The UVic Writer's Guide


The Statement Of Your Thesis


Once you have discovered a thesis, sharpen it into a concise statement. The thesis statement usually appears in the introduction of your essay, and is best expressed in one sentence as a definition of your position, or the point you intend to prove in your essay. A good thesis statement will help organize your essay and give it direction; it is the central idea around which the rest of the essay is built.

The ideal thesis (like the topic itself) will be neither too broad nor too narrow for the compass of your essay. Clearly a 3000-word essay will have a more complex argument, and correspondingly a more complex thesis, than an essay of 600 words. One of the most common problems with essays is that they are based on a thesis that is too obvious to be worth arguing--a truism. Here are some examples of possible theses:

Specific topic:
How commercials manipulate their audience
A thesis that is a truism:
"Television Commercials attempt to sell their products to the largest possible audience."
A thesis that is too broad:
"Several tactics are used to entice consumers to buy the advertised product."(This thesis is likely to produce an essay that is simply a shopping list of examples, dull both
for the writer and reader.)
A sharper thesis:
"Commercials sell their products by suggesting that those who buy them will instantly enter an ideal world where they are irresistably attractive."
Too limited:
"Molson Canadian commercials are offensive."
Specific topic:
Problems in fighting the medieval fire-breathing dragon.
A thesis that is a truism:
"Fighting fire-breathing dragons was hell."
A thesis that is too broad:
"The flames of passion in courtly love claimed more knights' lives than all the fire-breathing dragons in medieval Europe." (The topic is unwieldy because it involves two areas of research, courtly love and fire-breathing dragons.)
A sharper thesis:
"Fewer knights would have been broiled in their armour if the medieval world had known of fire-extinguishers."
Too limited:
" 'Puff the Magic Dragon' is a sweet song."


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated May 11, 1995