Writing and Effective Thesis

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Thesis Statements

What is a Thesis Statement?

If you have ever worked in an office with computers, your computer was probably connected to a network. In a network, there is one main computer to which all the other computers send and receive information. If that base computer shuts down, all the other computers shut down—everything centers on that one computer. In the same way, every word, sentence, and paragraph in an essay must relate to or center on the thesis statement. A thesis statement informs readers in a concise manner regarding your intention in writing the paper.

No matter what type of paper you write—expository, argumentation, or research—the center of your paper is always your thesis statement. From now through the rest of your educational courses, instructors will want you to have a well-developed thesis in your essays. For this reason, it is important that you learn to write effective thesis statements.

While writing your paper, you will have a tentative, or working, thesis, which will most likely change as you find support and write your paper. You may write and rewrite a thesis several times while developing an essay.

The concept of the thesis statement can be difficult for beginning writers to understand. The following are some characteristics of an effective thesis statement:

• A thesis is only one sentence. One of the most common mistakes students make is to write a number of sentences and call it a thesis. A thesis statement, however, is singular and should be only one sentence consisting of 25 words or fewer.

• A thesis makes an assertion (your opinion) related to the topic of the essay. It is what you want to prove in your essay.

• The thesis should always be located near the end of your introduction.

• Everything in your paper must support, be related to, or point back to your thesis statement.

• Although a thesis is an opinion, that opinion must be one a reasonable person could agree with or argue against.

• A thesis answers the questions “how?” or “why?”

• A thesis passes the “So what?” test—what does this topic have to do with anything? Why should I care? Why should others care?

Thesis Statement Fallacies

There are a number of errors that can be made while writing a thesis statement. A thesis statement is not:

• A fact or observation

Incorrect: The United States has many homeless people. Correct: Because the homeless population is still widespread in the United States, Congress, organizations, and individuals need to do more to improve the problem.

• A generalization

Incorrect: Men take all the good jobs and get paid more. Correct: Recent research shows men are still earning a significant amount more than women in the same positions; therefore, employers and the government need to do more to narrow this gap.

• An exaggeration

Incorrect: Fad diets are extremely unhealthful.
Correct: Many fad diets are dangerous because they can harm the human body, they often lack proper nutrients, and they can easily cause a person to regain original weight.

• A question

Incorrect: Is it right for the media to portray women the way they do?

Correct: The media and Hollywood portray women as very beautiful and thin; doing so has a negative effect on young girls’ self-esteem.

• Too broad

Incorrect: All animals are unique.
Correct: The hippopotamus is one of the most unusual and interesting animals within the animal kingdom.

• Too narrow

Incorrect: The song “Cop Killa” is offensive.
Correct: Music with vulgar language or inappropriate messages can negatively influence young children and teenagers.

• An announcement

Incorrect: This essay talks about how legalizing marijuana is incorrect.

Correct: Marijuana should not be...
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