Let's Break It Down: Writing A Good Thesis Statement
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Let's Break It Down: Writing A Good Thesis Statement

For students who struggle to start their essays, here's some advice on writing your thesis.

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Let's Break It Down: Writing A Good Thesis Statement

When I was in high school, I had a really strict English teacher whose methods I'm thankful for now but certainly gave me a lot of stress at the time. One of the things she was especially hard on was the thesis statements we wrote for our essays. Anytime we had an assignment due for that class, we needed to get our ideas approved beforehand, and she would mark off an entire letter grade per day that she didn't approve of what we wrote. Since then, I've learned quite a few things that readers may find useful.

1. It's all about structure.

The purpose of a thesis statement is to tell your audience exactly what you're going to be writing about before you get into the meat of your essay. But this can be pretty difficult, so I've divided what a typical thesis should cover into three parts: the what, the how, and the why. To reflect how these parts work together, I'll use an essay prompt that was assigned to me last semester, which was to pick a passage in Frederick Douglass's autobiography and determine how it is important to the book's overall message.

As you may have guessed, the "what" in a thesis statement covers what you want to talk about. In this case, it would be the passage that I chose out of Frederick Douglass's book, when he hears the slaves singing as they walk to the Great House.

Next comes the "how". This identifies ways in which the chosen subject is relevant. Better yet, the terms used in the "how" should also be in your topic sentences, with a body paragraph for each item. For example, I said that Douglass uses tone, diction, and irony to describe how the passage is relevant. Because I have three items for my "how", I will also have three separate body paragraphs.

Finally comes the "why," which dictates why the subject you chose is worth talking about through the use of what you state in your "how." Per this example, the "why" would be that the passage focuses on two major themes in the book: the normalization of slavery and how ignorance was used to bolster white supremacy.

So now that I've highlighted the different parts of a thesis statement, it's time to string them all together. It should look like this: what, how, and why. Or,

"A passage that reflects the ideologies in Frederick Douglass's narrative is where he hears the slaves singing on the way to the Great House, as it uses tone, diction and irony to focus on two major themes in the book: the normalization of slavery and how ignorance was used to bolster white supremacy."

2. Your thesis length depends on your writing goal.

High school teachers will typically tell their students that a thesis statement should always be one sentence at the most, and while it's important to be as concise as possible when writing, this isn't always true. When writing your thesis, think in relative percentages, not in a set number of sentences. In the case of a typical five paragraph essay, yes, one to two sentences is best. On the other hand, condensing the point of a fifty-page long dissertation to a sentence or two is impossible. In that case, your thesis may be up to a paragraph long. Either way, you should always focus on the quality of what you're writing rather than how much you need to write.

3. The full-circle ending is crucial.

A stellar conclusion in any type of writing is absolutely crucial, as it will leave readers with a good taste in their mouth. One way to instantly re-vamp a conclusion is to reiterate what you mention in the introduction, including what you talk about in your thesis. That way, having already read your body paragraphs, you are able to further establish your ideas in the minds of your audience members. However, try to do so in a way that's different than your approach in your introduction, as it may come off as being overly repetitive. You're essentially closing the loop and tying off loose ends, leaving readers just as interested and satisfied in your work than they were at the beginning.

With that being said, I hope that whoever needs this advice found it useful. Remember, as you continue to write you'll find your voice and be able to understand what works for you in terms of formulating quality content that's unique.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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