A thesis statement is a one-sentence summary of your research paper. It’s the heart of your paper, and it communicates the main idea and purpose of your essay to the reader. There are many tips and examples for writing thesis statements. In this article, I’ll be sharing the most common strategies that you can use when crafting your own.
Decide on the main topic of your paper
Your thesis statement should be closely tied to the topic you’ve chosen. If it’s not, then there will probably be a mismatch between the content and purpose of your paper, and this could result in confusion for the reader. So, before writing anything else, make sure that you’ve chosen a topic that you’re familiar with and that is manageable for your research paper.
For example, if you’ve chosen the topic of “the effectiveness of using incentives to improve employee performance,” then your thesis statement could be:
“Employee performance can be improved by offering incentives.”
State a clear position on your main topic
Your thesis statement should reflect a position that you will argue for. It should not be a simple summary of your topic, nor should it be an “inconclusive” statement like “this is the most likely outcome. Instead, present yourself as someone knowledgeable about this subject and explain why you can make these claims based on research or observation.
For example, let’s say that your thesis statement was “Employee performance is improved through incentives.” Then the logical follow-up question for your reader would be “how do you know?” So, your thesis statement should include a position that you can support with evidence.
“Many studies have found that offering incentives increase employee performance.”
Use plenty of evidence
Your thesis statement should include relevant evidence that you can back up with sources, so having at least two is the best option. And you should find different types of evidence to use, such as statistics, expert testimony (from someone who has studied your topic extensively), and stories (which are sometimes called exemplars).
For example, you might write something like this:
“According to Dr. Mason, an expert in the field of organic chemistry, offering incentives has been found to improve employee performance.”
Be sure that your thesis statement is debatable
Your thesis statement should be able to elicit debates about its topic or prompt further research. It should be a statement that leaves room for discussion and new information. So, if you instinctively feel like your thesis statement “isn’t enough” or if it seems very obvious, then you’re probably on the right track.
In other words, avoid writing things along the lines of “Democracy is important.” In most cases, this type of statement isn’t debatable. Instead, try something that is more along the lines of “Democracy is important, but there are also risks associated with it.”
Make your thesis statement precise and specific
Your reader should be able to look at your thesis statement and say exactly what you’re arguing for by the end of the first paragraph of your paper. So, you should avoid broad or ambiguous words like “the” or “it.”
Instead, use something like “in XYZ study by XYZ author, it was found that… (and then present the evidence).” If you can’t do this accurately in just one sentence, then it will be difficult to convince readers why your topic is worth exploring in the first place.
For example, you might write something like this:
“According to The Atlantic, offering incentives has been found to increase employee performance by an average of 20%.”
Make sure your thesis statement can be backed up with evidence
Your reader should never have to take your word question or ask yourself what you would want to know before digging into more research on the topic. This will likely mean that your thesis statement is too broad to argue for with any reasonable amount of evidence.
Instead, narrow it down so that you have a few good sources on the topic and an argument you can make. For example, instead of writing “decisions shape our lives,” try something like “the studies described in Dr. Jones’ article about how decisions shape our lives.”
Avoid relying on experts or facts that are not common knowledge
If you’re citing an expert in your thesis statement, then it should be someone with substantial credentials, whether that’s through work experience or advanced degrees. However, if they are widely known experts, include their name so the reader knows who you’re referencing.
And if you’re not sure how widely known they are, check what kind of authority Google gives them on the topic. If it just lists their name with no description or ranking whatsoever, then they probably aren’t famous enough to include in your thesis statement.
For example, instead of writing “according to Dr. Mason, an expert in the field of organic chemistry, offering incentives has been found to improve employee performance,” try “according to Dr. Mason, an award-winning expert in the field of organic chemistry, offering incentives has been found to improve employee performance.”
Make room for counterarguments or related issues on which you can elaborate later in your paper
If you can’t identify at least two viewpoints on the topic of your thesis statement, then it’s too narrow to be a truly debatable claim. And if this is the case, your reader will likely need more information before they decide whether or not to agree with you.
So, try something like “some people might argue that offering incentives have been found to increase employee performance, but others would disagree and say it’s only effective in certain situations.”
Make sure your conclusion ties back to your thesis statement
If you can’t summarize what your essay is about without explaining why the issue you explored is important, then you haven’t picked a specific claim that will lead to the most fruitful debate.
So instead of writing “decisions shape our lives,” try something like “the impact of decisions on one’s life is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be.”
Keep it to one sentence
If your thesis statement is too long, then it will become unwieldy and difficult for the reader to follow. It’s better to have a short, concise sentence than a longer one that includes unnecessary information.
Avoid unsupported opinion
Just because you might believe something to be true doesn’t mean it’s a fact. Your thesis statement should base on evidence as well as solid reasoning, not on unsupported opinion. For example, if your thesis statement is “Incentives are very effective,” then you haven’t provided a reason for this premise and it’s an opinion rather than a fact.
There are many ways to write a thesis statement, but the most important thing is that you remember your audience and write for them. If your thesis is too complex or convoluted, then it will be difficult for your reader to follow. If you write a thesis statement that is too general, then you will confuse your reader as to what you’re trying to say.
It is best to have a one-sentence thesis statement that directly answers the main point of your assignment, is in an authoritative voice without any speculation or opinion, and uses specific language rather than vague terms. It should be concise rather than long, and always remember your audience when writing. Writing a thesis statement can be tricky business, but by avoiding these common pitfalls you’ll have the best chance of crafting an effective one that will support your entire argument.
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