Writing Tips: Thesis Statements

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Writing Tips: Thesis Statements

Defining the Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement?

Every paper you write should have a main point, a main idea, or central message. The argument(s) you make in your paper should reflect this main idea. The sentence that captures your position on this main idea is what we call a thesis statement.

How long does it need to be?

A thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should present the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in relation to the topic. Your thesis statement should tell your reader what the paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument focused.

Questions to Ask When Formulating Your Thesis

Where is your thesis statement?

You should provide a thesis early in your essay -- in the introduction, or in longer essays in the second paragraph -- in order to establish your position and give your reader a sense of direction.

Tip: In order to write a successful thesis statement:

Is your thesis statement specific?

Your thesis statement should be as clear and specific as possible. Normally you will continue to refine your thesis as you revise your argument(s), so your thesis will evolve and gain definition as you obtain a better sense of where your argument is taking you.

Tip: Check your thesis:

Is your thesis statement too general?

Your thesis should be limited to what can be accomplished in the specified number of pages. Shape your topic so that you can get straight to the "meat" of it. Being specific in your paper will be much more successful than writing about general things that do not say much. Don't settle for three pages of just skimming the surface.

The opposite of a focused, narrow, crisp thesis is a broad, sprawling, superficial thesis. Compare this original thesis (too general) with three possible revisions (more focused, each presenting a different approach to the same topic):

Is your thesis statement clear?

Your thesis statement is no exception to your writing: it needs to be as clear as possible. By being as clear as possible in your thesis statement, you will make sure that your reader understands exactly what you mean.

Tip: In order to be as clear as possible in your writing:

These words tell the reader next to nothing if you do not carefully explain what you mean by them. Never assume that the meaning of a sentence is obvious. Check to see if you need to define your terms (”socialism," "conventional," "commercialism," "society"), and then decide on the most appropriate place to do so. Do not assume, for example, that you have the same understanding of what “society” means as your reader. To avoid misunderstandings, be as specific as possible.

Compare the original thesis (not specific and clear enough) with the revised version (much more specific and clear):

Does your thesis include a comment about your position on the issue at hand?

The thesis statement should do more than merely announce the topic; it must reveal what position you will take in relation to that topic, how you plan to analyze/evaluate the subject or the issue. In short, instead of merely stating a general fact or resorting to a simplistic pro/con statement, you must decide what it is you have to say.


Do not expect to come up with a fully formulated thesis statement before you have finished writing the paper. The thesis will inevitably change as you revise and develop your ideas—and that is ok! Start with a tentative thesis and revise as your paper develops.

Is your thesis statement original?

Avoid, avoid, avoid generic arguments and formula statements. They work well to get a rough draft started, but will easily bore a reader. Keep revising until the thesis reflects your real ideas.

Tip: The point you make in the paper should matter:

Compare the following:

Avoid formula and generic words. Search for concrete subjects and active verbs, revising as many "to be" verbs as possible. A few suggestions below show how specific word choice sharpens and clarifies your meaning.

Use your own words in thesis statements; avoid quoting. Crafting an original, insightful, and memorable thesis makes a distinct impression on a reader. You will lose credibility as a writer if you become only a mouthpiece or a copyist; you will gain credibility by grabbing the reader with your own ideas and words.

A well-crafted thesis statement reflects well-crafted ideas. It signals a writer who has intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm.

Courtesy: Center for Writing Studies: 288 English Building, 608 S. Wright St., Urbana, IL 61801

Writing Effective Literature Review

In this simple note, I would like to give a very simple example of how to write clear and effective literature review. Most of the times, as the beginners in writing research reports for academic purposes, we have the problem to make our stances and arguments very clear. I am sure, with this simple note, the Writing Effective Literature Review will be more clear to many like me.

Issue 1: Writing Effective Literature Review, What It Means?

Most of the times, when we begin Writing Effective Literature Review, the question comes what does it actually mean? To many, this becomes like like a very beginner tutorial in Writing Effective Literature Review so we usually exaggerate the findings and our reading. Like the following example from one of my student's writing, the finding is actually nothing but highly exaggerated comments on what he has been read.

Most of the times, reading becomes very interesting or boring and also the topics can be very valuable and important, so the biased review does not lead to anywhere. I personally therefore recommend that we should use Passive approach and see what we see and comment it does without any feelings for what we read.

The topics are mostly and indeed are usually interesting but due to excessive overcommenting the key theme does not catch eye. Dont celebrate the topic but be realistic and only express what has been done. Whether huge or no literature, we dont need to celebrate it. Whatever has been stated earlier, just describe and sum it up with potential direction of linkages through critical insights being an expert of the field.

Example of celebrating review:

The topic of economic debt and economic growth is of main concern to economists. It has been an important issue in research. The focus is on the relationship between public debt and economic growth. Despite of abundance of literature on the said issue, still disagreement among economists found on the said issue.

Comment: This is no literature review but an overwhelming or significant comment. Avoid such comments everywhere. Instead of that, just write the following:

Standard Format Of Writing Effective Literature Review:

X affects Y because W and X is like this. Then Z determines V when X is blue. Others say, the effect of W on Z is mixed before U is not yet explored.


The language in literature review should be technical without expressing your perceptions and feeling and hence lead your reader to feel what others have said and what you wish to feel. Your standard writing will express all its beauty in your summation of the topic.

Our recommended guide to write effective literature review can be found here.

You can enroll for a private online course in Writing Research Papers or Applied Econometrics here.