Note. This page is part of a course about the writing process. See the table of contents for the complete course.
Stage 1. Think (Step 3)
So far, you have generated a good idea for writing and started planning how you are going to tackle the topic. You are getting close to actually writing your paragraphs; however, you still need to define exactly what you will write about. You need a thesis statement, which will guide you for the rest of the writing process.
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Creating a Thesis Statement
All the prewriting and planning up to this point helped you select a manageable topic and plan a strategy. Now you must decide what you will say about the topic and the ideas you selected. You need a thesis statement.
A thesis statement is the controlling idea of a passage. It is the central point you want to make. Everything you write must support the thesis.
Think of it this way: After someone has read your product, how would they summarize what they read in one sentence? That sentence, or statement, is the central idea that you set out to describe, support, defend, or clarify. It is your thesis statement.
Before you start writing, you should have a clear idea what it is. A thesis statement usually appears in your first paragraph. It prepares the reader for what you are about to develop in writing. It narrows the subject or area into two parts: a narrow topic on the subject and your idea about that narrow topic.
In Figure 1 below, you can see how you can start with a broad subject (e.g., “friendships”) and narrow that topic to something more manageable (“online friendships”). What you want to say about it is the controlling idea about the topic (e.g., “are lacking” or “are beneficial” or whatever you want to say about “online friendships”).
Adding the topic and the controlling idea together gives you the thesis statement. That is a sentence stating what your topic is (online friendships) and what you are going to say about the topic.
Defining a thesis statement | Example A
||Online friendships offer three main benefits.
Defining a thesis statement | Example B
||Online friendships provide inadequate support for three reasons.
Figure 1: Defining a thesis statement (what you will actually write about the topic) from a broad topic (friendship).
Here is a description of Figure 1 for screen readers.
Using the topic of friendships, you can narrow the topic to “online friendships only.” Then you add a controlling idea, that is, that online friendships are beneficial.
Next, you define a thesis statement as follows: Online friendships offer three main benefits.
Using the same topic of friendships, you can narrow the topic again to “online friendships only.” But now you add a different controlling idea, that is, that online friendships are lacking.
Then, you define a thesis statement as follows: Online friendships provide inadequate support for three reasons.