In academic writing, a thesis states the main idea of a text, often consisting of a limited subject and a precise stance on that subject.
The thesis statement is a debatable statement about which it is possible to disagree. A thesis statement should contain a claim, which is a position or assertion claiming that something is or is not the case. Writers support thesis statements with appropriate evidence and rhetorical tools that persuade an audience that the author’s view is true or desirable.
Creating a thesis statement
To develop a working thesis that will guide the organization of a first draft, authors consider their purpose(s) for writing. In most cases, texts with thesis statements attempt to either persuade audiences to agree with a viewpoint on a subject or to think differently about a subject.
A thesis identifies the topic of a text along with the claim being made. A good thesis can sharpen thinking and strengthen writing. While the style of your thesis might change depending on the type of text being written, the following suggestions are beneficial for most texts assigned in first-year composition or undergraduate coursework.
Moving from topic to thesis
Unless a student is writing certain types of essay, such as a personal narrative or an inquiry, the thesis should not be a question.
Scenario: Casey is writing an argumentative essay about artificial intelligence for ENG1113 (first year composition). The essay should be between 800 and 1000 words. This is the first draft of a thesis for her argument, “Although artificial intelligence has expanded in use over the past decade, will it negatively affect American industries?”
While Casey’s thesis does indicate her topic (artificial intelligence and its effects on American industries), it does not indicate her stance or position on the issue.
An effective thesis is specific and shows an audience exactly what the essay will cover. Always narrow the thesis statement so that it is neither too broad nor too general.
Scenario: Casey has revised her draft thesis. This is the second draft of a thesis for her argument, “Although artificial intelligence presents many opportunities for science and society, it will ultimately have a negative effect on all American industries.”
Casey’s thesis now presents a debatable claim, but her topic is too broad to be effectively and thoroughly discussed in 800 to 1000 words. It would be impossible to demonstrate that all American industries would be affected in such few words.
Also, consider qualifying thesis statements by adding words like may, probably, apparently, likely, sometimes, and often. This acknowledges that the claim can be challenged or may not be unconditionally true. Avoid absolutes like all and none. The thesis should not be presented as fact but as a position or assertion claiming that something is or is not the case.
Scenario: Here is Casey’s third revision, “Although artificial intelligence has shown benefits in medical technology—particularly as a tool to help surgeons—its continued growth will likely result in job losses and dehumanization in both the manufacturing and the medical industries.”
Casey’s thesis is now more narrowly focused, and it avoids such absolute language as “all industries.” But because Casey’s claim is still too complex—she is focusing on too many issues (both manufacturing and medical care).
Remember, a thesis statement looks at a limited subject and a takes a precise stance on that subject. This is to ensure that the essay has a clear, direct focus. The thesis should not contain more than one idea.
Scenario: Here is Casey’s final revision, “Although artificial intelligence has shown benefits in medical technology—particularly as a tool to help surgeons—its continued growth will likely result in job losses and dehumanization in the medical industries.”
Casey’s thesis is now narrow, presents a precise stance on the topic, and contains an arguable claim.