Write a Thesis Statement (Workout F)

A thesis can be an argument or a descriptive summary, depending on your project. The thesis determines what can, and cannot, be included in the essay.

Consider the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. If the picture for the jigsaw puzzle is a dolphin, then that is its thesis. In that case, only puzzle pieces that have parts of a dolphin belong in the puzzle. As well, all the pieces with dolphin on them must be put in the right place so that we can clearly understand that the picture is a dolphin.

Writing an essay with a strong thesis (or underlying picture) is the same – but it can be more challenging when you use words!

If you are clear about the goal of your essay and you know exactly what you want to tell your reader, then writing a thesis will come naturally.

Let’s look at this practice essay outline.

Here we have the main ideas for our essay, generated by brainstorming. The blue boxes indicate four main points that will contribute to the body of the essay.

But how will we link them all together? What will be the overall central focus or underlying idea? It seems that all four ideas relate to actively participating in learning. How can we turn this into a thesis?

When Thesis Statements Go Wrong

It’s helpful to be able to identify common errors in writing thesis statements. In this activity, rank the three possible thesis statements from worst to best. Then, click each one to read an explanation.

Essay Question:

Why are video games useful tools in the primary classroom?

Possible Thesis statements:

A. In the primary classroom, video games can be very useful to help students.

This is not a good thesis because it does not say anything. This thesis essentially restates the question. It does not give any indication of the work the writer has done to think about the topic. Nor can we get a sense of what the essay will be about.

B. Video games allow students to interact with materials, to engage in fun game play, and to physically participate in activities.

While this thesis is better than the one before, it is also not a great thesis because it merely lists the three points that will be covered in the essay. It does not offer a larger unifying idea that can tie the three points all together.

C. Video games help students to learn more effectively because they allow them to be active instead of passive learners in the classroom.

This example provides a clear and specific answer to the question.
Also, this thesis uses a working definition for “useful” – it assumes that useful means “to help students learn more effectively.”
Finally, this thesis offers a conclusion or idea that is not already in the question; it brings in the idea of “active participation” as the unique contribution made by this essay.

Effective Thesis

Remember, an effective thesis does not just list the ideas of the essay; it adds the author’s insight or conclusions about the content. The thesis must introduce a larger unifying idea to tie all the points together. In the example, the larger idea, the author’s insight, is the idea of active compared to passive learners.

Certainly, there can be many possible thesis ideas for any essay and this is just one example. Now, go back and review the practice thesis statement that you wrote for this essay. Which of the models does it most clearly resemble? Can you revise your thesis so that it is effective and provides a real conclusion about the topic?