A Blog of Writing Resources from The University of Scranton's Writing Center

Tag: Thesis Statements

The Process of Crafting a Thesis


Writing a thesis is a process. You start with a topic, it evolves into an idea, and then you refine it as you analyze your evidence until it’s an interesting claim. You don’t have a real thesis statement until you have crafted it to be as focused and as intriguing as possible.


Students with weak or underdeveloped thesis statements often stopped working on them halfway through the writing process, or they did not allow themselves enough time to hone their argument. Here’s what the thesis writing process generally looks like.

Here’s an example of a prompt:

The original fairy tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are frequently portrayed in pop culture today. We see these adaptations in our favorite TV shows, video games, and movies. The audience knows the major elements of the fairy tale, yet they still enjoy embarking on the familiar journey. Why is that? Why are they enjoyable when the ending is well-known?  Pick a fairy tale and explain why it is still relevant.


1.) Exploring the Topic

What do I want to write about? I always liked the fairy tale called “Hansel and Gretel”.

Why do I want to write about it? I love the idea of a candy house. I love candy. Who doesn’t? First, I’m going to actively read the original story here.

What does the candy house mean? Well, the candy house is actually a trap made by a witch who wants to eat the children. Both the children and the witch are hungry. Maybe that’s significant? Maybe all of the characters are hungry?  Is there a better word for hungry?



2.) Not a Thesis:

Thesis: Hansel and Gretel eat the candy house because they are starving during a famine.

This is not a thesis because it is not debatable. It’s a specific fact from the story. How can we make it debate? Well, let’s focus on a theme rather than one detail.


3.) An Off-Topic Thesis:

Thesis: Television series Once Upon a Time adapts “Hansel and Gretel” to depict how children could get lost in grief after experiencing the death of a loved one.

This is a claim, but it’s off topic. Return to the prompt. This instructor is not looking for an example of a fairy tale adaptation in pop culture. Rather, they are seeking a close reading of the text and an argument as to why the story is still meaningful. Return to the original prompt throughout your writing process so you stay focused on the right topic.


4.) The Weak Thesis

What am I showing my reader?  The fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” is about hunger.

How will I show it? There’s examples of overeating throughout the story.

Thesis: The fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” is about hunger because there’s examples of overeating throughout the story.

We have an idea, and we have the evidence that lead to the idea, but this thesis is weak because the “examples of overeating . . .” is a vague statement. Who is over eating? What about hunger? Is there a more specific word that relates to hunger and over-eating?  The verb “is” can also be strengthened by using an action verb.


5.) The Slightly Stronger High-School-Thesis-Statement

What am I showing my reader?  All of the major characters in “Hansel and Gretel” struggle with gluttony.

How will I show it? I’ll show it through three groups of characters. The parents abandon their children because they are starving and don’t want to share the remaining food. The children overindulge when eating the candy house so they are sleepy. The witch wants to eat the children but not before she fattens them up.

Thesis: The well-known fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel” is about gluttony because the parents, the children, and the witch are gluttonous.

Yes, gluttony is the right word, and that makes it a little stronger, but the 3-reasons-thesis will not serve you well in college. The general high school thesis format looks like this:

__________________ is true because  of_____________, ___________, and ____________.

It’s not wrong; in fact, it’s a good step in the right direction, but this format is a barrier to more complex ideas, and remember, your paper is only as good as your idea. This format limits you to three major reasons, and it doesn’t leave room for the actual relevance of the idea.  One way to make this stronger would be to look at the evidence we present. Can we put it into one major group or use one term to describe it all? The parents, the witch, and the children are all characters. Maybe that’s the term. When we use a term to group our evidence together, we make room for a more complex idea.


6.) A Stronger College-Level Thesis

Thesis: The well-known fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel” portrays gluttony by featuring characters who all fail to manage their intense hunger.  

This thesis is more specific so it is by far stronger. Now we have room to make an interesting and complex thesis statement, and we do this by asking ourselves this: why is this theme still relevant? Why should our reader care about some fairy tale about gluttony? Often at this stage you may need to return to the story to draw out more evidence or think about other common themes. Remember, our prompt wants to know why this story is relevant. Why is gluttony relevant?

7.) The Strongest Thesis

What am I showing my reader?  All of the major characters in “Hansel and Gretel” struggle with gluttony so the reader can grapple with gluttony alongside of each character.

How will I show it? I will show that every character is gluttonous, and I will look at how little description exists for each character.

Why does it matter? Well, when I think of society today, I think of excess. We over-consume  not only food, but resources, and televisions shows through “binging” etc. Is this a form of gluttony?

Thesis: The well-known fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel” allows the reader to vicariously grapple with gluttony by showing how each character in the tale fails to manage their hunger, making the story ever-relevant in a society that is defined by over-consumption.

This is the strongest thesis because it indicates what will be argued, how it will be argued, and why it’s significant
. It is specific, it is interesting, and it is debatable. It uses strong verbs and focused words.

A strong thesis like this is also thought provoking. It puts a new spin on something familiar to your reader so you have plenty of options for a conclusion, too. For example, once you prove that Hansel and Gretel is about gluttony, you can ask all sort of questions. Does liking “Hansel and Gretel” mean you struggle with gluttony? Is “Hansel and Gretel” constantly adapted because our culture hasn’t overcome gluttony? Is it still about gluttony in adaptations or are those essential details amended? If so, why?  What does the ending mean since the children return home to the parents that abandoned them for food? Is it all a cycle where they will be abandoning by their parents again during the next famine?  There’s so much here to explore and there’s a variety of directions for your conclusion.


When forming a thesis ask yourself these questions: 

  • What is my idea? 
  • How will I show it? 
  • Why does it matter?
  • Is my idea responding to the prompt? 

A Thesis = An Idea, A Paper= A Thought Process

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.


© 2024 Scranton Writes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