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Developing a Thesis

An essay must be focused on, controlled by, and related to one main idea. The central idea is called the thesis. It contains your view of your topic, your reason for writing, your goal. Your thesis does more than merely name the topic; it asserts something about it. An essay's thesis is often expressed in a single sentence, called the thesis sentence.

Constructing a Thesis Sentence

The thesis is the sentence that contains the foundation, the premise, the argument you are presenting to your readers; it is the core of what you want to say.

A thesis sentence:

1) must be open to debate

2) should contain an active verb,

3) should have a concrete subject and verb, and

4) must have correct focus; that is, it must zero in on the topic precisely, covering neither too much nor too little ground.


TOPIC: Write an essay on the effects of strip-mining.

THESIS SENTENCE: Strip-mining should be tightly controlled in this region to reduce its pollution of water resources, its permanent destruction of the land, and its devastating effects on people's lives.

TOPIC: Write an essay about the dynamics of single parent families.

THESIS SENTENCE: In families consisting of a single parent and a single child, the boundaries between parent and child often disappear so that the two interact as siblings or as a married couple.

TOPIC: Write a literary analysis of Katherine Anne Porter's short story, The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.

THESIS SENTENCE: Although Granny's jilting robbed her of some of the joy her life could have provided, she did not allow her sorrow to completely dominate her life.

TOPIC: Write a literary analysis of Shirley Jackson's short story 'The Lottery.'

THESIS SENTENCE: The villagers in "The Lottery' represent the dangers of blindly following accepted traditions without questioning their basis.


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