Thesis Statement Hacks: How to Write a Thesis for Academic Essays

Jerz > Writing > Academic > [ Argument | Titles | Thesis Statements | Blueprinting | Quoting | CitingMLA Format ]

A thesis statement is the single, specific claim that your essay supports. A strong thesis answers the question you want to raise; it does so by presenting a topic, the position you wish to defend, and a reasoning blueprint that sketches out your defense of your chosen position. A good thesis is not merely a factual statement, an observation, a personal opinion or preference, or the question you plan to answer. (See “Academic Argument: Evidence-based Defense of a Non-obvious Position.”
Good ExampleThe biography Black Elk Speaks challenges the Western genre’s stereotype of the “savage Indian” through its attention to cultural detail, its use of Indian words, and its direct quotes from Black Elk.
  • Topic: The representation of Indian lifestyle in the book Black Elk Speaks
  • Precise Opinion: the book challenges a stereotype
  • Reasoning Blueprint: the three ways the book mounts this challenge are through attention to cultural detail, using Indian words, and using direct quotations from Black Elk.
    • A strong blueprint would hint at why these three details add up to support the thesis statement.
    • A less impressive blueprint might simply list the main points the essay will cover.

There is nothing magically “correct” about a thesis on challenging a cultural stereotype. Instead of claiming that a book “challenges a genre’s stereotypes,” you might instead argue that some text “provides a more expensive but more ethical solution than X” or “undermines Jim Smith’s observation that ‘[some quote from Smith here]’”. (Don’t automatically use “challenges a genre’s stereotype” in the hopes of coming up with the “correct” thesis.)

A more complicated thesis statement for a paper that asks you to demonstrate your ability engage with someone else’s ideas (rather than simply summarize or react to someone else’s ideas) might follow a formula like this:

Good ExampleAlthough Smith says “quote a passage that makes a specific claim you intend to disagree with” (123), in this paper I will use Brown’s concept of X to argue that [your original thesis goes here].”
  • Your instructor might not want you to use “I” in your paper. You might instead say “This paper will use…” or “Applying Brown’s concept of X will show…”
  • Rather than promising to “use Brown to argue” (which is too general), this model recommends that you “use Brown’s concept of X to argue” (or “Brown’s case study” or “Brown’s thorough analysis” or “Brown’s unsuccessful rebuttal” — the more specific you are about how, specifically you will use Brown, the better).
  • It’s not enough to disagree with someone else; a strong paper will go beyond saying “Smith is wrong” and will instead say “Here’s a better solution that avoids problems P and Q that prevent Smith’s solution from working.”

For a short paper (1-2 pages), the thesis statement is often the first sentence. A complex thesis statement for a long paper may be part of a thesis paragraph. But it’s hard to go wrong if you put your thesis first.

Useful Formulae for Thesis Statements

If you’re not sure whether you have a good thesis statement, see whether you can fit your ideas into one of these basic patterns.

Good Example[Something] [does something] because [reason(s)].
Because [reason(s)], [something] [does something].
Good ExampleAlthough [opposing evidence], [reasons] show [something] [does something].

If you are just starting out, and you are still developing an original, evidence-based claim to defend, a simpler formula is probably best. Once you have done the research, and you understand the subject, then a formula like the following won’t look like random words; it will suggest a way to frame a nuanced, complex argument that goes beyond making non-controversial factual statements.

Good ExampleWhile [a specific, named person] says [a direct quote or paraphrase from the source], [a different, named person] says [something else]. While the two authors disagree over [a minor point], they both share a deep concern over [the topic of your paper]. [Person one’s] refusal to accept [a particular point made by person two]suggests that [person one] is [your thesis — stating the real reason why person one won’t agree with person two].
What really matters is not guessing the magically correct words to fit some secret formula that your mean instructor is refusing to tell you.

What matters is that you have researched your subject, that you have found and engaged meaningfully with peer-reviewed academic sources, and that you are developing an evidence-based claim, rather than summarizing or giving unsupported opinion.

  • Unlike a personal essay, which can rely on personal experience and general observations, a research paper must draw on evidence — usually in the form of direct quotations or statistics from peer-reviewed academic journals.
  • You have no reason to “defend” a position unless some expert has presented credible evidence that challenges a claim you want to make. (Finding, quoting, and engaging with that evidence is part of your task as an academic writer.)
  • An academic argument is not a squabble, a difference of opinions, or an attorney’s courtroom statement. The author of an academic argument is more like the judge, who, after hearing out the best arguments in favor of various possible solutions, supports the best one. An academic argument is part of a discussion that respects multiple viewpoints (as long as those viewpoints are backed by credible evidence).

Parts of a Thesis Statement

The thesis statement has 3 main parts: the limited subject, the precise opinion, and the blueprint of reasons.

1. Limited Subject

Make sure you’ve chosen a subject that meets your instructor’s requirements for the assignment. (It never hurts to ask.)

2. Precise Opinion

The precise opinion gives your answer to a question about the subject. A good precise opinion is vital to the reader’s comprehension of the goal of the essay.

