Fifth Step in Essay Writing:
Developing a Thesis Statement
The purpose of a thesis statement is to state a premise according to research findings on a particular subject. Usually, a thesis statement is placed at the end of the introductory paragraph of an essay. The thesis gives focus to an essay by bringing together a number of facts, findings and observations on a specific idea, concept or subject. The thesis clarifies the purpose of an essay for the readers. And at WritingLeader we understand that one of the most challenging aspects of completing a writing assignment is crafting a strong thesis statement. Therefore, we are here to assist you.
Developing Some Thesis Statement Ideas
How you develop your thesis and what it is made of could well depend on the scope of the assignment you have been given. Your tutor may assign a broad-ranging topic for you to investigate or you may be given specific subject matter to write about. To understand your options better, look closely for any keywords in the subject field of your instructions. If, for instance, you are asked to examine what breeding programs are in place for white tigers in captivity, you would expect to see terms that relate to white tigers and captive breeding programs.
When you have identified the most relevant keywords for your writing project, your next task will be to collect a number of different information sources. It is a good idea to identify as many reliable sources as you possibly can because this will provide you with sufficient information to develop a compelling argument. In the example provided above, you would most likely collect articles and textbooks about captive white tigers and related breeding programs.
The Process of Constructing a Thesis
When you are becoming acquainted with all aspects of your topic, you will need to narrow the broader topic down to a central argument, which will form the basis of your essay’s thesis. If you fail to do this, you may just find yourself bouncing different facts and pieces of information around without arriving at a concrete conclusion. As a result, your work may fail to achieve a good grade because most professors and examiners expect you to take a distinct position based on the various arguments and facts uncovered during the research stage.
Useful hint: Take care to ensure your argument is clearly stated. Some college professors will look for statements like, “My argument is that …” or “In this paper it is argued that …,” Remember to clarify the precise requirements with your tutor or professor before you write it.
With some topics, it is not very difficult to develop thesis statements because the particular topic is specific enough to write about in one essay. For much broader topics, however, you may need several chapters to cover them properly. In these cases, you would need to narrow the subject matter down to a more specific entity in order to manage it adequately.
While you are considering your options within specified parameters, you will also need to distinguish those arguments that can be validly pursued from dead-end avenues. If, for instance, you are required to write about some aspect of the protection or conservation of wildlife, you could focus on anything from the African elephant to the white rhino. By contrast though, it would be difficult to build a valid argument for releasing imported tigers or elephants into the vast USA forests purely because this idea does not have the support of worldwide conservationists. So, unless you aspire to become a pioneer of some brilliant new concept, it is better to avoid arguments that are not widely supported by leading experts in a specific field, particularly if that field is science-related.
Identify the Key Idea behind Your Essay’s Thesis
Right at the heart of your thesis, you will have one central idea that will bring together all factual information, observations and quotes as these relate to your topic. This crucial concept or idea will be presented in question or statement form towards the beginning of your essay and answered or reiterated in the concluding paragraph. This idea can be isolated early on by identifying common themes in your source material and possibly adjusted later during the writing stage. There may be times when you find it difficult to get the right slant to start writing. However, in order that you do not stall, you can create an interim statement based on your first thoughts or impressions. The reason for creating a statement like this is to give you a foundation for directing the topic and tone of your work without arriving at any solid conclusions.
When you have got to grips with the topic and have drafted a ‘temporary’ thesis, it will help to maintain an open mind until the end of the process. As your subject knowledge builds up, you may start to think differently and alter your thesis at the end.
How to Identify your Central Idea
Example One: Protecting the African elephant
- Factual information: The rate at which the African elephant, and indeed certain types of rhinoceros, are being killed by poachers for their horns and tusks is very worrying. The practice is fueled by an illegal and quite considerable demand for these parts on the black market in different parts of Asia.
- Likely conclusion: It is imperative to stop the slaughter of these wonderful animals or we are in real danger of losing them altogether.
- Statement of purpose: This essay will look at the perils facing the African elephant and the action that can be taken to reverse their endangered status and restore them to their former numbers.
