During my time at The Writing Center I’ve noticed that students often struggle with creating, understanding, and identifying thesis statements. In fact, this was once a challenge for me early in my academic career. Your thesis statement is the most important part of your paper, and identifying your thesis makes the writing process much easier. First, let’s answer the question: What is a thesis statement? Basically, the thesis states your claim or your reason for writing the paper. For example, if I was writing a paper on the benefits of a university writing center my thesis might look like this:
University writing centers offer many benefits to the student body, faculty, and the university as a whole.
What I’ve done here is prepare my audience (the reader) for my paper. I’ve told my reader what my paper will be about and what to expect. But I’ve also obligated myself to fulfill this promise. By making this promise to the reader, I hold myself accountable to write my paper in a way that fulfills the reader’s expectations.
Keeping my thesis in mind helps me stay focused when I write my paper. In my thesis statement, I claim that a university writing center is beneficial for students, faculty, and the whole university, so I need to make sure I address all three of my claims in the paper. One way I could to do this is by developing a paragraph for each topic: how the university writing center benefits students, how it benefits faculty, and how it benefits the entire university. By doing this, my thesis is supported by the body of my essay, and I fulfill my promise to the reader.
Once you understand what a thesis statement is, you can better understand its mini-me, the topic sentence. The topic sentence does for the paragraph what the thesis statement does for the essay. So, for my paper on the benefits of a university writing center my topic sentence for the first body paragraph might be:
Students in all majors and disciplines and at any level of writing confidence can benefit by visiting the university’s writing center.
This topic sentence tells my reader that this paragraph is about the ways in which students benefit from university writing centers. As writers, what we are trying to say might make sense in our head, or even when we read our paper, but it’s important to remember that our readers might need a little direction. By developing a clear thesis statement and topic sentences, we help readers understand where the paper is going, much like road signs help us navigate the road.
For more tips on writing a thesis statement, check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab.