Writers Workshop: Writer Resources
Writing Tips: Thesis Statements
Defining the Thesis Statement
What is a thesis statement?
Every paper you write should have a main point, a main idea, or central message. The argument(s) you make in your paper should reflect this main idea. The sentence that captures your position on this main idea is what we call a thesis statement.
How long does it need to be?
A thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should present the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in relation to the topic. Your thesis statement should tell your reader what the paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument focused.
Questions to Ask When Formulating Your Thesis
Where is your thesis statement?
You should provide a thesis early in your essay -- in the introduction, or in longer essays in the second paragraph -- in order to establish your position and give your reader a sense of direction.
Tip: In order to write a successful thesis statement:
- Avoid burying a great thesis statement in the middle of a paragraph or late in the paper.
- Be as clear and as specific as possible; avoid vague words.
- Indicate the point of your paper but avoid sentence structures like, “The point of my paper is…”
Is your thesis statement specific?
Your thesis statement should be as clear and specific as possible. Normally you will continue to refine your thesis as you revise your argument(s), so your thesis will evolve and gain definition as you obtain a better sense of where your argument is taking you.
Tip: Check your thesis:
- Are there two large statements connected loosely by a coordinating conjunction (i.e. "and," "but," "or," "for," "nor," "so," "yet")?
- Would a subordinating conjunction help (i.e. "through," "although," "because," "since") to signal a relationship between the two sentences?
- Or do the two statements imply a fuzzy unfocused thesis?
- If so, settle on one single focus and then proceed with further development.
Is your thesis statement too general?
Your thesis should be limited to what can be accomplished in the specified number of pages. Shape your topic so that you can get straight to the "meat" of it. Being specific in your paper will be much more successful than writing about general things that do not say much. Don't settle for three pages of just skimming the surface.
The opposite of a focused, narrow, crisp thesis is a broad, sprawling, superficial thesis. Compare this original thesis (too general) with three possible revisions (more focused, each presenting a different approach to the same topic):
- Original thesis:
- There are serious objections to today's horror movies.
- Revised theses:
- Because modern cinematic techniques have allowed filmmakers to get more graphic, horror flicks have desensitized young American viewers to violence.
- The pornographic violence in "bloodbath" slasher movies degrades both men and women.
- Today's slasher movies fail to deliver the emotional catharsis that 1930s horror films did.
Is your thesis statement clear?
Your thesis statement is no exception to your writing: it needs to be as clear as possible. By being as clear as possible in your thesis statement, you will make sure that your reader understands exactly what you mean.
Tip: In order to be as clear as possible in your writing:
- Unless you're writing a technical report, avoid technical language. Always avoid jargon, unless you are confident your audience will be familiar with it.
- Avoid vague words such as "interesting,” "negative," "exciting,” "unusual," and "difficult."
- Avoid abstract words such as "society," “values,” or “culture.”
These words tell the reader next to nothing if you do not carefully explain what you mean by them. Never assume that the meaning of a sentence is obvious. Check to see if you need to define your terms (”socialism," "conventional," "commercialism," "society"), and then decide on the most appropriate place to do so. Do not assume, for example, that you have the same understanding of what “society” means as your reader. To avoid misunderstandings, be as specific as possible.
Compare the original thesis (not specific and clear enough) with the revised version (much more specific and clear):
- Original thesis: Although the timber wolf is a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated. [if it's so timid and gentle -- why is it being exterminated?]
- Revised thesis: Although the timber wolf is actually a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated because people wrongfully believe it to be a fierce and cold-blooded killer.
Does your thesis include a comment about your position on the issue at hand?
The thesis statement should do more than merely announce the topic; it must reveal what position you will take in relation to that topic, how you plan to analyze/evaluate the subject or the issue. In short, instead of merely stating a general fact or resorting to a simplistic pro/con statement, you must decide what it is you have to say.
- Avoid merely announcing the topic; your original and specific "angle" should be clear. In this way you will tell your reader why your take on the issue matters.
- Original thesis: In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
- Revised thesis: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.
- Avoid making universal or pro/con judgments that oversimplify complex issues.
- Original thesis: We must save the whales.
- Revised thesis: Because our planet's health may depend upon biological diversity, we should save the whales.
- When you make a (subjective) judgment call, specify and justify your reasoning. “Just because” is not a good reason for an argument.
- Original thesis: Socialism is the best form of government for Kenya.
- Revised thesis: If the government takes over industry in Kenya, the industry will become more efficient.
