How do I write a thesis statement?

CWI Writing Center: Argument Essay

You will often be asked to write an essay with a thesis statement. A thesis statement will provide your claim or focus, which is supported or explained by the rest of the paper. The thesis statement contains this claim or focus and a list of main points the paper will discuss.

A Thesis Statement:

  • can be a statement of substantiated fact or can offer a well-supported opinion.
  • will answer the question, “What is this paper about?”
  • is weak when it is too broad, too narrow, or off topic.
  • is strong when it clearly outlines the paper’s claim or focus and the main points.

Weak and Strong Thesis Statements

Sample Prompt: Write about an animal that would be an excellent pet and explain why.

Weak Thesis Examples

Strong Thesis Example:

Cats make great pets because they are fun to watch, independent, and low maintenance.

Why: This thesis gives specific main points to focus on, which are easy to discuss in detail. These main points work together to help the paper flow from one point to the next.

More Examples of Weak and Strong Thesis Statements:

Expository Essay:

Sample Prompt: Provide research and help the reader to understand bluegrass music.

Weak Thesis Examples:

  • Too broad: Bluegrass music is more popular than people think it is.
  • Too narrow: Bluegrass music includes the use of a washboard as an instrument.
  • Off topic: Country music is a great music genre.

Strong Thesis Example:

Bluegrass music is a smaller branch of country music, uses unique instruments, and has strong roots in the southern United States.

Persuasive Essay:

Sample Prompt: Is human’s consumption of the world’s oil reserves a concern?

Weak Thesis Examples:

  • Too broad: Humans are consuming too many of the world’s oil reserves.
  • Too narrow: All Boise residents should drive a Toyota Prius to reduce gas consumption.
  • Off topic: Smart cars have excellent gas mileage.

Strong Thesis Example:

People should consume less gas because gas pollutes the environment, is costly for consumers, and is more expensive to produce than alternative energy sources.

Literary Analysis Essay:

Sample Prompt: How are the literary elements within Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” used to help the reader see the story unfolding before them?

Weak Thesis Examples:

  • Too broad: Coleridge is a literary genius.
  • Too narrow: Coleridge really likes to talk about ice in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.
  • Off topic: Coleridge also wrote a really strange poem called “Kubla Khan” that is interesting to compare to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

Strong Thesis Example:

Coleridge, in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” creates an otherworldly experience by the use of imagery, tone, and subplot.

For more information, contact the Writing Center.