Think of yourself as a member of a jury, listening to a lawyer who is presenting an opening argument. You'll want to know very soon whether the lawyer believes the accused to be guilty or not guilty, and how the lawyer plans to convince you. Readers of academic essays are like jury members: before they have read too far, they want to know what the essay argues as well as how the writer plans to make the argument. After reading your thesis statement, the reader should think, "This essay is going to try to convince me of something. I'm not convinced yet, but I'm interested to see how I might be."

An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion. (Superlatives like "the best" almost always lead to trouble. It's impossible to weigh every "thing" that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn't that be "the best thing"?)

A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.

Steps in Constructing a Thesis

First, analyze your primary sources.  Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis.)

Once you have a working thesis, write it down.  There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration. And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely. You probably will not be able to write out a final-draft version of your thesis the first time you try, but you'll get yourself on the right track by writing down what you have.

Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction.  A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.

Anticipate the counterarguments.  Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you'll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counterargument. If yours doesn't, then it's not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument.)

This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a "soft-on-crime" image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counterargument, you'll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.

Some Caveats and Some Examples

A thesis is never a question.  Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question ("Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?") is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water.

A thesis is never a list.  "For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" does a good job of "telegraphing" the reader what to expect in the essay—a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons. However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn't advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important.

A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational.  An ineffective thesis would be, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil." This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading.

An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim.  "While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline" is an effective thesis sentence that "telegraphs," so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, "Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim."

A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible.  Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions. For example, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite's inability to address the economic concerns of the people" is more powerful than "Communism collapsed due to societal discontent."

Copyright 1999, Maxine Rodburg and The Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University

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How to write a thesis statement + examples

Thesis statement

What is a thesis statement?

Is a thesis statement a question, how do you write a good thesis statement, how do i know if my thesis statement is good, examples of thesis statements, helpful resources on how to write a thesis statement, frequently asked questions about writing a thesis statement, related articles.

A thesis statement is the main argument of your paper or thesis.

The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any piece of academic writing . It is a brief statement of your paper’s main argument. Essentially, you are stating what you will be writing about.

You can see your thesis statement as an answer to a question. While it also contains the question, it should really give an answer to the question with new information and not just restate or reiterate it.

Your thesis statement is part of your introduction. Learn more about how to write a good thesis introduction in our introduction guide .

A thesis statement is not a question. A statement must be arguable and provable through evidence and analysis. While your thesis might stem from a research question, it should be in the form of a statement.

Tip: A thesis statement is typically 1-2 sentences. For a longer project like a thesis, the statement may be several sentences or a paragraph.

A good thesis statement needs to do the following:

  • Condense the main idea of your thesis into one or two sentences.
  • Answer your project’s main research question.
  • Clearly state your position in relation to the topic .
  • Make an argument that requires support or evidence.

Once you have written down a thesis statement, check if it fulfills the following criteria:

  • Your statement needs to be provable by evidence. As an argument, a thesis statement needs to be debatable.
  • Your statement needs to be precise. Do not give away too much information in the thesis statement and do not load it with unnecessary information.
  • Your statement cannot say that one solution is simply right or simply wrong as a matter of fact. You should draw upon verified facts to persuade the reader of your solution, but you cannot just declare something as right or wrong.

As previously mentioned, your thesis statement should answer a question.

If the question is:

What do you think the City of New York should do to reduce traffic congestion?

A good thesis statement restates the question and answers it:

In this paper, I will argue that the City of New York should focus on providing exclusive lanes for public transport and adaptive traffic signals to reduce traffic congestion by the year 2035.

Here is another example. If the question is:

How can we end poverty?

A good thesis statement should give more than one solution to the problem in question:

In this paper, I will argue that introducing universal basic income can help reduce poverty and positively impact the way we work.

  • The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina has a list of questions to ask to see if your thesis is strong .

A thesis statement is part of the introduction of your paper. It is usually found in the first or second paragraph to let the reader know your research purpose from the beginning.

In general, a thesis statement should have one or two sentences. But the length really depends on the overall length of your project. Take a look at our guide about the length of thesis statements for more insight on this topic.

Here is a list of Thesis Statement Examples that will help you understand better how to write them.

Every good essay should include a thesis statement as part of its introduction, no matter the academic level. Of course, if you are a high school student you are not expected to have the same type of thesis as a PhD student.

Here is a great YouTube tutorial showing How To Write An Essay: Thesis Statements .

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How to write a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.

Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.

Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?

  • to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
  • to better organize and develop your argument
  • to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument

In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.

How Can You Write a Good Thesis Statement?

Here are some helpful hints to get you started. You can either scroll down or select a link to a specific topic.

How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One

How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned

Almost all assignments, no matter how complicated, can be reduced to a single question. Your first step, then, is to distill the assignment into a specific question. For example, if your assignment is, “Write a report to the local school board explaining the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class,” turn the request into a question like, “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” After you’ve chosen the question your essay will answer, compose one or two complete sentences answering that question.

Q: “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are . . .”
A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve . . .”

The answer to the question is the thesis statement for the essay.

[ Back to top ]

How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned

Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about.

A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:

  • take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
  • deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment
  • express one main idea
  • assert your conclusions about a subject

Let’s see how to generate a thesis statement for a social policy paper.

Brainstorm the topic . Let’s say that your class focuses upon the problems posed by changes in the dietary habits of Americans. You find that you are interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume.

You start out with a thesis statement like this:

Sugar consumption.

This fragment isn’t a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about sugar consumption.

Narrow the topic . Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy.

You change your thesis to look like this:

Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.

This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one segment of the population: elementary school children. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, because while most people might agree that children consume more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic.

Take a position on the topic. After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children consume.

You revise your thesis statement to look like this:

More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.

This statement asserts your position, but the terms more attention and food and beverage choices are vague.

Use specific language . You decide to explain what you mean about food and beverage choices , so you write:

Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.

This statement is specific, but it isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of making an assertion.

Make an assertion based on clearly stated support. You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this:

Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.

Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce sugar consumption by children, and who should do it?” When you started thinking about the paper, you may not have had a specific question in mind, but as you became more involved in the topic, your ideas became more specific. Your thesis changed to reflect your new insights.

How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One

1. a strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand..

Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper for a class on fitness, you might be asked to choose a popular weight-loss product to evaluate. Here are two thesis statements:

There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.

This is a weak thesis statement. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase negative and positive aspects is vague.

Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.

This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.

2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion.

Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:

My family is an extended family.

This is a weak thesis because it merely states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.

While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.

This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.

3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.

Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:

Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and Web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.

This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or Web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:

Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using Web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.

This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because , since , so , although , unless , and however .

4. A strong thesis statement is specific.

A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say:

World hunger has many causes and effects.

This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, world hunger can’t be discussed thoroughly in seven to ten pages. Second, many causes and effects is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. A revised thesis might look like this:

Hunger persists in Glandelinia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.

This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic, and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.

Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.

Introduction

Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I create a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to  be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:

Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.

You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.

  • Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?

After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:

Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.

This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.

Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

You begin to analyze your thesis:

  • Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.

Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
  • Do I answer the question? Yes!
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”

After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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theses for article

How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement: 4 Steps + Examples

theses for article

What’s Covered:

What is the purpose of a thesis statement, writing a good thesis statement: 4 steps, common pitfalls to avoid, where to get your essay edited for free.

When you set out to write an essay, there has to be some kind of point to it, right? Otherwise, your essay would just be a big jumble of word salad that makes absolutely no sense. An essay needs a central point that ties into everything else. That main point is called a thesis statement, and it’s the core of any essay or research paper.

You may hear about Master degree candidates writing a thesis, and that is an entire paper–not to be confused with the thesis statement, which is typically one sentence that contains your paper’s focus. 

Read on to learn more about thesis statements and how to write them. We’ve also included some solid examples for you to reference.

Typically the last sentence of your introductory paragraph, the thesis statement serves as the roadmap for your essay. When your reader gets to the thesis statement, they should have a clear outline of your main point, as well as the information you’ll be presenting in order to either prove or support your point. 

The thesis statement should not be confused for a topic sentence , which is the first sentence of every paragraph in your essay. If you need help writing topic sentences, numerous resources are available. Topic sentences should go along with your thesis statement, though.

Since the thesis statement is the most important sentence of your entire essay or paper, it’s imperative that you get this part right. Otherwise, your paper will not have a good flow and will seem disjointed. That’s why it’s vital not to rush through developing one. It’s a methodical process with steps that you need to follow in order to create the best thesis statement possible.

Step 1: Decide what kind of paper you’re writing

When you’re assigned an essay, there are several different types you may get. Argumentative essays are designed to get the reader to agree with you on a topic. Informative or expository essays present information to the reader. Analytical essays offer up a point and then expand on it by analyzing relevant information. Thesis statements can look and sound different based on the type of paper you’re writing. For example:

  • Argumentative: The United States needs a viable third political party to decrease bipartisanship, increase options, and help reduce corruption in government.
  • Informative: The Libertarian party has thrown off elections before by gaining enough support in states to get on the ballot and by taking away crucial votes from candidates.
  • Analytical: An analysis of past presidential elections shows that while third party votes may have been the minority, they did affect the outcome of the elections in 2020, 2016, and beyond.

Step 2: Figure out what point you want to make

Once you know what type of paper you’re writing, you then need to figure out the point you want to make with your thesis statement, and subsequently, your paper. In other words, you need to decide to answer a question about something, such as:

  • What impact did reality TV have on American society?
  • How has the musical Hamilton affected perception of American history?
  • Why do I want to major in [chosen major here]?

If you have an argumentative essay, then you will be writing about an opinion. To make it easier, you may want to choose an opinion that you feel passionate about so that you’re writing about something that interests you. For example, if you have an interest in preserving the environment, you may want to choose a topic that relates to that. 

If you’re writing your college essay and they ask why you want to attend that school, you may want to have a main point and back it up with information, something along the lines of:

“Attending Harvard University would benefit me both academically and professionally, as it would give me a strong knowledge base upon which to build my career, develop my network, and hopefully give me an advantage in my chosen field.”

Step 3: Determine what information you’ll use to back up your point

Once you have the point you want to make, you need to figure out how you plan to back it up throughout the rest of your essay. Without this information, it will be hard to either prove or argue the main point of your thesis statement. If you decide to write about the Hamilton example, you may decide to address any falsehoods that the writer put into the musical, such as:

“The musical Hamilton, while accurate in many ways, leaves out key parts of American history, presents a nationalist view of founding fathers, and downplays the racism of the times.”

Once you’ve written your initial working thesis statement, you’ll then need to get information to back that up. For example, the musical completely leaves out Benjamin Franklin, portrays the founding fathers in a nationalist way that is too complimentary, and shows Hamilton as a staunch abolitionist despite the fact that his family likely did own slaves. 

Step 4: Revise and refine your thesis statement before you start writing

Read through your thesis statement several times before you begin to compose your full essay. You need to make sure the statement is ironclad, since it is the foundation of the entire paper. Edit it or have a peer review it for you to make sure everything makes sense and that you feel like you can truly write a paper on the topic. Once you’ve done that, you can then begin writing your paper.

When writing a thesis statement, there are some common pitfalls you should avoid so that your paper can be as solid as possible. Make sure you always edit the thesis statement before you do anything else. You also want to ensure that the thesis statement is clear and concise. Don’t make your reader hunt for your point. Finally, put your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph and have your introduction flow toward that statement. Your reader will expect to find your statement in its traditional spot.

If you’re having trouble getting started, or need some guidance on your essay, there are tools available that can help you. CollegeVine offers a free peer essay review tool where one of your peers can read through your essay and provide you with valuable feedback. Getting essay feedback from a peer can help you wow your instructor or college admissions officer with an impactful essay that effectively illustrates your point.

