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How to Write a Good Thesis

The following is a list of elements designed to help students develop strong, argumentative thesis through exercises that promote independent, critical thinking about their subject at hand and what they want their writing project to accomplish.

Thesis Question

  • The first element to consider when crafting a strong thesis is what question you want your thesis to answer. A good thesis always stems from a good question which is both specific and debatable.
  • Additionally, good thesis questions should not be dichotomous (i.e. presenting the choice of one-or-the-other, or a typical yes-no question).
  • Finally, a good thesis question does not have an obvious answer. For example, asking “what is 2 + 2?” is not a good thesis question because the answer to it is common knowledge and it will make your thesis undebatable and your essay boring.
  • An example of a good thesis question would be: “How should members of the modern-day church pursue reconciliation?”
    • It is appropriately specific (it establishes the context and the time: the church in the present day).
    • It is not asking a dichotomous or “yes-no” question.
    • It is debatable and does not have an obvious answer.

Thesis Statement: the answer to the Thesis Question

  • The first and most important part of writing your Thesis Statement is making sure that the Thesis Question is directly and concisely answered, preferably in one or two sentences.
  • When writing your thesis, make sure that you keep the scope of your argument in mind. In other words, do not try to make a claim that is too broad or too narrow. It is generally a bad idea to begin your Thesis Statement with the words, “Since the dawn of time…” or “Everyone believes that…”. Such globalized scopes are usually too broad to prove effectively within the confines of a college essay, even one of doctorate-level work. Stay within your scope.
  • Finally, a good Thesis Statement is one that is debatable. You should be able to think of at least one good counter argument that a reasonable person might use to disagree with you. Good counter arguments are not “straw man” arguments that can easily be blown over, but are good, sound arguments that a sensible person could back up.
  • To go along with the example Thesis Question, an example of a good Thesis Statement would be: “Proper reconciliation between members of the modern-day church ought to be pursued by private conversation between the two members in conflict, and if resolution is not reached, select church officials ought to be brought in to mediate. When pursuing reconciliation, privacy of the other ought to be valued over either member’s convictions in order to avoid turning the dispute into a public church debate.”
    • This Thesis Statement directly answers the sample Thesis Question. The question asks how reconciliation should be met, and the Thesis Statement addresses that “how.”
    • The Thesis Statement stays within its assigned boundaries (modern-day church reconciliation). It would be a problem if the Thesis Statement started to make claims about how church reconciliation should be conducted in the 13th century, because the Thesis Question asks how it should be done now, and the process in the 13th century may have been different.
    • The Thesis Statement is debatable. I chose this topic as an example because I know that not everyone will agree with it. That’s the point of an argumentative paper — if everyone already agreed with you from the beginning, there’s no point in reading your paper. You have to pick a thesis that a logical person could disagree with and try over the length of the paper to convince them that you’re correct.