3. Blueprint of Reasons

A blueprint is a plan. It lets the builder know that the foyer will be here, the living room will be to the east, the dining room to the west, and the family room will be north.The blueprint of an essay permits you to see the whole shape of your ideas before you start churning out whole paragraphs.While it’s okay for you to start writing down your ideas before you have a clear sense of your blueprint, your reader should never encounter a list of details without being told exactly what point these details are supposed to support. (For more details on the reasoning blueprint, see Blueprinting.)

Good ExampleThe biography Black Elk Speaks challenges the Western genre’s stereotype of the “savage Indian” through its attention to cultural detail, its use of Indian words, and its direct quotes from Black Elk.
In the blueprint, the author signals an intention to support the precise opinion. The author of the example above introduces three different kinds of evidence:

  • cultural details
  • Indian words
  • quotes from Black Elk.

Informed by this blueprint, the reader expects to encounter one section (a paragraph or more) devoted to each subtopic.The blueprint determines the shape of your paper.

If your thesis statement introduces three reasons A, B and C, the reader will expect a section on reason A, a section on reason B, and a section on reason C.

For a single paragraph, you might only spend one sentence on each reason. For a 2-3 page paper, each reason might get its own paragraph. For a 10-page paper, each reason might contain its own local thesis statement, with its own list of reasons, so that each section involves several paragraphs.To emphasize the structure of your essay, repeat keywords or paraphrased ideas from the blueprint as you introduce the sections in which you expand on each point. Crafting good transitions is a skill that takes time and practice. (See Transitions and Reminders of Thesis).

Note: If you repeat your blueprint phrases and your thesis statement robotically (“The third point I want to talk about is how Black Elk Speaks accurately represents the Indian lifestyle through its direct quotes from Black Elk.”), your writing will be rather dry and lifeless. Dull writing is probably better than aimless rambling, although neither is terribly effective. |

Note: A thesis statement amounts to nothing if the paper is not completely focused on that main point. Blueprinting helps create the coherency of the thesis throughout the entire essay, which makes it a necessary part of the thesis statement.

Good ExampleBlack Elk Speaks accurately represents Indian lifestyle through its attention to cultural detail, its use of Indian words, and its direct quotes from Black Elk.
  • Topic: The representation of Indian lifestyle in the book Black Elk Speaks
  • Precise Opinion: the book is accurate
  • Reasoning Blueprint: the book pays attention to cultural detail, it uses Indian words, and it uses direct quotations from Black Elk. (The rest of the paper will establish the truth of teach of these supporting points, and then explain why they add up to support the truth of the thesis statement.)
Bad ExampleIs Black Elk Speaks a tragedy?
This is a question, not a statement. It’s fine to sit down at the keyboard with the intention of writing a paper to answer this question, but before you start churning out the sentences, you should have a clear idea of what answer you’re trying to support.
Iffy ExampleThis paper will look at the book’s attention to cultural detail, its use of Indian words, and its direct quotations from Black Elk, in order to determine whether Black Elk Speaks accurately represents Indian lifestyle.
The above sample is slightly better because it offers more detail, but it still doesn’t say what position the author is taking on the topic of whether the book is accurate.
Good ExampleBecause the events in the story emphasize Black Elk’s role as a Sioux Warrior, and do not describe his eventual conversion to Catholicism and membership in the Society of St. Joseph, Black Elk Speaks presents a skewed and simplified view of the complex history of Native Americans.
Note that the above sample contains a topic (the accuracy of Black Elk Speaks), opinion (it is skewed and simplified), and reasoning (because the book only tells part of the story).

You don’t need to present those three parts in that exact order every time; furthermore, your instructor may have a good reason to ask you for a different organization. But most of the time, including these three parts will help your reader to follow your ideas much more closely.

Bad ExampleBiographies of all types can teach us many things about the past. What was the culture like? What was the language like? And what did the people say? One such book is Black Elk Speaks, which tells the story of a Sioux warrior in the late 1800s. How accurate is this book? This paper will investigate the cultural details, the language, and what Black Elk actually said, in order to determine the answer.
The above sample starts off with a wordy, general statement about biographies. But the main topic isn’t about biographies of all types, it’s specifically about one book, Black Elk Speaks.

Blueprinting: Planning Your Essay

17 Oct 2000 — originally posted by Nicci Jordan, UWEC Junior
08 Dec 2000 — first posted here. Maintained by Prof. Jerz.
13 Dec 2003 — links updated
22 Sep 2006 — moderate revisions by Jerz
29 Oct 2011 — updated by Jerz
14 June 2015 — minor adjustments

A blueprint is a rough but specific plan, or outline, which defines the structure of your whole essay. The blueprint, usually located within the thesis statement, is a brief list of the points you plan to make, compressed into just a few words each, in the same order in which they appear in the body of your paper.

Hochstein, Jordan, and Jerz
Thesis Reminders
A thesis reminder is a direct echo of the thesis statement. In a short paper, the topic sentence of each paragraph should repeat words or phrases from the thesis statement.