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Developing a Thesis Statement

Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.

Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements . If in doubt, please consult your instructor for assistance.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement . . .

  • Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic.
  • Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper.
  • Is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.
  • Is generally located near the end of the introduction ; sometimes, in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.
  • Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.

Not all papers require thesis statements! Ask your instructor if you’re in doubt whether you need one.

Identify a topic

Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper.

Consider what your assignment asks you to do

Inform yourself about your topic, focus on one aspect of your topic, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts, generate a topic from an assignment.

Below are some possible topics based on sample assignments.

Sample assignment 1

Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II.

Identified topic

Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis

This topic avoids generalities such as “Spain” and “World War II,” addressing instead on Franco’s role (a specific aspect of “Spain”) and the diplomatic relations between the Allies and Axis (a specific aspect of World War II).

Sample assignment 2

Analyze one of Homer’s epic similes in the Iliad.

The relationship between the portrayal of warfare and the epic simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64.

This topic focuses on a single simile and relates it to a single aspect of the Iliad ( warfare being a major theme in that work).

Developing a Thesis Statement–Additional information

Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic, or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. You’ll want to read your assignment carefully, looking for key terms that you can use to focus your topic.

Sample assignment: Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II Key terms: analyze, Spain’s neutrality, World War II

After you’ve identified the key words in your topic, the next step is to read about them in several sources, or generate as much information as possible through an analysis of your topic. Obviously, the more material or knowledge you have, the more possibilities will be available for a strong argument. For the sample assignment above, you’ll want to look at books and articles on World War II in general, and Spain’s neutrality in particular.

As you consider your options, you must decide to focus on one aspect of your topic. This means that you cannot include everything you’ve learned about your topic, nor should you go off in several directions. If you end up covering too many different aspects of a topic, your paper will sprawl and be unconvincing in its argument, and it most likely will not fulfull the assignment requirements.

For the sample assignment above, both Spain’s neutrality and World War II are topics far too broad to explore in a paper. You may instead decide to focus on Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis , which narrows down what aspects of Spain’s neutrality and World War II you want to discuss, as well as establishes a specific link between those two aspects.

Before you go too far, however, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts. Try to avoid topics that already have too much written about them (i.e., “eating disorders and body image among adolescent women”) or that simply are not important (i.e. “why I like ice cream”). These topics may lead to a thesis that is either dry fact or a weird claim that cannot be supported. A good thesis falls somewhere between the two extremes. To arrive at this point, ask yourself what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about your topic.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times . Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Derive a main point from topic

Once you have a topic, you will have to decide what the main point of your paper will be. This point, the “controlling idea,” becomes the core of your argument (thesis statement) and it is the unifying idea to which you will relate all your sub-theses. You can then turn this “controlling idea” into a purpose statement about what you intend to do in your paper.

Look for patterns in your evidence

Compose a purpose statement.

Consult the examples below for suggestions on how to look for patterns in your evidence and construct a purpose statement.

  • Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis
  • Franco turned to the Allies when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from the Axis

Possible conclusion:

Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: Franco’s desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power.

Purpose statement

This paper will analyze Franco’s diplomacy during World War II to see how it contributed to Spain’s neutrality.
  • The simile compares Simoisius to a tree, which is a peaceful, natural image.
  • The tree in the simile is chopped down to make wheels for a chariot, which is an object used in warfare.

At first, the simile seems to take the reader away from the world of warfare, but we end up back in that world by the end.

This paper will analyze the way the simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64 moves in and out of the world of warfare.

Derive purpose statement from topic

To find out what your “controlling idea” is, you have to examine and evaluate your evidence . As you consider your evidence, you may notice patterns emerging, data repeated in more than one source, or facts that favor one view more than another. These patterns or data may then lead you to some conclusions about your topic and suggest that you can successfully argue for one idea better than another.

For instance, you might find out that Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis, but when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from them, he turned to the Allies. As you read more about Franco’s decisions, you may conclude that Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: his desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power. Based on this conclusion, you can then write a trial thesis statement to help you decide what material belongs in your paper.

Sometimes you won’t be able to find a focus or identify your “spin” or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn . Thus, you might begin with something like this:

  • This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression.
  • I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society’s authority.

At some point, you can turn a purpose statement into a thesis statement. As you think and write about your topic, you can restrict, clarify, and refine your argument, crafting your thesis statement to reflect your thinking.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Compose a draft thesis statement

If you are writing a paper that will have an argumentative thesis and are having trouble getting started, the techniques in the table below may help you develop a temporary or “working” thesis statement.

Begin with a purpose statement that you will later turn into a thesis statement.

Assignment: Discuss the history of the Reform Party and explain its influence on the 1990 presidential and Congressional election.

Purpose Statement: This paper briefly sketches the history of the grassroots, conservative, Perot-led Reform Party and analyzes how it influenced the economic and social ideologies of the two mainstream parties.

Question-to-Assertion

If your assignment asks a specific question(s), turn the question(s) into an assertion and give reasons why it is true or reasons for your opinion.

Assignment : What do Aylmer and Rappaccini have to be proud of? Why aren’t they satisfied with these things? How does pride, as demonstrated in “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” lead to unexpected problems?

Beginning thesis statement: Alymer and Rappaccinni are proud of their great knowledge; however, they are also very greedy and are driven to use their knowledge to alter some aspect of nature as a test of their ability. Evil results when they try to “play God.”

Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.

Main idea: The reason some toys succeed in the market is that they appeal to the consumers’ sense of the ridiculous and their basic desire to laugh at themselves.

Make a list of the ideas that you want to include; consider the ideas and try to group them.

  • nature = peaceful
  • war matériel = violent (competes with 1?)
  • need for time and space to mourn the dead
  • war is inescapable (competes with 3?)

Use a formula to arrive at a working thesis statement (you will revise this later).

  • although most readers of _______ have argued that _______, closer examination shows that _______.
  • _______ uses _______ and _____ to prove that ________.
  • phenomenon x is a result of the combination of __________, __________, and _________.

What to keep in mind as you draft an initial thesis statement

Beginning statements obtained through the methods illustrated above can serve as a framework for planning or drafting your paper, but remember they’re not yet the specific, argumentative thesis you want for the final version of your paper. In fact, in its first stages, a thesis statement usually is ill-formed or rough and serves only as a planning tool.

As you write, you may discover evidence that does not fit your temporary or “working” thesis. Or you may reach deeper insights about your topic as you do more research, and you will find that your thesis statement has to be more complicated to match the evidence that you want to use.

You must be willing to reject or omit some evidence in order to keep your paper cohesive and your reader focused. Or you may have to revise your thesis to match the evidence and insights that you want to discuss. Read your draft carefully, noting the conclusions you have drawn and the major ideas which support or prove those conclusions. These will be the elements of your final thesis statement.

Sometimes you will not be able to identify these elements in your early drafts, but as you consider how your argument is developing and how your evidence supports your main idea, ask yourself, “ What is the main point that I want to prove/discuss? ” and “ How will I convince the reader that this is true? ” When you can answer these questions, then you can begin to refine the thesis statement.

Refine and polish the thesis statement

To get to your final thesis, you’ll need to refine your draft thesis so that it’s specific and arguable.

  • Ask if your draft thesis addresses the assignment
  • Question each part of your draft thesis
  • Clarify vague phrases and assertions
  • Investigate alternatives to your draft thesis

Consult the example below for suggestions on how to refine your draft thesis statement.

Sample Assignment

Choose an activity and define it as a symbol of American culture. Your essay should cause the reader to think critically about the society which produces and enjoys that activity.

  • Ask The phenomenon of drive-in facilities is an interesting symbol of american culture, and these facilities demonstrate significant characteristics of our society.This statement does not fulfill the assignment because it does not require the reader to think critically about society.
Drive-ins are an interesting symbol of American culture because they represent Americans’ significant creativity and business ingenuity.
Among the types of drive-in facilities familiar during the twentieth century, drive-in movie theaters best represent American creativity, not merely because they were the forerunner of later drive-ins and drive-throughs, but because of their impact on our culture: they changed our relationship to the automobile, changed the way people experienced movies, and changed movie-going into a family activity.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast-food establishments, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize America’s economic ingenuity, they also have affected our personal standards.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast- food restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize (1) Americans’ business ingenuity, they also have contributed (2) to an increasing homogenization of our culture, (3) a willingness to depersonalize relationships with others, and (4) a tendency to sacrifice quality for convenience.

This statement is now specific and fulfills all parts of the assignment. This version, like any good thesis, is not self-evident; its points, 1-4, will have to be proven with evidence in the body of the paper. The numbers in this statement indicate the order in which the points will be presented. Depending on the length of the paper, there could be one paragraph for each numbered item or there could be blocks of paragraph for even pages for each one.

Complete the final thesis statement

The bottom line.

As you move through the process of crafting a thesis, you’ll need to remember four things:

  • Context matters! Think about your course materials and lectures. Try to relate your thesis to the ideas your instructor is discussing.
  • As you go through the process described in this section, always keep your assignment in mind . You will be more successful when your thesis (and paper) responds to the assignment than if it argues a semi-related idea.
  • Your thesis statement should be precise, focused, and contestable ; it should predict the sub-theses or blocks of information that you will use to prove your argument.
  • Make sure that you keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Change your thesis as your paper evolves, because you do not want your thesis to promise more than your paper actually delivers.

In the beginning, the thesis statement was a tool to help you sharpen your focus, limit material and establish the paper’s purpose. When your paper is finished, however, the thesis statement becomes a tool for your reader. It tells the reader what you have learned about your topic and what evidence led you to your conclusion. It keeps the reader on track–well able to understand and appreciate your argument.

theses for article

Writing Process and Structure

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Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

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Paragraphing

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Home / Guides / Writing Guides / Parts of a Paper / How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement

How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement

A thesis can be found in many places—a debate speech, a lawyer’s closing argument, even an advertisement. But the most common place for a thesis statement (and probably why you’re reading this article) is in an essay.

Whether you’re writing an argumentative paper, an informative essay, or a compare/contrast statement, you need a thesis. Without a thesis, your argument falls flat and your information is unfocused. Since a thesis is so important, it’s probably a good idea to look at some tips on how to put together a strong one.

Guide Overview

What is a “thesis statement” anyway.

  • 2 categories of thesis statements: informative and persuasive
  • 2 styles of thesis statements
  • Formula for a strong argumentative thesis
  • The qualities of a solid thesis statement (video)

You may have heard of something called a “thesis.” It’s what seniors commonly refer to as their final paper before graduation. That’s not what we’re talking about here. That type of thesis is a long, well-written paper that takes years to piece together.

Instead, we’re talking about a single sentence that ties together the main idea of any argument . In the context of student essays, it’s a statement that summarizes your topic and declares your position on it. This sentence can tell a reader whether your essay is something they want to read.

2 Categories of Thesis Statements: Informative and Persuasive

Just as there are different types of essays, there are different types of thesis statements. The thesis should match the essay.

For example, with an informative essay, you should compose an informative thesis (rather than argumentative). You want to declare your intentions in this essay and guide the reader to the conclusion that you reach.

To make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you must procure the ingredients, find a knife, and spread the condiments.

This thesis showed the reader the topic (a type of sandwich) and the direction the essay will take (describing how the sandwich is made).

Most other types of essays, whether compare/contrast, argumentative, or narrative, have thesis statements that take a position and argue it. In other words, unless your purpose is simply to inform, your thesis is considered persuasive. A persuasive thesis usually contains an opinion and the reason why your opinion is true.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best type of sandwich because they are versatile, easy to make, and taste good.

