How to Write a Great Thesis Statement

It all starts with a myth. Your thesis statement is like a road map for you and your readers, it sets out the direction and aim of your thesis as a whole. It’s actually more like a thread, the connection which links all elements of your thesis.

July 28, 2018 | Fill Me!

If you’re into mythology, then your thesis statement is almost exactly like the thread that Ariadne gives to the hero Theseus in order to find his way back out of the labyrinth. After all, it’s one thing to find and fight the monstrous Minotaur in the maze, but without that ball of thread, there’s no way that Theseus could have survived! Your thesis is no different, and now it’s time to find that handy ball of thread…

What is a thesis, by definition? It’s actually all a bit meta.

All essays require a thesis statement, which outlines the main argument of the essay, and how it’ll approach the wider topic of the assignment. However, in the case of your dissertation/ thesis (depending on UK/US English so I’ll be using these words interchangeably) we’re talking about the extended essay most undergraduate students are required to write in the last year of a degree, in order to graduate, also sometimes called a thesis.

This is where the “meta” part comes in; your thesis statement is actually your thesis’ thesis. It needs to be a sentence-long statement summarising your entire project. This can be challenging, as most theses and dissertations are at least ten thousand words long, which is why it’s so important that your thesis statement is crystal clear and concise!

To keep things crystal clear and concise, here’s a checklist for how to write a great thesis statement;

  • Ensure that your thesis statement is not simply a fact, e.g, “this thesis contests that water is indeed wet”.

  • Check that your thesis statement cannot be turned into a simple yes/ no question, e.g, “my thesis will provide an answer to the question, is cake a food?”

  • Make sure that the topic you’ll cover is made explicit, and sufficiently narrowed down from the broader subject area.

> For example, instead of writing “This thesis will examine the contribution of Samuel Pepys’ writing and its impact” you should add “This thesis will examine the contribution of Samuel Pepys’ writing to contemporary ideas about seventeenth century London”.

  • State your position. What’s new or special that you’re going to discuss, what’s your take on things? If your thesis was an article written by a journalist, what would their angle be?

> For example; “This thesis aims to look at the crucial role played by rural peasant women in producing visual propaganda materials during the French Revolution ”. It’s the specific details here which really make this thesis statement work.

  • Decide what your thesis is really arguing. Are you saying that something is true and you will make the case in favour of it, or are you going to argue against a certain idea?

> An example of a thesis statement arguing in favour of something;

“This thesis will describe the ways in which mentoring programmes have been successful, to varying degrees, in reducing student drop-out rates”.

> An example of a thesis statement arguing against something (like a particularly influential piece of research, or the status quo of all research within your topic area);

“This thesis will contest Smith’s argument that mentoring programmes have been largely successful in reducing student drop-out rates”.

Most importantly

  • State your Unique Selling Point! It might sound like a marketing strategy, but ultimately, all theses should have a unique selling point, which justifies their existence. Make sure that your thesis statement is both interesting and relevant. Otherwise, it implies that perhaps your thesis topic perhaps isn’t as strong as it should be, and doesn’t explain why this topic requires further discussion in your thesis. If you need help with finding a good thesis topic, see the “Next steps” section at the bottom of this post.

Now you’ve got the checklist covered, what else do you need to know?

Make sure that your thesis statement appears in your introduction of your thesis, if it doesn’t form the introductory sentence itself. This is to ensure that you don’t get carried away in writing, and leave the reader as lost as Theseus would have been without that thread!

Finally, there is an argument which suggests that your thesis statement should indicate the conclusion of your findings. Naturally, you shouldn’t start unpacking your conclusion before you’ve even finished your introduction, but
you can hint at it. This helps to really clarify the direction of your thesis, for example;

“This thesis will review the claim that eating chocolate can be beneficial for children, by looking at the ways in which chocolate can be used as a motivational reward, and trigger “feel-good” chemicals in the brain”.

More information

Here are some great websites for finding out more about how to write a dissertation;

  • Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) - here’s their tips on how to make a good thesis statement.
  • The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has a number of excellent handouts.


Next steps

Now you know how to write a good thesis statement, but are you still unsure about dissertation topics? If so, get in touch with Effective Thesis, and we’ll set you up with a topic that’s definitely worthy of further research, and contributes to addressing some of the world’s most urgent problems. Try our Thesis Topic Coaching and one of our coaches will find you a topic tailored right to your circumstances, We are a non-profit project aiming to direct research into neglected topics with high potential to significantly improve the world and so our services are free for you!


References

Tips and Advice for Writing Thesis Statements Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) [source]

Thesis Statements The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [source]

Q. What is a thesis statement? Library and Learning Services, Rasmussen College [source]

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