The thesis statement is the central message of the essay. It is important for giving guidance and direction to the rest of the essay. It may be stated or implied, but if stated it almost always is placed in the first paragraph. Exceptions include a "process paper", where it may appear in the conclusion, or a paper that utilizes a question in the introduction to lend focus to the paper and then contains a more substantive thesis statement in its concluding paragraph.
BASIC REQUIREMENTS FOR A THESIS STATEMENT
According to the 2nd edition of the Simon & Schuster Handbook for Writers ( p. 38), a thesis statement fulfills five basic criteria:
Andrea Lunsford, in the 2nd edition of The Everyday Writer suggests that a thesis should have two parts: the topic and the comment. The example below offers an example of this breakdown.
|The recent rise in violent crimes among teen-agers||can be traced to their widespread, unsupervised use of violent videogames.|
She also argues that a successful thesis has three characteristics:
WHAT TO AVOID
|Last year saw a decrease in the number of "bad girl" roles in Hollywood.|
|It should always be a generalization demanding proof or further development. Here's a revision of the thesis above:|
|The decrease in 'bad girl' roles witnessed in 1998 reflects the conservative backlash against strong female characters in the media.|
The growing popularity of American Gladiators shows that people are more interested in watching gladiators than ever before.
Instant replay should be banned from the NFL because it allows you to watch plays again once they have been completed.
|Here are revised examples:|
The growing popularity of American Gladiators reflects America's increased desensitization to violence.
Instant replay should be banned from the NFL because once a play has been completed or a call has been made, it should not be revisited or reevaluated by nit-picking referees.
|A "weaseling" thesis, according to the 5th edition of The Random House Handbook, is one that "asserts so little that it expresses nothing more than the writer's wish to stay out of trouble" (75). For instance:|
Internet pornography is a controversial subject.
Although some people approve of V-chip technology, others don't.
|You need to take a risk, take more of a stand, and offer an idea that will require support and illustration to make it convincing. For instance:|
||Because too many children are stumbling upon sex sites on the web, all pornographic materials should be banned from the internet.|
|Fashion magazines have no right arbitrarily to define standards of "beauty" that, by demeaning and debasing the average woman, lead directly to eating disorders.|
|On the other hand, the following revision makes just as strong a statement, but uses more objective and fair language.|
|The highly idealized concept of beauty marketed by fashion magazines contributes to the anxiety over body image that leads many women to eating disorders.|
|Keep in mind, the goal of any thesis statement (and introduction for that matter) is to state your position on an issue, clearly but without alienating your readers.|
|We must eliminate violent content from television or we will end up raising generations of thoughtless murderers.|
|It is much better to admit that your opponents might have good reasons for their views -- reasons that you don't find completely convincing. Remember, if the issue were one of Right vs. Wrong, there would be no point in debating it.|
A FEW MORE
TOPICS & THESIS EXAMPLES
TOPIC: body piercing
BAD: Body piercing is popular among kids nowadays.
BETTER: Body piercing among contemporary youth represents the latest form of rebelling against authority that previous generations manifested in smoking, getting tattoos, and wearing mini-skirts.
BAD: Female musicians are getting more popular.
BETTER: During the past five years, musical artists like Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, and Jewel have solidified a place for women's music on the top ten charts.
TOPIC: news coverage
of military action
BAD: News coverage of military actions undermines their seriousness.
BETTER: By featuring highlights of air strikes and peace-keeping missions on the news, television producers reduce them to the status of popular entertainment and undermine the audience's appreciation of the seriousness of military actions.