In this persuasive thesis statement, you see that I state my opinion (the best type of sandwich), which means I have chosen a stance. Next, I explain that my opinion is correct with several key reasons. This persuasive type of thesis can be used in any essay that contains the writer’s opinion, including, as I mentioned above, compare/contrast essays, narrative essays, and so on.

2 Styles of Thesis Statements

Just as there are two different types of thesis statements (informative and persuasive), there are two basic styles you can use.

The first style uses a list of two or more points . This style of thesis is perfect for a brief essay that contains only two or three body paragraphs. This basic five-paragraph essay is typical of middle and high school assignments.

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series is one of the richest works of the 20th century because it offers an escape from reality, teaches readers to have faith even when they don’t understand, and contains a host of vibrant characters.

In the above persuasive thesis, you can see my opinion about Narnia followed by three clear reasons. This thesis is perfect for setting up a tidy five-paragraph essay.

In college, five paragraph essays become few and far between as essay length gets longer. Can you imagine having only five paragraphs in a six-page paper? For a longer essay, you need a thesis statement that is more versatile. Instead of listing two or three distinct points, a thesis can list one overarching point that all body paragraphs tie into.

Good vs. evil is the main theme of Lewis’s Narnia series, as is made clear through the struggles the main characters face in each book.

In this thesis, I have made a claim about the theme in Narnia followed by my reasoning. The broader scope of this thesis allows me to write about each of the series’ seven novels. I am no longer limited in how many body paragraphs I can logically use.

Formula for a Strong Argumentative Thesis

One thing I find that is helpful for students is having a clear template. While students rarely end up with a thesis that follows this exact wording, the following template creates a good starting point:

___________ is true because of ___________, ___________, and ___________.

Conversely, the formula for a thesis with only one point might follow this template:

___________________ is true because of _____________________.

Students usually end up using different terminology than simply “because,” but having a template is always helpful to get the creative juices flowing.

The Qualities of a Solid Thesis Statement

When composing a thesis, you must consider not only the format, but other qualities like length, position in the essay, and how strong the argument is.

Length: A thesis statement can be short or long, depending on how many points it mentions. Typically, however, it is only one concise sentence. It does contain at least two clauses, usually an independent clause (the opinion) and a dependent clause (the reasons). You probably should aim for a single sentence that is at least two lines, or about 30 to 40 words long.

Position: A thesis statement always belongs at the beginning of an essay. This is because it is a sentence that tells the reader what the writer is going to discuss. Teachers will have different preferences for the precise location of the thesis, but a good rule of thumb is in the introduction paragraph, within the last two or three sentences.

Strength: Finally, for a persuasive thesis to be strong, it needs to be arguable. This means that the statement is not obvious, and it is not something that everyone agrees is true.

Example of weak thesis:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy to make because it just takes three ingredients.

Most people would agree that PB&J is one of the easiest sandwiches in the American lunch repertoire.

Example of a stronger thesis:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are fun to eat because they always slide around.

This is more arguable because there are plenty of folks who might think a PB&J is messy or slimy rather than fun.

Composing a thesis statement does take a bit more thought than many other parts of an essay. However, because a thesis statement can contain an entire argument in just a few words, it is worth taking the extra time to compose this sentence. It can direct your research and your argument so that your essay is tight, focused, and makes readers think.

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Writing a Paper: Thesis Statements

Basics of thesis statements.

The thesis statement is the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose. You might hear it referred to as simply a "thesis." Every scholarly paper should have a thesis statement, and strong thesis statements are concise, specific, and arguable. Concise means the thesis is short: perhaps one or two sentences for a shorter paper. Specific means the thesis deals with a narrow and focused topic, appropriate to the paper's length. Arguable means that a scholar in your field could disagree (or perhaps already has!).

Strong thesis statements address specific intellectual questions, have clear positions, and use a structure that reflects the overall structure of the paper. Read on to learn more about constructing a strong thesis statement.

Being Specific

This thesis statement has no specific argument:

Needs Improvement: In this essay, I will examine two scholarly articles to find similarities and differences.

This statement is concise, but it is neither specific nor arguable—a reader might wonder, "Which scholarly articles? What is the topic of this paper? What field is the author writing in?" Additionally, the purpose of the paper—to "examine…to find similarities and differences" is not of a scholarly level. Identifying similarities and differences is a good first step, but strong academic argument goes further, analyzing what those similarities and differences might mean or imply.

Better: In this essay, I will argue that Bowler's (2003) autocratic management style, when coupled with Smith's (2007) theory of social cognition, can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover.

The new revision here is still concise, as well as specific and arguable.  We can see that it is specific because the writer is mentioning (a) concrete ideas and (b) exact authors.  We can also gather the field (business) and the topic (management and employee turnover). The statement is arguable because the student goes beyond merely comparing; he or she draws conclusions from that comparison ("can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover").

Making a Unique Argument

This thesis draft repeats the language of the writing prompt without making a unique argument:

Needs Improvement: The purpose of this essay is to monitor, assess, and evaluate an educational program for its strengths and weaknesses. Then, I will provide suggestions for improvement.

You can see here that the student has simply stated the paper's assignment, without articulating specifically how he or she will address it. The student can correct this error simply by phrasing the thesis statement as a specific answer to the assignment prompt.

Better: Through a series of student interviews, I found that Kennedy High School's antibullying program was ineffective. In order to address issues of conflict between students, I argue that Kennedy High School should embrace policies outlined by the California Department of Education (2010).

Words like "ineffective" and "argue" show here that the student has clearly thought through the assignment and analyzed the material; he or she is putting forth a specific and debatable position. The concrete information ("student interviews," "antibullying") further prepares the reader for the body of the paper and demonstrates how the student has addressed the assignment prompt without just restating that language.

Creating a Debate

This thesis statement includes only obvious fact or plot summary instead of argument:

Needs Improvement: Leadership is an important quality in nurse educators.

A good strategy to determine if your thesis statement is too broad (and therefore, not arguable) is to ask yourself, "Would a scholar in my field disagree with this point?" Here, we can see easily that no scholar is likely to argue that leadership is an unimportant quality in nurse educators.  The student needs to come up with a more arguable claim, and probably a narrower one; remember that a short paper needs a more focused topic than a dissertation.

Better: Roderick's (2009) theory of participatory leadership  is particularly appropriate to nurse educators working within the emergency medicine field, where students benefit most from collegial and kinesthetic learning.

Here, the student has identified a particular type of leadership ("participatory leadership"), narrowing the topic, and has made an arguable claim (this type of leadership is "appropriate" to a specific type of nurse educator). Conceivably, a scholar in the nursing field might disagree with this approach. The student's paper can now proceed, providing specific pieces of evidence to support the arguable central claim.

Choosing the Right Words

This thesis statement uses large or scholarly-sounding words that have no real substance:

Needs Improvement: Scholars should work to seize metacognitive outcomes by harnessing discipline-based networks to empower collaborative infrastructures.

There are many words in this sentence that may be buzzwords in the student's field or key terms taken from other texts, but together they do not communicate a clear, specific meaning. Sometimes students think scholarly writing means constructing complex sentences using special language, but actually it's usually a stronger choice to write clear, simple sentences. When in doubt, remember that your ideas should be complex, not your sentence structure.

Better: Ecologists should work to educate the U.S. public on conservation methods by making use of local and national green organizations to create a widespread communication plan.

Notice in the revision that the field is now clear (ecology), and the language has been made much more field-specific ("conservation methods," "green organizations"), so the reader is able to see concretely the ideas the student is communicating.

Leaving Room for Discussion

This thesis statement is not capable of development or advancement in the paper:

Needs Improvement: There are always alternatives to illegal drug use.

This sample thesis statement makes a claim, but it is not a claim that will sustain extended discussion. This claim is the type of claim that might be appropriate for the conclusion of a paper, but in the beginning of the paper, the student is left with nowhere to go. What further points can be made? If there are "always alternatives" to the problem the student is identifying, then why bother developing a paper around that claim? Ideally, a thesis statement should be complex enough to explore over the length of the entire paper.

Better: The most effective treatment plan for methamphetamine addiction may be a combination of pharmacological and cognitive therapy, as argued by Baker (2008), Smith (2009), and Xavier (2011).

In the revised thesis, you can see the student make a specific, debatable claim that has the potential to generate several pages' worth of discussion. When drafting a thesis statement, think about the questions your thesis statement will generate: What follow-up inquiries might a reader have? In the first example, there are almost no additional questions implied, but the revised example allows for a good deal more exploration.

Thesis Mad Libs

If you are having trouble getting started, try using the models below to generate a rough model of a thesis statement! These models are intended for drafting purposes only and should not appear in your final work.

  • In this essay, I argue ____, using ______ to assert _____.
  • While scholars have often argued ______, I argue______, because_______.
  • Through an analysis of ______, I argue ______, which is important because_______.

Words to Avoid and to Embrace

When drafting your thesis statement, avoid words like explore, investigate, learn, compile, summarize , and explain to describe the main purpose of your paper. These words imply a paper that summarizes or "reports," rather than synthesizing and analyzing.

Instead of the terms above, try words like argue, critique, question , and interrogate . These more analytical words may help you begin strongly, by articulating a specific, critical, scholarly position.

Read Kayla's blog post for tips on taking a stand in a well-crafted thesis statement.

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25 Thesis Statement Examples

thesis statement examples and definition, explained below

A thesis statement is needed in an essay or dissertation . There are multiple types of thesis statements – but generally we can divide them into expository and argumentative. An expository statement is a statement of fact (common in expository essays and process essays) while an argumentative statement is a statement of opinion (common in argumentative essays and dissertations). Below are examples of each.

Strong Thesis Statement Examples

school uniforms and dress codes, explained below

1. School Uniforms

“Mandatory school uniforms should be implemented in educational institutions as they promote a sense of equality, reduce distractions, and foster a focused and professional learning environment.”

Best For: Argumentative Essay or Debate

Read More: School Uniforms Pros and Cons

nature vs nurture examples and definition

2. Nature vs Nurture

“This essay will explore how both genetic inheritance and environmental factors equally contribute to shaping human behavior and personality.”

Best For: Compare and Contrast Essay

Read More: Nature vs Nurture Debate

American Dream Examples Definition

3. American Dream

“The American Dream, a symbol of opportunity and success, is increasingly elusive in today’s socio-economic landscape, revealing deeper inequalities in society.”

Best For: Persuasive Essay

Read More: What is the American Dream?

social media pros and cons

4. Social Media

“Social media has revolutionized communication and societal interactions, but it also presents significant challenges related to privacy, mental health, and misinformation.”

Best For: Expository Essay

Read More: The Pros and Cons of Social Media

types of globalization, explained below

5. Globalization

“Globalization has created a world more interconnected than ever before, yet it also amplifies economic disparities and cultural homogenization.”

Read More: Globalization Pros and Cons

urbanization example and definition

6. Urbanization

“Urbanization drives economic growth and social development, but it also poses unique challenges in sustainability and quality of life.”

Read More: Learn about Urbanization

immigration pros and cons, explained below

7. Immigration

“Immigration enriches receiving countries culturally and economically, outweighing any perceived social or economic burdens.”

Read More: Immigration Pros and Cons

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8. Cultural Identity

“In a globalized world, maintaining distinct cultural identities is crucial for preserving cultural diversity and fostering global understanding, despite the challenges of assimilation and homogenization.”

Best For: Argumentative Essay

Read More: Learn about Cultural Identity

technology examples and definition explained below

9. Technology

“Medical technologies in care institutions in Toronto has increased subjcetive outcomes for patients with chronic pain.”