Dennis G. Jerz
Timed Essays: Planning and Organizing in a Crunch

See Also


218 thoughts on “Thesis Statement Hacks: How to Write a Thesis for Academic Essays

    • That depends on what kind of help you want. If you have a question about understanding any of the advice I’ve given on this page, I will do my best to clarify. Are you looking for an editor to polish up a document you’ve already written, a tutor to help you improve your writing ability, or a coach to help you get a particular writing task done?

  1. This page was very helpful, thank you for the advice. I am currently writing a paper about climate change and was wondering if there are any circumstances where any combination of the Topic, Opinion, and Reasoning in the thesis is superior or inferior.

    • Nickton, your instructor would be your best resource there. If you bring two or three possible thesis statements to your instructor before class, or bring them to an appointment, I’m sure you’ll get some useful feedback.

  2. Help please I can’t figure out how to write my thesis statement evening after writing the entire essay whish is below.

    Frederick Douglass a former slave, escaped to tell his story to the world. When he tells his story he tends to sway back and forth between a narrating tone and a direct and personal tone. Instead of talking about his story, he addresses the audience more directly. When he explains about why he chooses to keep his escape story a secret, it seems that he is talking to the audience as if in person, rather than describing his life as a slave. To actually be able to think that this brief change is beneficial, for it makes the story seem much more realistic and personal. One must feel as if they are watching him tell his story, and these direct remarks help create this image.

    Regarding his syntax, his choice of sentence structure towards the end of this passage seems to express a rise in his anxiety and excitement in his voice. This shift in voice is crucial. The audience can see it in this sentence fragment “Let him be a fugitive slave in a strange land–“ (113), the entire rest of the passage is connected with dashes, creating an extremely long and passionate run on sentence. This long sentence is not a ‘run on,’ It is linked parallel clauses.This shows his great discomfort in arriving in a new city, being unable to trust anyone, having nothing to live on, and fearing the return to slavery if he makes the mistake of confiding in anyone at all. It just reinforces his distrust in others, but himself. By creating this long sentence in his writing he shows great amounts of emotion. Some emotion that is shown is the intense fear that is easily noticed, as if he is becoming more and more upset with every work he speaks. The audience can feel the nerves in his voice, and if he were to abide by the basic rules of grammar and change this paragraph to respect them, his emotion would be lost. Also, he uses some parallel structure in his long aforementioned run-on sentence that helps its rhythm, therefore eliminating any awkwardness that may come when reading a run-on. He repeats words and phrases at the beginning of multiple fragments such as “without”, “wanting”, “let him”, “I say”, and “in the midst of” (113). By doing so, he seems to emphasize and connect certain points that he is making, which helps his overall purpose in explaining that his move to the city was difficult and somewhat troubling

    Douglass also uses some rhetorical devices in this expert that make his narrative even more meaningful. Some of the rhetorical devices that he uses is metaphors and imagery, but especially similes. The similes that he uses seem to have a big impact on the audience. In the beginning, he adds a few similes that help focus on a certain image that he wants the audience to see and understand. When trying to describe his emotions when he is finally free, he decides to compare instead of explain hoping will be the best way to relate to the audience. He compares his feelings of freedom to “the unarmed mariner” (112) and how this mariner would feel when “rescued by a friendly man-of-war from the pursuit of a pirate” (112). He goes even further and describes his arrival in New York as if he “had escaped a den of hungry lions” (112). By using these similes, he is able to relate to the audience on a closer level while describing the horrors of slavery. Therefore making it hard to fully grasp his thoughts. The similes serve as a connection to those more fortunate than he and help make his complicated and emotional story a little more relatable. By the end of this passage, people tend to feel much sympathy for him, for his nerve-racking and tormented life has still not come to an end, even though his escape from slavery was finally complete. He can now freely discover the real world, but his past life as a “toil-worn and whip-scarred fugitive slave” (113) has also scarred him for life. Douglass’s word choice and structure only help demonstrate his thoughts, and his fluidity throughout this passage make it so memorable and remarkable.

    Douglass seems to lose his gained confidence, and enter a state of extreme vulnerability. Though he escaped his dreadful enslavement, his excitement for initial freedom transformed into a feeling of “insecurity and loneliness”. Douglass wants to the audience to empathize with this feeling.

    In his past, when enslaved, Douglass was dehumanized. He conditioned by the malicious slaveholders, treated as property; the same level of treatment as swine, and cattle, both harmless animals. But when he is free, and finally reaches this sort of “human status”, he feels insecure once again. Now, he compares his slave holders to vicious animals seeking him as their prey. He uses this animal metaphor in order to describe the unfamiliarity with both his surroundings and his fellow-man. At this moment, Douglass is alone, and helpless.

    Inmates at Alcatraz once looked across the San Francisco bay, at the city lights, and said “There’s so much out there, but we can’t reach it.” Douglass feels similar, stumbling in a world of freedom with so much possibility, but he is unable to seize food or shelter.

