What is a thesis?
A thesis statement declares
what you believe and what you intend to prove A good thesis statement makes the difference between a thoughtful research project
and a simple retelling of facts.
A good tentative thesis will
help you focus your Search for information. But don’t rush! You must do a Jot of background reading before you know
enough about a subject to identify key or essential questions You may not know how you stand on an issue until you have examined
the evidence You will likely-begin your research with a working, preliminary or tentative thesis which you will continue to
refine until you are certain of where the evidence leads.
The thesis statement is typically
located at the end of your opening paragraph. (The opening paragraph serves to set the context for the thesis.)
Remember, your reader will
be looking for your thesis Make it dear, strong, and easy to find.
Attributes of a good thesis:
• It should be contestable,
proposing an arguable point with which people could reasonably disagree. A strong thesis is provocative; it takes a stand
and justifies the discussion you will present.
• It tackles a subject
that could be adequately covered in the format of the project assigned
• It is specific and
focused A strong thesis proves a point without discussing “everything about …” Instead of “music,” think “American jazz in the 1930s” and your argument about
• It dearly asserts
your own conclusion based on evidence Note: Be flexible. The evidence may lead you to a conclusion you didn’t think
you’d reach. It is perfectly okay to change your thesis!
• It provides the reader
with a map to guide him/her through your work
• It anticipates and
refutes the counter-arguments
• It avoids vague language
(like “It seems”).
• It avoids the first
person (“I believe,” “In my opinion”)
* It should pass the “So
what?” or “Who cares?” test (Would your most honest friend ask why he should care or respond with “but
everyone knows that”?) For instance, “people should avoid driving under the influence of alcohol,” would
be unlikely to evoke any opposition.
How do you know if you’ve
got a solid tentative thesis?
Try these five tests:
• Does the thesis inspire
a reasonable reader to ask, “How?’ or Why?
• Would a reasonable
reader NOT respond with “Duh!” or “So what? or “Gee, no kidding?’ or “Who cares?”
the thesis avoid general phrasing and/or sweeping words such as “all” or “none” or “every”?
• Does the thesis lead
the reader toward the topic sentences (the subtopics needed to prove the thesis)?
* Can the thesis be adequately
developed in the required length of the paper or project?
If you cannot answer ‘YES”
to these questions, what changes must you make in order for your thesis to pass these tests?