic
However, your reading of the topic has led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy. You change your approach to your thesis to ‘Reducing sugar consumption among elementary school children.”
This fragment — and the budding thesis statement — not only heralds your subject, but focuses on a segment of the population: elementary school children.
It also raises an issue on which reasonable people might disagree, because while most people might agree that children are consuming more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should be doing it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis, since your reader will not know your conclusions on the subject.
Another effect of research could be that you change your subject. You can start researching pollution and learn how different governments approach this problem differently, and get more interested in forms of government. Anyway, at this point you need a narrow topic to start taking a stand on.
Or, getting back to our topic of reducing sugar, while we research we may be more interested in diabetes and your research will point you in that direction, provided you have enough time to make this type of adjustment (and flexibility within the task ), this is the natural effect of research in the pre-writing process.
Step 5: Comment on the topic
After thinking about the subject a little longer, you decide that what you really want to say on the subject is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children are consuming. In our topic “Sugar is bad” you could change your thesis statement to “More attention should be paid to the provision of food and drink for primary school children.‘
That statement supports your position, but the terms more attention and choice of food and drink are vague.
As you refine your reasoning, you can refine your language/diction. You might decide to explain what you mean by food and drink choices, so write:
Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.
This statement is specific, but not a thesis. It is merely reporting a statistic rather than making an assertion.
Step 6: Revise and strengthen thesis
So, a step in writing a clear thesis might be to make an assertion based on a clearly stated support. Then you can revise your thesis again:
With half of all American elementary school children consuming nine times the recommended daily amount of sugar, schools should be required to replace drinks in soda machines with healthy alternatives.
How to do a better thesis
Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce children’s sugar intake, and who should do it?” When you first started thinking about the paper, you might not have had a specific question in mind, but the more you delved into the topic, the more specific your ideas became. Your thesis has been modified to reflect your new findings. That said, it’s wordy — lacking in precision and any sort of real solution.
The thesis, ‘Sugar is harmful to children’s health and has no place in schools‘ is less wordy and more forceful in its position, but still may not appeal to the intended audience (i.e. parents, school leaders, etc.). This thesis essentially proposes a total ban on sugar in schools. That’s convincing, but unlikely.
So, a revised thesis statement could be: “Reducing sugar in schools could lead to long-term health benefits for students.” However, this is a bit obvious and considered important and hardly misses the “so what?”. test?
About now the author will realize that the topic (nutrition for children) is important, but without extensive research it can be difficult to write a quality thesis on these topics. But what about the principle that schools should make important decisions about the nutrition of students, leading to the question, “What should schools ‘do’ for children?” what are the limits are the limitations based on school and teacher capacities or are they more ethical and based on social norms and their limits? This could lead to a thesis like “parents and schools should work more closely together to support the complex needs of children”.
This may not be very debatable, but it does lead the author to make a strong case for how this could happen.