The first thing to remember is that a thesis is the point the author is trying to prove. That means that a topic, which can be expressed in a phrase, like alcoholism or effect of corruption on poverty, is not a thesis. A thesis can only be expressed by a complete, declarative sentence (not a question, either). So be sure to write out a complete sentence when identifying the sources thesis. (Review What is a Thesis for more details.)
Often all you need to identify the thesis of an article is the abstractthe brief summary, usually just a short paragraph, provided with the listing of many articles in most databases. This explains the main idea of the article and states what point it is trying to prove.
However, an abstract is not always provided. In those cases, you may need to read the first few paragraphs to get the gist of the article. This is typically where the author will lay out the argument and, again, state the point that they are trying to prove. In more difficult cases it may be necessary to read the conclusion as well, since this is often where they sum up the argument one last time. Sometimes its clearer in the conclusion than in the introduction.
With books, the thesis may be stated on the back, on the jacket flap, in the preface or introduction, or early on in the first chapter. On the back and on the jacket look for phrases like the author argues that In the preface, introduction or first chapter, look for I argue or similar phrases.
Keep in mind:Reference works do not have theses. Remember the definition of a thesis: a point that an essay is trying to prove. Reference works don�t try to prove a point. They simply report information. Usually it�s the more in-depth general interest works, and especially the scholarly sources, that have theses. So those are the ones you�ll want to focus on.
Note: If the full text of the article is not available on line, or if youre looking at a listing for a book, it will be necessary for you to go to the library and get the hard copy off the shelf in order to identify the thesis. In a worst-case scenario, our library wont have the source, and it may be necessary to go to another library such as the UW library to find it. Plan your time accordingly!
What is a Thesis Statement?
The thesis statement is the sentence that states the main idea of a writing assignment and helps control the ideas within the paper. It is not merely a topic. It often reflects an opinion or judgment that a writer has made about a reading or personal experience. For instance: Tocqueville believed that the domestic role most women held in America was the role that gave them the most power, an idea that many would hotly dispute today.
What Makes a Strong Thesis Statement?
- A strong thesis statement gives direction to the paper and limits what you need to write about. It also functions to inform your readers of what you will discuss in the body of the paper. All paragraphs of the essay should explain, support, or argue with your thesis.
- A strong thesis statement requires proof; it is not merely a statement of fact. You should support your thesis statement with detailed supporting evidence will interest your readers and motivate them to continue reading the paper.
- Sometimes it is useful to mention your supporting points in your thesis. An example of this could be: John Updike's Trust Me is a valuable novel for a college syllabus because it allows the reader to become familiar with his writing and provides themes that are easily connected to other works. In the body of your paper, you could write a paragraph or two about each supporting idea. If you write a thesis statement like this it will often help you to keep control of your ideas.
Where Does the Thesis Statement Go?
A good practice is to put the thesis statement at the end of your introduction so you can use it to lead into the body of your paper. This allows you, as the writer, to lead up to the thesis statement instead of diving directly into the topic. If you place the thesis statement at the beginning, your reader may forget or be confused about the main idea by the time he/she reaches the end of the introduction. Remember, a good introduction conceptualizes and anticipates the thesis statement.
Tips for Writing/Drafting Thesis Statements
- Know the topic. The topic should be something you know or can learn about. It is difficult to write a thesis statement, let alone a paper, on a topic that you know nothing about. Reflecting on personal experience and/or researching will help you know more information about your topic.
- Limit your topic. Based on what you know and the required length of your final paper, limit your topic to a specific area. A broad scope will generally require a longer paper, while a narrow scope will be sufficiently proven by a shorter paper.
- Brainstorm. If you are having trouble beginning your paper or writing your thesis, take a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind about your topic. Did you discover any new ideas or connections? Can you separate any of the things you jotted down into categories? Do you notice any themes? Think about using ideas generated during this process to shape your thesis statement and your paper.