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Thesis statements

Every paper or essay you write should have a main point, a main idea. This is a Thesis Statement.
Three students writing at a desk
© University of Westminster

Every paper or essay you write should have a main point, a main idea, and everything in your essay should link back to this main point. As obvious as this might sound this is often missing in student essays.

To make the main point really clear it should be summarised in one or two sentences called a thesis statement. This statement should let the reader know the topic of your essay and also give your view on the topic. This will also guide your writing to help you to keep your argument focused.

Your thesis statement should come early in your essay – in the introduction, or in longer essays in the second paragraph. You should try and be as clear and as specific as possible, but you should avoid boring and cliché sentence structures like, ‘The point of my paper is…’. Instead take a look at our examples:

  • Your idea: Many people think that modern zombie films are too violent or unpleasant.
  • Thesis statement: Modern cinematic techniques mean that films have become more graphic, and this has led to the desensitization of young British filmgoers to violence.

or

  • The explicit violence in many mainstream zombie movies degrades both men and women.

or

  • Today’s zombie movies fail to deliver the emotional engagement.

You should avoid vague words such as ‘interesting,’ ‘negative,’ ‘exciting,’ ‘unusual,’ and ‘difficult.’ And as with all your writing, avoid what are known as abstract words such as ‘society,’ ‘values,’ or ‘culture.’

These words are only useful if you have given a good explanation of that they mean to you and for your essay, you can’t assume, for example, that you have the same understanding of what ‘society’ means as your reader.

You need to be as specific as possible so there can be no misunderstandings. Here are some more examples of how to make a thesis statement clear:

  • Original thesis statement: Although Facebook is an enjoyable and fun platform, users are leaving in droves. [if it’s so enjoyable and fun, why are people leaving??]
  • Revised thesis statement: Although Facebook is seen by many as an enjoyable and fun platform, users are leaving in droves over concerns around privacy and data sharing.
  • Original thesis: Open Source Software is the best kind for people to use.
  • Revised thesis: If more software is made open source then developers will be able to more easily build upon ideas and better develop new products and tools.

A few final words on thesis statements. Use your own words in thesis statements and avoid quoting. A well-crafted thesis statement reflects well-crafted ideas. It makes the reader believe you are intelligent, committed, and enthusiastic – and you definitely want them to think those things about you.

While it’s good to start with a reasonably well-formed statement, you will have to come back to this when the essay is finished and edit it a little bit to make sure it really matches what you have said, and the ideas you have.

As we are writing our ideas can change, the secret to a good essay is to keep going back over the whole text to make sure all the ideas still link together – and most important is the thesis statement.

© University of Westminster
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