A thesis is a main idea that establishes your position on an issue. Similar to a topic sentence, a thesis summarizes the main point of your essay and should appear within the first one or two paragraphs. Generally, a thesis statement is one or two sentences long. This handout explains how to develop a thesis statement during the writing process.
Basic Guidelines for Refining Thesis Statements:
1.As you begin to write, create a working thesis, what you think you want to write about or argue. Ideas for a working thesis can often be taken directly from the assignment sheet. 2.See how far you can make this working thesis go. What evidence does not fit? 3.Reshape your working thesis to accommodate the evidence that hasn’t fit. 4.Repeat steps 2 and 3 several times.
Note: Do not abandon a thesis statement when your research or analysis uncovers evidence that complicates your original idea—instead, revise your thesis to account for this evidence.
The following illustrates how a thesis can be revised through an example of an analysis about the film Educating Rita.
Working thesis: Educating Rita celebrates the liberating potential of education. This is a good start, but it’s extremely vague (and one character struggles with personal issues despite, or maybe because of, his education). So what to do? Revised: Educating Rita celebrates the liberating potential of education as an enabling—as opposed to restricting—force in people’s lives. This is better because it specifically indicates why the evidence matters. Revised again: Educating Rita celebrates the liberating potential of education as an enabling force open to real-world, working-class experiences. Notice how this thesis provides an even more specific application of education to particular aspects of people’s lives. Final version: Educating Rita celebrates the liberating potential of education as an enabling force open to real-world, working-class energy, but also acknowledges the potential costs of education, such as loneliness and alienation. This thesis clearly illustrates the complexity of the themes within the film.