ESSAYS BEGIN WITH A THESIS STATEMENT What is a thesis statement? A single sentence that summarizes your main idea How do you create a thesis statement? Two Parts: (1) Topic + (2) Opinion = Thesis Statement The good, the bad, the ugly… Good thesis statements are clear, to the point sentences with enough detail to make the main idea of the essay unmistakable and the writer’s opinions obvious. Bad thesis statements may make the main idea and writer’s opinion obvious, but the only thing they really offer to the reader is a sentence with vague generalizations.
Ugly thesis statements can be corrected with careful thought, but they are broad, tell the reader little to nothing specific about the topic or opinion, and the statement is so general that not much can be learned about the paper. Types of Bad Thesis Statements 1. The Non-Thesis Thesis Statement A thesis statement takes a clear position on an issue. This is different from normal topic sentences because the thesis statement cannot be neutral. This is your own opinion that you intend to back up (think of it like a debate).
The thesis statement is your reason and motivation for writing. A non-thesis thesis does none of these things. Example: “The Masque of the Red Death” is a short story that uses symbols. Analysis: Sure, “The Masque of the Red Death” is a short story and it does use symbols, but what is your opinion of the short story or how symbols are used. Better Thesis: Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death” uses complex symbols to offer a powerful statement about life and death.
Analysis: The topic is the same…”The Masque of the Red Death” and symbols, but the writer’s opinion is also clear…the symbols are complex and make a powerful statement. Not everyone may agree with that statement, but this writer can prove those points in the essay (that’s the support and body). 2. The Overly Broad Thesis A thesis statement should be as specific as possible. Giving broad statements makes the thesis vague (unclear) and ineffective. Example: The government as the right to limit free speech.
Analysis: The topic is somewhat clear (limiting the right to free speech), but the reader is left wondering why. Is there a particular reason the writer thinks free speech should be limited? It kind of makes you wonder if they put any thought into it at all. Better Thesis:In cases of racist or sexist language, the government has the obligation to limit the right of free speech. Analysis: The topic is still the same (limiting the right to free speech), but the writer’s opinion is much more specific (racist and sexist language).
You don’t have to agree with the writer’s opinion (remember this is an argument or point they are trying to prove). 3. The Vague Thesis A good thesis not only provides a position, but it also provides specific detail or reasoning in that one sentence. Too often, writers state an opinion and then stops with only a vague, meaningless ending. Example: There are many reasons why the government should limit freedom of speech. Analysis: Such as? Why can’t the writer tell the reader what those reasons are?
Don’t you know if you intend to make the argument that freedom of speech should be limited? Better Thesis: Freedom of speech should be limited because of the emotional damage hateful speech can create and the prejudice racist and sexist language encourages. Analysis: From this thesis statement, we know that the writer will argue that freedom of speech should be limited, but they go a step farther and tell you why (emotional damage and prejudice). As a reader, you will be expecting that writer to prove their point by discussing and supporting those two opinions.