Have you ever battled while trying to develop a thesis for an essay? You’re not alone! It is one of the areas that students often struggle with most.
What is a thesis, and why do I need one?
The thesis is the most important parts of you essay: it is how you tell your reader what you are arguing, and in turn why they should be reading what you’ve written.
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When a teaching assistant or professor is marking an essay, they are looking for a clearly-defined statement or series of statements that professes the point you are trying to make within your paper.
If your essay doesn’t have a thesis (or lacks a clear thesis), you’ve basically wasted your time on your paper. And your grade will decrease too.
You may think you need a definite thesis when you are writing, but that’s a myth. You can write a fine essay with a working thesis and then re-write it as your essay progresses.
Similarly, in high school, you are often taught to write your thesis as one sentence. However, if you have a complex topic you may need to have your thesis as a couple of sentences.
All theses must:
- State a clear topic
- Assert a debatable opinion
If you have these things, you probably have a decent thesis (w00t!)!
Common thesis errors
Below is a list of some of the common errors students make when writing a thesis statement or statements. For each kind of error there is an example of a flawed as well as a sound thesis.
- A thesis must represent a complete thought
- Improper thesis: How university life is for students
- Proper thesis: The first year of university is a difficult transition time for students
- A thesis must not be a question
- Improper thesis: Should Ontario reduce the legal drinking age?
- Proper thesis: Anyone who is old enough to join the military should be able to drink legally.
- A thesis should not include phrases like “I think…”
- Improper thesis: In my opinion taxes are too high for lower-income families.
- Proper thesis: Lower-income families do not have adequate take-home earnings because of the amount of taxes they pay.
- A thesis must not include ideas that are unrelated
- Improper thesis: Some ducks are migratory, therefore all birds travel south for the winter
- Proper thesis: Although many species of bird change their habitat throughout the year, Canada Geese are more migratory than chickadees or blue jays.
- A thesis should not use vague language
- Improper thesis: Some people think the four year high school curriculum would be good for students because that is what politicians said.
- Proper thesis: Contrary to the Ontario government’s goals, the four year high school curriculum resulted in numerous problems for students born in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
- A thesis must not use muddled or incoherent language
- Improper thesis: Students in other faculties should not think that university programs in the arts are easy because they don’t do math, actually essay-based classes might be much harder because they are marked subjectively.
- Proper thesis: Students outside of the arts should realize that attaining a high GPA in essay-focused classes is difficult due to the subjective nature of essay marking.
- A thesis should not be written in figurative language
- Proper thesis: Love is a bouquet of roses in the garden of our soul.
- Improper thesis: Even though love is a relatively new concept, it is critical in creating strong romantic and non-romantic relationships between people.
- A thesis should not be a truism
- Improper thesis: Lady Gaga has an interesting wardrobe.
- Proper thesis: Lady Gaga uses intricate and unusual costumes to define herself as an artist.
Writing a good thesis statement takes practice, but writing an effective statement will ultimately make your essays that much better.
More articles in the Essay Writing series:
- Part 1: University Vs. High School
- Part 2: How To Organize An Essay
- Part 4: How To Write An Introduction
- Part 5: How To Create Cohesion And Flow
- More coming soon!