Example Two: The White Tiger and Captive Breeding Practices
- Factual information: Today, the white tiger is not known to exist anywhere other than in captivity. The species are bred via a recessive gene, mainly for their appeal as zoo attractions. Owing to inbreeding, many white tigers suffer genetic defects, often manifested through deformities of the face and general poor health.
- Likely conclusion: The methods used to breed white tigers are contrary to nature, cruel and done purely for monetary gain. There is no benefit or value to the practice in terms of conservation.
- Statement of purpose: This essay seeks to prove how the practice of breeding captive white tigers in the United States and beyond is unethical.
Conclusions can be based on fact or emotion but, whichever it is, a writer’s view might change as they collect in-depth information and learn more about a topic. Conservationists on the ground in Africa, for example, will usually have a different perspective than animal rights campaigners in the USA. Those on the ground may well be of the opinion that where elephants exist in large numbers they are a danger to villages and vital crops. The same group may even point out that relocation programs have failed because elephants have returned to over-populated areas and continued to destroy harvests. When you understand the views of local people, your view of the issue may well alter.
WritingLeader understands how difficult essay writing can be and we are always here to assist.
Writing an Interim Thesis
A statement of purpose can be turned into an interim thesis statement and there are various ways to do this. It is possible, for example, to take a question and make an assertion out of it. Or another way is to take a sentence that is essentially an observation and turn it into a statement in such a way that it sets the direction for the rest of your essay/paper. Even though it is often assumed that something (one thing) will result in another thing or in a certain way, market trends have shown that there are usually many other things that need to be considered in every equation.
The methods described above can be effective for getting your assignment started, but a trial or interim thesis does not constitute a central idea, which you might not devise until you are finished or are finalizing your essay. In some ways, a thesis statement can be used as a mechanism for planning while getting to grips with unfamiliar material. While the writing is ongoing, it is possible that some facts will emerge that are at direct odds with your temporary thesis and that certain pieces of information will lead you into completely different subject areas. It may even be that you have written some great paragraphs that you will have to remove from your paper altogether just because they wander too far from the premise of your thesis.
Helpful hint: Every element of an essay must defend the thesis. Therefore, you need to ensure that you provide solid evidence to support every claim or argument in your thesis.
When you read back over your first essay draft, you should make a note of the most prominent theme that draws the different elements together, whether this is facts, figures, quotes, etc., and how this fits with any conclusions you have come to. If that theme is the direct result of a statement or question, goes forward through a sequence of evidence and/or examples and all of these indicate an overall conclusion, then it is possible you have found that central idea for your final thesis.
How to Recognize a Good Thesis
The next stage is the final refining of your thesis sentence or statement. Provided the central idea in your temporary thesis still holds true, you will probably just need to make a few final adjustments for it to become the definitive underpinning statement on your subject matter. Here is an example of a poor thesis statement and how it can be transformed into a strong one:
Example Three: Control of gun use in the USA
Poor thesis: This essay is about gun laws in the USA as they currently stand.
Why it is weak: This thesis does not ask a serious question or make an assertion. It simply states that the writer intends to write about a particular subject.
How to improve it: Emphasize one important or controversial aspect of the gun control debate.
Good thesis: The majority of US citizens are not against the idea of law-abiding people owning handguns, provided they are trained, but a large number would argue that there is no valid reason for anyone to own a military-style assault rifle unless there is an intention to use such a weapon for assault purposes.
An important thing to always keep in mind when drafting each individual paragraph is the overall purpose or context of the essay. A good interim thesis is usually one that addresses contrasts and contradicting concepts within a topic and offers potential solutions or conclusions. When your work is in the final draft stage, the thesis statement should serve to provide readers with a clear idea about the essay’s purpose. Moreover, it should give readers an indication of what factual information will be revealed as the essay unfolds – essentially, the information that has led the writer to their final conclusion. Consequently, you will be in a position to start working your primary argument into every aspect of your essay i.e. into the introductory paragraph, the body paragraphs and into any other important component right up to and into the concluding paragraph.
By now, you should have a good idea of how to develop a thesis statement – one that is strong and effective.