How to write a thesis statement

Writing an impressive thesis statement

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is important as it summarises your overall argument in one (possibly two) sentence. As such, it requires a great deal of thought, and after writing your thesis you will probably need to return to the thesis statement and amend it.  

A thesis statement is part of the introduction

The introduction typically begins with a short general statement of fact that aims to attract the reader’s attention. The reader is then provided with an explanation as to how the argument that forms the basis of your thesis will be developed, the range and type of literature that has been cited, and what research has been undertaken. It may also give a pointer to the conclusions that are going to be drawn and any recommendations that may be made. This is then followed by the thesis statement. However, it can sometimes be more logical to include the thesis statement immediately after the initial statement of fact.  

In a thesis you are answering a question

 When writing a thesis, you are setting yourself a question to which you will provide an answer through research. To reach this point, you will first need to cite some relevant evidence, as this will form the basis of the argument you present. This will demonstrate your analytical skills and reasoning abilities. Once you have reached a conclusion, you can then present a concise summary of your argument in the form of a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is argumentative rather than factual

This is extremely important. A thesis statement that is purely factual is weak, readers need to be challenged by what you say. Although they may strongly disagree with your argument, you are trying to demonstrate your skills of reasoning and the ability to construct an argument. You cannot, of course, challenge a known fact or treat it as though it were a debatable issue. Conversely, it therefore follows that you cannot present a contentious or controversial argument as though it were a known fact. You need to quote evidence in support of your argument and it is this that constitutes the rationale for your research.

A thesis statement must be clear

In a thesis statement, you are trying to condense your argument into one short statement, even though it may include several elements. You should therefore ensure that your thesis statement is clear and easily understandable.  

Examples of good and bad thesis statements

Example 1:

The COVID-19 pandemic is a serious cause of concern for every country in the world.

Factual — a poor thesis statement as this is a widely known and accepted state of affairs. It leaves the researcher with no obvious avenue of exploration.

Universal testing and mandatory vaccination is the only way to resolve the COVID-19 pandemic.

Controversial — a good thesis statement as this is not accepted fact; indeed, it is a highly contested issue that as yet has no definitive resolution. 

Example 2:

In major cities, traffic congestion is caused by a large number of people travelling to work by car.

Factual — a poor thesis statement. Although this cause could be open to challenge (there may be others), it is not especially controversial and does not suggest any obvious paths that could be pursued as part of a research project.

Governments should consider giving tax benefits to those who travel to work by public transport.

Controversial — a good thesis statement as it is a highly controversial suggestion that clearly requires evidential support.  

Example 3

Many people now bank online and are increasingly using digital payments for buying goods and services.

Factual — a poor thesis statement. Again, this is a relatively uncontroversial statement that is unlikely to capture the reader’s interest.

Within a decade, we will be a cashless society.

Controversial — a good thesis statement as this is a controversial claim with serious implications were it to be true. It not only requires evidential support, it presents this as highly necessary. 

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