A thesis statement clearly states the argument or position on a topic as well as previews the main points. It functions as a guide, or essay map, for the audience. An effective thesis tells the audience what the work is about and why it matters. It does not always have to be the last sentence in the introductory paragraph. While it is helpful to use a thesis statement to guide your research, remember that the thesis can often change during the research process. This is why it is often referred to as a working thesis.
Characteristics of an effective thesis are as follows:
- The thesis should be interesting. Do not state the obvious.
- The thesis should be as specific as possible—avoid broad topics.
- The thesis should be realistic, meaning reasonable for the scope of the project.
Having a research question is not the same as a thesis statement. For example, asking, “why should colleges ban hazing?” is not a thesis statement. While it does give the audience a clue into the topic, it does not provide a stance or position on the topic. It lacks an argument. First, what is the benefit of asking this question? Why should the audience want to know the answer? This can be revised by providing more context. Take a look at the following revised thesis: “In light of recent hazing deaths, universities are looking into stricter policies. The University of Arkansas should enforce stricter policies to promote prevention and discourage hazing incidents.”
Start researching based on what you want to know, “why should X?” and then formulate a working thesis. Once research has been conducted, and a position formulated, revise the thesis statement to reflect the hypothesis and the main points that the work will cover to prove/persuade the hypothesis.
- Research question: Should companies have diversity policies?
The research question should remain in the research process. The thesis should discuss the answers to the research question; and it should outline the argument for the position it takes on the issue.
- Working thesis: Companies should have diversity policies because they benefit the company in many ways.
While this revised thesis presents an argument, it is not specific. What are the benefits? Provide context for the hypothesis. Why does this topic matter and need to be addressed?
- Revised thesis: A solid diversity policy can drive a company’s profits and enhance company culture. As the market becomes increasingly globalized, executives would be wise to incorporate a diversity policy into their business model.
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