What should be included in the thesis statement for an argumentative essay?


Calvin Olsen, First-year Writing professor, academic editor, English tutor

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You’ll hear a lot of different metaphors for what makes a good thesis (and you have already heard one or two from previous answers). For college writing, I find that the best one is to consider your thesis as a road map for your paper. Your reader wants to know where you’re going to end up in the end, or at least where you plan to go.

If you can inform them where you’re headed before the journey starts, they’ll already have their own ideas in mind. One of the best things about college writing is that your audience is generally well-informed. You’re not writing to people that have never read the idea/argument/text you’re talking about; instead, you’re writing to convince them that your ideas are the most correct. Chances are they have their own argument, so your thesis should simply set them up for where you will travel throughout the essay.

Setting up your thesis as a road map allows you and your reader to think of each paragraph as a stop along the way. If your thesis is “Frankenstein’s monster is not human because he is physically superior to the human race” your readers can narrow down possibilities for where you’ll go. They’ll have a general expectation for what evidence you will and provide. You don’t need a 100-word thesis that specifically tells the reader everything you’ll say in the paper—you just need to identify your argument and let the reader know where you plan to be in the end. Together with the rest of your introduction, your road map thesis will prepare your reader to know right where you're at and which direction you're headed.

Carrie Hagen, Nonfiction Writer and Researcher, Teacher

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Good general and specific advice here! I'm going to add a basic tip: to test the strength of your thesis, formulate at least three topic sentences that break the thesis down into smaller arguments that will sustain the body of the paper. If you don't do this at the start, you could spend precious mental energy crafting an argument that you don't have enough evidence to support. (Three is a ballpark number depending on the length of the paper.)

Think of this exercise as fleshing out the road map that Calvin talks about. Colleen mentioned that she should be able to revert back to your thesis at any time to see if you are on course... these topic sentences will serve to remind you and your audience of your larger argument.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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I tell my students that the thesis statement is the anchor of the paper--it holds it all together. At any point in reading the paper, I should be able to look back at the thesis and see its relationship to the paragraph. When I teach this kind of thesis, I require my students to clearly state their argument and address the counterargument, but if you have some kind of different directions from your teacher, heed them.

Let's say you are writing about the topic of global warming. The topic is different than the argument. Now we need to get more focused. First, what is something you have to assert?

After you have done some research, you find that the Kyoto Protocol feels outdated, that there is more that needs to be done. So part of your thesis statement will assert this claim.

"the Kyoto Protocol needs to be revised in order to address today's climate change issues..."

But you haven't addressed the counterargument yet. Here's a Noodle piece on that if you need refreshing.

Let's say you think some of the Kyoto Protocol is effective...

"Although some elements of the KP are effective..."

OK, now we need to put them all together into one solid claim that you can sustain for a few pages:

"Although some elements of the Kyoto Protocol are effective, the Protocol itself needs to be revised in order to address the current climate change issues facing the global market."

And there you have a thesis statement that you can sustain for several pages. Happy writing!

Tracy Jennings, Works at Noodle and here to help!

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First, read this article about common academic writing mistakes, paying close attention to #3 - "forget (most of) the rules you were taught in high school."

There is no perfect formula for a great thesis statement for a specific type of essay. (Unless your teacher explicitly described one to you — then your assignment is a lesson in following instructions, not writing creatively.) But a great thesis is a roadmap, and it should describe how the argument of the paper is going to be laid out.

E.g. "We cannot discount the latest scientific research on global warming because it offers further substantiation of its previous claims and new corroborative evidence, despite other reports questioning its accuracy."

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Anonymous, Wildon

What should be included in the thesis statement for an argumentative essay? should there be web site in it as well? like these are the questions i ask my self all the time and to think that there is a whole forum here dedicated to this sort of work here is pretty nice, so thanks a lot for that !

Amanda Morris, College Professor, Writer, Advisor, Writing Coach

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Ah, thesis statements. The stumbling block for many student writer! :) My peers have provided fantastic advice here and I would like to submit some additional things to consider. A thesis statement tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. A well-written and precise thesis tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper. In the case of an assignment prompt - perhaps your teacher provides you with a question to answer - your thesis should directly answer the question asked of you. However, think of the thesis as an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself.

The subject, or topic, of an essay might, for example, be an aspect of television or a particular show; a thesis must then offer a way to understand that aspect of TV or the show that others might dispute. Also remember that in most undergraduate student papers, a thesis is usually a single sentence somewhere in your first paragraph that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

One final piece of advice: You can revise your thesis statement whenever you want while you are writing your essay. Writers often discover what their real purpose and point is in the process of putting their thoughts into words and then reading what they've written.

Best of luck in all of your writing endeavors!

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