I feel like academics unintentionally over-complicate the meaning of thesis statements. Here’s what they are in their absolute simplest form:



A thesis statement consists of two parts:

Here’s my idea, and here’s the thought process behind it


  Here’s my stance, and here’s how I’ll prove it

Now, it typically does not include personal pronouns (like “I”), and it’s better to use action verbs opposed to “is” statements, but these examples articulate the concept of a thesis in its simplest form.

If it’s that simple, why do instructors say things like  “Make sure you have a strong thesis!” Why is the thesis so important? Often, if you have a poor thesis, you have a poor paper. Why is that?

The thesis statement is an idea and the reasoning that leads you to that idea. If you have a trite, over-used idea, then you have a weak paper. An academic paper is a refined thought process, and if you are not leading your reader to an original thought or an interesting idea, then what’s the point? They won’t want to see your reasoning if they aren’t invested in the actual idea, so the idea needs to be good for the paper to be good.  For example, “Smoking Cigarettes is bad for your health” or “Global warming has negative impacts on the environment” are terrible thesis statements, because the ideas are common knowledge to most readers.

The thesis statement also indicates the genre to your reader. Is this an informative paper? Is it an argumentative paper? Is it an analysis of a short story? Is it a literacy narrative? Or a rhetorical analysis? The focus and presentation of the thesis should indicate not only your idea, but the type of paper you will present. This usually occurs naturally by indicating the idea you’ll present and how you’ll present it. Is the idea an argument? Then it’s an argument paper.  Is the idea a quality gained through a personal experience? Then maybe it’s a narrative.  Do you have an idea about how someone wrote a particular essay? That sounds like a rhetorical analysis.

A thesis statement indicates the organization of your reasoning. For example, are you setting up a cause and effect argument? Are you looking at the current literature in a field and then indicating a gap? Are you presenting specific evidence to show a theme in a short story? Generally, a thesis indicates the nature of your evidence and the general presentation method, without directly listing each major point.


Qualities of Strong Thesis Statements:

It needs to be short. If you can’t express it in a sentence or two, you are most likely writing a novel or dissertation rather than an academic paper.

It needs to be focused.  The thesis statement defines what you will show/prove within the essay. The more specific it is, the better, because you will have less to show/prove as the writer. Avoid all broad, sweeping statements. Make it as specific as you possibly can.

It needs to be a claim. A thesis statement should not be a specific fact, because there’s no way to debate it.

It needs to be interesting. A unique thesis statement sets you up for success because it engages your audience. Choose something unusual or interesting or choose a topic and then find a way to make it relatable to a general audience. Always try to make your idea relevant to your audience.


General Tips :

  1. Be familiar with your topic and gather as much research as you can. You can’t create a strong idea if you are not familiar with the general topic.  The information you have, the more complex and interesting your idea will be.
  2. Always ask yourself how your idea is relevant to your audience
  3. Thesis writing is a process. Never settle for the first version of the statement you write; instead,  let it evolve with your paper.  Check out our blog on that demonstrates the  thesis writing process
  4. Complex Sentence Structures  are preferred since they allow for more “complicated” ideas and they show direct relationships.  Look at these examples:

Although experts claim ________________________, evidence indicates ________________________________.

Because of _______________________,  ______________________ is now _____________________________________.

Check out more thesis templates that use complex sentences here:




Here’s some resources on creating strong thesis statements: 

If you are struggling to form a complex idea, consider using a model if it works with your idea.

Another strategy is to start with a weak thesis and make it stronger through the revision process.