Usually found at the end of the first paragraph of the introduction, the thesis statement serves to outline the topic under discussion as well as provide a brief summary of the finer points detailed in the thesis. Thesis statements are usually targeted to a specific audience, usually those with specialist knowledge of the research topic.
Given that the statement is included at the start of a thesis, it should be considered as one complete sentence that:
- sets out a road map for the thesis.
- narrows the research topic down to a specific aim or focus.
- stimulates further discussion and research by asserting the author’s position; it is not a statement of fact, but rather a stance that can be argued.
Let’s take a look at a generic example of a thesis statement and break it down:
- Corporations should provide more work from home opportunities and six-hour workdays so that office workers have a better work-life balance and are more likely to be productive when they are in the office.
Solid thesis statements should be written in just one to two sentences, so this example fulfills the criteria. We should also consider whether the statement includes the following information:
- Topic: Mention the main topic (work-life balance)
- Position: Take a stance and state your argument (corporations should implement work from home opportunities and shorter hours)
- Evidence/Reasoning: Summarize the evidence supporting your argument (better work-life balance, more productive)
As we can see from the above example, the statement presents the topic, a defendable/arguable opinion, and reasons why the author can defend their adopted position.
At its foundations, any thesis must consider the target audience, purpose, and content; in other words, the Who, Why, and What.
- Who will read the thesis? (audience)
- Why is it being written? (purpose)
- What will be included? (key points to include)
To illustrate how a thesis statement is essential to any thesis, the following analogy from the Santa Barbara City College Writing Center visualizes the thesis as a building, with the statement forming the roof:
The roof (thesis statement) provides the reader with shelter and comfort by explaining the overarching theme or purpose of the thesis. It gives the reader peace of mind by stating briefly and clearly the main objectives of the study, as well as the reasons why. Propping up the building, the body paragraphs hold the weight of the thesis through the content, which should be reinforced by accurate research, existing background knowledge, and comprehensive reporting of the results and findings. Lastly, the conclusion represents the floor and underlying foundations of the research by leaving no stone unturned; that is, it accurately summarizes the study by answering whether objectives were met and hypotheses proven, as well as detailing any strengths or weaknesses and recommendations for future studies.
How do I know if my thesis is strong?
What makes a strong thesis statement?
So, how can you tell a strong thesis statement from a weak one? Well, there are four main points to consider regarding this matter.
- The thesis statement asserts a confident position.
In this sense, part of the thesis statement demonstrates your conclusions based on the research conducted on the topic. In other words, a strong statement expresses a personal opinion that is supported by solid facts.
2. The statement allows for readers to engage in a debate on the research topic.
Opposed to merely stating an observation, a strong statement aims to instigate a discussion. In doing so, the statement could assert a controversial perspective or one that is contradictory to commonly-held views.
3. The thesis statement needs to express one single idea rather than several different ones.
To achieve this, the statement must clearly state the primary focus of the research study. if the author has mentioned more than one idea or opinion, the statement should show the relationship between the two. To link ideas together and generate connections between them, authors can make use of words such as because, since, so, although, unless, and however.
4. The thesis statement must be specific.
Avoid making broad statements or generalizations by narrowing down the research aims. Rather than making general statements, such as “there are many reasons why…” try to provide specific reasons, opinions, causes, and effects.
Here are two examples of effective thesis statements. I have broken each of them down in the chart below to show how the authors considered the topic, positioning, and reasoning when constructing their statements.
1. Athletes who use any type of biotechnology give themselves an unfair advantage and disrupt the sense of fair play, and they should be banned from competition.
2. Smoking is a serious problem because it harms the health of both smokers and nonsmokers; however, a viable two-part solution to the dangerous problem of smoking is to increase the tax on cigarettes and ban smoking in public places.