As explained in Research, not all essays will require an explicitly stated thesis, but most argumentative essays will. Instead of implying your thesis or main idea, in an argumentative essay, you’ll most likely be required to write out your thesis statement for your audience. A thesis statement is a one- to two-sentence statement that presents the main idea and makes an assertion about your issue. You may have a longer thesis for much longer essays, but one to two sentences is a good general guideline. And, remember, in an argumentative essay, the assertion you present in your thesis is going to be particularly important.
When you make your assertion in your thesis, it should be clear and direct. You want your audience to have no doubt about your point. Of course, how assertive you are in your thesis and the content you choose to include depends upon the type of argumentative essay you are writing. For example, in a Classical or Aristotelian argument (explained in pages that follow), your thesis statement should clearly present your side of the issue. In a Rogerian argument (explained in pages that follow), your thesis should bring both sides of the issue together.
Still, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to an argumentative thesis statement.
- Your thesis statement should be one to two sentences.
- Your thesis statement should clearly present the main ideaof your essay and make some kind ofassertion (even if that assertion is about bringing two sides together).
- Your thesis should not make an “announcement” about what your essay will cover. Instead, it should just present your assertion. For example, a thesis like this makes an announcement:
In this paper, I will persuade you to vote for candidates who support education reform.
Instead you might write:
Because our education system is in need of reform, we should vote for candidates who are willing to make the necessary changes.
- While there is no such thing as a “required” place for your thesis statement, most academic essays will present the thesis statement early on, usually near the end of the introduction. There is a reason for this. Audience members are more likely to understand and absorb each point as readers if you have told them, in advance, what they should be getting out of your essay. Still, you should check with your professor if you would like to present your thesis somewhere else, such as at the end of your essay.
- Your thesis statement is the most important sentence in your essay. It’s your chance to make sure your audience really understands your point. Be sure your assertion and your writing style are clear.
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Your thesis statement is the central argument of your essay. It must be concise and well-written.
- Your thesis goes in the introductory paragraph. Don't hide it; make it clearly asserted at the beginning of your paper.
- Your thesis must make an argument. It is the road map to the argument you will subsequently develop in your paper.
The key difference between an opinion statement and thesis statement is that a thesis conveys to the reader that the claim being offered has been thoroughly explored and is defendable by evidence. It answers the "what" question (what is the argument?) and it gives the reader a clue as to the "why" question (why is this argument the most persuasive?).
Examples of good thesis statements:
- "The ability to purchase television advertising is essential for any candidate's bid for election to the Senate because television reaches millions of people and thus has the ability to dramatically increase name recognition."
- The organizational structure of the United Nations, namely consensus voting in the security council, makes it incapable of preventing war between major powers."
1. Thesis statements must make a claim or argument. They are not statements of fact.
Statement of fact: "A candidates ability to afford television advertising can have an impact on the outcome of Congressional elections." This is essentially an indisputable point and therefore, not a thesis statement.
Similarly, the claim "The United Nations was established to promote diplomacy between major powers." is not likely to inspire much debate.
2. Thesis statements are not merely opinion statements.
Statement of opinion:"Congressional elections are simply the result of who has the most money." This statement does make a claim, but in this format it is too much of an opinion and not enough of an argument.
Similarly, "The United Nations is incapable of preventing war" is closer to a thesis statement than the factual statement above because it raises a point that is debatable. But in this format, it doesn't offer the reader much information; it sounds like the author is simply stating a viewpoint that may or may not be substantiated by evidence.
In conclusion, your thesis should make clear what your argument is; it should also provide the reader with some indication of why your argument is persuasive.
For example: In the congressional elections example, why is money important (and whose money? The candidates'? Corporations'? Special interests'?), are other factors irrelevant (the candidates' views on the issues?) and for which types of elections is this true (is your argument equally true for Senatorial elections and elections for the House of Representatives? Why or why not?)?
In the other example, you will need to think about why the United Nations is not capable of preventing war. Your thesis should indicate that you have an understanding of the relevant historical circumstances and that you are aware of alternative explanations.
Of course, one can re-work a thesis statement indefinitely and one can almost always find something at fault with it. The point is that you must be sure that your thesis statement is indicating to your reader that you have an argument to make.
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