Best For: Research Paper

capitalism examples and definition

10. Capitalism vs Socialism

“The debate between capitalism and socialism centers on balancing economic freedom and inequality, each presenting distinct approaches to resource distribution and social welfare.”

cultural heritage examples and definition

11. Cultural Heritage

“The preservation of cultural heritage is essential, not only for cultural identity but also for educating future generations, outweighing the arguments for modernization and commercialization.”

pseudoscience examples and definition, explained below

12. Pseudoscience

“Pseudoscience, characterized by a lack of empirical support, continues to influence public perception and decision-making, often at the expense of scientific credibility.”

Read More: Examples of Pseudoscience

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13. Free Will

“The concept of free will is largely an illusion, with human behavior and decisions predominantly determined by biological and environmental factors.”

Read More: Do we have Free Will?

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14. Gender Roles

“Traditional gender roles are outdated and harmful, restricting individual freedoms and perpetuating gender inequalities in modern society.”

Read More: What are Traditional Gender Roles?

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15. Work-Life Ballance

“The trend to online and distance work in the 2020s led to improved subjective feelings of work-life balance but simultaneously increased self-reported loneliness.”

Read More: Work-Life Balance Examples

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16. Universal Healthcare

“Universal healthcare is a fundamental human right and the most effective system for ensuring health equity and societal well-being, outweighing concerns about government involvement and costs.”

Read More: The Pros and Cons of Universal Healthcare

raising minimum wage pros and cons

17. Minimum Wage

“The implementation of a fair minimum wage is vital for reducing economic inequality, yet it is often contentious due to its potential impact on businesses and employment rates.”

Read More: The Pros and Cons of Raising the Minimum Wage

homework pros and cons

18. Homework

“The homework provided throughout this semester has enabled me to achieve greater self-reflection, identify gaps in my knowledge, and reinforce those gaps through spaced repetition.”

Best For: Reflective Essay

Read More: Reasons Homework Should be Banned

charter schools vs public schools, explained below

19. Charter Schools

“Charter schools offer alternatives to traditional public education, promising innovation and choice but also raising questions about accountability and educational equity.”

Read More: The Pros and Cons of Charter Schools

internet pros and cons

20. Effects of the Internet

“The Internet has drastically reshaped human communication, access to information, and societal dynamics, generally with a net positive effect on society.”

Read More: The Pros and Cons of the Internet

affirmative action example and definition, explained below

21. Affirmative Action

“Affirmative action is essential for rectifying historical injustices and achieving true meritocracy in education and employment, contrary to claims of reverse discrimination.”

Best For: Essay

Read More: Affirmative Action Pros and Cons

soft skills examples and definition, explained below

22. Soft Skills

“Soft skills, such as communication and empathy, are increasingly recognized as essential for success in the modern workforce, and therefore should be a strong focus at school and university level.”

Read More: Soft Skills Examples

moral panic definition examples

23. Moral Panic

“Moral panic, often fueled by media and cultural anxieties, can lead to exaggerated societal responses that sometimes overlook rational analysis and evidence.”

Read More: Moral Panic Examples

freedom of the press example and definition, explained below

24. Freedom of the Press

“Freedom of the press is critical for democracy and informed citizenship, yet it faces challenges from censorship, media bias, and the proliferation of misinformation.”

Read More: Freedom of the Press Examples

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25. Mass Media

“Mass media shapes public opinion and cultural norms, but its concentration of ownership and commercial interests raise concerns about bias and the quality of information.”

Best For: Critical Analysis

Read More: Mass Media Examples

Checklist: How to use your Thesis Statement

✅ Position: If your statement is for an argumentative or persuasive essay, or a dissertation, ensure it takes a clear stance on the topic. ✅ Specificity: It addresses a specific aspect of the topic, providing focus for the essay. ✅ Conciseness: Typically, a thesis statement is one to two sentences long. It should be concise, clear, and easily identifiable. ✅ Direction: The thesis statement guides the direction of the essay, providing a roadmap for the argument, narrative, or explanation. ✅ Evidence-based: While the thesis statement itself doesn’t include evidence, it sets up an argument that can be supported with evidence in the body of the essay. ✅ Placement: Generally, the thesis statement is placed at the end of the introduction of an essay.

Try These AI Prompts – Thesis Statement Generator!

One way to brainstorm thesis statements is to get AI to brainstorm some for you! Try this AI prompt:

💡 AI PROMPT FOR EXPOSITORY THESIS STATEMENT I am writing an essay on [TOPIC] and these are the instructions my teacher gave me: [INSTUCTIONS]. I want you to create an expository thesis statement that doesn’t argue a position, but demonstrates depth of knowledge about the topic.

💡 AI PROMPT FOR ARGUMENTATIVE THESIS STATEMENT I am writing an essay on [TOPIC] and these are the instructions my teacher gave me: [INSTRUCTIONS]. I want you to create an argumentative thesis statement that clearly takes a position on this issue.

💡 AI PROMPT FOR COMPARE AND CONTRAST THESIS STATEMENT I am writing a compare and contrast essay that compares [Concept 1] and [Concept2]. Give me 5 potential single-sentence thesis statements that remain objective.

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25 Thesis Statement Examples That Will Make Writing a Breeze

JBirdwellBranson

Understanding what makes a good thesis statement is one of the major keys to writing a great research paper or argumentative essay. The thesis statement is where you make a claim that will guide you through your entire paper. If you find yourself struggling to make sense of your paper or your topic, then it's likely due to a weak thesis statement.

Let's take a minute to first understand what makes a solid thesis statement, and what key components you need to write one of your own.

Perfecting Your Thesis Statement

A thesis statement always goes at the beginning of the paper. It will typically be in the first couple of paragraphs of the paper so that it can introduce the body paragraphs, which are the supporting evidence for your thesis statement.

Your thesis statement should clearly identify an argument. You need to have a statement that is not only easy to understand, but one that is debatable. What that means is that you can't just put any statement of fact and have it be your thesis. For example, everyone knows that puppies are cute . An ineffective thesis statement would be, "Puppies are adorable and everyone knows it." This isn't really something that's a debatable topic.

Something that would be more debatable would be, "A puppy's cuteness is derived from its floppy ears, small body, and playfulness." These are three things that can be debated on. Some people might think that the cutest thing about puppies is the fact that they follow you around or that they're really soft and fuzzy.

All cuteness aside, you want to make sure that your thesis statement is not only debatable, but that it also actually thoroughly answers the research question that was posed. You always want to make sure that your evidence is supporting a claim that you made (and not the other way around). This is why it's crucial to read and research about a topic first and come to a conclusion later. If you try to get your research to fit your thesis statement, then it may not work out as neatly as you think. As you learn more, you discover more (and the outcome may not be what you originally thought).

Additionally, your thesis statement shouldn't be too big or too grand. It'll be hard to cover everything in a thesis statement like, "The federal government should act now on climate change." The topic is just too large to actually say something new and meaningful. Instead, a more effective thesis statement might be, "Local governments can combat climate change by providing citizens with larger recycling bins and offering local classes about composting and conservation." This is easier to work with because it's a smaller idea, but you can also discuss the overall topic that you might be interested in, which is climate change.

So, now that we know what makes a good, solid thesis statement, you can start to write your own. If you find that you're getting stuck or you are the type of person who needs to look at examples before you start something, then check out our list of thesis statement examples below.

Thesis statement examples

A quick note that these thesis statements have not been fully researched. These are merely examples to show you what a thesis statement might look like and how you can implement your own ideas into one that you think of independently. As such, you should not use these thesis statements for your own research paper purposes. They are meant to be used as examples only.

  • Vaccinations Because many children are unable to vaccinate due to illness, we must require that all healthy and able children be vaccinated in order to have herd immunity.
  • Educational Resources for Low-Income Students Schools should provide educational resources for low-income students during the summers so that they don't forget what they've learned throughout the school year.
  • School Uniforms School uniforms may be an upfront cost for families, but they eradicate the visual differences in income between students and provide a more egalitarian atmosphere at school.
  • Populism The rise in populism on the 2016 political stage was in reaction to increasing globalization, the decline of manufacturing jobs, and the Syrian refugee crisis.
  • Public Libraries Libraries are essential resources for communities and should be funded more heavily by local municipalities.
  • Cyber Bullying With more and more teens using smartphones and social media, cyber bullying is on the rise. Cyber bullying puts a lot of stress on many teens, and can cause depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. Parents should limit the usage of smart phones, monitor their children's online activity, and report any cyber bullying to school officials in order to combat this problem.
  • Medical Marijuana for Veterans Studies have shown that the use of medicinal marijuana has been helpful to veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Medicinal marijuana prescriptions should be legal in all states and provided to these veterans. Additional medical or therapy services should also be researched and implemented in order to help them re-integrate back into civilian life.
  • Work-Life Balance Corporations should provide more work from home opportunities and six-hour workdays so that office workers have a better work-life balance and are more likely to be productive when they are in the office.
  • Teaching Youths about Consensual Sex Although sex education that includes a discussion of consensual sex would likely lead to less sexual assault, parents need to teach their children the meaning of consent from a young age with age appropriate lessons.
  • Whether or Not to Attend University A degree from a university provides invaluable lessons on life and a future career, but not every high school student should be encouraged to attend a university directly after graduation. Some students may benefit from a trade school or a "gap year" where they can think more intensely about what it is they want to do for a career and how they can accomplish this.
  • Studying Abroad Studying abroad is one of the most culturally valuable experiences you can have in college. It is the only way to get completely immersed in another language and learn how other cultures and countries are different from your own.
  • Women's Body Image Magazines have done a lot in the last five years to include a more diverse group of models, but there is still a long way to go to promote a healthy woman's body image collectively as a culture.
  • Cigarette Tax Heavily taxing and increasing the price of cigarettes is essentially a tax on the poorest Americans, and it doesn't deter them from purchasing. Instead, the state and federal governments should target those economically disenfranchised with early education about the dangers of smoking.
  • Veganism A vegan diet, while a healthy and ethical way to consume food, indicates a position of privilege. It also limits you to other cultural food experiences if you travel around the world.
  • University Athletes Should be Compensated University athletes should be compensated for their service to the university, as it is difficult for these students to procure and hold a job with busy academic and athletic schedules. Many student athletes on scholarship also come from low-income neighborhoods and it is a struggle to make ends meet when they are participating in athletics.
  • Women in the Workforce Sheryl Sandberg makes a lot of interesting points in her best-selling book, Lean In , but she only addressed the very privileged working woman and failed to speak to those in lower-skilled, lower-wage jobs.
  • Assisted Suicide Assisted suicide should be legal and doctors should have the ability to make sure their patients have the end-of-life care that they want to receive.
  • Celebrity and Political Activism Although Taylor Swift's lyrics are indicative of a feminist perspective, she should be more politically active and vocal to use her position of power for the betterment of society.
  • The Civil War The insistence from many Southerners that the South seceded from the Union for states' rights versus the fact that they seceded for the purposes of continuing slavery is a harmful myth that still affects race relations today.
  • Blue Collar Workers Coal miners and other blue-collar workers whose jobs are slowly disappearing from the workforce should be re-trained in jobs in the technology sector or in renewable energy. A program to re-train these workers would not only improve local economies where jobs have been displaced, but would also lead to lower unemployment nationally.
  • Diversity in the Workforce Having a diverse group of people in an office setting leads to richer ideas, more cooperation, and more empathy between people with different skin colors or backgrounds.
  • Re-Imagining the Nuclear Family The nuclear family was traditionally defined as one mother, one father, and 2.5 children. This outdated depiction of family life doesn't quite fit with modern society. The definition of normal family life shouldn't be limited to two-parent households.
  • Digital Literacy Skills With more information readily available than ever before, it's crucial that students are prepared to examine the material they're reading and determine whether or not it's a good source or if it has misleading information. Teaching students digital literacy and helping them to understand the difference between opinion or propaganda from legitimate, real information is integral.
  • Beauty Pageants Beauty pageants are presented with the angle that they empower women. However, putting women in a swimsuit on a stage while simultaneously judging them on how well they answer an impossible question in a short period of time is cruel and purely for the amusement of men. Therefore, we should stop televising beauty pageants.
  • Supporting More Women to Run for a Political Position In order to get more women into political positions, more women must run for office. There must be a grassroots effort to educate women on how to run for office, who among them should run, and support for a future candidate for getting started on a political career.

