Developing Purpose And Thesis Statements

Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements


This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

Contributors: Elyssa Tardiff, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2018-01-24 02:29:37

Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

  • An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
  • An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

An analysis of the college admission process reveals one challenge facing counselors: accepting students with high test scores or students with strong extracurricular backgrounds.

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

The life of the typical college student is characterized by time spent studying, attending class, and socializing with peers.

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

High school graduates should be required to take a year off to pursue community service projects before entering college in order to increase their maturity and global awareness.

The paper that follows should:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college


A thesis statement is a single sentence, preferably a simple declarative sentence, that expresses the basic idea around which the paper will develop.


The thesis statement declares the main purpose of the entire paper. It should answer the questions: "What is my opinion on subject X? What am I going to illustrate or define or argue in this paper?" It is the single most useful organizational tool for both the writer and the reader.

Although the thesis statement is a valuable organizing tool, it does not have to be the first sentence you write when you begin your paper. If you find yourself getting bogged down trying to zero in on your thesis statement, start writing background or detail paragraphs. Then come back and work on the thesis statement


Like any other sentence, the thesis statement has a subject and a verb. After you have decided upon the subject, write a verb to go with that subject. It should indicate what assertion you are making about that subject. A good thesis statement is clear, restricted, and precise. It must deal with only ONE dominant idea.


The thesis statement should be phrased in words that permit only ONE interpretation. Verbs made up of is or are plus a vague complement, such as good or interesting, are too imprecise to be useful. Also, avoid sentences with subordinate clauses. Subordinate clauses set booby traps for most writers because it takes so much time to explain the subordinate idea that there is often neither the time nor the space to do justice to the main idea.


Notice how this topic is pared down to a workable size:

  • The college marching band
  • My first week with out college marching band
  • The day I won the tryout for the marching band
  • Making the marching band gave me new confidence in my musical talent
  • The day I made the marching band I decided to major in music


Finding the right thesis statement is like fishing; you may have to throw many back before you hook a satisfactory one—one that says exactly what you want it to. A well-thought-out thesis statement controls and directs the paper; it indicates both the writer's purpose and attitude. Here, clarity and precision are preferred to effect.

Poor Examples

  1. There are serious objections to tracking students.
    (This is too broad; what objections will be presented?)
  2. Benjamin Franklin had a colorful career.
    (Colorful could mean anything; you have no control over the subject.)
  3. Paris is one of the most interesting cities in Europe.
    ("Interesting" is so vague that you may write about Paris with no point.)
  4. The United Nations has major weaknesses and cannot prevent a major war.
    (This requires two you to do two things, not one).

Good Examples

  1. Comprehensive examinations encourage student cramming. 
  2. A college education is a life-long benefit. 
  3. In European nations that have adopted national health insurance, the cost of this program has always been much greater than that estimated by its supporters.

Summary of Do's and Don'ts

As you develop your thesis statement, keep the following "Do's" and Don'ts" in mind

A Good Thesis Statement Should

  • Fulfill the assignment
  • Assert one main idea
  • Be clearly stated in specific terms
  • Say what it means
  • State an attitude or opinion

It Should Not

  • Be unreasonable.
  • Insult the reader
  • Use general statements
  • Be a figure of speech
  • Consist of facts or data
  • Start with "My purpose is...," "I intend to show ...," "In my opinion ...," "I feel ...," etc.


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