Practical Application: Writing a Thesis Statement for an Essay

Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The most important sentence of your essay is the thesis statement. Here, we'll go through the steps for writing and revising a thesis statement, with plenty of opportunity for you to practice.

Thesis Statement

One of the key components to an essay is the thesis statement. It gives the reader a preview of what's to come and helps focus the essay on its most salient points.

This practical application will take you through how to write and revise a thesis statement and will help you write the thesis statement for the Expository Essay required for this course.

Steps to Create a Thesis

A thesis statement should encapsulate the main idea of the essay. That means that it needs to provide the big ideas, without going into too much detail. There are several steps to creating a good thesis statement. They are:

  1. Brainstorm your answer to the prompt.
  2. Put your answer into a single sentence.
  3. Revise your statement for clarity and conciseness.

Let's go through each of these steps together to write our thesis statement.

Brainstorming

Let's take a look at what that looks like with an example. In the Practical Application Choosing a Topic and Beginning Research, we chose the following prompt to write an expository essay:

What were the direct and indirect causes of World War I?

The first thing we have to do is to brainstorm our answer to that prompt. For example, we might have already found from our research that there were indirect causes like militarism, imperialism, and nationalism across the globe, particularly in Europe. There were also direct causes like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the Zimmerman telegram that brought the United States into the war. All of those details help to answer the prompt.

Practice Brainstorming

If you haven't already, choose a prompt for the expository essay assignment for this course. To help you choose your prompt and begin research, take a look at the Practical Application Choosing a Topic and Beginning Research. Your prompt choices are:

  • How has the decline in the honeybee population affected farmers in the United States?
  • How do 'hybrid' cars (ones that use both gasoline and electricity) differ from traditional (gasoline-only) cars?

Once you know what your prompt is and you've begun research, brainstorm your answer to the prompt and list any major points that you want to include in your essay.

Writing Your Thesis

Now that we've brainstormed, it's time to put that information into a thesis sentence. For example, we might write the following sentence from our World War I brainstorm:

Both indirect causes like the rise of militarism, imperialism, and nationalism, and direct causes like the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the Zimmerman telegram led to World War I.

We're not trying to write a perfect sentence here, just a first draft that incorporates what we brainstormed above.

Practice Writing

Now it's your turn. Take a moment and put your brainstormed answer into a single sentence. For now, don't worry too much about getting the sentence just right; we'll revise it in a minute. Instead, just put all your answers into one sentence.

Revising

Now that we have a draft of a thesis sentence, it's time to revise it to make it better. The first thing you'll want to do when revising is to check that the thesis sentence is specific but not too long. For example, a sentence like 'There were many causes of World War I,' is way too general.

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