Still stuck? Need some help with your thesis statement?

If you are still uncertain about how to write a thesis statement or what a good thesis statement is, be sure to consult with your teacher or professor to make sure you're on the right track. It's always a good idea to check in and make sure that your thesis statement is making a solid argument and that it can be supported by your research.

After you're done writing, it's important to have someone take a second look at your paper so that you can ensure there are no mistakes or errors. It's difficult to spot your own mistakes, which is why it's always recommended to have someone help you with the revision process, whether that's a teacher, the writing center at school, or a professional editor such as one from ServiceScape .

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How to Write a Solid Thesis Statement

The important sentence expresses your central assertion or argument

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  • Writing Research Papers
  • Writing Essays
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

A thesis statement provides the foundation for your entire research paper or essay. This statement is the central assertion that you want to express in your essay. A successful thesis statement is one that is made up of one or two sentences clearly laying out your central idea and expressing an informed, reasoned answer to your research question.

Usually, the thesis statement will appear at the end of the first paragraph of your paper. There are a few different types, and the content of your thesis statement will depend upon the type of paper you’re writing.

Key Takeaways: Writing a Thesis Statement

  • A thesis statement gives your reader a preview of your paper's content by laying out your central idea and expressing an informed, reasoned answer to your research question.
  • Thesis statements will vary depending on the type of paper you are writing, such as an expository essay, argument paper, or analytical essay.
  • Before creating a thesis statement, determine whether you are defending a stance, giving an overview of an event, object, or process, or analyzing your subject

Expository Essay Thesis Statement Examples

An expository essay "exposes" the reader to a new topic; it informs the reader with details, descriptions, or explanations of a subject. If you are writing an expository essay , your thesis statement should explain to the reader what she will learn in your essay. For example:

  • The United States spends more money on its military budget than all the industrialized nations combined.
  • Gun-related homicides and suicides are increasing after years of decline.
  • Hate crimes have increased three years in a row, according to the FBI.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increases the risk of stroke and arterial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat).

These statements provide a statement of fact about the topic (not just opinion) but leave the door open for you to elaborate with plenty of details. In an expository essay, you don't need to develop an argument or prove anything; you only need to understand your topic and present it in a logical manner. A good thesis statement in an expository essay always leaves the reader wanting more details.

Types of Thesis Statements

Before creating a thesis statement, it's important to ask a few basic questions, which will help you determine the kind of essay or paper you plan to create:

  • Are you defending a stance in a controversial essay ?
  • Are you simply giving an overview or describing an event, object, or process?
  • Are you conducting an analysis of an event, object, or process?

In every thesis statement , you will give the reader a preview of your paper's content, but the message will differ a little depending on the essay type .

Argument Thesis Statement Examples

If you have been instructed to take a stance on one side of a controversial issue, you will need to write an argument essay . Your thesis statement should express the stance you are taking and may give the reader a preview or a hint of your evidence. The thesis of an argument essay could look something like the following:

  • Self-driving cars are too dangerous and should be banned from the roadways.
  • The exploration of outer space is a waste of money; instead, funds should go toward solving issues on Earth, such as poverty, hunger, global warming, and traffic congestion.
  • The U.S. must crack down on illegal immigration.
  • Street cameras and street-view maps have led to a total loss of privacy in the United States and elsewhere.

These thesis statements are effective because they offer opinions that can be supported by evidence. If you are writing an argument essay, you can craft your own thesis around the structure of the statements above.

Analytical Essay Thesis Statement Examples

In an analytical essay assignment, you will be expected to break down a topic, process, or object in order to observe and analyze your subject piece by piece. Examples of a thesis statement for an analytical essay include:

  • The criminal justice reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate in late 2018 (" The First Step Act ") aims to reduce prison sentences that disproportionately fall on nonwhite criminal defendants.
  • The rise in populism and nationalism in the U.S. and European democracies has coincided with the decline of moderate and centrist parties that have dominated since WWII.
  • Later-start school days increase student success for a variety of reasons.

Because the role of the thesis statement is to state the central message of your entire paper, it is important to revisit (and maybe rewrite) your thesis statement after the paper is written. In fact, it is quite normal for your message to change as you construct your paper.

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  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • An Introduction to Academic Writing
  • Definition and Examples of Analysis in Composition
  • Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
  • How To Write an Essay
  • Tips on How to Write an Argumentative Essay
  • How to Write a Response Paper
  • The Ultimate Guide to the 5-Paragraph Essay
  • Understanding What an Expository Essay Is
  • The Introductory Paragraph: Start Your Paper Off Right
  • Tips for Writing an Art History Paper
  • How to Write a Persuasive Essay
  • The Five Steps of Writing an Essay
  • How to Write a Successful Personal Statement for Graduate School
  • What an Essay Is and How to Write One

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The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable

An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.

Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:

This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is unambiguously good.

Example of a debatable thesis statement:

This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation's money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.

Another example of a debatable thesis statement:

In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.

The thesis needs to be narrow

Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.

Example of a thesis that is too broad:

There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category "drugs"? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by "society"? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.

Example of a narrow or focused thesis:

In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.

We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:

Narrowed debatable thesis 1:

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.

Narrowed debatable thesis 2:

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.

Qualifiers such as " typically ," " generally ," " usually ," or " on average " also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.

Types of claims

Claims typically fall into one of four categories. Thinking about how you want to approach your topic, or, in other words, what type of claim you want to make, is one way to focus your thesis on one particular aspect of your broader topic.

Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact. Example:

Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur. Example:

Claims about value: These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something. Example:

Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem. Example:

Which type of claim is right for your argument? Which type of thesis or claim you use for your argument will depend on your position and knowledge of the topic, your audience, and the context of your paper. You might want to think about where you imagine your audience to be on this topic and pinpoint where you think the biggest difference in viewpoints might be. Even if you start with one type of claim you probably will be using several within the paper. Regardless of the type of claim you choose to utilize it is key to identify the controversy or debate you are addressing and to define your position early on in the paper.

Narrative Essays

Narrative: The spoken or written account of connected events; a story

Narrative Introductions

The introduction of a narrative essay sets the scene for the story that follows. Interesting introductions—for any kind of writing—engage and draw readers in because they want to know more.

Since narratives tell a story and involve events, the introduction of a narrative quite often starts in the middle of the action in order to bring the reader into the story immediately, as shown in examples 1, 3, and 5 below. Other effective introductions briefly provide background for the point of the story—often the lesson learned—as in 4 below and the first example on the reverse side.

Below are some strategies for writing effective openings. Remember your introduction should be interesting and draw your reader in. It should make your audience want to read more. If it's a person , begin with a description of the person and then say why that person mattered. If it's an event , begin with the action or begin by reflecting back on why the event mattered, then go into the narrative.

  • "Potter...take off!" my coach yelled as I was cracking yet another joke during practice.
  • Why do such a small percentage of high school athletes play Division One sports?
  • It was a cold, rainy night, under the lights on the field. I lined up the ball on the penalty line under the wet grass. After glancing up at the tied score, I stared into the goalkeeper's eyes.
  • My heart pounds in my chest. My stomach full of nervous butterflies. I hear the crowd talking and names being cheered.
  • Slipping the red and white uniform over my head for the first time is a feeling I will never forget.
  • "No football." Those words rang in my head for hours as I thought about what a stupid decision I had made three nights before.
  • "SNAP!" I heard the startling sound of my left knee before I ever felt the pain.
  • According to the NCAA, there are over 400,000 student-athletes in the United States.

Narrative Story

  • Unified: Ensure all actions in your story develop a central idea or argument.
  • Interesting: Draw your readers into your scene(s), making them feel as if they're experiencing them first-hand.
  • Coherent: Indicate changes in time, location, and characters clearly (even if your story is not chronological).
  • Climactic: Include a moment (the climax) when your ending is revealed or the importance of events is made clear.
  • Remember the 5 W's : Who? What? When? Where? Why?
  • Write vividly : Include significant sensory information in the scene (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) to make readers feel they are there
  • Develop " Thick Descriptions "

Clifford Geertz describes thick descriptions as accounts that include not only facts but also commentary and interpretation . The goal is to vividly describe an action or scene, often through the use of metaphors, analogies, and other forms of interpretation that can emote strong feelings and images in your readers' minds.

"The flatness of the Delta made the shack, the quarters, and the railroad tracks nearby seem like some tabletop model train set. Like many Mississippi shacks, this one looked as if no one had lived there since the birth of the blues. Four sunflowers leaned alongside a sagging porch. When the front door creaked open, cockroaches bigger than pecans scurried for cover [...] walls wept with mildew."

—from Bruce Watson's Freedom Summer

Narrative Checklist

  • Does the story have a clear and unifying idea? If not, what could that idea be?
  • If the story doesn't include a thesis sentence, is the unifying idea of the story clear without it?
  • Is the story unified, with all the details contributing to the central idea?
  • Is the story arranged chronologically? If not, is the organization of ideas and events still effective and clear?
  • Do the transitions show the movement from idea to idea and scene to scene?
  • Are there enough details?
  • Is there dialogue at important moments?
  • Is there a climax to the story—moment at which the action is resolved or a key idea is revealed?

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longform articles & essays 101

A comprehensive guide on longform journalism: favorite sites, newsletters, and a starter pack of my favorite articles.

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what is longform journalism and why should you read it?

Longform journalism is essentially an article that is a long read, typically ranging between 2,000 to over 10,000 words. The lengthy word count allows for more detailed, developed pieces of writing that have room to expand and truly breathe. The content can vary, from investigative reporting to personal essays, from interviews to short fiction published in magazines and newspapers.

In the last year or so, I’ve begun reaching for longform essays often. It’s long enough to feel as satisfactory as a good nonfiction book, but it is also short enough that I can read it on my commute to work or other places. They are also just massively underrated outlets for reading—they are incredibly diverse in content and style and very informative. Articles pack the same depth of analysis and research as nonfiction books while being more accessible due to their short length.

I constantly strive to keep myself educated and knowledgeable even if I’m not in a classroom setting. Longform articles fill that education void for me, so I always try to make it a habit of reading at least one article daily, even when I don't have time to read actual books. It also increases my attention span (something I direly need to do because social media doomscrolling has been killing it). I treat these essays and articles like brain food, so it's always fun to learn something new.

where do you find articles & essays?

My go-to sites for articles are: The New Yorker, Aeon, The Paris Review, and The Atlantic. On these sites, will always be able to find a fantastic article on so many different topics.

Here is a big list of around 30 newspapers, magazines, and sites that have excellent long-form articles and never let me down. I tried to put them in order of the ones I read from the most, with descriptions of what you can expect to find on each magazine/newspaper.

The New Yorker : An American magazine that covers everything from politics to culture to art to fiction. Most articles are gems, and many of my favorite writers also write longform content on here every now and then. Here are some of the journalists I consistently follow and read from: Patrick Radden Keefe (true crime), Kathryn Schulz (anything from science to geography to memoirs), Peter Schjeldahl (art), Rachel Syme (profiles), and Jia Tolentino (feminism and culture).

Aeon : The best free magazine out there. Aeon covers essays about philosophy , psychology , science , society and culture . Every article is so well researched and written. So many of my favorite articles of all time are from this site, and everything feels like brain food. Here is an article about sulking , one about nostalgia , and one about female friendships .