    To conclude the rhetorical devices and how they were used in the passage is basically that the audience had to zero in on Douglass’s emotional state and, especially on the stark contrast between his confidence and vulnerability. The emotion that is felt shifts throughout the passage, moving from excitement to loneliness and fear. The point about the desperation the audience hears in his voice as he attempts to convey what it felt like to be a fugitive can aso be felt. The last thing that people can take from this passage is that he expresses a great deal of ambivalence here, as if he was quite unable to really enjoy freedom because it was tinged with so much apprehension and fear.

    • Lucy, my advice would depend completely on the purpose of the assignment, what your instructor has asked you to do, what grade level, etc. your instructor already knows the answers to questions like that, so your instructor is really the best person to ask.

    • The essay is suppose to be analysis of language Douglass uses to convey his states of mind. I have written the actually essay but I just cant come up with a thesis statement. can you please help me.

  3. Hi I need help
    this week’s assignment I have to write a thesis statement for my topic – which is lung cancer,

  4. Help! I need help with a thesis statement for a book called; Venice CA. A City State Of Mind it’s a bout living in Venice CA. In the 50s & 60s to present. There were writers, druggies, Fashionable, misfits, go with the flow society stuck in a time zone in the Venice inviornment. Please help!!!!

  5. my thesis is about stem, i put “The future of the world is going to be based off of STEM and the technology it creates” any suggestions?

  6. My son is writing a research paper for me. His thesis is The battles of El Alamein were the turning point in North Africa in World War II. I am still having trouble determining if this is a good thesis. We did find a book in which the author disagrees with this statement. Since someone disagrees, is this an acceptable thesis? He would then define turning point and show the before and after and refute the main argument against this thesis. Or is this too obvious of a thing to write about? Are there theses that would be acceptable at a lower level(sophomore in high school) that wouldn’t be at a higher level(upper college)? Thank you.

  7. I’m supposed to write a thesis about the false portrayal of Los Angeles in Hollywood movies based on a documentary, “Los Angeles Plays Itself”. I can use parallel structure for the thesis or provide viewpoints where I agree and/or disagree.
    I have this so far: Hollywood has at times misrepresented Los Angeles, portraying it through stereotypes and through an overpriviledged viewpoint, such as movies showing urban violence, police brutality, racist stereotypes, and lavish lifestyles. For many decades, Los Angeles has struggled with racial tension, mass transportations issues, decline in housing, and social class disparities, which are exaggerated in films and has shaped some people’s perception of Los Angeles.

    • If your goal is to explain, you might want to specify instead of use vague phrases like “at times” and “some people.” If your goal is to argue a debatable claim, I’m not sure I see any room for an opposing viewpoint, since “at times” and “some people” are so vague. Does any rational person expect a Hollywood film to portray life accurately? Is it the job of an action movie or a comedy movie to be accurate? Why does it matter that Hollywood films exaggerate L.A.’s problems? Hollywood also exaggerates and distorts its portrayal of New York, the Midwest, the Deep South, etc.

      • Thank you! I’ll try to narrow it down and not be vague. I agree that Hollywood misrepresents other major cities & parts of the U.S. as well. Thank you, again.

  8. I need to figure out a thesis for my narrative essay. The professor does not want the paper more than 600 words, but I’m finding it difficult to incorporate a thesis statement in the midst of all the details of my first paragraph. Is there a formula I can use for developing a thesis for narration?

  9. Thanks, I was half asleep when working on parts of this so I couldn’t catch some of the common sense stuff like that.

  10. Working on my senior thesis, 20-25 pages on climate change. What I have so far is as follows:

    “The recent changes in global climate have had a drastic effect on each level of economic development (primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary) of developing and less-developed countries such as China and Thailand as they work to compete with the Core countries of the world. As a whole, the negative effects of climate change, believed to be a result of economic development of the Core, are having an effect that is further challenging their development.”

    I would definitely say it is meant to defend a view as many don’t believe in climate change, but at the same time, it is informative (i.e. climate change has lead to a, b and c.) I wont be surprised if you can’t give me alot of information due to some of the terms needing to be defined which I would plan to do in the actual paper, but I feel uncomfortable with some things such as the number of uses of develop in its various forms. I also feel that the second sentence is redundant, but cant work out how to combine the two to get around it.

  11. My essay question is, write an essay that summarizes the court case Marbury v Madison and explain the significance of judicial review. Any suggestions on a thesis statement for this?

    • I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the case you mention, but from the description of the assignment you provide, it appears your instructor wants you to demonstrate your knowledge, rather than come up with a new solution to a problem or defend a debatable claim.

      Of course, I won’t be the one evaluating your paper, so you should really check with your instructor, but from what I can tell, your thesis can be as simple as “Marbury v. Madison shows that judicial review is important for reasons A, B, and C.” You’d need to demonstrate that you understand the case and can restate its important points in your own words, you’d need to define judicial review, and you’d need to demonstrate that you understand why M v M has a strong enough connection to judicial review that your instructor is willing to spend the time reading through a stack of student papers on the topic.

