A good thesis is like beauty; it is difficult to give either a set definition, but you can easily recognize each. For simplicity's sake, we'll say that "thesis" is just another word for "argument"--that is, a point of view of which you are trying to convince your reader.
All good theses have the following characteristics:
Some additional reminders:
- The argument can be proven, or at least strongly supported, in the space allowed. The shorter the paper, the more narrowly focused the thesis must be.
- The argument is an argument, not two or more separate ones. If your thesis statement takes the form of a compound sentence (i.e., two sentences joined by "and" or "but"), chances are that you are positing two arguments rather than one.
- When writing your thesis statement, remember the distinction between a personal opinion and an argument.
- According to The American Heritage Dictionary (2nd College ed. 1985), an opinion is "A belief or conclusion held with confidence, but not sustained by positive knowledge or proof." This is an opinion: "American women during the Civil War were lazy."
- On the other hand, an argument is a position you take on the topic about which you are writing. This is a position: "American women during the Civil War struggled to maintain their homesteads, although they faced many challenges that made preserving the family a difficult task."
In short, an argument or position can be supported by facts, while an opinion cannot.
- Your thesis statement must be supported and/or proven by evidence. If, when writing your paper, you find that you are having difficulty finding evidence to support your thesis statement, your thesis is probably more of an opinion than a position. Reevaluate your thesis statement and try again!
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