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Writing a Strong Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the most important part of any academic paper and arguably the most challenging to write. When you stop and think about it, having one sentence that defines everything about what you are going to write for the next however-many-pages is kind of intimidating. So to make an effective thesis statement, I ask myself these questions:

1. What do I actually want to write a paper about?

It’s important that you don’t just pick a topic for the sake of having one. Writing a paper can be bearable and fun and even interesting if you look at your assigned topic, and try to find something interesting about it.

2. What am I trying to prove?

I always think of papers as persuasive arguments. Now there are persuasive essays and certainly a comparison of two pieces of literature doesn’t seem like it would be an argumentative essay, but at the end of the day, as a writer, you are trying to make the reader understand where you are coming from. What are you trying to make the reader understand?

A thesis statement should never be a question, but can be an answer to a question. So if I look at Latin American art and ask myself: What do I find interesting about Latin American art? Then the answer can pretty easily be shaped into a thesis statement. Take it a step further by asking: How do I make the reader appreciate the African influences in Latin American art? Since I love looking at the African influences in Latin American art, I will enjoy finding all of the examples that will then convince my reader that the African influences are important.

Some other things:

A thesis statement should always go at the end of the first paragraph. We are trained as readers and our professors are trained as readers to look for the thesis statement there. I look at the last sentence of the first paragraph and ask myself, what is the point of this paper?

You don’t have to write your thesis statement first thing. Sometimes I get a rough idea of where I want to go with my paper, write a piece of a thesis statement, and come back and revise it once I have finished the paper.

Make sure your thesis statement isn’t too broad. You want to be able to make your case in the amount of pages you have been assigned. If you just say “Drugs are bad”, you’re in trouble because people have written books about how drugs are bad. Get more specific!

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