Essay thesis statement
The thesis statement forms the core of the essay. It is a direct answer to the assignment question, or response to the assignment topic. It is usually only one sentence long.
The thesis statement outlines a position. Here “position” means an argument, contention, or thesis that answers the question. The thesis statement also summarises the reasons, evidence, and/or analysis that supports that position.
For example, if you have been given the assignment question “Why is Human Resource Planning a good idea for NZ organisations?” your thesis statement could begin “Human Resource Planning is a good idea for NZ organisations because… ”. The position is that Human Resource Planning is a good idea; the evidence is given after “because”.
Note that how the thesis statements should be expressed will vary for different disciplines. For some disciplines, a clear announcement is recommended/encouraged (e.g. “In this essay, it will be argued that…” or “It will be argued that…”), whereas for others these announcements should be avoided. Disciplines also vary with regard to whether it is acceptable to use the first person (e.g. “In this essay, I will argue that…” or “I will argue that…”). See First vs. third person for help with how to use the first person. Check your assignment guidelines regarding how thesis statements should be expressed. For most essays, how the thesis is expressed is of secondary importance, and it is making sure you include a clear thesis statement that is of primary importance.
Although there are many different styles of essay, most essays at Massey University present the thesis statement at the start, in the introduction or introductory paragraphs. The remainder of the essay expands on the thesis statement, using argumentation and evidence to show that it is correct.
While most essays require a thesis statement, there are some essays (e.g. descriptive essays) that may not require a thesis statement.
Creating a thesis statement
In order to create a thesis statement, you will need to properly understand the question. See these sections for more on understanding assignment questions:
Once you understand the type of essay the question asks for, you can create a thesis statement:
Sometimes you may know the answer to an assignment question, but almost always you will need to research the topic first.
Guidelines for thesis statements
- State the outcome or conclusion of your essay, not just your intention to investigate
- Thesis statements should usually be in the present tense
- Give a short summary of the reasons for your outcome or conclusion (use “because”, “as”, “due to”) in the same sentence as your thesis statement
- Keep the thesis statement clear and specific; avoid language such as “perhaps” and “may” and don't give too much detail (that's what the rest of the essay is for!)
- The thesis statement is short: in many essays, one sentence is all you need
- The thesis statement should be realistic: don't exaggerate or overstate your position
- Make sure that your thesis statement answers the essay question directly