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What Are The 3 Characteristics Of An Effective Thesis Statement

As an online student, much of your success hinges on your writing and research skills. If you can’t express your strongest arguments through your writing, you may feel you’re headed for disaster. That’s one reason why it’s so easy to experience stress when it comes time to prepare your thesis.

Your thesis will vary in its complexity and presentation depending on your degree program, but Michelle Lekkerkerk, Lead Technology Writing Consultant at Ashford University’s Writing Center, said that across all disciplines, a powerful and effective thesis will include these three characteristics:

A good thesis statement will make an arguable claim.

When writing a thesis, you need to develop an interesting viewpoint that you can support and defend. This perspective must be more than a mere observation. "America is violent" is an observation. "Americans are violent because they are fearful" (the position that Michael Moore takes in his 2002 movie “Bowling for Columbine”) is an argument. Why? Because this sentence suggests a perspective. It makes an arguable claim. A good thesis sentence will inspire (rather than diminish) other points of view; it will encourage discussion and debate. For example, one might argue that America is violent because of its violent entertainment industry (video games, movies, etc.), or because of the lack of gun regulation, or even because of the collapse of the family unit. In general, your thesis should compel others to join in and take a stand or at least think closely about their view of your claim.

A good thesis statement will control the content of the entire paper.

Your thesis statement determines what you are going to say in your paper, and it also determines what you cannot say. In general, every paragraph in your paper exists in order to support your thesis. Accordingly, if one of your paragraphs seems irrelevant to your thesis you have two choices: get rid of the paragraph, or rewrite your thesis. You don’t really have another option. You simply can't stick the idea in your paper without preparing the reader for it in your thesis. Think of your thesis as a contract between you and your reader. If you introduce unrelated or new ideas that the reader is not ready for, you have violated that contract with your reader.

A good thesis will provide a structure for your paper.

A good thesis signals to the reader not only what your argument is, but also how your argument will be presented in your paper. In other words, your thesis sentence should either directly or indirectly suggest the structure of your paper to your reader. Say, for example, that you are going to argue that “Online education is beneficial because of A, B, and C.” In this case, the reader understands that you have three important points to cover, and that these points will appear in a certain order. If you don’t follow that order, the reader will feel betrayed, irritated, and confused - and you don’t want that!

Students who need help preparing their thesis papers will find a number of resources at Ashford University’s Writing Center:

Written by Jason R. Latham and Michelle Lekkerkerk.

Jason R. Latham is the Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education, and Michelle Lekkerkerk is the Lead Technology Writing Consultant for Ashford University’s Writing Center.

Writing an Effective Thesis Statement

A well-focused thesis statement, key to organizing an essay, contains two elements: a precise subject and a precise restricting element.

Vague - Ecological disasters are a major concern today.

Precise - Pollution of underground water supplies threatens cities on the American West Coast.

Use a precise topic rather than a generalized topic when writing a thesis. Avoid statements like “I will use my essay to consider. . .” and “This paper will discuss….” Although there is no required position for the thesis in a multi-paragraph writing, normally it is located at the end of the introductory paragraph. It serves as a guide to both the reader and the writer.

A thesis should have the following characteristics:

*It should be simple or complex, never compound.

*It should be stated positively.

*It should be restricted, precise, and unified.

*It should not contain figurative language.

Your thesis statement makes your purpose clear from the beginning and sets up the arrangement of the text that follows.

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