Forming a Thesis

You don’t have an essay until you have an argument

You’ve been assigned an essay topic. After a long, hard struggle, you finally understand exactly what it is you’re supposed to write about. Now it’s time to come up with a thesis statement.

What’s a Thesis?

A thesis is an argument. It’s what you want people to believe after they read your essay. A thesis statement should be one to two sentences in length. It must consist of two parts, a claim (what you want people to believe) and support (a brief summary of why they should believe it).

Here’s an example:

“Capitalism is superior to socialism because competition leads to better efficiency, productivity and a higher standard of living.”

In this case, the claim is “capitalism is superior to socialism.” The support is “competition leads to better efficiency, productivity and a higher standard of living.” In the body paragraphs, your task is to expand on this support by citing specific quotations from other sources.

Brainstorming

To come up with a good thesis, you should start by doing some brainstorming. Does anything about your essay topic catch your attention? Do any questions pop out? Try to come up with several different ideas for how you can approach your topic. Jot down everything that comes to mind. Once your ideas are down on paper, try to draw connections between them. Look for a unique angle from which to approach the topic.

Troubleshooting

If you can’t come up with a thesis (perhaps you’re completely unfamiliar with the subject material), it’s a good idea to do some preliminary research. Find a few books or articles on the topic to see what other people have argued in the past. Maybe you have a different opinion or would like to build on something that’s been argued before. Don’t get too deep into your research at this point, though. Save that for after you’ve decided on a thesis. That way, if you have to change approaches, you won’t have wasted much time.

Be Careful

Your thesis statement is the most important part of your essay, so it’s vital that you come up with a good one. Aim for a thesis that has a good focus. If your thesis is too broad, you won’t be able to prove it without going over the word limit. If it’s too narrow, you won’t have enough to say about it to fulfill the minimum word requirement.

Remember that until you actually start writing your essay, nothing is set in stone. You can always adapt your thesis if you come across new information while doing research.

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