What is a Thesis Statement?

A good thesis can make or break a paper. Fortunately, if you put in the time, writing a stellar thesis isn’t hard. An original thesis is your chance to present a unique argument—and who doesn’t like a good argument?

An excellent thesis serves two main purposes: (1) to provide your reader with an outline of thoughts contained in your essay, and (2) to keep your writing on task. Typically it is located at the end of your introductory paragraph.

Essentially, a thesis statement condenses the main idea of your essay into one or two sentences, and it has three main parts:

  • Subject. Topic of the essay.
  • Claim. Your opinion on the subject.
  • Reasoning. Why you believe the claim.

Here is one video and four simple steps to help you write an amazing thesis that is clear and will impress even the most uncompromising teacher:

Step 1: Understand the task

You can’t expect to win a game if you don’t understand the rules, right? The same principle applies here. You need to understand exactly what the task is asking you to do before you begin scribbling ideas haphazardly into paragraphs.

It’s important to know that the rules are different depending on the type of essay you are writing. So step one is to read the assigned task carefully and understand the requirements.

Argumentative essay: Should college athletes be paid?

  • You need to take a stand and have a backbone for this type of essay. No middle-of-the-road here. Choose a side: either they should or they shouldn’t. What evidence do you have to support your claim?

Expository essay: How have trade routes impacted global communication?

  • Here you are required to provide facts and information. Consider what trade routes you will write about. What evidence of communication (or lack thereof) can be provided?

Analytical essay: Evaluate the impacts of communism in China under Mao Zedong

  • Here you have a specific topic that you need to break down and explain. You also need to take a stand and make a claim (hence the term evaluate). You need to explain the rule of Mao Zedong, what impact he had on China, and whether those impacts were positive or negative.

Step 2: Brainstorm

Here is where you devise your battle strategy. Decide exactly what evidence the essay will include to support your claim. The best way to do this is a quick brainstorm.


Should college athletes be paid?

Brainstorm ideas:

  • No
  • They already receive athletic scholarships which is like getting paid
  • Athletes are also rewarded by increased visibility to potential recruiters

Pro tip: Start creating references for your evidence right from the start, as you’re researching. Citation Machine citing tools can help you easily create a bibliography in Harvard referencing, MLA format, and thousands of other styles!

Step 3: Build a mini-outline

Look at your ideas and break your essay down by the subject, claim, and reasoning:

  • Subject: College athletes
  • Claim: They should not be paid 
  • Reasoning: They all receive compensation in the form of scholarships and visibility to potential professional recruiters

Now string your ideas together using the word “because.” At any time during writing, if you find yourself drifting away from these ideas, you will need to: (1) re-work your thesis to include the additional evidence, or (2) get yourself back on track. 

This is the time to provide your reader with the down-and-dirty version of what this essay is about.


College athletes should not be paid because they all receive compensation in the form of scholarships and benefit from more visibility to potential professional recruiters.

How easy is that? Simply combine the task and the brainstorm! Voila!

Step 4: Analyze your word choice

Go back and re-read your thesis. Even read it aloud. Avoid words that suggest an opinion or that are vague such as “good”—that term means something different to everyone. Another pitfall to avoid is being all inclusive (“all”) or exclusionary (“none”) unless you can substantiate that word choice with hard evidence.

          Our thesis:

College athletes should not be paid because they all receive compensation in the form of scholarships and benefit from more visibility to potential professional recruiters.

Ask yourself: Do ALL college athletes receive full scholarships? Do you have evidence of that? If not, perhaps change the word “all” to “many” or “some.”

Our new and improved thesis:

College athletes should not be paid because many receive compensation in the form of scholarships and benefit from more visibility to potential professional recruiters.

Ta-da! That’s it. Four easy steps to writing a stellar thesis.


Common FAQs

When you receive a writing assignment, your first step in completing it might seem obvious, but is difficult to do: come up with an original idea or main point for your paper. No matter what type of paper you are writing (persuasive, expository, research, etc.), you need to have a central message. The arguments or points you make in your paper should all reference back to this message, which is called a thesis statement. So, what makes a thesis statement, and how does it fit into your paper? Read on for some helpful hints and answers to common questions.

Q: How long does my thesis statement need to be?

A: A strong thesis statement should summarize your main point in no more than one or two sentences. In those sentences, you want to present to the reader what you are writing about, as well as what your position on the topic is. It should be clear and concise, and serve as a preview to what you are planning on writing about in the rest of your paper.

Q: Does my thesis statement need to be specific?

A: Yes, you should try to make your thesis statement as specific as you can. One approach to accomplish this is to start with a more general statement, then refine it as you conduct research and write the body of your paper. Keep in mind that you want to focus your statement on an idea that can be addressed within the page range of the paper.

Your thesis statement should be as clear and specific as possible. Normally you will continue to refine your thesis as you revise your argument(s), so your thesis will evolve and gain definition as you obtain a better sense of where your argument is taking you.

Here is what a too-general thesis statement looks like:

Too much time spent on a digital device is bad for children.

Here is a stronger, more specific one:

Although electronic devices can provide educational content, parents should regulate the amount of time children spend on digital platforms, as they can inhibit social interaction, shorten attention spans, and cause unhealthy sleeping habits.

Q: Where do I put my thesis statement in my paper?

A: Your thesis statement should be the last one or two sentences in your introductory paragraph. This will help immediately inform the reader of what the subject of your paper is, and what specific examples you are planning to provide in order to prove your central point.

While researching your thesis statement, cite your sources in APA formatMLA format, or Harvard referencing using Cite This For Me citation tools!