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The Thesis Statement

What Is a Thesis Statement?

By: Ian Schoultz, English Instructor and Communication Consultant at the UWCC


Structurally, a thesis statement is the moment where the essay is doing the most work. Through the strength of the overarching claim(s) you are making, a thesis provides the essay with direction and momentum. The thesis anticipates, or previews, the argument for the rest of the essay. Typically, thesis statements come at the end of your introduction, no matter the length of the project. Likewise, thesis statements are usually one sentence, however there is nothing inherently wrong with two sentence theses. Sometimes longer works (20+ pages to book length) will have more than a couple sentences. The length of a work is a factor, because the more complex the subject matter, the more complex the thesis.


What goes into a thesis statement?


A thesis statement includes…


  1. A clear identification of your subject matter that indicates the point of view, approach, or lens, you are using to encounter or interpret the material.


  1. Your arguable main claim(s) that provide the essay/paper with direction and momentum.


  1. An identification, or suggestion, as to why what you are writing matters. What is the significance of your claim(s) and the perspective(s) offered in your paper? This is where you explicitly or implicitly bring in context. This is often the most difficult part of crafting a thesis statement. Trying thinking about why you care about the subject matter and allow that to shine through.


  1. An identification of, or a strong gesture toward evidence in order to give the thesis, and thus the paper, a sense of direction. You don’t always need to list out the evidence you will draw upon in the thesis, rather you can preview it. The evidence should not overshadow the claim(s).


  1. Active verbs and vivid language help to make your writing memorable. You want the best sentence(s) to be your thesis. Be wary of overwriting; the best theses should be elegant rather than bogged down by excess.



A Note on First Person in Thesis Statements – There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with using first person in a thesis statement. If you are writing something that is based on, or strongly connected to, your experience, then using first person might very well be appropriate. In academic writing, first person is frequently avoided, however, it is not uncommon in the Humanities, to see a thesis statement that begins with “I will argue.” Sometimes allowing yourself to use first person in the thesis statement eases the pressure of writing one. You can always edit out the first person later.