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How to Write a Thesis Statement in High School Essays

by Pamela Martin, studioD

Just as having a road map can make finding your travel destination easier, a working thesis statement guides your essay and helps to keep it on track. Your thesis identifies your topic, states your position and outlines the support for your stance. Although you may revise your statement before you finish the paper, the more time you spend developing the strongest thesis possible, the easier you and your reader will find it to follow your points.

Gather Information

Before you can take a stand on a topic, you have to know something about the subject. If your teacher doesn't assign the broad topic, start by brainstorming a list of subjects in which you have an interest. Choosing something you are passionate about will keep you from getting bored and boring your readers. When you have a list of possibilities, doing some quick research helps you determine how much information is available and find connections and relationships between the facts.

Create a Topic Question

Your thesis statement is the single-sentence answer to a question or solution to a problem your whole paper will address, so you will need to generate that question or identify the problem. For example, if you have selected animals as your topic, you might begin with the question, "Which animal makes the best pet?" When you write your question, you want to be sure you can answer it thoroughly and stay within the assigned word limit.

Drafting an Answer

Your first version of your thesis statement, which answers the topic question, may require some changes along the way. As you think about the answer to your topic question, remember is a clear topic plus a definite, arguable position plus three supporting arguments equals a strong thesis. Your thesis needs to be something with which the reader might disagree. "Some people have pets" is a fact, but it is not a thesis statement. On the other hand, a stronger statement such as "Dogs are superior pets because they are loyal, loving and trainable" gives the reader the chance to argue and a reason to keep reading. Using a sentence stem like "I believe ____ because ___" may help you get started.

Polishing the Statement

At any point during your writing, you may need to adjust the phrasing of your thesis statement to match the content of the essay. Before you complete the final version of the paper, you can check to be sure that your thesis tells your reader the single idea of the paper, that it provides a position someone might challenge and that you've phrased it powerfully and confidently. You might find it easier to include phrases like "I think," "I feel" or "I believe" in your draft version, but take them out of the final draft, because they weaken your position. Make sure your thesis is a complete, declarative sentence, rather than a short phrase or a question.

About the Author

Pamela Martin has been writing since 1979. She has written newsletter articles and curricula-related materials. She also writes about teaching and crafts. Martin was an American Society of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism Fellow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching in elementary education from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Arts in curriculum/instruction from the University of Missouri.

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