"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect)."
--Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904
--Mark Twain, Notebook, 1904
Before you can compose a thesis statement for your paper, you first need to know THREE pieces of information.
- Your Topic--In short, this is the subject you'll be writing about. This will sometimes be given to you by your professor, but other times you will be required to come up with your own topic. Regardless, knowing the topic is not the same as knowing what you're going to write. This will make sense after you read number 2. For now, here are a few topics on which a paper could be focused.
* The War on Terror
* Jack Russell Terriers
* Benjamin Franklin
- Your Claim--It's not enough to know the topic you're going to write about. You also need to know what you have to say about that topic. This is your claim. For example, if a teacher asks you what you intend to argue in your paper, then you might say "computers." However, the teacher will probably then say, "Okay, I understand what you're interested in, but I need to know what you have to say about computers." Here are a few examples of claims based on the topic above.
* Computers are destroying America.
* The War on Terror isn't a war at all.
* Jack Russell Terriers are the most annoying animal on the planet.
* Playing Monopoly ought to be required in all high schools in America.
* Benjamin Franklin is not someone we should teach our kids to admire.
- Your Reasons--These offer support for your claim. After all, if you have a claim but no reasons to back it up, then you are not going to convince many (if any) people to listen to what you have to say. Imagine if the President of the United States said in an interview, "We need to raise all Americans' taxes by twenty percent." If a reporter then asked why, "I don't know" would hardly be an acceptable answer. While there is no set number of reasons an essay needs to have to support a claim, for a 5-paragraph essay, you'll need three because each reason will become its own body paragraph (more on this in the Body Paragraphs section). Here are a few examples from those listed above.
Claim: Computers are destroying America.
Reasons: 1) They are making us lazy. 2) They're providing explicit content to minors. 3) They're ruining face-to-face conversation.
Topic: The War on Terror
Claim: The War on Terror isn't a war at all.
Reasons: 1) It doesn't have clear sides. 2) It doesn't offer the opportunity for a treaty or resolution. 3) It cannot be fought in a specified location.
Examples of Solid Thesis Statements
(claim in BLUE, reasons in orange)
- Reasons at the end of the thesis statement:
The best gift I've ever received is my wife because she gives me friendship, support and an abundance of love.
- Reasons at the beginning of the thesis statement:
The friendship, support and love I've gained from my wife make her the best gift I've ever received.
- Thesis claim in one sentence and the reasons in the next sentence:
The best gift I've ever received is my wife. She gives me friendship, support and an abundance of love.