Your professors have probably mentioned that a thesis statement is one of the most important aspects of an assignment. They can make or break a paper. Although they are short, they have a huge impact because they inform the reader about the purpose of the paper or your central argument.
In its simplest form, a thesis statement is usually something that can be argued, unless you are writing an informative paper. However, most assignments students will write in college tend to be argumentative or persuasive, meaning it is important to learn how to summarize a main point in one or two sentences. Students should also remember that all thesis statements, persuasive or informative, need to have credible sources and facts to back them up, otherwise they are empty arguments and are easy to poke holes in or disprove.
In the Writing Center, I have found that one of the most useful techniques for students to develop thesis statements is to answer one question: What is the point of this paper? It is also useful for a student to try to think of a thesis statement like a mathematical formula: A + B = C, or basically, “this means this because of that.”
Another important thing to do is to show creativity and comprehension in your arguments. When writing a paper, you don’t want to just copy what your sources say because it doesn’t show understanding. You want to demonstrate to the professor that you know the material. Some examples of the dos and don’ts of thesis statements are provided below, so you can see what would qualify as an argument and what wouldn’t.
Thesis: Recycling is good for the environment because it prevents the pollution of the environment with harmful materials.
Not a Thesis: People should recycle.
In this scenario, the second sentence is not a thesis statement because it has no reasons to support it. Why should people recycle? How should they do so? Is it beneficial? There are too many questions left unanswered.
Thesis: It is important for students to study because research shows that students who study perform well on assignments and gain a better understanding of the material.
Not a Thesis: Students perform 30% better when they study compared to students who don’t.
In this case, the second sentence is not a thesis because it does not try to make an argument. It is a statement of fact, but makes no attempt to persuade the audience.
Thesis: It is reasonable for people to skip breakfast because eating in the morning makes many people feel nauseous, it is a great way to save money, and the concept of the big “American” breakfast is just a scam by the cereal companies.
Not a Thesis: People should not eat breakfast because I don’t like it.
Finally, the second example here does no work because it does not include any facts or a reasonable, credible argument. Although it may seem obvious that an opinion does not work, many students have a hard time determining what an argument is and what an opinion is. Be sure to make sure that your thesis statement has credible evidence and is applicable to the situation
So, when writing a thesis statement for an argumentative paper, it is crucial to remember to do a few things:
Always include an argument with clear reasoning
Make sure that argument can be supported by credible evidence
Opinions are not facts and are not valid evidence