What is a “thesis statement” and how do I write a strong one?

From LitWiki

The thesis statement, or simply “thesis,” is the heart of your essay. The thesis explicitly states the subject of your essay, discloses your assertion about the subject, suggests an organizing structure for your essay, and provides the scope of your essay. The thesis makes a promise to your reader: it clearly explains the purpose of your essay and how the essay will deliver that purpose. A strong thesis statement is integral to a successful essay.

Like the topic of an essay, the thesis will have a subject and an assertion. The former should relate directly to the essay’s topic or assignment, but give the specific area that will be addressed. For example, if you were given the prompt “A television show that should not be cancelled,” you would pick a specific television show as your subject.

Your assertion would be your reason(s) why you think that particular show should not be cancelled. The assertion gives your position on the issue, providing a purpose for your essay.

In choosing your subject/assertion, try to choose a position that gives three distinct reasons that your essay needs to explore before you draft a thesis sentence. For example, say you have chosen the subject “Star Trek” as a show you think should not be cancelled because, you assert, of its positive view of humanity. Once you have arrived at this point, you can narrow your position further by chosing three aspects of this subject’s assertion to focus on: its use of technology, its focus on diplomacy, and its willingness to engage current issues. These aspects, when you feel they are precise enough, can then be organized into a thesis statement.

While this thesis writing strategy suggests using a three-pronged approach, this way of writing a thesis statement is a suggestion only. Many essays contain implicit theses or ones that use only one example. Basically, there are many ways to go about writing a thesis statement, but the strategy outlined here is proven — though somewhat forced at times — for new college writers.

The trick to narrowing a topic is asking yourself: is this subject too broad? Usually, inexperienced writers will answer no, thinking that they could never write much on such a narrow topic. However, you should narrow your topic until you feel it is too narrow, then you are probably ready to concentrate on writing a thesis statement.

Now, organize these topics into a thesis sentence:

Star Trek should not be cancelled because it presents a positive view of humanity in its use of technology, its focus on diplomacy, and its willingness to engage current social issues.

This sentence, while it may be revised further (like what are the “current social issues”?), represents a good start in narrowing a broad topic into a subject and finally into a workable thesis sentence. Notice that the thesis explicitly states the topic, the subject, and the assertion in a clear, detailed way. This thesis also suggests an organizing structure for the essay: your first body paragraph will address Star Trek’s positive view of humanity in how the show uses technology; your second body paragraph will focus on Star Trek’s positive view of humanity in how it focuses on diplomacy rather than violence, and so on.

Generally, a thesis should be as specific as possible, letting the reader know exactly what your essay plans to cover. While three aspects of a topic is manageable, four or five could work just as well for a lengthier essay. Be careful not to be too general; remember, detail makes for an interesting essay.

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