How to Write an Effective Thesis Statement: Step by Step Guide

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how to write an effective thesis statement

Writing a thesis statement is a crucial part of writing an essay or research paper. If you don’t have a good thesis statement, then you won’t be able to organize your ideas into a coherent argument.

One of the first things your reader—it might be a professor, researchers, or students—will see is your dissertation, one of the most important sentences in the entire article and one of the hardest to write!

It is not uncommon for students to have difficulty writing their thesis statements. This is especially true when they are trying to define a dissertation research project on their own.

Students often fail to recognize what exactly they want or need to say about their topic. When this happens it can be difficult to move forward with any kind of thesis statement development.

In many cases, students may even be unsure if they will be able to complete their dissertation because they do not know where to begin.

This article has all you need to know to make easy work of your thesis statement creation process.

If you follow my simple steps to developing a strong thesis statement, you will be set on a path to completing your strong and effective dissertation proposal.

What is a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a sentence that states your main point. It introduces the reader to the main topic, explanations, arguments, and evidence in your paper/essay.

It should be short, clear, and specific—and should be one or two sentences long. Your thesis statement should also include a topic sentence and a summary of supporting sentences or evidence.

It is not always easy to fit the entire thesis into one sentence, let alone one written clearly and eloquently.

The topic sentence is the main idea of your paper and supporting sentences provide evidence to back up your claim. Supporting sentences give examples and details that explain why your topic is important.

Typically, a thesis statement comes at the end of the first paragraph of an essay to give readers a sort of preamble to the impending argument.

How to Write a Thesis Statement in 4 Steps

how to write a thesis statement in 4 steps

1. Find your research topic

The first step is to carefully identify the topic of your dissertation research. This step involves finding a problem that you will have to solve in the paper.

Even though this seems like the most obvious step, you would be surprised how often we think our topics are already known before we have fully defined them.

Remember that when brainstorming many topics, you have to stay focused on one subject at a time.

Brainstorming can help to eliminate certain topics but it is important to remember that the point is not always to choose from a list of possibilities.

After researching a broader list of topics, narrow it down to a single topic.

You must actively seek out new information which could lead towards a new direction. You can’t just offer the same solutions that everyone else has proposed.

2. Turn the topic into a question

Once you’ve chosen a topic and/or the position you want to take, it’s time to narrow down and come up with a title.

Once you have decided upon a general area for your study, you must now decide upon a specific title that defines this field of focus.

You could simply start by listing potential titles without much thought. You could also write a rough outline of the contents and then try to add words that seem to best describe those items.

If your field or category allows, you can be a bit creative with the titles; have a couple of possible titles and choose the most effective title.

Whatever method you choose, you have to formulate your topic as a question.

Remember, you are looking for a problem that you have to find answers to.

For example, if you want to write about the impact of the US embargo against Cuba on Cuba’s economy, you could ask yourself and probably write, “What impact did the US embargo have on Cuba’s economy?”

3. Find an initial answer to the question

From there, write down the answer (if you already know it) or the position you’ve chosen. If you don’t have a position yet or haven’t found the answer, do some exploratory research to find out.

In scientific papers, you use a hypothesis, which means you don’t need to have a strong answer because a hypothesis is based on limited evidence and only serves as a starting point for further investigation.

However, in a non-scientific research paper or school essay, you certainly use what you find as evidence and sources in the main paragraphs of your essay.

This means that the thesis statement has to have the backing of concepts already established (facts).

4. Develop the answer

You came up with the initial answer only after preliminary and—somewhat—lightweight research.

Given the conditions, that answer is likely going to be inadequate or weak. You have to work on it to improve it.

It will require some—or should I say a lot of—revising, editing, and appending.

Before you start working on it, just remember that the final thesis statement has to do more than just state your position—it has to summarize your overall argument.

When working on the answer, you have to consider the effectiveness of the language used, specificity of the details in the sentences, and inclusion of subtopics.

Remember, it is not going to be easy putting all these things in one, two, or three sentences. However, you don’t have to stuff everything in there if you feel like it’s going to bloat the thesis statement.

Some introductory information can be reserved for the succeeding sentences. The thesis statement should only have the most relevant bits.

Having said that, I think it is also worth noting that randomization of points to be included in the thesis statement is not advisable.

You read more pieces on the same topic before you begin writing and ask some knowledgeable colleagues or supervisors for their opinion.

What to Include in a Thesis Statement?

A thesis has two parts: the main topic and the reasoning behind it. This reasoning could be explanations, assertions, or analyses on the main topic.

Being a specific statement, a thesis statement ought to cover only the things the author wants to discuss in their paper and must be backed with relevant evidence.

What Makes Thesis Statement Strong or Weak?

what makes thesis statement strong

A good thesis statement is:


A thesis statement has to be short and should usher in the central straight away. This isn’t the part where you boost your word count, do not use imprecise or vague descriptions/statements.

