Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center
Guide to Writing Thesis Statements
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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
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
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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