  12. Poverty has a negative impact on a child’s educational attainment because it causes them to be highly discriminated against and in many cases they end up dropping out of school.

    • Would any rational person argue that poverty has a positive effect upon a child? If your instructor simply wants you to explain something, this thesis might be fine. If your instructor wants you to argue a point, I don’t see an argument here.

  13. The Engliah Civil War, the French Revolution and the American Revilution have contributed to democratic prinicples. That was my thesis, I need help to improve it thanks!

    • It really depends upon the kind of paper you been asked to write. If your teacher wants to check your knowledge, this structure will help you display your knowledge.

      If your instructor wants you to argue a point of view, this thesis wouldn’t be debatable. It looks fairly easy to prove, as long as you have accurate facts. A paper that provides evidence in favor of this uncontroversial point is less valuable than a paper that a rational person could debate (using evidence).

  14. rough thesis:
    Despite how times have changed, and how mankind has grown as a whole, classism is still a large issue due to the inequality for the working class, the system of values the culture has created, and the levels of prejudice pertaining to race.

    do you have any suggestions? I feel like it’s lacking but I don’t know what to change

    • Do you plan to include sections on how times have changed (over what period, and what sources are providing measurements that help you define the change) or how mankind has grown (same comment)? Large as compared to what? Who defines what “large” means? Does a culture have only one system of values? While race and class often go together, I’m not sure how the reference to race in the third point helps support a main idea about class.

      I would tell my own students that they should pick a specific essay (or law, or presidential speech, or court ruling) and focus on that specific text, explaining the three reasons why Jim Smith’s 1960 essay on class is (or is not) more divisive than it is progressive. Without a specific idea to resond to, a paper like this will quickly fill with generalities that don’t actually offer you the opportunity to demonstrate your critical thinking skills.

      As I always say in a situation like this, the instructor who created the assignment and will be grading it is the best person to help you — I don’t know how your instructor intends to evaluate your work, so I can only say what I would tell my own students.

      • My teacher only asked us to write an essay on one of the isms, including some examples from in class (hamlet, one of the short stories and a song he played) and I wanted to talk about how classism and racism connect but, clearly, im not getting it across. Im being too general, right? Do you think I should talk about classism and racism during a certain period of time and then talk about how it is currently?

        • I find students often start out too vague, so your instinct to get more specific is good. But I won’t be marking your paper, so you really should ask your instructor.

  15. Hello,

    My assignment is to write a persuasive essay on a topic of my choice. I decided on the topic should cigarettes be banned? After conducting research, I arrived at my thesis: Cigarettes should be illegal in the United States because they are highly addictive, cause serious health issues and premature death and their use imposes large financial costs to society. I want to make sure I can provide a sufficient argument. Therefore, what do you think of my thesis? Is it focused enough?

  16. Here is my research paper thesis. Tell me what you think.

    “Jamaican and Filipino domestic workers in Toronto face discrimination and Human Rights violations in all aspects of their job. Domestic workers are often categorized for duties based on the intersections of their race, class and gender. Domestic workers also face exploitation by their employers while being institutionally discriminated against thus causing them to internalize the stereotypes developed about them”

    • If you have been asked to demonstrate your knowledge by explaining something, this thesis is probably fine. If your assignment is do demonstrate your ability to defend a debatable position, this thesis is probably too obvious. But really, your instructor would be the best person to ask.

  17. I have to write a thesis statement for the poem “Apparently With No Surprise” by Emily Dickinson. Here’s what I have: The poem “Apparently With No Surprise” illustrates Dickinson’s reaction to nature by heavy use of personification.
    Any comments on how to make it better?

    • That’s a reasonable way to approach writing a thesis for a five-paragraph essay, but this document is about the thesis statement in general, so it doesn’t go into that kind of detail. Your instructor may have something specific in mind, so it would be best to check with him or her.

  18. Although college students are choosing safe fields with money-making potential, few or none at all are no longer choosing risky careers that will help society. More college students appear to be focusing on popularity, social power, and the reemerging popularity of fraternities and sororities, instead of focusing on choosing a life-long career. This is my thesis, I have to base it off of three sentences… What do you think?

    • Is it “few” or “none at all”? Those are very different claims. Who decides whether a career is “risky”? How will you measure whether something will “help society”? Watch out for the double negatives.

  19. Pingback: Essay 1 Drafting Workshop – Seminar in Thinking and Writing (LA101)

  20. i am writing about marital relationships in a selection of Neil Simon’s plays
    thesis statement: though the family institution and marriages are considered the most resistant institutions in the American society, these institutions faced sever changes; in their roles, construction, functions, and emotional aspects. these institutions also affected by the Great Depression, the Jazz Age and World War II, which in another consequence caused Simon to write about marital relationships and emphasize in his plays the need to choose the right person to marry and the importance of family since he grow up in a fragmented family during the depression and experienced 5 marriages of his own……………… So does my thesis statement seems clear and good?

