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Thesis Statement

A thesis statement expresses the central idea of your written assignment. In essays, a thesis statement is usually included in the introduction. In longer pieces of writing, it may appear further along, but still near the beginning part.

A thesis statement is "your answer to the central question or problem you have raised" (Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 50). As you develop your essay or research paper, your thesis may change. Revise it to reflect the scope and the central idea of your writing.

Consider the paragraph below (also discussed in this tutorial's Introduction section):

The University of Illinois envisions an increase in its enrollment to more than 70,000 in under a decade by setting up the Global Campus, a new online education program. While an enrollment of 70,000 students might sound impressive, it is only about half of the current enrollment of the University of Phoenix, a pioneer in online education (Foster, The Chronicle of Higher Education). The Internet, which has been transforming the landscape of traditional pedagogy in the last few years, is argued to be the most significant development in educational technology in our lifetime. In the last decade, the growth of the Internet has caused various educational institutions and businesses to rethink how they deliver knowledge and information to their learners and to adopt new ways of implementing instruction that takes into consideration recent developments in educational technology. However, in their rush to stay on the cutting edge of technology, some educators look only at the positive features the Internet has to offer and often forget to consider its limitations. The Internet can be extremely valuable for education, but online instruction is not appropriate for all classes in all situations; its implementation needs to be based on the instructor's learning objective, the need for technology, and the availability of resources.

From a student research paper on Advantages and Limitations of Web-Based Instruction

The central idea or the thesis statement of this student paper is expressed in the last sentence of the introduction.

From the previous example we can observe the following:

Problem raised in this paper: It is hard to argue the positive effect of the Internet on teaching and learning, but is all online instruction advantageous?

Answer to the problem: While, we cannot deny that online instruction is very valuable in education, it may not be suited for all learning situations. The decision to use online instruction should be based the learning objectives, the need for it, and the availability of resources.

Rule to Remember

A thesis statement expresses the central idea of your written assignment.

The rest of the paper then needs to focus on developing the suggested answer to the problem and provide sufficient evidence to support the writer's view.

Writing evolves in stages; sometimes, you may not know what your thesis will be until you start to write. The concept of a working thesis is important here.

A working thesis "should have two parts: a topic part, which states the topic, and a comment part, which makes an important point about the topic" (Lunsford, The Everyday Writer, 36).

When we consider the example from page 1 again, we can easily point out the topic and the comment components of the working thesis:

Topic: Online instruction is not appropriate for all classes in all situations.

Comment: Its implementation needs to be based on the instructor's learning objective, the need for it, and the availability of resources.

Rule to Remember

Make your thesis statement interesting, specific, and narrow in scope.

A successful thesis has the following characteristics:

  • it is interesting to the readers
  • it is specific
  • it narrows down the scope of the topic to "make it manageable"

(Lunsford, The Everyday Writer, 36)


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