Traditionally, the thesis is the most important sentence or series of sentences in your essay. By now, you’ve probably heard the thesis called all sorts of names. Your “point,” “argument,” “position,” “so what,” “purpose,” or “controlling idea.” This is by no means an exhaustive list. Me, I like to use the terms “argument ” and “controlling idea.” You’ve probably been told that the thesis should go in the first paragraph of your essay. That it should be clear and concise, a well-written, expertly articulated point that you will prove throughout the course of your essay. I imagine, at some point in your academic life, you were told that the thesis should be one or two sentences long and confidently state what your essay is all about.
Here’s the thing . . . the thesis doesn’t have to begin as an affirmation—I will do this. Instead, let’s think about our theses as questions. It’s a whole lot easier to ask a question of a text than to assert a claim that you can prove over the course of two or six or twenty pages. I like to think of our theses as the products of an inquiry process that begins simply and gradually evolves into a hypothesis we seek to explore in our writing. Very often, the research we do as we seek to answer the question posed by our thesis reshapes the thesis. This is great! Indeed, the best thesis statements undergo a series of changes as we delve deeper into our scholarship.
More Resources on Developing Your Thesis:
This handout produced by the Writing Center at UCLA is an effective crib sheet in navigating the thesis as a process of discovery..
Produced by the august grammatarians over at Purdue Owl, this video provides a brief, step-by-step, breakdown of the key elements of the thesis statement.