The Thesis Statement

The thesis statement serves at the controlling idea of the paper. It represents the entire argument or analysis, distilled into one or two condensed sentences. As such, the thesis statement must be

  • focused. The topic cannot be too broad for a short paper, nor beyond the research capabilities of the author.
  • analytical, or interpretive. It cannot be a mere statement of fact, nor merely a statement of opinion. It should instead capture the best of your creative analytical thinking.
  • unified. Avoid listing components of your coming analysis! The “list” type of thesis statement promises doom in the form of a fragmented paper. You may have been taught long ago to select a topic and come up with three ideas about it. Hence you had five-paragraph essays (introduction, three ideas, conclusion) — peachy long ago when teachers wanted you to learn structure, but now we move onto more sophisticated and impressive writing.
  • well-stated. It should be full but concise, gaining its authoritative force from its precision and uniqueness. Avoid slang and cliché phrases.

In addition, ideal thesis statements tend to be

  • original, and
  • promising. Try to reach beyond the run-of-the-mill kinds of interpretation. If you have done careful observation and reasoning, and can convey these in the paper, you can go beyond the norm in your thesis statement. The best kind of thesis statement ought to raise eyebrows.

Do not ask unanswered questions in your thesis paragraph that you misguidedly think can take the place of the actual statement (e.g., “But what is the real significance of the film Planet of Dinosaurs? Hmmm.”).

Don’t be coy and withhold your idea in the foolish hope that you will intrigue your readers at first and surprise them later (e.g., “The real significance of the film Planet of Dinosaurs is quite interesting!”).

And, don’t state in stilted, wooden fashion what the paper will do (e.g., “This paper will examine four different aspects about Mattel’s ‘Let’s Get Anorexic’ board game.”). Just make the statement!