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My theses

This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

  As the Communist Party USA (Party) prepares for its 32nd National Convention, this short piece is simply an offering up of some of the author’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions on what can, must, and will be done.

Six points are on my mind:

  • In Utah as elsewhere, we face a crisis; a crisis of good government, a crisis of the existing federal system locally, statewide and nationally, which needs to be rectified at once.
  • It is the honest opinion of the author that all honest socialists must commit to both the expansion of electoral and non-electoral left-center coalitions, as well as encouraging workers to set up General Assemblies (GAs) and Community Councils (CCs).
  • Why GAs and CCs? Because there were attempts at people’s power in D.C. in the form of the Black Lives Matter Autonomous Zone and in Seattle in the form of “the CHOP” GA. CCs have also been set up by democratic socialists covering their city council wards in Chicago. GAs and CCs are the organs of the new state-power combined with the old state-power a la Venezuela’s own unique path to multiparty democratic socialism.
  • The Party must continue to run candidates, as it furthermore pushes for the creation of a new mass party of labor which can, must, and will successfully contest and win seats on a grand scale. On the point that this is “social-democratic,” what of the fact that the earliest socialist groups — the international social-democratic parties — were both electoral and non-electoral and wholly radical and revolutionary, with a right and left wing which worked together around fighting for peace, democracy, and socialism? If by “social-democratic” we mean the fake “socialists” staffing the modern, latter-day social-democratic party of Germany, the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, etc. then such an argument holds water, but what can, must, and will be revived is the fighting spirit of a huge, all-encompassing tent-pole party of labor with a moderate right and more radical left in alliance with the Party and other true Marxist-Leninist vanguard parties which will serve to hold such a great party accountable to the broad mass of workers.
  • I strongly think the Party should also continue to work with liberals, temporarily, while strongly opposing the new cold war with China, Russia, and Iran.
  • The anti-war movement: it needs to be realized that the Millenium would not give up without a brutal, bloody fight to the finish. Likewise, the class struggle can only end with a great peaceful antiwar movement waging a final struggle against not just the ongoing Gaza genocide or Ukraine debacle, but also against the seemingly never-ending war on the poor. It must lead to a mighty war on poverty, a real, sustained fight for community control of the police, the carrying out of a Green New Deal, the planning and drafting of a second economic bill of rights, and so much more.

Forwards together, not one step back!

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Reece Gatliff

Reece Gatliff

Reece Gatliff is an activist in Salt Lake City, Utah

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73 Harvard Undergrads Win 2024 Hoopes Prize for Senior Theses

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Some Want the Harvard Corporation to Strip Garber’s Interim Tag. Is That Possible?

72 Harvard seniors were awarded the Hoopes Prize for their senior theses on Friday.

Logan C. Kelly ’24 was in the Winthrop Dining Hall eating lunch with his “oldest friend at Harvard” when he glanced at his phone and saw he had won the Hoopes Prize.

“I saw an email from the FAS Prize Committee, and it said on the subject line — 2024 Hoopes Prize. And then my jaw just kind of dropped, like I was getting into Harvard again,” Kelly, who wrote his thesis in Social Studies, said.

“I dreamed of it as a freshman, but I couldn’t have imagined it even two years ago — I felt like it was out of reach and that I just wasn’t a good enough student to achieve it,” he added.

The Hoopes Prize — awarded to 73 Harvard College seniors this year — is annually conferred in recognition of outstanding scholarly research from undergraduate students. The prize is funded by the estate of Thomas T. Hoopes, Class of 1919, for the purpose of “promoting, improving, and enhancing the quality of education.”

Student winners are awarded $5,000, and the faculty advisers of winning projects are awarded $2,000 for supporting students. Each winning thesis is bound and available in Lamont Library for two years before being shipped to the student.

Susan L. Lively, secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a statement to The Crimson that she hopes students interested in the Hoopes prize “will take the opportunity to read this year’s winning projects.”

“The Hoopes Prize represents Harvard College at its very best,” Lively added. “The range and quality of this year’s winning projects are a testament to the hard work and talent of both the students who produced the theses and the faculty who advised them.”

Tomi O. Siyanbade ’23-’24, a Molecular and Cellular Biology concentrator whose thesis focused on developing diagnostics for Lassa fever, said she found out she won the Hoopes award when her friend texted her a PDF of the winners from this year.

“My friend actually texted me ‘HOOPES’ in all capital letters. He’s also a graduating senior, so I didn’t really know if he was just trying to flex on me or something,” Siyanbade said.

“The prize itself — it’s nice,” she added. “I’m definitely gonna go buy myself a lobster roll, but I don’t think that specifically impacts my future plans.”

LyLena D. Estabine ’24, a Sociology concentrator who researched urban planning in Chicago, said she found out she received the Hoopes right before her thesis advisor’s dissertation defense.

“It was so funny,” she said. “Right before she started her presentation, I opened my email really quickly, and I saw the congratulations email from the Hoopes Prize. I closed it really quickly because she was about to present and finish her doctoral degree, but I was so excited.”

“I just was flooded with a sense of gratitude to God,” Estabine said.

Estabine’s research started the summer before her senior year, when she traveled to Chicago to learn about the relationship between community engagement among residents and the design of a city’s physical infrastructure.

“I lived in the city of Chicago this summer for a couple of months, and throughout those months, I did some ethnographic work,” Estabine said.

“I attended community meetings across the city of Chicago,” she added. “I shadowed at an urban planning firm for that period, and then before that period and also after I left Chicago, I conducted about 29 in-depth interviews with residents, planners and community organizers.”

Jai K. Khurana ’24, a History of Science concentrator who wrote his thesis on the field of pain medicine, went to the University of California, Los Angeles for part of his thesis research, where he examined archives about the history of pain.

Staying with a friend, Khurana said he spent weeks in “a dusty room, looking through archival papers in a basement, really exercising the history of science methods that we’re often taught to use in our different tutorials,” he said.

Khurana said his thesis approached the opioid epidemic through the understanding that “a lot of the doctors who are involved in the pain movement to get pain treated really care about patients.”

“Over time, they — towards this mission — started to compromise on important ethics and values because they really wanted to gain legitimacy, autonomy, public attention,” he said. “Those enduring values turned what was a medical society into what, I argue, became a movement.”

While some Hoopes recipients were delighted to hear the news, Shelby N. Tzung ’24 said her reaction became more subdued throughout the day.

“I think my reaction has been a bit muted throughout the day just because I happened to have a Social Studies thesis presentation colloquium today as well,” said Tzung, a Social Studies concentrator who wrote her thesis on artists’ sense of agency in Hong Kong.

“I was sitting there listening to all of my peers present their amazing theses and just thinking, ‘I don’t know how I got lucky enough to have received the Hoopes because I think everyone did insanely phenomenal work,’” Tzung said.

Tzung, who conducted field work in Hong Kong last summer, said winning the Hoopes was a testament to her ability to interview people in the country despite safety concerns and political constraints.

“My gratification at winning Hoopes is definitely fueled by a feeling of gratitude for the people that I was interviewing,” she said.

For most Hoopes recipients, the prize comes following long hours and late nights put into their projects.

Maycee D. Wieczorek ’24 — whose thesis developed a robotic pulling system to remove potato vine from crops as an alternative to herbicides — said in the week before her final presentation, she spent almost all of her time in the Science and Engineering Complex.

“I think the week leading up to my final presentation I was in the SEC for — I don’t even want to do the math — but it was probably 14 or more hours every single day: working on my prototype, trying to get it to work, modifying things, trying again,” Wieczorek said.

“I knew it was possible for engineers to get the Hoopes, but I really didn’t think that I was going to get it,” she said. “I was really surprised.”

—Staff writer Angelina J. Parker can be reached at [email protected] . Follow her on X @ angelinajparker .

—Staff writer Cam N. Srivastava can be reached at [email protected] . Follow him on X @camsrivastava .

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Who will Donald Trump choose as his running mate? What to know as potential VPs gather in Florida.

WASHINGTON − Former President Donald Trump will spend part of his weekend hosting the latest episode of " The Apprentice," but this time it's the vice presidential edition .

At least six contenders for the former president's running mate – Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.; Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio; Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.; South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem; and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum – will attend a Republican donor retreat Friday and Saturday in Palm Beach, Florida, in what looks like a series of auditions.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for Republican leaders and supporters to come together," says the invitation to the event, which also will include panel discussions featuring campaign officials and Republican lawmakers that are closed to the media.

But in Palm Beach, most eyes will be on the vice presidential candidates who have been trying out for months at campaign rallies, primary parties, meetings and television interviews to join Trump on the GOP ticket that in 2016 and 2020 included Mike Pence.

Trump, who liked to keep contestants guessing when he hosted " The Apprentice" reality show, has been throwing out mixed signals about his running mate in recent months.

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

"Anyone claiming to know who or when President Trump will choose his VP is lying, unless the person is named Donald J. Trump," senior campaign adviser Brian Hughes told USA TODAY in a statement.

Here's what you need to know about Trump's potential VP picks:

Sen. Tim Scott

If Trump seeks a historic pick, he could make Scott the Republicans' first Black vice presidential candidate.

Scott, who once competed against Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, ultimately hit the campaign trail for his former rival in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

On the other hand: Trump has suggested he doesn't want an heir apparent running mate who has designs on the 2028 presidential election, and Scott could fall into that category if he decides to launch another White House bid.

That's the reason prominent figures like former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson keep popping up. Carson is not expected to launch another White House campaign – and he's not scheduled to attend the donor retreat this weekend.

Sen. J.D. Vance

Vance, a first-term senator , has been particularly vocal about defending Trump against his indictments in four separate criminal cases, including the ongoing hush money trial in New York.

A frequent television news guest, Vance's stock rose this week after reporters obtained an invitation showing that he would headline a fundraiser for the former president in Cincinnati on May 15. Vance is also friends with a key figure in Trump's orbit: Donald Trump Jr.

Vance told Fox News and CNN this week that he has not talked with Trump about the running mate position.

"Of course, if he asked me, I'd have to think seriously about it because I think it's really important that he win," Vance told "Fox News Sunday."

Rep. Elise Stefanik

Trump could also make history by picking a woman, and Stefanik has been on his potential list for months .

A member of House leadership, Stefanik endorsed Trump early, campaigned aggressively for him in New Hampshire and often speaks to conservative groups like the RNC donor conference this weekend in Palm Beach.

Stefanik has also been a vocal critic of Trump's criminal cases, to the point of filing a legal complaint against special counsel Jack Smith . He is the lead prosecutor in the cases alleging Trump mishandled classified information and tried to steal the 2020 election.

Sen. Marco Rubio

Rubio, a senator from the state where the GOP donor conference is being held, would also make history as the first Latino person on a national ticket.

A Trump-Rubio duo could raise a legal problem because they both live in Florida. Some attorneys believe running mates from the same state might be forced to forfeit that state's electoral votes. That's why running mate Dick Cheney moved residency from Texas back to Wyoming when former President George W. Bush tapped him in 2000.

The Florida problem might also affect the chances of another GOP lawmaker and potential running mate who plans to attend the donor retreat: U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla .

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum

There are always long-shot candidates – for example, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008 – and Burgum is one of the speakers at the weekend soiree.

Trump could consider the fact that the North Dakota governor endorsed and spoke on his behalf at an event the day before the Iowa caucuses. Burgum has been more enthusiastic for Trump than other former 2024 candidates who are not being considered for running mate, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley .

Another politician not on Trump's list: former Vice President Mike Pence .

Pence turned against Trump over the latter's demand in 2021 that his vice president try to throw out the electoral votes that elected Biden to the presidency, a step Pence insisted he never legally could have taken. Trump has also appeared indifferent after mobs threatened Pence's life as they invaded the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 .

