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The Thesis Statement

A paper must justify its own existence.  The first paragraph must explain why you wrote it and why someone should read it.

  • American style means you must sell your idea to the reader. You cannot assume the reader will agree with your idea, even if you know your professor might like it. Your professor might have the same opinion as you, but your preceptor who is grading your paper, may not. You need to argue using evidence to convince the reader that you are right.
  • American style is straight to the point. You can use creativity in the first paragraph to catch the reader’s attention if you want, but the most important thing in the first paragraph is the thesis statement. This is what your professor will look for first. Your professor will think about your thesis statement while reading your paper to see if you justify its claims and if you go off-topic.
  • Do not worry that you are giving away the punchline ending of the paper. The professor wants to know from the beginning what your claim is so he/she does not have to guess where you are going with your arguments. At the end of the paper, you will re-word your thesis statement and perhaps add in a few additional facts as your summarizing final paragraph.

What is a Thesis Statement?

  • A thesis statement is a brief promise to the reader of what he/she can expect from your paper.
  • It explains briefly the narrow topic of your paper.
  • It states your conclusion or gives a hint of your conclusion.
  • It can be one sentence or more than one sentence, but it should be as brief as possible.

When to Write a Thesis Statement?

  • Before Research – if you can guess the answer to the question you will research, write that hypothesis as a thesis statement to guide your research. This will help you avoid spending time reading parts of a text that are not pertinent to your topic. At this point, you do not need to be sure or commit to the thesis statement. 
  • During Research – look for facts that match or do not match your statement and revise it as you learn more. Keep an open mind. At this point, the thesis statement is still to help you keep your topic narrow and look for only pertinent information. As you learn more, you will realize if your thesis statement should adapt to your findings. 
  • After Research – when you are mostly finished with research, revise the thesis statement to reflect what you now know about the topic, or if you decided to switch your focus or narrow the topic further. 
  • After Writing – after you finish writing your paper, look at the thesis statement again and check if all the arguments in your paper apply to the thesis statement. If there is a claim in the thesis statement that you did not prove in your argument, add that argument. If you made an important argument in the paper that was not mentioned in the thesis statement, add mention of it in the thesis statement. If you ran out of time to include an argument that you had promised in the thesis statement, remove it from the thesis statement. 

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