Discovering interesting topics is a critical component of the essay-planning process. However, a good topic is not enough to guarantee a successful paper. The goal of the initial prewriting stage is not to come up with a subject or a topic, per se, but to identify a controlling idea that will help guide and shape the student’s essay and direct her brainstorming efforts.
Why Write a Thesis Statement?
An essay focuses on a particular concept, idea, or scenario and tries to say something unique about it. It shouldn’t be a sprawling report of all possible facts and details. Instead, essay writing is about choosing and analyzing the most important elements necessary for advancing a particular position. Therefore, the thesis statement for an essay represents a condensed and carefully thought-out argument that will define, guide, and set the tone for the entirety of your student’s paper.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement presents, in one or two sentences, the central, controlling argument of an essay. It explicitly identifies the purpose of the paper and/or previews its main ideas. Everything your student writes throughout the essay should in some way reinforce this primary claim. A good thesis statement should:
- Concisely present the central idea of the essay.
- Guide the direction of the paper and establish priorities
- Take a definitive stand that justifies the case your student is about to make.
- Articulate a specific, arguable point with which people could logically disagree. It helps to ask what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about the topic. If the student is presenting a claim or statement that no one would argue against, then he’s not saying anything worth reading.
- Uncontestable claim: The world would be a better place without war.
- Contestable claim: Christians should not participate violently in war.
- Uncontestable claim: Domestic terrorism is on the rise in the United States.
- Contestable claim: The rise of domestic terrorism reflects an increased disillusionment with the United States government.
- Effectively answer the prompt or question (if given).
- Be thoughtfully and deliberately worded.
- Avoid vague generalizations.
- Use clear and concrete language.
- Pass the “So what?” test of significance. A good thesis should be substantial and important, so ask, “Who cares?” or “What difference does it make?”
- Insubstantial claim: Students at ABC University have school spirit.
- Substantial claim: The strong sense of community at ABC University is evident in its students’ commitment to campus functions and organizations. This challenges the prevailing characterization of Generation X as apathetic, uninvolved, and lazy.