The University Writing Center - Thesis Statements


Thesis Statements
Thesis statements are the central claim of your argument or paper. It is important to
understand the difference between a topic and a thesis statement. A Topic is a general (often
broad) subject or idea you want to discuss or explore. A Thesis Statement is a specific argument
you will be making about a specific subject. For example, the death penalty is a topic. A thesis
statement presents a specific stance or argument about a topic.
A thesis statement about this topic could be “The use of the death penalty as punishment for
minor defendants is wrong because it violates the ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ clause of the
Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution.” It may help to think of a thesis statement as a guide
to your paper for the reader. A solid thesis statement states your point of view and sets up your
argument in a concise, specific, and interesting way. It also directly answers the question in the
assignment and you can always develop a counter argument against it.
Writing a Thesis Statement
The first step to writing a good thesis statement is making sure you understand the
assignment. For instance, a thesis statement about a close reading of a text may be very different
from a thesis statement for a research paper.
A thesis statement for a close reading of a text would set up an argument about a particular
interpretation of a text. An example of this could be “The father/son dynamic Ulysses sets up in
lines 33-43 of Alfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses” is crucial to understanding the poem as a whole
because Ulysses inadvertently gives the reader an idea of his priorities in life by describing his
son’s life in contrast to his own.”
A thesis statement for a research paper would directly answer the question in the assignment
while setting up your argument for a specific interpretation of the research. For example, if your
assignment was to research the impacts of poverty in third world countries and discuss the most
significant impact poverty has on these countries, an example of a good thesis statement could be
“Widespread poverty in third world countries affects the future of these countries because
children growing up in poverty are often permanently disadvantaged as result of hunger,
malnutrition, lack of access to safe water, poor health, and the lack of educational and other
If you have any questions, or just want to confirm that you are headed in the right direction for
your assignment, talk to your instructor. Once you understand the assignment, you are ready to
get started!
Getting Started
This is often the hardest part of constructing a thesis statement! One way to get started is
to brainstorm. You have an idea or an assigned topic to work with, so you can ask yourself some
questions to start the brainstorming process. What do you think about the topic? What opinions
or arguments do you have about the topic? How can you support your ideas and arguments? Do


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