Writing A Thesis Statement And Outline

Hungry for tacos?  Feel like you can’t fully concentrate on your writing assignment until you make a trip for a late-night snack?

As tempting as a few tacos and a burrito sound right now, don’t rush to satisfy your cravings just yet.

Instead continue reading, as this blog post contains important information you’ll need to write that paper—in particular, how to write a thesis statement in 5 simple steps.  This blog post discusses tacos, too, so that alone should give you incentive to keep reading!

What’s the Purpose of a Thesis Statement?

The short answer

The purpose of a thesis statement is to inform readers of:

  • the subject of your paper.
  • your claim (or opinion) of the topic.

The longer answer

A thesis statement generally appears at the end of the introductory paragraph; it tells your readers what you’re writing about and tells your readers your opinion of the topic.  The thesis essentially serves as a mini outline for the paper.

A thesis statement is necessary to focus your paper.  It helps you articulate your ideas and helps readers understand the purpose of your paper.

Don’t think you really need an effective thesis?  Think again!

Have you ever read the first one or two paragraphs of a paper and wondered, “What’s the point?” or “So what?”

Has someone ever read one of your papers and said, “I don’t get it.  What’s this paper about?”

If so, chances are the paper is missing a thesis statement.  Without a thesis statement, readers are less likely to understand the main point (or focus) of the paper and are less likely to keep reading.

5 Essential Steps to Writing a Thesis Statement

Okay, so here’s where we talk tacos.

No, tacos aren’t part of essay writing or thesis statement writing…though they can be.  It’s always good to maintain your strength, and you shouldn’t write on an empty stomach, so feel free to make that trip for tacos after reading this post.

First, let’s go through the five essential steps of how to write a thesis statement.

How to write a thesis statement step #1: Pick a topic

To write an effective thesis statement, you first need a topic for your paper.

Today’s paper topic:  Taco Bell.

Now that you have a topic for your paper, think about what you want to say about the topic.

This is where you’ll begin to develop an effective thesis statement.

How to write a thesis statement step #2: Be specific

Let’s say you started developing your ideas with the following working thesis:  A lot of people go to Taco Bell.  

The first problem with this thesis is that it’s not specific at all.  Ask yourself “Who goes to Taco Bell?”  Ask “Why do they go to Taco Bell?”

Let’s try again:College students often go to Taco Bell late at night because it’s open 24 hours.

This time, you’ve managed to be a bit more specific, but readers are still going to say, “So what?” You’ve included a topic, but you haven’t yet included your opinion about the topic.

Let’s move on to the third component and revise again.

How to write a thesis statement step #3: Be arguable

Our most recent revision (College students often go to Taco Bell late at night because it’s open 24 hours) doesn’t provide any form of argument.  It’s merely a statement.

Think about how you could create an argument about Taco Bell.  What is it you want to say about Taco Bell?

Pretend you and a group of friends are sitting around late at night trying to think of where you should go to eat.  A friend mentions another fast food restaurant, but you argue for Taco Bell. What would you say to convince your friend that you should eat there?

Let’s try thesis statement revision #2:College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around.

Now we’re getting somewhere.  We have a specific statement that is arguable.

But it’s still missing something; it doesn’t explain why Taco Bell is so great and doesn’t tell readers the key points of your paper.

Because the thesis statement still isn’t perfect, we’ll move on to the next essential component.

How to write a thesis statement step #4: Create a mini-outline of the paper

A basic thesis statement will provide readers with a clear outline of your paper.  It will tell readers what to expect in the upcoming paragraphs.

Your thesis doesn’t do that yet.

When your readers see your current thesis, they know the subject and the stance of your paper, but they don’t yet know what they’ll be reading in the body of the paper.

Let’s revise again.

Thesis revision #3:College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around and has cheap prices, good food, and is open 24 hours.

This thesis statement seems to meet all of the requirements, right?  It includes a topic and offers your opinion. It is specific and arguable, and it creates a mini-outline for your paper.

While your thesis does include all of the required elements, the wording is less than perfect, and you still need to revise for clarity and style.

How to write a thesis statement step #5: choose your words wisely

“Are we done yet?”

Not yet.  Let’s look at your current thesis statement again: College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around and has cheap prices, good food, and is open 24 hours.

Ask yourself these questions to refine your wording.

  • Do all college students go to Taco Bell?  Clearly not all college students do, so you might revise to say “Many college students…”
  • Are the words “cheap” and “good” the most effective word choices?  Probably not. These words are boring and general.  Use more specific wording.  You might try “inexpensive” and “delicious” instead.

Let’s try our 4th (and hopefully final) revision:Many college students believe Taco Bell is the best fast-food restaurant because it is inexpensive, offers delicious food, and is open 24 hours.

Now this is a thesis statement!

It includes the topic and your opinion.  It is clear, specific, arguable, and provides readers with a mini-outline of your paper.  And, of course, it is now worded effectively.

This is a thesis that deserves a celebration!   It’s time to make that trip for tacos.  You’ve earned it!

You can use this checklist I made to make sure that your thesis statement covers all the bases:

If you want to read more about thesis statements before you go on a taco run, I recommend reading 10 Thesis Statements to Inspire Your Next Argumentative Essay and this quick Thesis Statement Handout.

