Writing I - Thesis Statements

You should now have read the general information about thesis statements and have a general idea about the function of thesis statements. To summarise again, your thesis statements should:- Your thesis statement may well also:-
Examples of Good Thesis Statements

Look at the following thesis statements. Which of the three types (analytical, expository or argumentative) do they exemplify? Look at the feedback when you have decided.
  1. In order to completely understand the possible problems arising from Poland's entry into the EU, three main areas of EU policy should be examined in detail: agricultural policy, broader fiscal policy and foreign policy.
  2. When compiling a business proposal, one has to consider questions of capital, consumer demand and competition.
  3. The status of women has improved remarkably since the 60s, thanks mostly to increased educational opportunities and and legislative reform.
  4. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that, contrary to the opinion of many experts, the potential benefits of learning vocabulary methodically, by word field, are considerable.

Common Problems

First, look through this list of common mistakes made when writing thesis statements.

To summarise, the major errors tend to be that:-
  1. The thesis statement consists of an empty observation, rather than making an assertion.
    • INSTEAD OF: Industrial emissions contribute to global warming.
    • WRITE: Of all the factors that contribute to global warming, industrial emissions are considered the most significant, and national governments should be forced to regulate their carbon-dioxide levels by means of multilateral treaties.
  2. The thesis statement is underdeveloped and vague, and needs to be made more specific and narrow.
    • INSTEAD OF: The enlargement of the EU has led to considerable debate.
    • WRITE: The expansion of the EU to include 10 new member states has sparked considerable debate concerning the issues of subsidies, constitutional unity and the limits of integration.
  3. The thesis statement exceeds the scope of the essay, i.e., is too broad to be discussed thoroughly.
    • INSTEAD OF: There have been many cases of human rights violations in the recent past.
    • WRITE: Recent developments in Western, democratic societies such as anti-terrorism legislation, which allows imprisonment without trial, have highlighted to human rights activists that, even here, their work is far from complete.
  4. The thesis statement is too detailed or wordy. The arguments should be summarised in the introduction and developed in subsequent paragraphs.
    • INSTEAD OF: Communication is the most important aspect of language learning, as learners only learn to use expressions and grammatical constructions correctly when they communicate and use these constructions actively. A practical understanding of a wide range of expression can only be attained by means of communication, never by methodically learning of grammar.
    • WRITE: Recent studies show that, whilst grammar should not be neglected in a foreign language syllabus, it plays a far less significant role in developing the language skills of the avarage learner than active communication.
  5. The thesis statement introduces several unrelated points, rather than the main points of the argument.
    • INSTEAD OF: With societies becoming increasingly diverse, the question of how to integrate immigrant populations is becoming increasingly urgent, and we are also being confronted with an increasing number of different cultures and lifestyles.
    • WRITE: With societies becoming increasingly diverse, questions concerning integration and assimilation, and the extent to which the culture of the host country should take precedence over that of the immigrant, are provoking increasing debate.
Exercise 1

Now rewrite each of the thesis statements below, turning each into an effective thesis statement for a 2-3 page essay. You must think carefully about what would be an appropriate topic for an essay of this length - be careful not to choose a topic that is either too broad or too narrow.
  1. Choosing a career is very difficult.
  2. It is important to visit foreign countries.
  3. In this essay I am going to talk about social problems in Germany.
  4. Humans are inflicting more and more damage on the environment.
  5. The nuclear family is a thing of the past.

Exercise 2

Complete the following thesis statements by adding the specific points, claims or areas of investigation that you think should feature in the essay.
  1. The life expectancy of the average person is increasing because of ...
  2. Technology is changing our lives in three important areas: ...
  3. A teacher must have the following qualities: ...
  4. The purpose of this paper is to examine...
  5. Owning an automobile is a necessity both...
  6. Poverty has numerous negative consequences for society, including...
  7. The main difficulties affecting foreign students at university are...
  8. Living together before marriage is becoming increasingly popular for three main reasons: ...

Source for exercise 2: Alice Oshima and Ann Hogue, Writing Academic English, 2nd Edition (New York: Longman, 1991), pp.81f.