A photo of someone drafting their thesis statement for an important upcoming essay.

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How to write a thesis statement.

Set yourself up for a great essay with a solid thesis statement.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement makes an argument and identifies your point of view. Learn how to:

 

  • Set up your essay for success with a thesis statement.
  • Write your own thesis statement using a step-by-step guide.
  • Adapt your thesis statement after you've completed your writing.

Start any essay with a thesis statement.

Whether you’re writing a five-paragraph essay or a 50-page dissertation, you need to make your intention or argument clear to the reader. A thesis statement does just that. It’s a one- or two-sentence summary that covers the main point or argument you plan to explore in depth throughout your essay.

Where to put a thesis statement.

Sometimes called a topic sentence, a thesis is usually the last sentence of your introductory paragraph. It offers a specific point of view that will be expanded upon in the body paragraphs and pages to follow. This argument needs to be backed up by supporting facts, analysis, and research.

Your thesis statement may adapt.

Keep in mind that writing a paper is a process. It often takes several rounds of writing and editing to get to the final product. As you edit your essay, gather feedback and comments, and conduct more research, your thesis may need to change or adjust. That’s perfectly fine, but always make sure the following arguments tie back to your main point.

A photo of a person sitting at a table and taking notes for their thesis statement.

Five steps for writing a thesis statement.

A thesis statement should come before any essay. After all, you can’t continue the writing process if you don’t know what you’re writing about. But just because you write it first, your thesis statement doesn’t have to come out perfect right off the bat. Landing on it is a process:

1. Ask yourself a question.

A good working thesis starts as a question you ask yourself and helps guide the direction and structure of your essay. What are you trying to solve or prove in your paper? When you’ve identified that question, start gathering some research.

2. Answer your question.

After you’ve done some preliminary analysis, formulate an answer to your topic question.

3. Develop your stance.

Using more research and analysis, consider your answer again. If you’re writing an argumentative essay, figure out how to convince your reader to agree with your viewpoint. Start drafting an outline to organize your points and keep your essay clear and concise.

4. Refine your statement.

Your final thesis statement needs to summarize your argument or topic. Instead of just stating your position, it should identify your point of view and set you up to make a compelling argument for it.

5. Write your essay.

Now’s the time to flesh out your paper. Draft an introduction and put your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph. This gives you a chance to build up to your main point. From there, continue outlining your supporting arguments and use that as a roadmap for the rest of your essay. When you’re done, save your essay as PDF to make it easier to share with your professor or editor and gather comments. 

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The qualities of a strong thesis statement.

Starting with an effective thesis statement is the key to writing a good paper. This single sentence should tell the reader what position you take and why you take that position. It should also explain what the reader will learn from your paper and briefly outline the highlights of your argument. A weak thesis statement means you’re building your essay on unsteady ground. If the statement is obvious, ambiguous, or not a complete sentence, you’ll need to hit the drawing board again.

A photo of a person writing a thesis statement on their laptop.

Your thesis should follow these guidelines.


1. Concise. Keep it short and clearly state your point.


2. Contentious. Don’t write a simple statement that’s obvious or self-evident. Make sure your thesis statement is an argument that requires explanation and discussion.


3. Coherent. Anything mentioned in your thesis must be explained with facts and points throughout the rest of your paper.


Explore different kinds of thesis statements.

Your thesis statement will depend on your writing assignment. So before jumping in to write a thesis, explore these different types of essays (and different types of thesis statements) to identify the style of writing you need to employ.

Analytical essay.

This is a piece of writing that identifies a topic, often in the form of a specific question, and initially takes a neutral, balanced stance. For this essay, you’ll need to gather information from different credible sources and provide a well-supported critical analysis without necessarily persuading the reader to one side over the other. Analytical essays are a standard form of academic writing and can dissect research findings, analyze books, and so much more.

Analytical thesis statement example:

Topic: How does Shakespeare use metaphors in his sonnets?

Thesis statement: In Sonnet 60, Shakespeare uses metaphors and imagery to explain how individuals experience the passage of time differently.

Expository essay.

This style of essay communicates factual information and educates the reader. These papers are clear and let the facts speak for themselves. This isn’t about being clever or argumentative — it’s about analyzing the information and explaining the process of how you reached a specific conclusion.

Expository thesis statement example:

Topic: Explore the elements of a healthy lifestyle.

Thesis statement: The core components of a healthy lifestyle include a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.

Argumentative essay.

This is your chance to investigate a specific topic, collect evidence, and establish a concrete position. As the name suggests, you’ll need to form an argument and gather detailed research. Whether it’s a research paper or an academic essay, argumentative writing aims to sway a reader to your point of view. This style of essay can also include counterarguments, followed by the author’s response to those counterpoints.

Argumentative thesis statement example:

Topic: Identify how social media affects mental health.

Thesis statement: Although social media platforms have a positive place in most people’s lives, with nearly 2.85 billion users currently active on Facebook, the long-term effects on those users’ mental health are proving to be quite damaging.

Narrative essay.

This type of writing tells a story and doesn’t require a thesis statement. Narratives can expand upon a personal experience or explore an imaginary story. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, narrative writing follows characters and can include dialogue.

A photo of a person sitting at a desk in an office typing a thesis statement on a laptop.
A close-up photo of a person's hands writing a thesis statement on a laptop.

Streamline the writing process with Acrobat Pro.

When your paper is ready to be submitted — whether to a peer reviewer, a tutor in the writing center, or your professor — save it as a PDF. That way, no matter whom you share the file with or what device they open it on, it’ll always look the same. Sharing your essay as a PDF also makes it simpler for your editor or reviewer to leave comments and highlight text. Upload your document to Acrobat online services to quickly add notes, mark up the essay, and provide feedback in a snap. 

 

When the review process is streamlined, you get to focus on what matters — drafting a compelling thesis statement and writing a stellar essay.

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