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English Composition 2

The Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the most important sentence in an essay. In a sense, the thesis statement is a one-sentence summary of the entire essay. The thesis should not just give readers a general idea of the topic of an essay but should present specific statements of each of the main ideas developed in the essay.

The thesis statement is a one-sentence statement in the introduction of an essay that

  1. Identifies the subject of the essay

    For example, the thesis statement for an essay on a short story should include the title of the story and the name of the author.

  2. States the main ideas developed in the body paragraphs
  3. Be specific as you list each of the main ideas in the thesis statement, using key words from the topic sentence of each body paragraph.
  4. Clarifies how all of the main ideas are logically related

    Avoid just listing the main ideas in the thesis statement. Instead, show how the main ideas are logically related. In the thesis statement, present the main ideas in the same order that they appear in the body of the essay, and try using words such as "although," "as a result," and "but" to suggest the logical connections among the main ideas.

Generally, the thesis statement appears at the end of an introduction. The earlier part of the introduction should get the reader's attention and lead the reader to the thesis statement.

Do not present the thesis statement as a general statement concerning the subject of the essay followed by a series of sentences identifying the main ideas in the body paragraph. This formula is sometimes taught in high school to help writers organize their essays, but it is weak stylistically and often results in essays that are not well unified.

Sample Thesis Statement for an Essay on Maya Angelou's "Graduation"

Sample thesis statement:

In Maya Angelou's "Graduation," Marguerite Johnson's sense of pride in her academic achievements and upcoming graduation is challenged by the commencement speaker's stereotypical views of African-Americans, but a familiar song renews Marguerite's sense of accomplishment while giving her a greater awareness of the struggles and achievements of her ancestors.

Notice all of the important elements of the thesis statement:

The thesis statement is expressed as just one sentence, gives readers a specific sense of the main ideas, and indicates the logical connections among those ideas.

Does it take a lot of writing and rewriting to formulate an effective thesis statement? Yes. But it should help if you come up with the main ideas for body paragraphs before you try to write your thesis statement.

Thesis Statement Checklist

  1. Is the thesis statement expressed as just one sentence?
  2. Does the thesis statement appear at the end of the introduction?
  3. Does the thesis statement identify the subject of the essay?
  4. Does the thesis statement present the major ideas developed in the body paragraphs?
  5. Does the thesis statement clarify how all of the main ideas are logically related?

This page was last updated on June 06, 2013. Copyright Randy Rambo, 2006.