A thesis statement is a sentence (or sentences) that expresses the main ideas of your paper and answers the question or questions posed by your paper. It offers a quick and easy-to-follow summary of what the paper will be discussing and what you as a writer are setting out to tell them. The kind of thesis that your paper will have will depend on the purpose of your writing.
In an analytical paper, you are breaking down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluating the issue or idea, and presenting this breakdown and evaluation to your audience. An analytical thesis statement will explain what you are analyzing, the parts of your analysis, and the order in which you will be presenting your analysis.
Example: An analysis of barn owl flight behavior reveals two kinds of flight patterns: patterns related to hunting prey and patterns related to courtship.
A reader who encountered that thesis in a paper would expect an explanation of the analysis of barn owl flight behavior, and then an explanation of the two kinds of flight patterns.
Questions to consider when writing an analytical thesis statement:
In an expository paper, you are explaining something to your audience. An expository thesis statement will tell your audience:
Example: The lifestyles of barn owls include hunting for insects and animals, building nests, and raising their young.
A reader who encountered that thesis would expect the paper to explain how barn owls hunt for insects, build nests, and raise young.
Questions to consider when writing an expository thesis statement:
In an argumentative paper, you are making a claim about a topic and justifying this claim with reasons and evidence. This claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. However, this claim must be a statement that people could possibly disagree with, because the goal of your paper is to convince your audience that your claim is true based on your presentation of your reasons and evidence. An argumentative thesis statement will tell your audience:
Example: Barn owls' nests should not be eliminated from barns because barn owls help farmers by eliminating insect and rodent pests.
A reader who encountered this thesis would expect to be presented with an argument and evidence that farmers should not get rid of barn owls when they find them nesting in their barns.
Questions to consider when writing an argumentative thesis statement:
* Remember that a good thesis statement in any type of paper takes a stand and is specific. Avoid vague language or simply stating an obvious fact. For example, you would not want your thesis to be: "Barn owls live in barns."
Courtesy of Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), http://owl.english.purdue.edu.
Last updated: May 2011