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Essay Thesis

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

When writing a paper, a thesis statement is one of the most important parts of the essay. Thesis statements can be considered as road maps for essays - it tells the reader where the essay is headed and keeps the writer on track. Thesis statements much be able to be proven and expressed in 1 - 2 sentences.

Alright, Thesis statements are probably the most important part of your entire paper. Essentially what a thesis statement does is, it provides a road map for your essay. And it works for both the writer and the reader. For the writer, it helps you keep on track so you set out what you're going to say and just make sure that you prove it. For the reader it tells you where you're going, tells the reader what's going to be proven in the paper. And the three things that I use to really evaluate good thesis statements is, they have to be able to be proven. So you don't want accepted fact there like "Ms. Aquino has brown hair," it's probably not an appropriate thesis statement. There's nothing to prove, nobody's going to argue against it. So make sure you pick something that's an opinion, or something that's an arguable claim, right.
It needs to be expressed in one to two clear sentences. Now, some teachers are more picky than others. Some say just one sentence, if it gets entirely too wordy, I'm definitely okay with breaking it into two, but try your best to keep it into one. And then you should avoid using first or second person pronouns. The first reason is, you don't want to assume anything about your reader, so you don't want to address them as you in your thesis. And the second one, the reason I say you don't want to use first person, is because you want to avoid statements like 'I think' or 'my argument is', because that's just redundant. We know that this is your paper so you don't have to tell us that this is what you think.
So let's take a look at some example thesis statements and see if they made up to our qualities of good thesis statements. Alright, so I assigned my students a essay about the book 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter' and this is what I got. "In Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is an example of goodness." So let's see, we've got an arguable claim here "he's an example of goodness" because some people say, he's an example of evil, alright? We don't have any first person, so that's good and then we've got to take a look and see if this answers the whole prompt and expresses in a clear sentence. It is right? We've got one clear expression and it answers the prompt it gives us some sort of direction. Could it be a little more detailed? Of course, but it really sets out what this paper is going to do. It's going to prove that Dexter is an example of goodness.
Let's look at the next one. "I think that Dexter is evil because he kills people like Father Donovan." Alright, so the first thing I noticed is we've got that statement 'I think' and we want to make sure, we get rid of that in thesis statements. We don't want 'I think' there, we know it's your thought, alright? It does make a claim, 'he's evil,' but the one thing I see here that we want to avoid in thesis statements as well, is it gives a specific example from the book, so it says "he kills people like Father Donovan," who is a character in the book; one more thing about thesis statements, is you need to keep them universal, which means they can apply to all people. Any examples that you have, you're going to use them in the body of your paper but don't put them in your thesis statement.
And next we have 'In Darkly Dreaming Dexter' by Jeff Lindsay. I really like that they use author name and the full title of the book. "I think that Dexter is both good and bad because I can see why he does what he does." Alright so we know we want to get rid of that 'I think' and here it seems like it's detailed. We've got a long statement but let's look at that statement. 'I think that Dexter's both good and bad because I can see why he does what he does' that doesn't really say much even though it's a lot of words, it's not coming down into an arguable claim. To say that something is both good and bad is really not giving your opinion at all. It's saying it can be both ways. So you really want to make sure that in a thesis statement, you come down on one side of the fence or the other depending on your prompt.
And let's look at one more, "In Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is an example of evil because of his selfishness, his bloodlust and his need for revenge." Now this one works really well, we've got the title of the book here, which is great, and we've got no first person, which is even better, we've got universal, right? It talks about his selfishness, his bloodlust and his need for revenge but it doesn't talk about specific examples from the book and these are things that can apply to all people. It also comes down on one side of the fence and argues that he is evil. So here's probably the best example of a thesis statement that we have.