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What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or controlling idea of an essay, research paper, and/or other informative writings. All information in the paper tends towards this idea, one way or the other. Thus, a thesis statement is a specific claim that all other sentences in one‘s essay revolve around. Therefore, every sentence, be it simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex should aim at substantiating the thesis statement. It is the foundation from which the writer builds the logical framework that guides the development and organization of all the reasoning and arguments in the paper.

The thesis statement should be a product of critical thinking usually accompanied by some research. It can, therefore, be seen as an angle, perspective, or point of view from which the writer wants to present their writing. The thesis statement is usually captured in one sentence but may sometimes be a bit more. It is usually located towards the end of the introduction or introductory paragraph of the paper.

The goal of a thesis statement

The main goal of a thesis statement is to provide a clear, specific argument or claim that will serve as a guide to the reader so he or she knows what to expect from the paper. A good thesis statement will also help the writer know how best to structure his or her paper and when to leave out information that is not relevant to the thesis.In a nutshell, the thesis statement indicates the purpose of writing the paper, communicates the central idea, and sets the tone for the rest of the paper.

Elements of a thesis statement

Though it may vary according to context, a thesis statement should, ideally, be made up of three elements:

  • The topic of the paper-based on what the writer wants to convey.
  • The argument/claim which depends on the type of paper you are writing. For example, if it is an argumentative paper, then this should express the writer’s arguments or opinion. If it is a research or explanatory paper, this should explain the paper’s objectives based on the thesis statement.
  • The evidence to support your argument/claim.

Once you have these three elements, you can combine them to create your thesis statement.


  • Topic – The impacts of despotism on global peace and stability
  • Argument – Despotic regimes pose a major cause of conflict all over the world
  • Evidence – The high rate of killings and destruction connected to despotic regimes

Tips for a thesis statement

  • Determine the type of paper you are writing:

An analytical paper breaks down a topic or an idea into its component parts, evaluates or analyzes them thoroughly, and presents this analysis to the readers.

An expository or explanatory paper explains an idea or a topic to the readers.

An argumentative paper presents a couple of contrasting viewpoints or arguments, one of which the writer is in support of. Though the researcher supports one viewpoint and tries to convince the audience of his or her choice, the statements and opinions on both arguments must be logical, and in-depth.

If your paper does not belong to any of the above three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement in the introductory paragraph could still help guide the reader.

  • Your thesis statement should be concise or specific. In other words, it should focus only on what your paper intends to discuss as well as provide specific evidence that supports it.
  • The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the introductory or first paragraph of a paper.
  • Bear in mind that your topic may change as you write. This implies that you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly the evolving changes. Because of this, it is recommended that you should come up with an initial tentative thesis, sometimes called a working thesis, early in the writing process and allow the actual thesis when you must have effected all the necessary changes.

How to construct an ideal thesis statement

Argumentative thesis

Weak thesis statement: The Nigerian government should do more to improve security in West Africa.

The above thesis statement is weak because, though the writer takes a position, he or she fails to explain to the reader the reason for or why he or she takes this position.

Ideal thesis statement: The Nigerian government should do more to improve security in West Africa because as the most populous nation and leading economy in the region, it can muster the needed resources to ensure more peace in that geographical area.

In the ideal thesis statement above, the reasoning is expanded to help the writer convince readers about his or her position. In the rest of your essay, the writer should dwell on how to raise logical discussions and arguments that support this statement.

Expository thesis

Weak thesis statement: The coronavirus vaccine was developed at an unprecedented speed.

Though the above statement makes a valid statement, it stops short of telling the readers about what they’ll learn from the essay.

Ideal thesis statement: The coronavirus vaccine was developed speedily and may radically change how future vaccines are developed.   

The second statement extends beyond the speed at which the vaccine was discovered and relates it to a wider change.

Analytical thesis

Weak thesis statement: Finnish society tends to tolerate racism

This statement makes a claim but does not offer further insight into the direction of the author’s analysis

Ideal thesis statement: There may be indications that certain elements of Finnish society is tolerant of racism but this is not to say that most Finnish people are racist or that its political class is lenient on white supremacy.

The second example is more elaborate because it goes beyond the claim to provide clues about how the writer intends to analyze the topic.


A thesis statement is an indispensable component of an essay, research paper, and/or other informative writings. This is because it is the main point or controlling idea of such writings. The main goal of a thesis statement is to provide a claim or argument that helps to direct the reader in terms of what to expect from the paper. The thesis statement is usually expressed in a sentence albeit it may sometimes be slightly more.  It should be positioned around the end of the paper’s introduction.

Other resources

This post was produced as part of a research guide series by Avidnote which is a free web-based app that helps you to write and organize your academic writing online. Click here to find out more.

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