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Tips on Writing a Good Thesis Statement at the Middle School Level

by Jennifer Brozak

By the time you reach middle school, your teachers will assign an essay that requires you to write and support a thesis statement. Learning how to develop a clear and concise thesis statement is one of the fundamental skills of successful writing, as a solid thesis statement provides a paper with direction and lays the foundation for what you plan to argue and support.

Use Specific Language

Your thesis statement should be as specific as possible. Because it provides a “road map” for your paper, it should be very direct regarding what you plan to address in your essay. Try to avoid using vague words like “good” or “bad" or "same" or "different" in your thesis statement; instead, use synonyms for those words that shed light on what you mean by "good.” For instance, if you're writing a compare-contrast essay about the similarities and difference in characters between two novels, don't simply write, "Character A and Character B were alike and different in many ways." Instead, be as specific as possible about the shared and contrasting qualities the characters possessed.

Answer a Question

To be effective, your thesis statement must answer a question. Sometimes this is easy, because your teacher will provide you with a question to answer, and you can formulate your thesis from the question. For instance, your teacher may ask a question such as “Should cell phones be banned in school? Why or why not?” Your thesis could then begin with “Cell phones should (or should not) be banned in school because…” and then, depending on your paper's length requirements, you'll want to briefly state two or three reasons in your thesis statement as to why they should or should not be banned. If your teacher hasn't asked a specific question, try writing your own topic question. For instance, if your topic is healthy school lunches, you could ask yourself, "Why are healthy lunches so important in schools?" to begin formulating your thesis statement.

Pass the "So What" Test

A useful way to determine whether your thesis is effective is to ask whether it passes the "So what?" test. In other words, if your reader wonders "So what?" after you state your thesis -- meaning that your reader doesn't understand the broader issue you're attempting to address -- you'll want to revise it to make it more clear and descriptive.

Pass the "How" or "Why" Test

Another way to test the efficacy of your thesis is to ask whether it passes the "how" or "why" test. For instance, if, after reading your thesis, your reader needs to ask "how" or "why" you're stating your position, chances are that you need to revise to make it more inclusive. For example, if you use the thesis "Martin Luther King, Jr. was a good leader," your reader might wonder how or why you feel this way. Adding a "because" to this statement will help, as will avoiding the vague word "good." For example, writing "Martin Luther King, Jr. was an effective leader because of reason A, reason B, and reason C" is much clearer and more direct than just saying he was a "good" leader.

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