    • You’ve certainly hit on an important theme in Simon, and in American drama in general — the nuclear family. Your plan to analyze 4 different aspects of marriage and cover 3 different historical time periods is ambitious — but that plan would be a paper all by itself, even if you never brought up Neil Simon.

      Without knowing the full details about what level class you’re taking, whether this is supposed to be a 3-page practice paper or a 50-page thesis, etc., I’ll just offer some quick responses to what I see.

      You say “the family institution and marriages are considered” — but who does the considering? Neil Simon? His critics? People completely unrelated to the question of what Neil Simon is doing in his plays? (This clutters up your thesis statement — focus on Simon’s plays, rather than the environment in which the author grew up.)

      The term “family institution and marriage” is pretty vague — it almost sounds as if you’re not sure you can go into sufficient depth about marriage, so you’ve slipped in “family institution” so you can talk about anything family related. There’s nothing really wrong with that, but once you’ve got your paper finished, make sure you go back and take out any references to topics that you didn’t have time to address. (I think you’ll find plenty on marriage.)

      Is there any evidence to support the counter-argument that the family does NOT change, or that the family is NOT affected by the eras you mention? How important is it, then, for you to PROVE these general statements about how marriage is affected by social forces? You could probably churn out several paragraphs on how the family unit changed over time, but those paragraphs wouldn’t demonstrate your ability to analyze a work of literature, so your literature instructor would probably not find those paragraphs very valuable.

      I often point out to my students that describing what it was like back in the day, looking for parallels between an author’s life and the lives of the characters, and pointing to the fact that a work explores a certain theme are all habits we fall back on to churn out paragraphs, but in a literature class your instructor wants you to analyze the literature, rather than do all those other things.

      Simon’s career spans decades, so it might be a good idea to take some specific plays he wrote early in his career, and some specific plays he wrote late in his career, and just focus on one, very narrow theme — how spouses use their children in battles against each other, or standing up to an abusive spouse, or the limits of forgiveness. Then, use differences between the early and late plays to support some claim about Simon’s dramatic technique, rather than using history and biography (with intermittent references to Simon’s plays) to support your claims about something that exists in the real world (marriage).

      So, instead of saying “This detail from the play illustrates this fact from the the real world” or “This thing that happens in the play is sort of like this thing that happened to Simon in real life,” try instead to say things like, “In his later plays, Simon’s mastery of dialogue allows him to invoke a more powerful, more complex mixture of bitterness and love in confrontations scenes between married couples, wheres in his earlier plays the marital relationships tend to be shallower because spousal confrontation scenes are undermined by dark humor and the threat of violence.”

      By the way, I have no idea if that’s true — I just made up a thesis that makes a strong claim about Simon’s plays, rather than a thesis that explores marriage itself.

      I’d say at this point that you should pick a small number of plays — maybe two of his first plays and two of his most recent plays, and read them, looking for references to an depictions of marriage. Then, start looking for patterns.

      Do all the plays feature overbearing men and silent women? Do the early plays show strong women as nasty and bitter, while the later plays show strong women as noble and generous? Does Simon show only one kind of marriage in the early plays, while in the later plays he has more than one marriage, so that he can explore a wider range of contrasting and conflicting themes?

    • Lola, I am sure your instructor has given you an assignment description, with the learning goal, how your work will be evaluated, and what reading to do before you try writing your thesis statement. So your instructor is really the best resource for you right now.

  21. I have to write a history paper that outlines from where we as the back of where we went, where are or where we are going. The paper must address the “where we went” portion by addressing Crossing the Line of Departure ends as Corps/Division task organization fell into uEx and UEy on the cusp of OEF/OIF beginning. I must address emerging technologies and their application to Signal support to Mission Command in future operation basically what is the future of ‘Battle Command on the Move as a secondary means to Crossing the Line of Departure’.

  22. i have to revise the title of my research “English Proficiency: It’s Effectiveness Towards Adequate Communication among graduating students of College of arts and Sciences”. Any revisions please… i really need it your advice. thank!

    • Someone who has read your paper is best prepared to give you feedback on your title, but it could use some proofreading. Proficiency and adequacy mean different things… someone who is proficient in English means they are much better than adequate, so its possible to have adequacy without proficiency, but the title seems to suggest you are studying whether proficient English leads to adequate communication. “It’s” means “it is.” I’m not sure what “effectiveness towards” means — there should probably be a word ending in -ing there… But as I don’t understand the content of the title, I can’t help you there. Standardize the capitalization, and check subject-verb agreement and articles. (Do you mean “a college” or “colleges”?)

  23. The introduction of a new religion in umuofia changes the traditional ibo culture and saves the umuofia generation.

    i am writing a thesis for things fall apart. topic religious conclict

    • That depends on your assignment. If you are being asked to demonstrate that you understand the plot, then it’s probably fine.

