How to write a strong thesis statement

A strong and effective thesis statement will set a solid foundation for your academic paper.  It will clarify the purpose of the paper for your own research and for your audience.  A thesis statement is the main idea of your paper and appears in the introductory paragraph.  It is a single sentence that states clearly and concisely what you set out to do in your paper.  In the thesis statement, you do not give any supporting argument or materials, you simply state the purpose of the paper.  To have a truly strong thesis statement, you should be as specific as possible. The thesis statement should be the first thing you write when beginning an academic paper.  When you know exactly what it is you set out to do in the paper, you will have an easier time keeping your writing clear and focused.

The active voice

Using the active voice in your thesis statement will make it stronger than if you use the passive voice.  In the active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing the action.  There are many phrases you may choose to use when beginning your thesis statement such as “The purpose of this paper is…”, “The goal of this paper is…”, or “In this paper, I will…”.  These phrases use the active voice and help the reader understand definitively that this is your thesis statement.

Let’s compare the following two thesis statements and examine why one is stronger than the other.  Which do you think is the stronger thesis statement?

This paper will compare the student populations of 2 adult education classes and explain how the differences influence the class syllabi.

The syllabi of adult education classes are influenced by many factors such as student populations, program goals, and number of contact hours.

The first sentence is a strong thesis statement.  It states exactly what the writer sets out to do in the paper with the active verbs compare and explain.  The second sentence does not state what goal of the paper is.  The second sentence could be used in the introduction prior to the thesis statement itself.  

Here are two additional examples.  Which of these two sentences is the better thesis statement?

This paper will examine how agricultural monocultures have contributed to the decrease in honeybee populations in the United States.

This paper will examine factors that scientists believe are contributing to the decrease in honeybee populations.

While both of the above examples are well written statements, the first sentence is a stronger thesis statement.  It is much more specific, citing one reason that honeybee populations are decreasing, and limiting the scope of the paper to the United States.  The second sentence does not give as much detail.  While writing the body of the paper, it may quickly become difficult to keep focused as there are many factors that may play a role in the decrease of honeybee populations and there may be research from around the world.  With such a broad scope, the research may become overwhelming, the body of the paper may sound scattered, and the end result will not be as well written as it could be.  The very specific and clear focus of the first thesis statement will make it easier to research and write, and the end result will be stronger.

If you take the time to write a clear and focused thesis statement, it will make the overall writing process much easier.  Being specific will help you determine the direction of your research.  Clearly stating what it is you intend to do in the paper will help you and your audience have a better understanding of the purpose of the paper.  Writing a strong and effective thesis statement may take some time, but it will be worth the effort.