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

Noem will appear at this weekend's conference at a fraught time for her vice presidential prospects after a story in her new book revealed she shot the family dog because it kept attacking people and livestock.

The story prompted criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. Donald Trump Jr., on his podcast "Triggered," called the revelation "not ideal."

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Noem, who described the dog as dangerous, said: "It's an unfortunate situation, but one that I hope people understand. ... They need to hear the truth and not what the media has been spinning."

Plenty of advice for Trump

As he assesses his options, Trump is getting plenty of advice from associates, lawmakers and donors about whom he should pick.

Some of the potential choices are not scheduled to be in Palm Beach this weekend, including Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders (a former Trump press secretary), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard .

On his radio show, Donald Trump Jr. told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon that his father should "accelerate" the running mate decision, especially given the fact that Trump is tied up in court.

'You’ve got a deep bench to do it," Bannon replied. "You’ve got great people, J.D. Vance, Gov. Burgum of North Dakota. You know, you’ve got Dr. Carson, others.”

Others said there's no telling when Trump will make his decision.

Newt Gingrich, whom Trump considered for running mate in 2016, said the former president will act when he's ready.

"I’m relaxing and watching to see what (Trump) does; he will only do it out of intuition," Gingrich told USA TODAY. "I suspect that he’s looking at (Marco) Rubio, he’s looking at Scott, Tim Scott, and I think he’s probably looking at a couple of women candidates, but I think he’s going to think it through at his own pace. I think he’s in no hurry.”

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Memoirist Lilly Dancyger’s Penetrating Essays Explore the Power of Female Friendships

Please try again

A book cover featuring a photo of three young women sat at the top of a fire escape outside a building. One of them is smoking a cigarette.

Who means more to you — your friends or your lovers? In a vivid, thoughtful and nuanced collection of essays, Lilly Dancyger explores the powerful role that female friendships played in her chaotic upbringing marked by her parents’ heroin use and her father’s untimely death when she was only 12.

First Love: Essays on Friendship begins with a beautiful paean to her cousin Sabina, who was raped and murdered at age 20 on her way home from a club. As little kids, their older relatives used to call them Snow White and Rose Red after the Grimm’s fairy tale, “two sisters who are not rivals or foils, but simply love each other.”

That simple, uncomplicated love would become the template for a series of subsequent relationships with girls and women that helped her survive her self-destructive adolescence and provided unconditional support as she scrambled to create a new identity as a “hypercompetent” writer, teacher and editor. “It’s true that I’ve never been satisfied with friendships that stay on the surface. That my friends are my family, my truest beloveds, each relationship a world of its own,” she writes in the title essay “First Love.”

The collection stands out not just for its elegant, unadorned writing but also for the way she effortlessly pivots between personal history and spot-on cultural criticism that both comments on and critiques the way that girls and women have been portrayed — and have portrayed themselves — in the media, including on online platforms like Tumblr and Instagram.

For instance, she examines the 1994 Peter Jackson film, Heavenly Creatures , based on the true story of two teenage girls who bludgeoned to death one of their mothers. And in the essay “Sad Girls,” about the suicide of a close friend, she analyzes the allure of self-destructive figures like Sylvia Plath and Janis Joplin to a certain type of teen, including herself, who wallows in sadness and wants to make sure “the world knew we were in pain.”

In the last essay, “On Murder Memoirs,” Dancyger considers the runaway popularity of true crime stories as she tries to explain her decision not to attend the trial of the man charged with killing her cousin — even though she was trained as a journalist and wrote a well-regarded book about her late father that relied on investigative reporting. “When I finally sat down to write about Sabina, the story that came out was not about murder at all,” she says. “It was a love story.”

Readers can be thankful that it did.

‘ First Love: Essays on Friendship ’ by Lilly Dancyger is released on May 7, 2024 via The Dial Press.

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Why the Protests Help Trump

Members of the New York Police Department confronting demonstrators on a street.

By David Brooks

Opinion Columnist

These days, I think a lot about Donald Trump. When the monthly economic reports come out, I think: Will this help elect Donald Trump? And, I confess, I’ve started to ask myself the same question when I look at the current unrest on American college campuses over Israel and Gaza.

Now, I should say that I assume that most of the protesters are operating with the best of intentions — to ease the suffering being endured by the Palestinian people.

But protests have unexpected political consequences. In the 1960s, for example, millions of young people were moved to protest the war in Vietnam, and history has vindicated their position. But Republicans were quick to use the excesses of the student protest movement to their advantage. In 1966, Ronald Reagan vowed “to clean up the mess at Berkeley” and was elected governor of California. In 1968, Richard Nixon celebrated the “forgotten Americans — the nonshouters; the nondemonstrators” and was elected to the presidency. Far from leading to a new progressive era, the uprisings of the era were followed by what was arguably the most conservative period in American history.

This kind of popular backlash is not uncommon. For his latest book, “If We Burn,” the progressive journalist Vincent Bevins investigated 10 protest movements that occurred between 2010 and 2020 in places like Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine and Hong Kong. He concluded that in seven of those cases, the results were “worse than failure. Things went backward.”

In Egypt in 2011, for example, about a million protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, thrilling the world with their calls for reforms and freedom. President Hosni Mubarak was toppled, but democracy did not replace his autocratic rule; the Muslim Brotherhood did.

In June 2013, millions of Brazilians took to the streets demanding better schools, cheaper public transportation and political reform. But, Bevins laments, “just a few years later, the country would be ruled by the most radically right-wing elected leader in the world, a man who openly called for a return to dictatorship and mass violence” — the über-Trumpian figure Jair Bolsonaro.

Why do these popular uprisings so often backfire? In his book, Bevins points to flaws in the way the protesters organize themselves. He notes that there are a few ways you can structure movements. The first is the Leninist way, in which power is concentrated in the supreme leader and his apparatus. Or there is the method used by the American civil rights movement, in which a network of hierarchically organized institutions work together for common ends, with clear leaders and clear followers.

Then there’s the kind of movement we have in the age of the internet. Many of these protesters across the globe are suspicious of vertical lines of authority; they don’t want to be told what to do by self-appointed leaders. They prefer leaderless, decentralized, digitally coordinated crowds, in which participants get to improvise their own thing.

This horizontal, anarchic method enables masses of people to mobilize quickly, even if they don’t know one another. It is, however, built on the shaky assumption that if lots of people turn out, then somehow the movement will magically meet its goals.

Unfortunately, an unorganized, decentralized movement is going to be good at disruption but not good at building a new reality. As Bevins puts it, “A diffuse group of individuals who come out to the streets for very different reasons cannot simply take power themselves.” Instead groups that have traditional organizational structures, like the strongman populists, rise up vowing to end the anarchy and restore order.

Today’s campus protesters share this weakness. When you have no formal organizational structure, you can’t control the message. The most outlandish comments — “ Zionists don’t deserve to live ” — get attention. When you have no formal organizational structure, you can’t be clear on basic positions. Does the movement, for example, believe in a two-state solution, or does it want to eliminate Israel and ethnically cleanse the region?

Worse, the protests reinforce the class dynamics that have undermined the Democratic Party’s prospects over the past few decades. As is well known, the Democrats have become the party of the educated and cultural elite, and the Republicans have become the party of the less educated masses. Students who attend places like Columbia and the University of Southern California are in the top echelons of cultural privilege.

If you operate in highly educated circles, it’s easy to get the impression that young people are passionately engaged in the Gaza issue. But a recent Harvard Youth Poll asked Americans ages 18 to 29 which issues mattered to them most. “Israel/Palestine” ranked 15th out of 16 issues listed. Other issues like inflation, jobs, housing, health care and gun violence were much more pressing to most young Americans.

Especially since 2016, it’s become clear that if you live in a university town or in one of the many cities along the coasts where highly educated people tend to congregate, you can’t use your own experience to generalize about American politics. In fact, if you are guided by instincts and values honed in such places, you may not be sensitive to the ways your movement is alienating voters in the working-class areas of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia. You may come across to them as privileged kids breaking the rules and getting away with it.

Over the past few decades, many universities have become more ideologically homogeneous and detached from the rest of the country. As my colleague Ross Douthat noted recently, Columbia students who study 20th-century thought in the “core curriculum” are fed a steady diet of writers like Frantz Fanon and Michel Foucault from one ideological perspective.

Writing in The Atlantic, George Packer quoted a letter that one Columbia student wrote to one of his professors: “I think universities have essentially stopped minding the store, stopped engaging in any kind of debate or even conversation with the ideologies which have slowly crept into every bit of university life, without enough people of good conscience brave enough to question all the orthodoxies. So if you come to Columbia believing in ‘decolonization’ or what have you, it’s genuinely not clear to me that you will ever have to reflect on this belief.”

These circles have become so insular that today’s progressive fights tend to take place within progressive spaces, with progressive young protesters attempting to topple slightly less progressive university presidents or organization heads. These fights invariably divide the left and unify the right.

Over my career as a journalist, I’ve learned that when you’re covering a rally, pay attention not just to protesters; pay attention to all those people who would never attend and are quietly disapproving. If you were covering the protests of the late 1960s, for example, you would have learned a lot more about the coming decades by interviewing George W. Bush than you would have by interviewing one of the era’s protest celebrities like Abbie Hoffman. Hoffman was more photogenic in the moment, but Bush, and all those turned off by the protests, would turn out to be more consequential.

Over the past few days, the White House and Senator Chuck Schumer have become more critical of lawbreaking protests. They probably need to do a lot more of that if we’re going to avoid “Trump: The Sequel.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , WhatsApp , X and Threads .

David Brooks has been a columnist with The Times since 2003. He is the author, most recently,  of “How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen.” @ nytdavidbrooks

Watch CBS News

Teens come up with trigonometry proof for Pythagorean Theorem, a problem that stumped math world for centuries

By Bill Whitaker

May 5, 2024 / 7:00 PM EDT / CBS News

As the school year ends, many students will be only too happy to see math classes in their rearview mirrors. It may seem to some of us non-mathematicians that geometry and trigonometry were created by the Greeks as a form of torture, so imagine our amazement when we heard two high school seniors had proved a mathematical puzzle that was thought to be impossible for 2,000 years. 

We met Calcea Johnson and Ne'Kiya Jackson at their all-girls Catholic high school in New Orleans. We expected to find two mathematical prodigies.

Instead, we found at St. Mary's Academy , all students are told their possibilities are boundless.

Come Mardi Gras season, New Orleans is alive with colorful parades, replete with floats, and beads, and high school marching bands.

In a city where uniqueness is celebrated, St. Mary's stands out – with young African American women playing trombones and tubas, twirling batons and dancing - doing it all, which defines St. Mary's, students told us.

Junior Christina Blazio says the school instills in them they have the ability to accomplish anything. 

Christina Blazio: That is kinda a standard here. So we aim very high - like, our aim is excellence for all students. 

The private Catholic elementary and high school sits behind the Sisters of the Holy Family Convent in New Orleans East. The academy was started by an African American nun for young Black women just after the Civil War. The church still supports the school with the help of alumni.

In December 2022, seniors Ne'Kiya Jackson and Calcea Johnson were working on a school-wide math contest that came with a cash prize.

Ne'Kiya Jackson and Calcea Johnson

Ne'Kiya Jackson: I was motivated because there was a monetary incentive.

Calcea Johnson: 'Cause I was like, "$500 is a lot of money. So I-- I would like to at least try."

Both were staring down the thorny bonus question.

Bill Whitaker: So tell me, what was this bonus question?

Calcea Johnson: It was to create a new proof of the Pythagorean Theorem. And it kind of gave you a few guidelines on how would you start a proof.

The seniors were familiar with the Pythagorean Theorem, a fundamental principle of geometry. You may remember it from high school: a² + b² = c². In plain English, when you know the length of two sides of a right triangle, you can figure out the length of the third.