If you need additional assistance with your paper, Kibin editors are always willing to help.

Good luck!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

A thesis can be found in many places—a debate speech, a lawyer’s closing argument, even an advertisement. But the most common place for a thesis statement (and probably why you’re reading this article) is in an essay.

Whether you’re writing an argumentative paper, an informative essay, or a compare/contrast statement, you need a thesis. Without a thesis, your argument falls flat and your information is unfocused. Since a thesis is so important, it’s probably a good idea to look at some tips on how to put together a strong one.

What is a “thesis statement” anyway?

You may have heard of something called a “thesis.” It’s what seniors commonly refer to as their final paper before graduation. That’s not what we’re talking about here. That type of thesis is a long, well-written paper that takes years to piece together.

Instead, we’re talking about a single sentence that ties together the main idea of any argument. In the context of student essays, it’s a statement that summarizes your topic and declares your position on it. This sentence can tell a reader whether your essay is something they want to read.

2 Categories of Thesis Statements: Informative and Persuasive

Just as there are different types of essays, there are different types of thesis statements. The thesis should match the essay.

For example, with an informative essay, you should compose an informative thesis (rather than argumentative). You want to declare your intentions in this essay and guide the reader to the conclusion that you reach.

Example:

To make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you must procure the ingredients, find a knife, and spread the condiments.

This thesis showed the reader the topic (a type of sandwich) and the direction the essay will take (describing how the sandwich is made).

Most other types of essays, whether compare/contrast, argumentative, or narrative, have thesis statements that take a position and argue it. In other words, unless your purpose is simply to inform, your thesis is considered persuasive. A persuasive thesis usually contains an opinion and the reason why your opinion is true.

Example:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best type of sandwich because they are versatile, easy to make, and taste good.

In this persuasive thesis statement, you see that I state my opinion (the best type of sandwich), which means I have chosen a stance. Next, I explain that my opinion is correct with several key reasons. This persuasive type of thesis can be used in any essay that contains the writer’s opinion, including, as I mentioned above, compare/contrast essays, narrative essays, and so on.

 2 Styles of Thesis Statements

Just as there are two different types of thesis statements (informative and persuasive), there are two basic styles you can use.

The first style uses a list of two or more points. This style of thesis is perfect for a brief essay that contains only two or three body paragraphs. This basic five-paragraph essay is typical of middle and high school assignments.

Example:

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series is one of the richest works of the 20th century because it offers an escape from reality, teaches readers to have faith even when they don’t understand, and contains a host of vibrant characters.

In the above persuasive thesis, you can see my opinion about Narnia followed by three clear reasons. This thesis is perfect for setting up a tidy five-paragraph essay.

In college, five paragraph essays become few and far between as essay length gets longer. Can you imagine having only five paragraphs in a six-page paper? For a longer essay, you need a thesis statement that is more versatile. Instead of listing two or three distinct points, a thesis can list one overarching point that all body paragraphs tie into.

Example:

Good vs. evil is the main theme of Lewis’s Narnia series, as is made clear through the struggles the main characters face in each book.

In this thesis, I have made a claim about the theme in Narnia followed by my reasoning. The broader scope of this thesis allows me to write about each of the series’ seven novels. I am no longer limited in how many body paragraphs I can logically use.

Formula for a Strong Argumentative Thesis

One thing I find that is helpful for students is having a clear template. While students rarely end up with a thesis that follows this exact wording, the following template creates a good starting point:

___________ is true because of ___________, ___________, and ___________.

 

Conversely, the formula for a thesis with only one point might follow this template:

___________________ is true because of _____________________.

 

Students usually end up using different terminology than simply “because,” but having a template is always helpful to get the creative juices flowing.

The Qualities of a Solid Thesis Statement

When composing a thesis, you must consider not only the format, but other qualities like length, position in the essay, and how strong the argument is.

Length: A thesis statement can be short or long, depending on how many points it mentions. Typically, however, it is only one concise sentence. It does contain at least two clauses, usually an independent clause (the opinion) and a dependent clause (the reasons). You probably should aim for a single sentence that is at least two lines, or about 30 to 40 words long.

Position: A thesis statement always belongs at the beginning of an essay. This is because it is a sentence that tells the reader what the writer is going to discuss. Teachers will have different preferences for the precise location of the thesis, but a good rule of thumb is in the introduction paragraph, within the last two or three sentences.

Strength: Finally, for a persuasive thesis to be strong, it needs to be arguable. This means that the statement is not obvious, and it is not something that everyone agrees is true.

Example of weak thesis:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy to make because it just takes three ingredients.

Most people would agree that PB&J is one of the easiest sandwiches in the American lunch repertoire.

Example of a stronger thesis:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are fun to eat because they always slide around.

This is more arguable because there are plenty of folks who might think a PB&J is messy or slimy rather than fun.

Composing a thesis statement does take a bit more thought than many other parts of an essay. However, because a thesis statement can contain an entire argument in just a few words, it is worth taking the extra time to compose this sentence. It can direct your research and your argument so that your essay is tight, focused, and makes readers think.


Like what you saw?

Get weekly, valuable content on writing, research, and education technology. Submit your email below to sign up!

Don't forget to support your writing with our most popular citation styles: APA, MLA & Chicago!

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *