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System Overview Sample Thesis Statement

Thesis statements establish for your readers both the relationship between the ideas and the order in which the material will be presented. As the writer, you can use the thesis statement as a guide in developing a coherent argument. In the thesis statement you are not simply describing or recapitulating the material; you are taking a specific position that you need to defend. A well-written thesis is a tool for both the writer and reader, reminding the writer of the direction of the text and acting as a "road sign" that lets the reader know what to expect.

Narrowing the Topic

Once you have the general topic, the following questions will help you narrow to a thesis statement:

  • How do I state the assigned topic clearly and succinctly?
  • What are the most interesting and relevant aspects of the topic?
  • In what order do I want to present the various aspects, and how do my ideas relate to each other?
  • What is my point of view regarding the topic?

Writing a Thesis Statement

Using the topic information, develop this formulaic sentence:

I am writing about_______________, and I am going to argue, show, or prove___________.

What you wrote in the first blank is the topic of your paper; what you wrote in the second blank is what focuses your paper (suggested by Patrick Hartwell in Open to Language). For example, a sentence might be:

I am going to write about senior citizens who volunteer at literacy projects, and I am going to show that they are physically and mentally invigorated by the responsibility of volunteering.

Next, refine the sentence so that it is consistent with your style. For example:

Senior citizens who volunteer at literacy projects are invigorated physically and mentally by the responsibility of volunteering.

Here is a second example illustrating the formulation of another thesis statement. First, read this sentence that includes both topic and focusing comment:

I am going to write about how Plato and Sophocles understand the proper role of women in Greek society, and I am going to argue that though they remain close to traditional ideas about women, the authors also introduce some revolutionary views which increase women's place in society.

Now read the refined sentence, consistent with your style:

When examining the role of women in society, Plato and Sophocles remain close to traditional ideas about women's duties and capabilities in society; however, the authors also introduce some revolutionary views which increase women's place in society.

Revised: 07/11

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The thesis statement is the center around which the rest of your paper revolves; it is a clear, concise statement of the position you will defend.

Getting Started:

If you’re just beginning to think about a thesis, it may be useful to ask yourself some of the following questions. This list is not exhaustive; anything that helps you consider your text or subject in a complex, unusual, or in-depth manner will get you on the right track:

  • Do I have a gut response to the prompt? Does anything from my reading jump to mind as something that could help me argue one way or another?
  • What is the significance of this text or subject? Why did my professor choose it? How does it fit into the broader themes or goals of the course?
  • How does this text or subject relate to the broader context of the place or time period in which it was written or in which it occurred?
  • Does this text or subject challenge or complicate my ideas about race, class, gender, or religion? About political, carceral, or educational institutions?
  • Does anything in this text seem to not “fit in” with the rest of it? Why could that be?
  • Are there aspects of the text (or two separate texts) which, when I compare and contrast them, can illuminate something about the text(s) that wasn’t clear before?
  • Does the author make any stylistic choices– perspective, word choice, pacing, setting, plot twists, poetic devices– that are crucial to our understanding of the text or subject?

Developing Your Ideas:

At this point you should have some potential ideas, but they don’t have to be pretty yet. Your next goal will be to play with them until you arrive at a single argument that fulfills as many of the above “Components of a Strong Thesis” as possible. See the following examples of weak or unfinished thesis statements:

Setting is an important aspect of Wuthering Heights.

Britain was stable between 1688 and 1783.

The first example is argumentative, but it’s not that argumentative– most critics agree that setting is important to Wuthering Heights. Both examples are too broad. One way to develop them is to consider potential conjunctions that would help you complicate your ideas:
 

See below for examples of stronger or more complete thesis statements. In part due to the addition of conjunctions “because” and “as,” these are more argumentative, more specific, and more complex:

Because the moors in Wuthering Heights are a personification of Heathcliff’s personality, their presence suggests that human emotion and the natural world are intricately entwined in the novel.

Corruption was a major source of stability in Britain between 1688 and 1783, as landed elites controlled every aspect of British government and ensured political stability at the cost of social equality.

I Have a Thesis. Now What?

Once you feel confident about your final thesis statement, you have conquered the most important (and usually, the most difficult) part of writing a paper. Here are two ways your thesis can help you figure out what to do next:

By Sarah Ostrow ’18. Definition of thesis statement adapted from earlier Hamilton College Writing Center Resource “Introductions and Thesis Statements.”
© Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center, Hamilton College

Components of a Strong ThesisComponents of a Weak Thesis
  • Argumentative, debatable
  • Specific
  • Original, goes beyond class discussion
  • Can be supported with textual evidence
  • Answers the prompt
  • Clearly and concisely stated
  • Summarizes, states a fact
  • Broad, makes a generalization
  • Repeats class discussion or other critics
  • Unrelated to or contradicted by the text
  • Unrelated or partial response to prompt
  • Language is vague, wordy

Conjunction

Conjunction’s Purpose

  • Because, so, as
  • But, however, yet, although, despite
  • When, where
  • Unless, except
  • Before, once, until
  • Specifies your reasoning
  • Introduces nuance
  • Confines idea to specific time or place
  • Introduces an exception to your idea
  • Specifies order in which things occur

 

Wuthering Heights Examples

British History
Examples

Gathering evidence: Look back at your text(s) and begin compiling a list of quotations or ideas that would support your thesis statement.

  • Descriptions of the moors
  • Descriptions of Heathcliff, or moments when other characters talk about him
  • Instances of political corruption from 1688-1783 that led to stable government
  • Instances of social inequality from 1688-1783

Considering structure: See if your thesis statement gives you any clues about how to organize your thoughts into body paragraphs.

The moors and Heathcliff can each have their own paragraph. Or separate paragraphs can tackle separate qualities, i.e. the wild nature of both, the morose nature of both, etc.

Political corruption and social inequality can each have their own paragraph. Or, if there are cause-and-effect relationships between specific instances of corruption and inequality, each pair can have its own paragraph.

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