1.4.1 What Is a Thesis Statement?
We will be talking about thesis statements quite a bit this semester. We will be writing
thesis statements, revising them, and using them as tools to help us revise our essays.
So let me clarify what I mean by the term "thesis statement." By the way, some of the
explanation that follows will be more specific or slightly different from some things you
find in your handbook. Where there is any conflict, this document rules.
Perhaps the first step would be to clarify what I do
mean by the term "thesis
statement." A thesis statement, as we will be using the term this semester, is not
necessarily a sentence that appears in the first paragraph of your essay. Your thesis
statement might appear in the first paragraph, or the last paragraph, or it might not
appear in the essay at all. I do not mean by a thesis statement something that you
necessarily write before writing the essay. I will often ask you to write a "trial thesis
statement" before submitting a draft of your essay; the term "trial" means that this is not
a thesis statement you are committed to. The only reason for asking for a trial thesis
statement is to allow us to have something to discuss in class. You will usually not finish
writing your thesis statement until you have nearly finished writing and revising your
Because your thesis statement may or may not appear in the body of your essay, I will
ask you to always put your thesis statement at the very end of your essay, labeled and
printed as a separate paragraph after your last paragraph or after your list of works
cited, if you have one.
So what is a thesis statement?
A thesis statement is a single declarative sentence
that states what you want your readers to know, believe, or understand after
having read your essay
. If we understand that definition, it will be a lot easier to work
with thesis statements, so let's take a minute to break it down into its component parts
and make sure we see what it contains.
188.8.131.52 A thesis statement is a single sentence.
A thesis statement, in other words, is only one sentence, not two or three or more.
Why? Because the thesis statement is the main point you want to make in one essay;
so it should be one sentence. Frederick Crews defines an essay as "a short piece of
nonfiction that tries to make a point in an interesting way." What makes it an essay is
that it aims to make a point, one point. This doesn't mean that you can only make one
assertion in an essay. But it means that all of the many claims you make must fit
together, that they must all support or lead to a single point (claim, conclusion) that
defines the whole essay. And if everything you say in an essay supports a single point
or claim, then you can express that claim in a single sentence. Notice that nobody is
saying that it must be a short sentence or a pretty sentence. But it must be one
sentence, not two or more sentences. If you can't express the main point of your essay
in one sentence, your essay probably doesn't have one point; it probably has two. And