Thesis statement

Essays that involve the development of an argument all require a thesis. This is the point you are arguing or the side you are taking in the argument.  Your opinion will be implicit in the thesis statement.   The topic is your subject, but the thesis is your standpoint on that subject.  Your essay will provide convincing evidence to support the thesis.  Of course your thesis may change as your research progresses and you begin to gather new information.

Once you have chosen your topic, you can begin to formulate your thesis by thinking closely about it.  One way to develop a thesis is to ask yourself questions about the topic and to focus on a central issue or problem which the topic raises.  Your answer to this question will be your thesis.

Once you have a thesis, sharpen it into a concise statement.  The thesis statement will usually appear in the introduction of your essay, and is best expressed in one sentence as a definition of your position, or the point you intend to prove in your essay.  A good thesis statement will help organise your essay and give it direction.  It is the central idea around which the rest of the essay is built.

The ideal thesis (like the topic itself) will be neither too broad nor too narrow.  One common problem with essays is that they are based on a thesis that is too obvious to be worth arguing: a truism.

Here are some examples of possible theses:

Example 1: Specific topic:

How pressure from the family and the peer group promote drug taking in youths

A thesis that is a truism:

Drug dealers attempt to sell their products to young people.

A thesis that is too broad:

There are many types of drugs that young people can become addicted to.  (This thesis is likely to produce an essay that is simply a shopping list of examples.)

Too limited:

Heroin and cocaine are addictive.

A better thesis:

Today’s youth can suffer stress which can lead them to drug taking, and in order to reduce this, the authorities should concern themselves with the underlying causes rather than the results.

Example 2: Specific topic:

The effect of global warming on low-lying islands and their people

A thesis that is a truism:

Rising sea levels are bad for low-lying islands.

A thesis that is too broad:

There are many causes of global warming which will affect people on low-lying islands.  (This thesis is likely to produce an essay that is simply a shopping list of examples.)

Too limited:

CFCs should be banned to help stop global warming around the world

A better thesis:

People living on low-lying islands such as the Maldives may be forced to leave and seek refuge in another country which may, in turn, cause economic problems for the host country.