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So we’ve eventually come to a paper task that requires a more traditional thesis statement. Below you’ll find all you need to know to write an exceptional thesis statement.

Let’s talk about Thesis Statements…Ordinarily found at the end of the introductory paragraph, a thesis statement clearly declares your claim, your position on a given issue that you’ll go on to support in the body of your paper. For instance:

“An analysis of alternatives to fossil fuel energies indicates that a better option is the use of solar and wind power.”

Obviously (and it should be obvious), the writer of this paper will be arguing for the position that solar and wind power are the best-positioned alternatives to replace fossil fuels.

• Thesis statements can (dare I say should) also act as “maps” for your readers, helping them navigate their way through your paper as they read.

“Goodman’s easy, winning style of word choice and metaphor persuades us to agree with her point, a point also backed up by the logic of her examples.”

The author of this paper was asked to write a rhetorical analysis (in other words, argue how Goodman’s essay works to persuade readers to her point of view) of Ellen Goodman’s “In Praise of a Snail’s Pace.” This thesis statement signals to readers that the paper will first address Goodman’s use of word choice; follow that up with an analysis of the metaphors she uses; then close the paper by discussing the logical examples Goodman uses to strengthen her position…

• There’s a myth that thesis statements should only ever be one sentence long. Ideally, they should be one sentence long, but as we do not live in an ideal world, this is not always the case. Consider the following thesis statement:

“Although Pollan has created an argument with strong logical, ethical and emotional appeals, his very dominant angle of vision—seen in his assumptions, alarmist language, and exclusive focus on garden-growing—may fail to win neutral readers. I also think Pollan’s argument loses impact by not discussing more realistic alternatives such as pursuing smart consumerism and better environmental education for children. “

This author’s assignment involved not only a rhetorical analysis of the work in question (Pollan’s essay “Why Bother,”about the importance of environmental preservation); she was also tasked with speaking back to Pollan’s ideas—what did she think of the suggestions he was making regarding ways to save the environment? Rather than trying to fit all that into a single, rambling sentence, the author broker her thesis into two sentences. Generally speaking, the more complex the issue or task, the more intricate your claim, the more likely you’ll need a two sentence thesis statement.

So let’s review what we know about thesis statements so far:
– They clearly state your position on an issue.
– They can act as “maps” for your readers. (And really, why not just write them this way when you can? Your readers will appreciate it.)
– Ideally, they are one sentence in length (but can, when appropriate, be longer).

But there are also a few other qualities “good” thesis statements have as well:
– They are specific. (This is where that first example thesis statement falls a little short: what about solar and wind power made them the best alternatives to fossil fuel energies?) This specificity not only helps readers (by letting them know, specifically, what the paper will be about) but also writers, as it sets a manageable scope for the paper you’re writing. Consider the following: “It is of critical importance that we take steps to preserve the environment.” While this statement clearly states the writer’s position on an issue, it also outlines a project that would be more appropriately tackled in a series of books, rather than a standard academic essay.
– They are arguable. Whatever your thesis statement ends up being, a reasonable person should be able to take up a position that is different from (or even counter to) the position you outlined in your thesis. For example, the sentence “Every year, approximately 610,000 people die as a result of heart-related health problems in the United States” is not a thesis statement. It is a fact.

A closing note…If, when starting your paper, you’re unsure of what your thesis is, that’s fine! As we said above, a thesis statement outlines your perspective on a given issue. How can you know where you stand on an issue before you’ve adequately explored it? Writing is an exploratory process. Even when you begin an essay with a stance already outlined, that position may change as you do further reading/research and consider other perspectives on your topic. For this reason, though thesis statements will always be important to your paper, sometimes they are one of the last things you ultimately write.

Practice Time!
Complete this page

Below are several examples of “bad” thesis statements. Read each statement. Then briefly outline each statement’s “faults.”

Example: The Great Gatsby is the greatest American novel ever written.
—lack of specificity makes this too broad
—(how would you even go about backing this up? Stack The Great Gatsby against every other novel ever written by another American? Doesn’t sound like a task suited to a single paper…or even a series of books, really…)

1) The right to free speech comes with both positive and negative consequences.

2) Smoking has a negative impact on a person’s health.

3) The second amendment should be abolished.

Now Write Your Own
1) You’ve been asked to write a shortessay in which you advocate for either public or private education: which better serves the needs of children? Write the thesis statement for this hypothetical essay.

Now do it again…
Watch this short video called “Nova Science Now: Auto-Tune,” about software the music industry uses to alter musicians’ pitch as they sing. (You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OUgXFZ_WeY) While watching, keep in mind the following question: “Are concert attendees getting what they paid for if the musicians they’re listening to use voice-correction software during the live performance? Or are attendees getting the shaft?” Pretend you were assigned to write a short essay addressing this question. Write a thesis statement for this hypothetical essay below.

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