      If you are asked to interpret an ambiguous passage, to identify a debatable claim that a reasonable person could find evidence for and against, and explain why the evidence in favor of your interpretation outweighs the evidence against it, then your thesis (which seems too obviously “correct” to demonstrate your ability to interpret a complex and multi-sided issue) may be a little thin.

  24. Thesis statement:
    Disasters and Traumatic events effect a child’s psychological, cognitive, physical and social development because of their developmental stage, parental reactions,and resiliency during the event.

    I have to write a 10-15 page paper on any topic in child development so i chose disasters and traumatic events, i found it effects a childs psych., cognitive, physical, and social developments. I also wanted to include that the way a parent is effected also matters on the childs development, and the childs resiliency, and the childs developmental stage at the time of the incidents.

    • That’s a very clear start, showing that you understand the concept.

      disasters and traumatic events the same thing, or different? If they are the same, do you need to use both terms? If they are different, do you need to explain the difference?

      If your assignment is to persuade, or explore a controversial topic and cite vidence to explain why you choose one side over another, then I’m not sure that this thesis makes a claim that is worth arguing about. Are you supposed to explain why one particular author is better than a different author at helping readers understand this difference? Are you explaining how the profession’s understanding of this concept has changed in the last few decades? Are you arguing for against some specific controversial therapy? But that depends on what your instructor wants you to write.

      You might want to look up the definition of “effect.”

      • You are right i think they are the same so i could just use one instead of both. Were supposed to support our topic with 10 empirical journal articles. So i guess i’m trying to support that disasters effect a child’s development using 10 different researchers evidence. so, children’s development is effected by disasters because these 10 researchers have found that it does.

        • Are there any sources that say disasters DON’T have any impact on kids? If not, then what will the last 9 sources prove that the first one didn’t prove? What is an opposing view that a rational person could defend with evidence, but that your research tells you is incorrect? At this point I’d say you should start looking for and reading those 10 sources. (And don’t forget to look up the proper use of “effect”.)

  25. I have to write a 7-10 page paper comparing and contrasting Egyptian culture with american culture. I have no idea how to even make a thesis statement for this paper. Please help!

    • Hi Amanda
      I assume that you already know American culture. If you don’t know anything about Egyptian culture, you should do little research but If you do know both American and Egyptian cultures, you should outline the similarities and differences in two cultures then compare two similar or different viewpoints. You should start writing the body first before writing the introduction and the conclusion.

  26. Author Khaled Hosseini uses both euphemism and conflict to represent the redemption Amir seeks for the wrong doings thought his childhood.

    So this is a thesis statement that I’m using for my Analytic essay writing about a theme and two literary devices he used to get his point across. Is it good?

    • Very clear and focused. Does the assignment expect you to make a debatable claim, exploring opposing/alternative views? Could a rational person find credible evidence against your claim, or is the claim so obviously “correct” that nobody would doubt it? Is your claim too obvious? I haven’t read the work you mention, so you’ll have to answer that yourself.

  27. topic;Should citizens under the age of 21 be required to pass a driving education course before receiving a license?

    Thesis:Citizens under the age of 21 should be required to pass a driving education course before receiving a license to drive because they would learn the proper way to drive,there would be fewer accidents, and the new rule would create jobs.

  28. thank u vry much goooooooooooooooooooooooooood but i dont ungerstang the kind of introduction in essay .. final ………………………..

  29. I feel that Online courses are better than traditional classes due to you get to make your own schedule. this is my thesis any suggestions?

    • Drop the “I feel.” Your feelings aren’t a matter open for intellectual debate — either you feel that way or you don’t.

      Are there other reasons besides just the schedule? What about an opposing view? “Although online classes have drawbacks A and B, students who have qualities P and Q will be able to keep A and B in check, and are thus ready to benefit from the X, Y, and Z that make online classes a better choice.”

      The word “better” is vague. So what if the class is more convenient if it’s so easy to cheat that students don’t actually learn, or it’s so easy to fall behind (because you set your own schedule that involves planning to do 15 weeks of work in the last 5 days of the semester), or you live in a part of the world that doesn’t have access to technology, etc. etc.

  30. im currently doing an online classes and i have trouble with writting an essay: the introducton part and the thesies statement and body paragraph

    • I would suggest you spend 15 minutes pouring out your thoughts on whatever your topic is, then circle or highlight your best ideas, and use them to come up with a preliminary thesis. You should have a good idea what your thesis is before you start writing out your final draft– but a lot of writing and rewriting happens before your final draft.

  31. For my thesis on homelessness, would this be okay: Homelessness is a growing problem around the world with the major cause being poverty. In order to prevent homelessness there needs to be more options suitable for low income families.

    Does that make sense?

  32. For my thesis on homelessness, would this be okay: Homelessness is a growing problem around the world with the major cause being poverty. In order to prevent homelessness there needs to be more options suitable for low income families.

  33. I love this site and it is very useful. Mr. Jerz, can you read the following paragraphs and comment on my thesis statement?

