Cleveland State University

The Writing Center

Thesis Statement

The Writing Center


The thesis is usually considered the most important sentence of your essay because it outlines the central purpose of your essay in one place. A good thesis will link the subject of an essay with a controlling idea. Consider, for example, the following thesis:

People in the past spent a great deal of effort protecting themselves from witches.

Subject: people feared witches

Controlling Idea: people spent a great deal of effort protecting themselves


In a short essay, a thesis statement appears at, or near, the end of the introductory paragraph of the paper so that readers know the topic of the essay before they see the writer's statement of the central purpose of the essay. This way the first paragraph helps the reader understand why the writer is writing.


A thesis should be narrow in focus in order to allow the fullest exploration of its issues as possible, and it should reflect the type of paper that follows, whether it be persuasive or informative. Narrowing the focus of the thesis may require posing questions about it to yourself before committing to a final version.


What follows is a method for writing thesis statements that many writers have found useful (we found it in Chapter 3 of The Allyn & Bacon Handbook).

1. Decide what you are writing about:

A clear, concise thesis statement does more than outline the subject in question; it makes the reader aware of the writer's stand on the subject in question, connecting a subject with a controlling idea.

2. Think about all the elements your paper will deal with:

A thesis generally consists of a subject that contains within itself a number of smaller facts; the topic sentence of each paragraph that makes up the body of the paper should refer (in some clear way) back to the ideas contained within the thesis statement in order to keep the paper from digressing.

3. Think about the purpose and tone of your paper:

A thesis statement should contain the main point of the paper and suggest to the reader a direction that the paper will take in exploring, proving, or disproving that main point.

4. State your main point in a sentence or two:

A good writer can assert the main idea of a short, coherent essay briefly. Instead of rambling, be as straightforward as possible.

5. Revise your thesis as you develop your paper:

A final version of a thesis statement will only be available after a draft of the paper it is a part of has been completed. The focus of the paper may change and evolve over the period it is written in; necessarily, the thesis statement should be revised to reflect the alterations in the paper.

Few writers finish a paper writing about the exact topic they begin with. While you write a paper, your main point may change. As you're finishing, make sure your thesis statement has changed along with the subject and controlling ideas of your paper.

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The Writing Center



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Cleveland State University
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RT Library 124
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
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Dr. Mary McDonald, Director

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