Many writing assignments require a thesis statement. These statements are a declaration of an opinion or position that you will argue in favor of or somehow prove. At the end of the day, the thesis statement is what makes a change between a narrative of facts and a thoughtful research project.

However, before writing a thesis statement, you must first do the background reading on the subject so that you can identify the essential questions or key issues surrounding a subject. Besides, lacking knowledge of the subject means you cannot take a stand or a position on the subject! As such, when you start your research, you will have a rough idea of what your thesis statement should be, and your research will help you refine it. Typically located at the end of your opening paragraph, remember to make it clear and easy for your readers to understand.

Writing a good thesis statement means that you have a specific topic, an attitude/argument or position that you wish to argue. An alternative approach is to consider what your planned argument/attitude or position is, then present how you plan to argue it. Both methods of constructing a thesis are valid and will produce strong thesis statements.

When conducting background reading and research, consider the information that you have gathered and search for trends, or patterns in the data. Worthy of note is information that surprises you or ideas that make you wonder or spark your curiosity about an aspect of the subject. It could be something an "expert" has written that you completely disagree, or agree with. For example:

The topic is television violence and children. Reading about the topic, you discover information that indicates television violence increases aggressive behavior in children. Suddenly, you have a preliminary thesis to follow: "What are the effects of television violence on children?"

At this point, you should create a list of questions to help guide your research. In line with this topic, possible questions can include:

  • How do you define a "violent" program?
  • How much television are these children watching?
  • What programs are they watching?
  • What are the types of violence in these programs?
  • Are there experts you can consult for additional information or guidance?
  • Who are the major proponents or opponents of different views on this topic?

With a list of questions and a preliminary thesis in hand, your research is suddenly more focused and will likely be more productive as you discover evidence and information to support or refute the position you may consider. Remember that revising your thesis is okay, because you are working with only a preliminary thesis!

There are numerous attributes that make a good thesis statement, and you should have all of these in your thesis statement:

  • It should be provocative, taking a stand and arguing a position that can be reasonably disagreed with.
  • It must be focused and specific, avoiding vague or general language and the first person voice.
  • It must assert your position clearly with supporting evidence that forms a guide or map of your arguments.
  • It must anticipate and refute counter arguments.
  • It should be a subject that can be covered in the project's assigned format.

If you are confident that your thesis statement has all of these elements, then comes the acid tests of determining the strength of your thesis statement for a reasonable reader:

  1. Does your thesis statement inspire a reasonable reader to ask "how" and "why" questions?
  2. Does your thesis statement lead your reader to the topic sentences or arguments that support your position?
  3. Does your thesis statement avoid general sweeping phrases and words such as "none," "every," and "all?"
  4. Does your thesis statement NOT leave your readers uninterested or indifferent?

If you answered "YES!" to all four questions then you have a thesis statement that is at least proficient. The different between proficient or acceptable thesis statements is the wow factor. The thesis statements with the wow factor are the ones that challenge and attempt to break through to new ground on a given subject, and that is the thesis statement that you are aiming to create for your project.