Writing a Strong Analytical Thesis

A thesis statement controls an essay.  A strong thesis is necessary in order to build strong arguments and support your position on a topic.

To write a strong thesis, keep the following in mind:

  • A thesis has to be something you can ARGUE: A thesis reflects an opinion.  You are not doing a book report or offering a summary.  So your thesis statement CANNOT BE A FACT. You are thinking critically about events that happened in the work that you read.
  • A thesis has to be something you can PROVE: You must prove a THEORY using evidence from the text and careful explanation. The difference between the first and the second point here is this: You could argue that The Pearl is the greatest story of all time, or that the conch shell represents civilization in Lord of the Flies, but you could not truly PROVE either point. You could, however, prove what aspects of Kino’s life are meant to be respected according to Steinbeck’s The Pearl, or what Golding’s purpose is in using a conch shell to represent civilization. Notice how both of these two better examples make an effort to state what you think the author’s intent was in writing each story.
  • A thesis does not list the arguments you’ll be making (though sometimes this is an effective way to start thinking about your opinion on the matter).  It is an “umbrella” statement that finds a common thread in upcoming arguments.
  • REMINDER: A thesis does not use “I”, “we” or “you” anywhere in its contents.  No 1st or 2nd person pronouns.  

Here are some examples of POOR thesis statements you need to avoid:

1.  Loneliness is displayed in the novel Of Mice and Men.

Comment:  Yes it is.  So what?  Why do I care?  And stop using the passive voice. This thesis is not something that can be PROVEN – it is merely a truth about the book.  To make this thesis stronger, you would have to consider: What does loneliness cause?  How does loneliness impact the characters? Or what creates this loneliness?  What does Steinbeck want us to learn or see or think about loneliness?

2.  I think discrimination is the most destructive force in the book.

Comment:  “I think”?  I know you think.  No need to tell me.  WHY is discrimination the most destructive force? And how could you PROVE that the author intended this point?  How does discrimination affect characters?

3.  The conch shell, Piggy’s broken glasses and the burning of the island all symbolize the destruction of civilization in Lord of the Flies

Comment:  You’re listing your arguments.  It’s an ok first step, but now look at what is COMMON between those arguments.  Develop an “umbrella” thesis that incorporates the common points without listing the arguments you’ll be developing in the body.  Try this: Golding repeatedly uses fragile items, like eyeglasses and the leaves on a tree, to symbolize civilization in order to suggest how thoroughly a self-centered leader can ruin a sense of order. 

Now, some better thesis statements:

1.  In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck demonstrates a dark view of humanity, suggesting that even those who are mistreated because they are weak or different will strive to cruelly exert power over others. 

a.  What’s the topic?

b.  What’s going to be argued?

c.  What are some possible arguments?

2.  Steinbeck’s novel, The Pearl, illustrates that dreams can provide hope and a reason to live, but can also become dangerous when they are destroyed, leaving people empty and hopeless. 

a.  What’s the topic?

b.  What’s going to be argued?

c.  What are some possible arguments?

3.  In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck reveals that true friendship is rare because it carries with it a heavy burden of sacrifice and responsibility.    

a. What’s the topic?.

b. What’s going to be argued?

c.  What are some possible arguments?

Your turn.  Formulate your thesis:

1. What is your subject?  What question(s) do you have about this topic?


2. What is your answer to this question? _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. What is the connection to the world? (Why should anyone care?)


4. Write your thesis statement.

(This should be a combination of your answers from questions two and three.)



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