Thesis Statements: A Written Argument

thesis picI have always loved writing. For me, because it’s another way to express myself and get my point of view across. For some reason to this day I remember sitting in my grade 9 English class and listening to my teacher tell us what a thesis statement was and how to write one.  I recall her telling us it will sometimes be the hardest part of writing an essay.  However, we would need to learn how to write the best thesis possible because the thesis is our argument for whatever we are writing about.  I loved this because to me it was how I was going to “win arguments”.

What is a thesis statement?

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion;
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper;
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself;
  • makes a claim that others might dispute; and is usually a single sentence somewhere in your first
  • paragraph that presents your argument to the reader.

thesis pic 2

Once you have a basic understanding of what a thesis statement is you need to determine:

1.     What type of paper you 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; and
  • 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


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; and

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 pic 3You can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question.
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is, “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Many writers think of a thesis statement as an umbrella: everything that you carry along in your essay has to fit under this umbrella, and if you try to take on packages that don’t fit, you will either have to get a bigger umbrella or something’s going to get wet.

Thesis Statements and Citations:

Thesis: For both Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, law is primarily a precondition of the constitution of social life which is to be elucidated within the framework of general social theory, and only secondarily an institutional realm to which this general social theory is bound to be applied. Second thesis: Durkheims’s and Weber’s social theory leads to very different understandings of law.
Citation: The Sociology of Law as an Empirical Theory of Validity, by Wolfgang Schluchter
European Academy of Sociology, Second Annual Lecture, Paris, November 16, 1992

Thesis: The aim is to show that, even at the time of the original decision, the case could have been reasoned and/or decided differently.
Citation: Feminist judgments as teaching resources, Rosemary Hunter
Queen Mary University of London, October 2, 2012, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, Vol. 2, No. 5, 2012

Thesis: This article analyses the Security Council’s approach to women, peace and security. My
claim is that Resolution 1325 (and the subsequent four resolutions on women, peace and security) takes us to the pivot of these three feminist questions.
Citation: Feminist Politics and the Use of Force: Theorising Feminist Action and Security, by Gina Heathcote
Counsil Resolution 1325, Socio-Legal Review, Volume 7, 2011

Thesis: socially responsible approach to law teaching, not only in India, cannot ignore society, culture and competing value system
Citation: Flying Kites in a Global Sky: New Models of Jurisprudence, by Werner Menski, Socio-Legal Review, Volume 7, 2011

Thesis: The purpose of this article will be to explore Max Weber’s writings on property, in an effort to trace the development of his thinking on the subject and to identify whether coherent sociological themes emerge.
Citation: Max Weber on Property: An Effort in Interpretive Understanding, by Laura R. Ford, Socio-Legal Review, Volume 6, 2010

Thesis: I will argue, is theory as necessary for the constitution of practice, and theory to which constituent dimensions of law correspond
Citation: Law as Theory: Constitutive Thought in the Formation of (Legal) Practice, by Peter Fitzpatrick, Socio-Legal Review, Volume 5, 2009

Thesis: To the extent that the phenomenon of Globalization is reframed as a ‘problem’ of legal theory, I would argue, it becomes a problem whose ‘solution’ is already determined by the existent parameters of a particular discourse (of legal theory).
Citation: Reconceptualizing Law and Politics in the Transnational: Constitutional and Legal Pluralist Approaches, by Ruth Buchanan, Socio-Legal Review, Volume 5, 2009

Thesis: I seek to re-figure and ethically re-interpret the right to gender equality whilst keeping in mind the tension between the violence and the dream of law, as “[c]entral to a critical enquiry in law is the paradox or tension between law’s potential and law’s limits.”
Citation: Western Liberal Legalism and its Discontents: A perspective from Post-Apartheid South Africa, By, Dr. Narnia Bohler-Muller, Socio-Legal Review, Volume 3, 2007

Thesis: This paper discusses these developments in intolerance, a trend which implies that impairment as impairment is intrinsically negative and explores what the notion of tentative disability means to the understanding of citizenship, the productive body and the valuing of difference within neo-liberal societies.
Citation: States of Exceptionality: Provisional Disability, It’s Mitigation and Citizenship, by Dr. Fiona A. Kumari Campbell, Socio-Legal Review, Volume 3, 2007

Thesis: This article will discuss eight novel considerations that lawyers should be aware of with respect to technical advances within the legal field:
Citation: Technology and Family Law Hearings, by Ronald S. Foster, Q.C. and Lianne M. Cihlar
Western Journal of Legal Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1, Article 2, 2014


The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina

Purdue University Online Writing Lab

The Thesis Statement


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