Middle School + Thesis Statement

    What is a Thesis Statement?


A thesis statement is the basic stand a writer takes, an opinion a writer expresses about a topic. It is the controlling idea, tying together and giving purpose to all the details. The writer's main goal in an essay is to persuade the reader that the thesis is a valid one by supplying details, examples, and quotes - "the beef". Other secondary purposes may be to inform, explain, entertain, alarm, or call to action; however, unless the primary purpose is achieved, no secondary purpose stands a chance. A thesis, of course, is only a vibration in the brain until it is turned into words. The first step in creating a workable thesis is to write a 1-sentence version of the thesis which is called a thesis statement.


Every essay requires a thesis statement. Like an anchor, it gives a paper a clear focus and eliminates the problem of aimless drift. As a result it helps organize the paper because writers only use information that helps accomplish their goal. A thesis statement, then, is the main idea that all the elements of the paper should support. It contains an opinion and is expressed in one sentence.


What a Thesis is Not

A Thesis is not a title:


A title can often give the reader a clue of what the thesis is going to be, but the title is not a thesis. The thesis statement does not suggest the main idea; it is the main idea. Note: A thesis statement must also be a complete sentence.




    Title: Year Round School    

    Thesis Statement: Year round school is a disastrous concept with mythical benefits.


A Thesis is not an Announcement of the Subject: ("My paper is about...")


A Thesis takes a stand. It expresses an attitude or opinion about a subject. It is not the subject itself. MLA urges us not to use the personal pronouns I, me, you, your (unless the essay is a personal narrative.) It is acceptable to use the pronoun we.




    Announcement: My paper is on the incompetence of Mr. Law.

    Thesis Statement: Mr. Law is an incompetent teacher. 


A Thesis is NOT a Statement of fact.


A thesis makes a judgment or interpretation. There is no need to write a whole paper supporting a statement that needs no support. A thesis must be arguable. The addition of one opinion word will accomplish that goal. 




    Fact: The capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg.

    Thesis: The capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg, but it should be Philadelphia.


A Thesis is not the Whole Essay.


A thesis statement is one sentence that expresses the main idea. 


What an Effective Thesis Contains


An effective thesis is restricted and deals with bite-sized issues rather than issues that would take a whole lifetime to discuss intelligently. A more restricted thesis lends itself to a tighter and more complete argument.




    Not restricted enough: People are too selfish. 

    Improved: Human selfishness is seen at its worst during rush hour.


A Thesis Must be Unified


A thesis must express one major idea about the subject. For tight organization, an essay depends upon all details working to support one idea. A good thesis sometimes includes a secondary idea if it is strictly related to the major one. Be careful that the relationship is close or the paper will not have a tight focus, and the structure will suffer.




    Not Unified: Detective stories are not a high form of literature; but people have always been fascinated by them, and many fine writers have experimented with them.

    Improved: Detective stories appeal to the basic human desire for thrills.


A Good Thesis is Specific


Word choice is key when writing an effective thesis statement. Make sure that the thesis does not imply any ambiguity. Be careful to select words that are not dull, vague, or unclear.



   Ambiguous: Drug addiction is a big problem.

   Improved: Drug addiction has caused a huge increase in violent crime.  


Note: Writers may also extend the thesis statement by forecasting (listing) the major points that will be presented in the paper. A forecasting thesis is an excellent strategy to prepare the reader for a series of issues which will be discussed in that exact order in a lengthy paper. Short essays usually do not benefit from a forecasting thesis statement because it often becomes a summary and reveals too much too soon. Summaries are most effective as the conclusion of an essay. 




    Hemingway's war stories helped create a new prose style by employing extensive dialogue, shorter sentences, and strong Anglo-Saxon words.   





A thesis statement is usually one sentence that tells the main point of your piece of writing-research paper, essay, etc.

The thesis statement is then "proven" throughout the paper with supporting evidence.

When learning to write thesis statements, you may be taught to write a three-pronged thesis statement. This is a sentence that includes three reasons to support the thesis.

Example of Three-Pronged Thesis Statements:

1. We should wear school uniforms because they would help reduce discipline, be cheaper than other clothing, and help create school pride.

2. Zoos should be banned because animals need to remain in the wild, zoos cannot provide natural experiences for animals, and animals in zoos get sick and die.

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1. The moral of this novel is that love always wins. (The essay would present evidence and reasons to support that this is the moral of the novel.)

2. Those running for President should be held to a higher standard of ethical behavior. (The essay would present evidence and reasons to support why those running for President should have higher standards for ethical behavior.)

3. The vaccine created by our team of researchers is promising in the fight against the virus. (The research paper would present evidence and reasons why the vaccine might work against the virus.)


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