Both had studied geometry and some trigonometry, and both told us math was not easy. What no one told  them  was there had been more than 300 documented proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem using algebra and geometry, but for 2,000 years a proof using trigonometry was thought to be impossible, … and that was the bonus question facing them.

Bill Whitaker: When you looked at the question did you think, "Boy, this is hard"?

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Yeah. 

Bill Whitaker: What motivated you to say, "Well, I'm going to try this"?

Calcea Johnson: I think I was like, "I started something. I need to finish it." 

Bill Whitaker: So you just kept on going.

Calcea Johnson: Yeah.

For two months that winter, they spent almost all their free time working on the proof.

CeCe Johnson: She was like, "Mom, this is a little bit too much."

CeCe and Cal Johnson are Calcea's parents.

CeCe Johnson:   So then I started looking at what she really was doing. And it was pages and pages and pages of, like, over 20 or 30 pages for this one problem.

Cal Johnson: Yeah, the garbage can was full of papers, which she would, you know, work out the problems and-- if that didn't work she would ball it up, throw it in the trash. 

Bill Whitaker: Did you look at the problem? 

Neliska Jackson is Ne'Kiya's mother.

Neliska Jackson: Personally I did not. 'Cause most of the time I don't understand what she's doing (laughter).

Michelle Blouin Williams: What if we did this, what if I write this? Does this help? ax² plus ….

Their math teacher, Michelle Blouin Williams, initiated the math contest.

Michelle Blouin Williams

Bill Whitaker: And did you think anyone would solve it?

Michelle Blouin Williams: Well, I wasn't necessarily looking for a solve. So, no, I didn't—

Bill Whitaker: What were you looking for?

Michelle Blouin Williams: I was just looking for some ingenuity, you know—

Calcea and Ne'Kiya delivered on that! They tried to explain their groundbreaking work to 60 Minutes. Calcea's proof is appropriately titled the Waffle Cone.

Calcea Johnson: So to start the proof, we start with just a regular right triangle where the angle in the corner is 90°. And the two angles are alpha and beta.

Bill Whitaker: Uh-huh

Calcea Johnson: So then what we do next is we draw a second congruent, which means they're equal in size. But then we start creating similar but smaller right triangles going in a pattern like this. And then it continues for infinity. And eventually it creates this larger waffle cone shape.

Calcea Johnson: Am I going a little too—

Bill Whitaker: You've been beyond me since the beginning. (laughter) 

Bill Whitaker: So how did you figure out the proof?

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Okay. So you have a right triangle, 90° angle, alpha and beta.

Bill Whitaker: Then what did you do?

Bill Whitaker with Calcea Johnson and Ne'Kiya Jackson

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Okay, I have a right triangle inside of the circle. And I have a perpendicular bisector at OP to divide the triangle to make that small right triangle. And that's basically what I used for the proof. That's the proof.

Bill Whitaker: That's what I call amazing.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Well, thank you.

There had been one other documented proof of the theorem using trigonometry by mathematician Jason Zimba in 2009 – one in 2,000 years. Now it seems Ne'Kiya and Calcea have joined perhaps the most exclusive club in mathematics. 

Bill Whitaker: So you both independently came up with proof that only used trigonometry.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Yes.

Bill Whitaker: So are you math geniuses?

Calcea Johnson: I think that's a stretch. 

Bill Whitaker: If not genius, you're really smart at math.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Not at all. (laugh) 

To document Calcea and Ne'Kiya's work, math teachers at St. Mary's submitted their proofs to an American Mathematical Society conference in Atlanta in March 2023.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Well, our teacher approached us and was like, "Hey, you might be able to actually present this," I was like, "Are you joking?" But she wasn't. So we went. I got up there. We presented and it went well, and it blew up.

Bill Whitaker: It blew up.

Calcea Johnson: Yeah. 

Ne'Kiya Jackson: It blew up.

Bill Whitaker: Yeah. What was the blowup like?

Calcea Johnson: Insane, unexpected, crazy, honestly.

It took millenia to prove, but just a minute for word of their accomplishment to go around the world. They got a write-up in South Korea and a shout-out from former first lady Michelle Obama, a commendation from the governor and keys to the city of New Orleans. 

Bill Whitaker: Why do you think so many people found what you did to be so impressive?

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Probably because we're African American, one. And we're also women. So I think-- oh, and our age. Of course our ages probably played a big part.

Bill Whitaker: So you think people were surprised that young African American women, could do such a thing?

Calcea Johnson: Yeah, definitely.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: I'd like to actually be celebrated for what it is. Like, it's a great mathematical achievement.

Achievement, that's a word you hear often around St. Mary's academy. Calcea and Ne'Kiya follow a long line of barrier-breaking graduates. 

The late queen of Creole cooking, Leah Chase , was an alum. so was the first African-American female New Orleans police chief, Michelle Woodfork …

And judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Dana Douglas. Math teacher Michelle Blouin Williams told us Calcea and Ne'Kiya are typical St. Mary's students.  

Bill Whitaker: They're not unicorns.

Michelle Blouin Williams: Oh, no no. If they are unicorns, then every single lady that has matriculated through this school is a beautiful, Black unicorn.

Pamela Rogers: You're good?

Pamela Rogers, St. Mary's president and interim principal, told us the students hear that message from the moment they walk in the door.

St. Mary's Academy president and interim principal Pamela Rogers

Pamela Rogers: We believe all students can succeed, all students can learn. It does not matter the environment that you live in. 

Bill Whitaker: So when word went out that two of your students had solved this almost impossible math problem, were they universally applauded?

Pamela Rogers: In this community, they were greatly applauded. Across the country, there were many naysayers.

Bill Whitaker: What were they saying?

Pamela Rogers: They were saying, "Oh, they could not have done it. African Americans don't have the brains to do it." Of course, we sheltered our girls from that. But we absolutely did not expect it to come in the volume that it came.  

Bill Whitaker: And after such a wonderful achievement.

Pamela Rogers: People-- have a vision of who can be successful. And-- to some people, it is not always an African American female. And to us, it's always an African American female.

Gloria Ladson-Billings: What we know is when teachers lay out some expectations that say, "You can do this," kids will work as hard as they can to do it.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin, has studied how best to teach African American students. She told us an encouraging teacher can change a life.

Bill Whitaker: And what's the difference, say, between having a teacher like that and a whole school dedicated to the excellence of these students?

Gloria Ladson-Billings: So a whole school is almost like being in Heaven. 

Bill Whitaker: What do you mean by that?

Bill Whitaker and Gloria Ladson-Billings

Gloria Ladson-Billings: Many of our young people have their ceilings lowered, that somewhere around fourth or fifth grade, their thoughts are, "I'm not going to be anything special." What I think is probably happening at St. Mary's is young women come in as, perhaps, ninth graders and are told, "Here's what we expect to happen. And here's how we're going to help you get there."

At St. Mary's, half the students get scholarships, subsidized by fundraising to defray the $8,000 a year tuition. Here, there's no test to get in, but expectations are high and rules are strict: no cellphones, modest skirts, hair must be its natural color.

Students Rayah Siddiq, Summer Forde, Carissa Washington, Tatum Williams and Christina Blazio told us they appreciate the rules and rigor.

Rayah Siddiq: Especially the standards that they set for us. They're very high. And I don't think that's ever going to change.

Bill Whitaker: So is there a heart, a philosophy, an essence to St. Mary's?

Summer Forde: The sisterhood—

Carissa Washington: Sisterhood.

Tatum Williams: Sisterhood.

Bill Whitaker: The sisterhood?

Voices: Yes.

Bill Whitaker: And you don't mean the nuns. You mean-- (laughter)

Christina Blazio: I mean, yeah. The community—

Bill Whitaker: So when you're here, there's just no question that you're going to go on to college.

Rayah Siddiq: College is all they talk about. (laughter) 

Pamela Rogers: … and Arizona State University (Cheering)

Principal Rogers announces to her 615 students the colleges where every senior has been accepted.

Bill Whitaker: So for 17 years, you've had a 100% graduation rate—

Pamela Rogers: Yes.

Bill Whitaker: --and a 100% college acceptance rate?

Pamela Rogers: That's correct.

Last year when Ne'Kiya and Calcea graduated, all their classmates went to college and got scholarships. Ne'Kiya got a full ride to the pharmacy school at Xavier University in New Orleans. Calcea, the class valedictorian, is studying environmental engineering at Louisiana State University.

Bill Whitaker: So wait a minute. Neither one of you is going to pursue a career in math?

Both: No. (laugh)

Calcea Johnson: I may take up a minor in math. But I don't want that to be my job job.

Ne'Kiya Jackson: Yeah. People might expect too much out of me if (laugh) I become a mathematician. (laugh)

But math is not completely in their rear-view mirrors. This spring they submitted their high school proofs for final peer review and publication … and are still working on further proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. Since their first two …

Calcea Johnson: We found five. And then we found a general format that could potentially produce at least five additional proofs.

Bill Whitaker: And you're not math geniuses?

Bill Whitaker: I'm not buying it. (laughs)

Produced by Sara Kuzmarov. Associate producer, Mariah B. Campbell. Edited by Daniel J. Glucksman.

Bill Whitaker

Bill Whitaker is an award-winning journalist and 60 Minutes correspondent who has covered major news stories, domestically and across the globe, for more than four decades with CBS News.

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

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    Revised on April 16, 2024. A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

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    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

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    3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea. Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:

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    Step 4: Revise and refine your thesis statement before you start writing. Read through your thesis statement several times before you begin to compose your full essay. You need to make sure the statement is ironclad, since it is the foundation of the entire paper. Edit it or have a peer review it for you to make sure everything makes sense and ...

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    The thesis statement is the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose. You might hear it referred to as simply a "thesis." Every scholarly paper should have a thesis statement, and strong thesis statements are concise, specific, and arguable. Concise means the thesis is short: perhaps one or two sentences for a shorter paper.

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    Strong Thesis Statement Examples. 1. School Uniforms. "Mandatory school uniforms should be implemented in educational institutions as they promote a sense of equality, reduce distractions, and foster a focused and professional learning environment.". Best For: Argumentative Essay or Debate. Read More: School Uniforms Pros and Cons.

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    A thesis statement provides the foundation for your entire research paper or essay. This statement is the central assertion that you want to express in your essay. A successful thesis statement is one that is made up of one or two sentences clearly laying out your central idea and expressing an informed, reasoned answer to your research question.

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    Schools should start at a later time of day. Inspired by this sample essay about school start times. Beginning the school day at a later time would stabilize students' sleep patterns, improve students' moods, and increase students' academic success. #15. Schools should distribute birth control to teens.

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    This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution implies that something is bad or negative in some way. Furthermore, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is unambiguously good.

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    Adapting a Dissertation or Thesis Into a Journal Article. Dissertations or theses are typically required of graduate students. Undergraduate students completing advanced research projects may also write senior theses or similar types of papers. Once completed, the dissertation or thesis is often submitted (with modifications) as a manuscript ...

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    > Article > My theses . BY: Reece Gatliff | May 11, 2024 . This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party's program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors ...

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    Jai K. Khurana '24, a History of Science concentrator who wrote his thesis on the field of pain medicine, went to the University of California, Los Angeles for part of his thesis research, where ...

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    A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 25 of the New York edition with the headline: Why the Protests Help Trump. Order Reprints | Today's Paper | Subscribe 1415

  30. Teens come up with trigonometry proof for Pythagorean Theorem, a

    A high school teacher didn't expect a solution when she set a 2,000-year-old Pythagorean Theorem problem in front of her students. Then Calcea Johnson and Ne'Kiya Jackson stepped up to the challenge.