Thoughts about the Thesis

One of the areas that I always look at when I’m working with a writer is the thesis statement. While not all kinds of writing requires a thesis statement, most academic papers require an identifiable purpose. A thesis statement articulates this purpose.

Some academic environments do not emphasize the use of thesis statements–for example, schools in the UK don’t look for thesis statements the way most North American institutions do. If you are from a place where the use of a thesis statement is the norm, it’s better to include one in the paper unless a professor specifically tells you not to. If a professor oppose the use of thesis statements for some reason (a belief that they lead to sloppy writing is one that I have encountered at my school) this will usually be stated clearly in the prompt for the assignment. The prompt may also contain specific guidelines for the type of thesis statement the professor would like to see, so it’s important to pay attention to whatever information about the assignment is available.

Crafting a strong thesis statement can prove challenging for novice and experienced writers alike, but with practice the process becomes easier. It is important that the thesis is not too general; it should not be a bare statement of fact, such as “Vincent van Gogh was a famous painter.” Rather, the thesis should articulate something focused and original. Some writers like to create a thesis at the very beginning, while others only write the thesis after the first draft of the paper is completed. Neither of these methods is wrong. Both can lead to the creation of a strong thesis statement.

It can be helpful to think about a thesis as the “big picture” of the paper. The thesis should help the reader to see why the paper is important. Why should the reader care about this topic? A good thesis statement will answer this question, as well as give the reader a unified idea to hold onto while reading the paper. In some ways, it is the framework that supports the body paragraphs. Every paragraph in the body should relate back to the thesis in some way. The reader should be able to see how each point in the paper supports and builds on the thesis.

Many times, if the writer has a difficult time articulating a thesis statement,it can be helpful to look at the conclusion. Often, writers will be able to articulate the purpose of the paper more clearly at the end of the paper than  they could at the beginning, so looking at the ideas in the conclusion can help writers to think about the overall purpose of the paper.


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