What are some guidelines for writing a thesis?

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In writing a thesis statement, you should follow some general guidelines. Be sure your thesis contains an arguable position about the topic. To do this, you should avoid stating facts, asking questions, or using unsupportable language.

Facts are good for subjects, but make lousy thesis statements. If you cannot take a position about a topic, then you will run out of things to say quickly. Use facts within your essay to support your suppositions, but never as thesis statements. For example:

Star Trek has been on the air for seven seasons.

This statement is a fact, and you can do little to support it. Therefore, it does not make a good thesis. You might use this fact in your paper as an interesting detail, but you should not use it in your thesis.

A thesis statement is just that: a statement, not a question. There’s nothing wrong with exploring possibilities in your paper, but asking a question is not stating a position. You cannot argue a question — only positions derived from answering a question. You can start with a question, but be sure to answer it with your thesis. For example:

Does Star Trek deserve to remain on the air?

You can use this while planning your thesis, but this question gives you no arguable position or a clear point of view for an essay.

A clear point of view does not use unsupportable language:

Star Trek should remain on the air because the ships, characters, and aliens are cool.

Yes, you are taking a position, but how will you support “cool”? “Cool” is a subjective position that you use at a party: it does not present an objectively supportable position that examines the topic critically and intellectually. There is nothing critical or intellectual about “cool.”

Finally, do not play the announcer when writing a thesis. Avoid stating what your essay will cover:

This essay will discuss why Star Trek should not be cancelled.

Yes, this states the subject of the essay, but it takes no position on the subject. Remember that a strong thesis must include not only a subject, but also an assertion.

As a general rule, place your thesis at the end of your introduction. No, an explicit thesis placed at the end of your introduction might not always be the best strategy, but it will be accepted by every professor you will write for in college.

See also:

Composition FAQ