The thesis statement should be a sentence or two long. Three sentences are on the threshold when you want to pack a meaty thesis statement.


The thesis statement has to be built on consistency and logic. The main three parts (the topic, your position, and supporting points) have to be well connected and presented logically.

A good thesis statement also expresses one main idea. Your paper must have only one main point; otherwise, the thesis statement will be off-putting and confuse your readers about the purpose of your paper.

Justifies discussion

A good thesis statement has to lay out the point of the discussion and not just express an observation.

To write a strong thesis statement, you have to transcend personal experience or isolated events and present believable coherent supporting points with evidence.


A thesis statement has to assume a position that some quarters might argue against. It must not be simple, obvious, or something that everyone easily accepts as the truth.

In other words, a good thesis statement has to acknowledge that there is another side to the argument.

The best part of a dissertation or most research papers is the part where the central claim is successfully argued.

A Guide

A good thesis statement is not only tailored for the reader, but it should also serve the purpose of guiding the author.

A thesis has to be the author’s map or guide during their research and essay writing but it has to be a map for the audience as well.

If it does a good job guiding you, it is likely going to help your readers grasp your points.

Types of Thesis Statements

3 types of thesis statements

1. Argumentative

An argumentative thesis statement assumes a clear position aimed at persuading the reader of the writer’s claim.   

This type of essay aims at convincing your reader that the thesis was built on a foundation of evidence and logical reasoning.

In addition to stating the reasoning behind the writer’s position, a strong argumentative thesis summarizes the main points that will be used to convince the reader of the writer’s position.

You use the rest of the essay to elaborate and argue for these points.

Once the reader gets to examine the evidence and the logical reasoning used in the essay, the thesis of an argumentative essay looks even stronger.

Points to remember:

An argumentative thesis statement states (1). The claim or assertion, (2). The reasons/evidence to back the claim, and (3). The order in which the reasons and evidence are going to be presented.

Example: The embargo on Cuba should be removed because it will make U.S. consumers happy, help Cuba’s economy, and bring greater freedom to Cuba.

When writing an argumentative thesis statement, you should ask yourself if it has a claim or assertion, reasons to support the claim, and in what order have you presented your reasons?

2. Expository

An expository thesis statement outlines the key points of your claim that analyze, interpret, and evaluate different aspects of a topic.

In an essay that explains the facts of a topic or process, the thesis has to lucidly state the core concept or point that you want to communicate to the reader.

Unlike the first type, the thesis for an expository essay doesn’t have to give a strong opinion about your topic but has to focus on the central point and mention the key elements of the topic.

Therefore, an expository thesis has to convey a more specific announcement of the main point and the impact, results, issues, moments, events, and other things surrounding the main topic.

Points to remember:

An expository thesis statement details (1). What is going to be explained, (2) How you are going to categorize your explanation, and (3) The order in which the categories are going to be presented.

Example: The effects of the US embargo on Cuba include worsening poverty, deprivation of certain liberties and freedoms, and loss of billions of dollars in trade opportunities for US farmers and other producers.

When writing an expository thesis statement, you need to ask yourself what you’re trying to explain, how you can categorize the explanation, and in what order you should present those different components of your explanation.

3. Analytical

The goal of an analytical thesis statement is to discuss or explain the constructs of a topic. To do this, the statement summarizes all the key points.

An analytical thesis focuses on the specific aspect that your essay will tackle. The thesis also needs to share the knowledge that the essay will offer the reader.

Apart from telling the reader which aspect the essay will focus on, the thesis also has to declare the text’s broader meaning and purpose.

Points to remember:

An analytical thesis explains (1). The process or things that the paper will analyze, (2). The components of the analysis, and (3). The order in which those parts of the analysis will be presented.

Example: An analysis of the US embargo on Cuba reveals a double-edged sword type of effects: the Cubans are suffering but so are the American consumers and producers.

When writing an analytical thesis statement, you have to ask yourself (1). What you analyzed, (2). What you discovered in your analysis, (3). How you can group those discoveries, and (4). In what order you should present those discoveries.

A look at the analytical and expository thesis statements and comparing them to the argumentative thesis statement.

Final Words on How to Write a Thesis Statement

As you write and revise your essay or thesis, you’re free to change your thesis statement. You won’t always get your topic in order the very first time.

The thing about writing is that new ideas and discoveries pop up once the actual writing starts.

You have to anticipate this and make sure that your final thesis statement accurately represents the arguments or explanation in the essay/paper.

In principle, your thesis statement should be a concise presentation of your ideas, a result of an organized and well-developed argument, and a tour guide for your reader.

The thesis has to answer the questions that your paper explores and the thesis statement has to indicate that these answers have—indeed—been answered.

Lastly, you should always proofread and revise your thesis statement where necessary. It is also prudent to sit down with a tutor or any relevant authority on the topic and talk about your writing.

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Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories. She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.