How to Write a Thesis

By Mark Nichol

An analytical or persuasive essay is a capsule thesis, and, like its more substantial analogue, it requires a thesis statement. Here are some notes about how to develop that statement.

A thesis statement is a sentence (or two) that encapsulates and introduces an analysis or argument. An essay benefits from a thesis statement by concisely expressing the writer’s argument and serving as a basis for developing and organizing it.

If you are assigned to write an essay, whether in an academic or professional setting, the topic may or may not be given. If the topic is specified, you can produce the thesis statement by converting the explanation of the assignment into a question; your response to that question is the thesis statement.

For example, if you are asked to write about feeding wild animals, you might pose the question “Why is feeding wild animals a bad idea?” You might reply, “Feeding wild animals disrupts natural habits in animals and endangers them and the people who feed them.”

You would then research the issue and jot down notes about how feeding wild animals, or making food available to them, might make them dependent on food supplied by humans, which in turn may affect their ability to forage or hunt when the human-provided food may no longer be available. Another supporting point would be the consequences to humans: Animals that are fed may become insistent or even aggressive, damaging property or attacking humans or their pets; diseased animals may infect humans they come in contact with, and so on.

If it is your responsibility to select the topic, consider these elements of a successful persuasive essay: the topic is an issue that is arguable (that is, it isn’t a given that every reader would agree with you), and it can be adequately discussed in the framework of the assignment. In addition, confirm that you are adhering to one main idea and that, when you are done, you have not only stated your views but also supported your conclusions.

Distinguishing characteristics of effective theses are that they are specific, they clearly state the writer’s position, and they encourage discussion. These qualities should be apparent in the work as a whole as well as in the thesis statement itself.

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3 Responses to “How to Write a Thesis”

  • Roberta B.

    Excellent advice! Thanks for posting.

  • thebluebird11

    Great post. I have to put together a presentation for a lecture in January and I’ve felt kind of disorganized about it. I’m sure that if I follow your advice, I will be able to stay focused, not only when researching and creating the presentation, but also when actually giving the presentation in front of people. I am sure that a concise and coherent presentation will hold their interest much more than a rambling, “What’s-your-point-Vanessa?” presentation. Thanks!

  • Chan Huu

    Hi Nick,

    It’s crucial to have a concise thesis statement when writing an essay. However, I always find it difficult to write a thesis statement.

    Thanks for your tips, I’ll try them when I write my next essays.

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