Houston Community College Libraries

Library Instruction Tip Sheet

Developing Thesis Statements


Many students make the mistake of thinking that having a "subjects the same as having a "thesis" for an essay or research paper. However, the thesis of your writing is much more definite than the general subject.

A thesis statement is a specific declaration that summarizes the point of view you will express in your paper. It is the basic stand you take, the opinion you express and the point you make about your narrowed subject. It's your controlling idea, tying together and giving direction to all other elements in your paper. Your primary purpose is to persuade the reader that your thesis is a valid one.

What is a good thesis?

1. A thesis is specific. If your ideas are vague, there is an excellent chance that your paper will be confusing. Although general terms can be narrowed and defined elsewhere in the paper, a good thesis supplies a specific subject and a clear direction for your paper. The specific facts, details and examples that you use will help to clarify the idea that you are trying to express.

  • Poor: Aerobic exercise is good for you.
  • Better: Aerobic exercise may be part of a weight loss program, but t is also the way to a healthy heart.
  • 2. A thesis is restrictive. A good thesis deals with restricted bite-sized issues, issues that would otherwise require a lifetime of writing. Just as you need to narrow the subject of a thesis statement, so you will need to narrow the assertion about the subject. When you restrict the scope of your assertions in the thesis your writing will be more focused. The length of your paper will determine how restricted your thesis will be.

  • Poor: there are many advantages to having professional sports teams in Houston.
  • Better: Having professional sports teams in Houston has political, social and economic advantages.
  • 3. A thesis is unified and expresses one major idea bout items subject. A good thesis may sometimes include a secondary idea only if it is strictly subordinated to the major one. It is wise to write your thesis before you begin an outline and definitely before you begin writing your paper.

  • Poor: My difficulties in English literature are unbelievable, but I am doing very well in algebra.
  • Better: I am getting better grades in algebra than in English literature, because I seem more comfortable with exact concepts like numbers and formulas.
  • A thesis statement is the standard for your paper. Where you place a thesis statement depends on your goals, your audience, the purpose of your essay or research paper, and how you intend to organize it. The most common position for the thesis statement is in the opening paragraph, but other locations in the paper can work and the thesis may even be implied. However, just remember to write a thesis statement as one of the first steps towards completion of your paper. It should focus the paper as well as be restrictive and specific enough to give the instructor a clear idea of the subject and direction of your paper.

    A thesis statement is not: