How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement

Essentials

Good thesis statements are clear, concise, and informative. After reading your thesis statement, readers (and graders) should understand what your paper is about. To write a strong thesis statement I recommend the following skeleton:

 “Work or text being analyzed” “fighting word” “idea/theme” “how” to “significance”.

Breaking Down the Skeleton

The first part is the easiest because it’s just a reference to what is being analyzed. Just give the name of what you’re analyzing.

The next part is what I call a “fighting word” or a word that indicates what you’re arguing. Words like challenges, negates, contradicts, complicates, rejects, and denies are good examples of fighting words. You can also use words like suggests, upholds, and supports but keep in mind that affirming words like these make it harder to prove your argument. It’s much easier to prove something wrong (since you only need one example to crumble an argument) than to prove something right.

The following part of the skeleton is the “idea/theme”. This part of your thesis is where you bring up what the focus of your paper will be, this is usually in the form of a key word. Key words can include ideas like race, class, poverty, sexuality, feminism, power, etc. The most important thing to remember when writing the “idea/theme” portion of your thesis is to make your key word or phrase as specific as possible.

The “how” part of your thesis is where you briefly describe how your argument is supported by the text. You do not have you detail everything that the text is doing to support your argument here, only give the general sense of how this is being accomplished.

The last part of your thesis is the “significance” which is really just a reference to the importance of your argument. To figure out what the significance of your argument is just ask yourself what the implication of your argument is. What is your argument showing or revealing about the text?

Examples

Below are some sample thesis statements broken down by component.

The film, Cinderella (1950), challenges female gender norms through the character of the fairy godmother to show the importance of power for female independence.

Key points to note about the example above is that the “how” is specific enough without being too detailed, and the “fighting word” makes it clear that you have a debatable claim. Also note that the “significance” of the thesis statement doesn’t try and make broad statements about society.

The film, Cinderella (1950), upholds stereotypes against solitary women by portraying Cinderella’s step mother as an evil widow to show the insignificance of power in female happiness.

The previous example shows an affirming thesis statement that is somewhat the opposite of the previous statement.

Closing Thoughts

The skeleton shown above is a good way to start thinking about thesis statements if the concept is foreign to you. Once you get more comfortable with writing thesis statements you can play around with the form and structure of the thesis, though for the most part the five different parts talked about here are the essential components of a strong thesis statement.

Most of the time thesis statements appear weak because of how they’re worded, not necessarily because of the ideas behind them, that is why the “fighting word” is a crucial part of the statement. Also, in this skeleton the significance is preceded by the word “to” to make it easier to identify what the implications of your argument are.

I hope this post has been helpful. If you can think of anymore “fighting words” or other tips on thesis statements in general please state them below!

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