    Concise Review of Literature:
    The general usages of טוב in the Old Testament have been studied in two ways: first, by analogy with the use of its cognate in the ancient treaty/covenant documents in Aramaic and Akkadian, and, second, by a study of its usages within the Scripture itself. The former has identified טוב as “friendship” made by treaty and even as a synonym of “covenant.” And the latter provides many different definitions based on its in various contexts: (a) an expression of suitability for a purpose; (b) an indication of quality; (c) a positive characterization of people; (d) a positive evaluation of decisions in wisdom literature; and (e) good in contrast to wicked, etc.

    A Research Question:
    Given the above information, the research question for this study is: Does טוב in Books I-III have the same connotations as both in the ancient Near Eastern and in the general analysis of the term in the theological dictionaries without any difference? If not, how different connotation and function does it have and play in Books I-III? If this study shows that טוב is used in a different dimension, the horizon of our understanding of Books I-III will be further expanded.

    Thesis Statement:
    This study will argue that the term טוב in Books I-III is to be understood in light of not only covenant but also wisdom. To demonstrate this thesis, this dissertation will analyze all word pairs/collocations—paradigmatic or syntagmatic—and various kinds of parallelisms in its semantic fields, and all possible intertextual associations pertinent to the term טוב and their interactions within Books I-III.

    Debatable points:
    1. Has טוב in Books I-III to do with the concept of covenant as in the above literature review?
    2. Is טוב in Books I-III also concerned with wisdom and does it play any canonical function within the books?

    • That phrase “is to be understood” sounds like a commandment from on high, rather than a position supported by evidence. “Option X is preferable to option Y, because X avoids problems A, B, and C (which are linked to Y), and also leads to extra benefits P and Q (which are impossible with Y).”

      That exact pattern may not work for you, and there is no need to jam it all into one sentence, but the idea is to emphasize your reasoning, so the reader voluntarily accepts your point of view.

    • Who, specifically, is making the mistake of taking child abuse lightly, or mistakenly acting as if child abuse is only physical abuse? Whose actions or statements need to be corrected? The more specific you can be, the better.

      I might come up with very good reasons to explain why people should not put live eels into their ice cream, but unless I have evidence that an influential person is telling people to put live eels into their ice cream, or large numbers of people have shown up in emergency rooms covered in chocolate sauce and suffering from eel bites, there is no particular need to write a whole paper to convince people not to do that.

      Of course, this all depends on the purpose of your assignment… if your instructor is OK with you writing a paper that explains the impact of child abuse, or that explores the different segments of society that are responsible, then that may be all you need. In that case, you might want to look at the tips on this page:

      This web page is devoted specifically to the instructions I give to college students who are doing academic research papers — and that means referring to recent scholarly / scientific studies that present original research on current topics. So, based on the way I would grade such a paper, I’d say your thesis would be stronger if it cited a specific case of the problem you want to avoid, or a particular scholarly study that counted, analyzed, or otherwise measured the frequency and impact of the problem.

  34. Hi,I am looking for a thesis statement for Child abuse, actually a blueprint thesis especially. Can you give an example paper due tomorrow.

      • How many more must die? The issue of child abuse is of utmost importance because children cannot speak for themselves. Child abuse is when a parent or guardian causes or allows a child to suffer neglect, physical, emotional and sexual harm.Child abuse creates a sense of hopelessness,a high crime rate and a breakdown in society. Who is to blame? Parents or the lack of protective laws and legislation.

        • Try “neglect, physical, emotional and/or sexual…”

          You can’t actually provide a number to answer your opening question… I would tell my own students to stick mostly with facts, as it’s a bigger intellectual accomplishment to defend a debatable point with statistics than it is to get someone else to share your moral outrage. No rational person would ever argue “child abuse is good,” because by definition “abuse” is bad, so a paper that develops from this thesis will likely be one-sided. A more debatable claim might be “parents whose preschool daughters compete in beauty pageants should be prosecuted as child abusers” or “the public school system is so effective (or ineffective) that parents who don’t use it (or do use it) should be considered child abusers.”

          I don’t say that I personally believe any of those statements, or that it would be possible to prove any of them, I am just demonstrating how to make your thesis more debatable.

        • You could turn “parents are more at fault than legislators” or the opposite into your main thesis, but you would have to do the research first and then decide, rather than make the decision now based on your gut feeling and then expect to be able to “find quotes” to support an opinion you pulled from the air.

          • Thanks Dennis, but what about this approach. Child abuse does not only constitute physical abuse, but neglect, emotional and/or sexual abuse as well. The issue of child abuse should be not be taken lightly because children cannot speak for themselves.High crime rate and the breakdown in society are some of the factors that stem from child abuse. Parents and legislators are both at fault for this problem that continues unabated.

  35. i need help quickly.! how do i do a thesisstatement about the colorado rivers present, past, and future.?
    its due tmrw.!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. hi, i am confused on what my thesis staement should be for my racism essay?. my teacher told us it needs to be 10 pages in length. I have read alot of novels that are racially influenced. my plan was to describe some of the characters and how each displays racism..

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