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National College of Ireland


Academic Writing Skills Guide: Thesis Statements

What is a Thesis Statement?

In most pieces of writing you will need to present your position on a topic or at least indicate your attitude about what you are writing. In the introduction of your assignments, you should sum-up the position you will argue in one or two sentences; this is known as your thesis statement. A thesis statement is a summary of your main argument, your point of view – it is the main point you will make and the claim that you will try and prove throughout the rest of your assignment.

Much of academic assignment writing is required to be persuasive. This means that you are expected to take a position and present an argument in order to convince the reader of your views. So, an academic assignment is usually an argument based on your research, where you give evidence to make a case - a logical sequence of points that leads to an overall answer or conclusion. The thesis statement is introduced at the beginning of an assignment and states your findings in brief or expresses the stance or point of view you are taking on an issue; this is an important part of structuring an assignment and the overall writing process.

Not all academic assignments will be argumentative. Some may require you to describe something. In descriptive assignments you may not be required to state your position. Always read your assignment guidelines carefully and check with your lecturer if you are unsure.


A clear and well-written thesis statement will help you to determine the direction and structure of your argument and changes an assignment from being a piece of writing generally about a topic and makes it into a paper which actually gives the reader an argument to follow. Your assignment and everything in it should support this argument.

Once you have settled on your central argument and you have written down the main points you need to discuss in order to justify it, you will find it easier to maintain a clear focus when writing the assignment. Knowing what you want to argue before you start writing will help you write with a clear purpose and you should find all subsequent paragraphs in your assignment easier to write and join together. As you have already told your reader where the assignment is going, you can be clear in how each paragraph contributes to your thesis statement and it will help prevent you from including irrelevant information.

It is essential that you know the destination of your writing before you start writing your assignment. If you do, you will be able to write clearly towards your conclusion, ensuring you provide clear evidence to answer the question posed. By having a clear destination, you can make it easier for your lecturer to follow your thinking, ensure you answer the question and help get a good grade.

A thesis statement means that:

  • You can take a position or a point of view on the assignment topic
  • You can use this position to respond to the assignment task and question
  • You can use this position to help present your argument
  • You can defend your position by using evidence from your wider reading on the topic

Following the thesis statement, you can outline what is to come in the assignment. By having the outline after the thesis statement, you can use it to support your claim. However, some lecturers may prefer to see the thesis statement at the end of the introduction so always check with your lecturer if in doubt. Either way, the purpose of the assignment is to use evidence and logical reasoning to convince the reader that your position on the topic is valid so there always needs to be a connection between the evidence used in the main body and your thesis statement.

All the points in your body paragraphs should be relevant to your final position, that is why you need to organise and analyse your materials and ideas before you write your assignment. What you are trying to avoid in your writing is having lots of good individual points, but no clear connection between them so you should keep referring to your thesis statement throughout and be sure to maintain one central argument. This approach will allow you to remain focused as you write.

Your line of argument should run through the entire assignment, linking all of your main points and evidence to your central position. The thesis statement helps to determine and clarify the focus of your paper, becoming a reference point for all topic sentences in support of this argument. As well as answering the question(s) posed, your assignment should provide evidence to show that your thesis statement is valid. The arguments you give in your assignment should be based on this central point.

As you are expressing your position on a topic and making a claim that others might dispute, convincing the reader of your argument is the key objective of your assignment. Views that oppose your standpoint should also be mentioned and discussed if they help strengthen your thesis statement. Because a thesis statement involves giving an opinion, it will always be an arguable point, which means that other people may have a different opinion.

To develop a thesis statement, you need to make sure you understand the assignment, spend some time brainstorming and conduct research. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organise evidence, looking for the connections and significance in the information you find. This research process helps you to refine and strengthen your position on a topic.

It is difficult to write a thesis statement if you have not synthesised or analysed information from a variety of sources. Once you have brainstormed the topic and/or done a first round of research and reading, you should begin to feel you have a provisional thesis that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. 

You should always try and have as clear a position as possible when you begin the writing process. One or two sentences spelling out your position in answer to the question should be drafted before you begin to structure and write the rest of your assignment. However, it is expected that your thesis statement will develop and evolve as you conduct your research, go through the writing process and develop your ideas before arriving at your final position. The more you work with your topic, the more familiar you will become with the major issues involved in the subject, leading you to refine your point of view.

You will more than likely revise or refine your initial thesis a few times before you are ready to write your final draft. It is not unusual for your thesis statement to be only finalised in the latter stages of the writing process as you will have been revising the working thesis during your researching and writing. 
The formulation of your thesis statement will follow at least three basic stages:

Your opinion/standpoint based on your initial thinking/brainstorming about the topic

Your opinion/standpoint based on the reading and research you have done

Your opinion/standpoint based on the editing and revision of your final draft

It is helpful to think of the thesis statement as serving two purposes: as a guide to motivate and structure your initial drafts and as the central organising idea of your final draft. In effect, you will have a working claim that guides your outlining and drafting and then a revised and more polished final claim that encapsulates your consideration of all the evidence at the end of the writing process.

Try introducing your thesis statement with the phrase ‘this assignment will argue’ or ‘this assignment argues’. Alternatively, use the following sentence template - (Statement of your position) because (reason for your position).

A strong thesis statement answers the question with a summary of your position and argument, stating the most important points. It should be arguable, debatable and contestable - if you cannot imagine anybody being able to make a case against the statement you are making, there is little point in writing about it. Ideally, a strong thesis emphasises something that will interest, challenge, persuade, or enlighten the reader. There should also be evidence available to support your thesis.

A thesis is not a simple statement of fact nor should it be vague. A strong thesis should be limited in scope using language and vocabulary that is specific to your field of study – avoid sweeping statements and generalisations. Broad claims are more difficult to support effectively than focused claims. Specific claims also tend to provide readers with more useful information than broad claims.


How do you know if you have a strong thesis statement?


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