Introduction to Thesis Statements


A thesis statement tells the reader what the writer's paper will be about. It expresses the writer’s point clearly and concisely.

Readers look for the thesis statement as well as the main ideas in paragraphs to help them understand writers’ thinking.

Writers should try to make their thesis statements easy for the reader to identify and understand. An effective thesis statement tells the topic of the essay and the specific direction the writer will be taking. The thesis statement should fit the topic, audience, and purpose, and it should be substantive, grounded, and assertive.


The video describes a thesis statement as a map and explains the characteristics of an effective thesis.

Download transcript.


A thesis statement announces the topic and direction for an essay and for many other genres (types of writing). It provides a map of where the essay starts and where it is going to go.

Consider this example:

Halloween should not be celebrated in public schools.

The writer’s topic is Halloween; the direction of the essay is to persuade readers that the holiday should not be celebrated in public schools. Readers will expect the essay to include reasons, examples, and other support to defend this perspective.

Here’s another example:

Halloween might seem a casual, fun holiday season for some, but for me it was offensive and uncomfortable when I felt forced to celebrate it in school.

This thesis has the same topic and the same direction, but it leads readers to expect a story. That story will probably describe a shocking experience that lets the reader feel the writer’s discomfort.

Let’s review one more:

If you think Halloween is just a “kids’ night,” you might be surprised to know that this holiday has ancient religious origins.

This version too has the same topic, but the purpose here is to inform. Unlike in the other examples, the writer is not going to take a stand about whether celebrating Halloween is good or bad in public schools. Rather, this writer is going to give readers a history lesson and maybe a little Halloween trivia.

These thesis statements go beyond announcing the topic and direction of the essay. They zoom in to make the topic more narrow; this narrowness makes the topic interesting and more substantive. The thesis statements also reflect the writer’s purpose and create expectations about the kinds of support the essay will include, which makes the thesis more grounded. They are worded carefully so that every word adds meaning; these statements are assertive. Like maps, these thesis statements help readers understand how to follow the writer’s thinking.

These thesis statements are excellent examples of highly effective thesis statements. They are not working thesis statements! To start, a thesis statement is just a simple topic and a direction, then that statement is revised several times during the writing process to make it more substantial, grounded, and assertive.


The study pages explain in more detail how to write and revise thesis statements. If you are working on a writing project as you complete this unit, try out the different patterns of thesis statements to see which works best for your topic.

This unit does not have a LearningCurve activity. To prepare for the post-test, if assigned, review your results from the pre-test.