- Avoid merely reporting a fact. Say more than what is already proven fact. Go further with your ideas. Otherwise… why would your point matter?
- Original thesis: Hoover's administration was rocked by scandal.
- Revised thesis: The many scandals of Hoover's administration revealed basic problems with the Republican Party's nominating process.
Do not expect to come up with a fully formulated thesis statement before you have finished writing the paper. The thesis will inevitably change as you revise and develop your ideas—and that is ok! Start with a tentative thesis and revise as your paper develops.
Is your thesis statement original?
Avoid, avoid, avoid generic arguments and formula statements. They work well to get a rough draft started, but will easily bore a reader. Keep revising until the thesis reflects your real ideas.
Tip: The point you make in the paper should matter:
- Be prepared to answer “So what?” about your thesis statement.
- Be prepared to explain why the point you are making is worthy of a paper. Why should the reader read it?
Compare the following:
- Original thesis:
- There are advantages and disadvantages to using statistics. (a fill-in-the-blank formula)
- Revised theses:
- Careful manipulation of data allows a researcher to use statistics to support any claim she desires.
- In order to ensure accurate reporting, journalists must understand the real significance of the statistics they report.
- Because advertisers consciously and unconsciously manipulate data, every consumer should learn how to evaluate statistical claims.
Avoid formula and generic words. Search for concrete subjects and active verbs, revising as many "to be" verbs as possible. A few suggestions below show how specific word choice sharpens and clarifies your meaning.
- Original: “Society is...” [who is this "society" and what exactly is it doing?]
- Revised: "Men and women will learn how to...," "writers can generate...," "television addicts may chip away at...," "American educators must decide...," "taxpayers and legislators alike can help fix..."
- Original: "the media"
- Revised: "the new breed of television reporters," "advertisers," "hard-hitting print journalists," "horror flicks," "TV movies of the week," "sitcoms," "national public radio," "Top 40 bop-til-you-drop..."
- Original: "is, are, was, to be" or "to do, to make"
- Revised: any great action verb you can concoct: "to generate," "to demolish," "to batter," "to revolt," "to discover," "to flip," "to signify," "to endure..."
Use your own words in thesis statements; avoid quoting. Crafting an original, insightful, and memorable thesis makes a distinct impression on a reader. You will lose credibility as a writer if you become only a mouthpiece or a copyist; you will gain credibility by grabbing the reader with your own ideas and words.
A well-crafted thesis statement reflects well-crafted ideas. It signals a writer who has intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm.
Let’s pretend you wrote the following as a working thesis statement for your persuasive essay:
Global climate change has been debated for many years.
Do you think this is a persuasive thesis statement? (HINT: Say “no”!)
- NO: The thesis statement is a fact. It is not persuasive and not debatable.
If you answered “yes” and felt the thesis was persuasive, or if you answered “no” but couldn’t explain why the thesis isn’t effective, you might want to take time to review the basics of a thesis statement.
If you answered “no” and understand exactly why the above thesis isn’t persuasive, it’s probably a good idea to review thesis statements anyway. (After all, a little review never hurt anyone, right?)
If you just need a brief refresher on the finer points of a thesis statement, here are a few quick facts:
30 Persuasive Thesis Statement Examples
Now that you’ve reviewed thesis statement basics, let’s look at the examples. In this post, I’ve provided 30 persuasive essay topics and corresponding persuasive thesis statement examples.
I’ve also included links to example essays to provide a bit of writing inspiration. (If you’d like to see the information in table format, click the link at the end of this list.)
As you review these topics and persuasive thesis statement examples, keep this in mind: when you’re writing a persuasive essay, your thesis statement should attempt to convince your audience of your point of view.
In other words, it needs to be debatable. So as you write your own thesis statement, consider your stance on the subject and how you might craft a thesis statement that’s appropriate for your own essay.
Now on to those 30 persuasive thesis statement examples I promised!
1. Is a college education necessary?
A college education is not the right choice for everyone, as many students graduate with a large amount of student debt and limited job opportunities.
2. Does Facebook (or other forms of social media) create isolation?
College students who overuse Facebook may have interactive online lives, but in reality, they are more isolated than ever because they are missing out on true face-to-face interaction with their peers.
3. Should guns be permitted on college campuses?
Guns should not be permitted on college campuses due to the increased likelihood of violence and criminal activity.
4. Do kids benefit if everyone on the team receives a trophy?
Handing out trophies to everyone on a team has created a generation of children who feel entitled.
5. Is society too dependent on technology?
Due to increasing over-dependence on technology, many people struggle to think for themselves.
