What Is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement, also called a claim, is the main idea of multiple paragraphs. It expresses the writer’s point clearly.

A thesis statement is like a map. When you get the map, you need to know:

Likewise, a thesis statement tells the starting point (the topic), and it previews the journey (the direction).

Reading a map is easy enough; making a map is more difficult. In the same way, reading a thesis statement is easy. Writing a good thesis statement is more challenging, and it is a process.

No matter how familiar you are with the topic you are writing about, picking a direction involves many choices and probably a few surprises. The map you start with as you draft an essay will improve over time as you finish the different parts of your essay, and that’s good! A fully revised thesis statement makes it easier for readers to understand the map.

Consider this example:

Working while attending high school can be beneficial for students.

This thesis statement is a good first map. The topic is working while attending high school. But, this map also says what the writer believes about the topic: It is beneficial for students. So, the writer’s direction is to persuade the reader of the benefits for students of working while attending high school.

After finishing a draft and getting feedback from peers and an instructor, this thesis statement was revised:

Working while attending high school can be beneficial for students if they manage their time well.

Now, this statement still has the same topic (working while attending high school) and direction (benefits), but that direction is clearer because there is a new detail about time management.

This revised thesis statement helps readers know where the essay starts, where it is headed, and what to anticipate along the way. It reflects the work the writer did to find the best direction through the topic according to the audience and purpose.

As you’ll learn in the remainder of this unit, the revised thesis better meets these criteria:

It is substantive.

• Interesting

• Worthwhile

It is grounded.

• Supportable

• Reasonable

It is assertive.

• Clear

• Direct