Last Updated: May 16, 2017
A thesis is the central idea of a piece of writing with the entire work developing and supporting the idea. Though sometimes unstated, a thesis should always govern a paper. It usually appears as a thesis statement somewhere in the paper, primarily in the opening paragraph.
Your Thesis is not set in stone!
Your topic and ideas could change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.
Realize that most thesis statements will start as a “working thesis” that changes as you continue to write your paper. Although it is important to have a focus and direction while writing a paper, do not think that you are committed to your original thesis statement.
Use the following checklist to see if you have a strong thesis:
1. A strong thesis statement should be specific covering only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.
2. A strong thesis statement will make a claim. This does not mean that you have to reduce an idea to an "either/or" position and then take a stand. Rather, you need to develop an interesting perspective that you can support and defend. This perspective must be more than an observation. It should inspire other points of view from your reader.
3. A strong thesis statement will control your paper’s argument. This sentence determines what you are required to say in a paper. It also determines what you cannot say. Every paragraph in your paper exists in order to support your thesis. If it seems like your paper is supporting something other than your thesis, you need to change your thesis or edit your paper.
4. A strong thesis statement will provide structure for your paper. It will show how you will present your position. For instance, your thesis may say, “American fearfulness expresses itself in three curious ways: A, B, and C." Your paper should then make those arguments in that order. If you start discussing point C first, your reader may be confused.
This is a wonderful handbook that has helped many College of Marin students over the years. We have a few copies at College of Marin Library, Kentfield and IVC, too. See a librarian or go to the Reference section of the library and look for call number PE 1408.H2778
See especially pages 10 and 11.
Permission was granted for this page by librarians at David L Rice Library at University of Southern Indiana and is closely based on "Thesis Statements."