6. Should all high school students be required to complete parenting classes?
In order to both educate teens about life as a parent and to help prevent teenage pregnancy, high school students should be required to complete parenting classes.
7. Does the school day start too early?
Starting the school day at a later time will help increase students’ attentiveness because they will get more sleep and be more alert and focused in class.
8. Should the minimum wage be increased?
With the cost of living continually rising, minimum wage must be raised to help workers out of poverty.
9. Should elementary schools teach cursive handwriting?
Though many elementary schools no longer teach cursive handwriting, it is still an essential form of communication that should be taught in schools.
10. Should childhood vaccinations be mandatory?
Childhood vaccinations should be mandatory, as they are safe, reduce the risk of illness, and protect other people from contagious diseases.
11. Are security cameras an invasion of privacy?
Though security cameras are a necessary and valued part of society, strict regulations need to be mandated in order to maintain citizens’ rights to privacy.
12. Should citizens be allowed to keep exotic pets?
People should not be allowed to keep exotic pets, as it is unhealthy for the animal, dangerous for the owner, and dangerous for the community.
13. Should a relaxed dress code be allowed in the workplace?
A relaxed dress code is not appropriate in many business offices because it creates a relaxed and casual atmosphere that may cause customers to lose confidence in the business.
14. Is it ethical to sentence juveniles as adults?
Adolescents’ brains are not fully developed, and they are not yet capable of making adult decisions; thus, adolescents should not be sentenced as adults.
15. Should corporations be allowed to advertise in schools?
Advertising should not be allowed in public schools as it perpetuates a perceived importance on materialism.
16. Should public transportation be free for all residents of a city?
Free public transportation is a key step in reducing unemployment rates.
17. Is professional football too dangerous for players?
Due to recent discoveries about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the rules of professional football need to change in order to protect players’ health.
18. Should minors be allowed to get tattoos (if they have parental permission)?
Even with parental permission, minors should not be allowed to get tattoos, as minors are likely to later regret the choice as adults.
19. Should fracking be banned?
Due to the environmental damage it causes, fracking should be banned.
20. Should a college education be free for everyone?
Though some argue that free college education will increase graduation rates, in actuality, free tuition will have little impact on the present rates of graduation.
21. Should all violence be banned from children’s programming?
Evidence indicates that children mimic and internalize television programming, and because viewing violence can affect their emotional health, children’s programming should not contain any form of violence.
22. Should the paparazzi be required to give celebrities some amount of privacy?
Though the paparazzi should be allowed to photograph celebrities in public places, they should respect the right of celebrities not to be filmed on private property.
23. Does the US welfare system need to be reformed?
Due to the rampant abuse of welfare benefits by recipients, welfare needs to be reformed to create temporary, rather than permanent, assistance programs for those in need.
24. Should bilingual education be implemented in more schools across the US?
In order to help children learn English yet value their native languages, bilingual education should be implemented in schools across the United States.
25. Should students be required to volunteer in their communities in order to graduate from high school?
Though some students claim they do not have time to volunteer, being a volunteer teaches students compassion, empathy, and the importance of civic engagement, and should be required for high school graduation.
26. Is the fast food industry to blame for childhood obesity?
Though fast food is often high in calories and low in nutritional content, people cannot blame obesity on the fast food industry; individuals must be responsible for their own diets.
27. Can schools prevent cyber bullying?
Even though schools can educate children and regulate technology within the school, children and teens have access to technology outside of the classroom, making it almost impossible for the education system to truly stop cyber bullying.
28. Is an online education as good as a traditional education?
An online education is just as valuable as a traditional education, as online courses include the same content as traditional classes and have the added advantage of teaching students the importance of time management.
29. Should stem cell research be permitted?
Because of the enormous potential to both treat disease and save lives, embryonic stem cell research should not only be permitted but should also receive additional funding.
30. Should pet stores be required to sell rescue animals?
In order to stop the inhumane practices of breeders and reduce overcrowding in animal shelters, pet stores should be required to sell cats and dogs from adoption centers or shelters.
Click here to download this list of persuasive thesis statements as a PDF table.
Time to Write!
You’ve reviewed thesis statements. You’ve reviewed persuasive essays and persuasive essay topics. You’ve even reviewed persuasive thesis statement examples (and maybe even read some additional thesis examples).
Now the only things left are to choose your topic, craft your thesis, and begin prewriting and drafting.
If you need additional thesis statement help before you begin writing, check out these resources:
Remember: Kibin editors are always willing to review your paper (and your thesis statement).
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.