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Revising

9.4.2 Thesis Statements

Next, make sure you have a clear thesis. Simply put, a thesis is your main point, the line of argument that you are pursuing in your essay. It should answer two simple questions: What issue are you writing about, and what is your position on it? A thesis statement is a single sentence (or sometimes two, which are combined using a semicolon or comma and conjunction) that provides the answers to these questions clearly and concisely. Ask yourself, “What is my paper about, exactly?” to help you develop a precise and directed thesis, not only for your reader, but for you as well.

How can you be sure that your thesis is clear? Will your reader be able to identify it and see that the rest of your paper is supporting your argument? Most American readers expect to see the point of your argument (the thesis statement) within the first few paragraphs. This does not mean that you have to place it there every time. Some writers place it at the very end, slowly building up to it throughout their work, to explain a point after the fact. Others don’t bother with one at all, but feel that their thesis is “implied” anyway.

Avoid the “implied thesis” unless you are certain of your audience. Almost every professor will expect to see a clearly discernible thesis sentence in the intro. Remember: The harder it is for you to write your thesis statement, the more likely it is that your entire essay is incoherent and unfocused. If you are having real problems crafting a good thesis statement, you may need to start over, narrow your topic, or dig even more deeply into what you are trying to say and write.

A good basic structure for a thesis statement is “they say, I say.” What is the prevailing view, and how does your position differ from it?

Following are some typical thesis statements:

  • Although many readers believe Romeo and Juliet to be a tale about the ill fate of two star-crossed lovers, it can also be read as an allegory concerning a playwright and his audience.
  • The “War on Drugs” has not only failed to reduce the frequency of drug-related crimes in America, but actually enhanced the popular image of dope peddlers by romanticizing them as desperate rebels fighting for a cause.
  • The bulk of modern copyright law was conceived in the age of commercial printing, long before the internet made it so easy for the public to compose and distribute its own texts. Therefore, these laws should be reviewed and revised to better accommodate modern readers and writers.
  • The usual moral justification for capital punishment is that it deters crime by frightening would-be criminals. However, the statistics tell a different story.
  • If students really want to improve their writing, they must read often, practice writing, and receive quality feedback from their peers.
  • Plato’s dialectical method has much to offer those of us engaged in online writing, which is far more conversational in nature than print.

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Expression and Inquiry by Chris Manning, Sally Pierce, and Melissa Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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