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EP 03: How To Write Killer Thesis Statements

Welcome to our third episode of The Homework Help Show! In this episode, our Host and Top Writer Cath Anne discusses how to write an amazing thesis statement. Cath Anne provides a breakdown of tips and tricks to writing a great opening sentence for your essays. You won’t want to miss this episode!

The Homework Help Show is our brand new show where we will teach, assist, and offer valuable insights on different topics related to students’ academic and personal lives. Want your questions answered? Ask your questions on social media using the hashtag #askHHG


Cath Anne: [00:00:05] Hi there! My name’s Cath Anne and welcome to Homework Help Global’s “The Homework Help Learning Studio”. This week we actually already recorded. This is our second recording of the session because we had a couple of technical difficulties and we wanted to make sure that we were providing you with the best content possible. So I am recording this session again so that you can access it on YouTube and all of the other platforms that we upload this information to. So hopefully this is of value to you and if you have been a regular viewer for the past three or four episodes you will notice that I am not in my office space right at the moment. It was a little bit too sunny over there by the window so I’ve moved and I am on my couch today so I hope that you are able to see me pretty clearly. It was just a little sunny and we wanted to get the best video possible so hopefully that’s helpful.

Cath Anne: [00:01:13] So I wanted to jump into the academic content this week because I know that you are probably getting busy with writing papers and starting to study for midterms. So we thought it would be great to provide you with some information about how to write an effective thesis statement. And in this session on Tuesday there was a lot of really good dialogue and conversation around how to write an effective thesis statement. We had some good questions. So I am going to cover that all in this session as well. So let’s jump into the content.

Cath Anne: [00:01:51] So first I’ll give you an overview of what I would like to cover in the session. So I want to go over:.

Cath Anne: [00:01:59] What specifically is a thesis statement.

Cath Anne: [00:02:03] How a thesis statement differs from a topic sentence when you would use a thesis statement.

Cath Anne: [00:02:12] How to write a thesis statement and then I’ll give you some examples of different kinds of thesis statements and ideas for writing thesis statements as well as contrast a good statement with a not so great statement.

Cath Anne: [00:02:29] So let’s get into the good stuff. The thesis Statement is the main point of your paper. So you want to bear in mind when you’re writing a paper what is the point of writing a paper. You want to look for the idea that you’re either arguing something or you’re giving an opinion. So you’re looking at a body of research and hopefully you’re relatively knowledgeable about it because you’ve given yourself some time to prepare to write the paper and you’re not writing it last minute. But you want to form an argument or an opinion based on personal experience or based on your academic background and understanding of the content you want to develop some kind of an opinion. You’re going to put forth in your paper and essentially that is what a thesis statement is. It captures your argument or your opinion. Your thesis statement can also act as a guide for your paper. So for example sometimes in my experience when I’ve been writing papers I’ll get to the third or fourth paragraph and I’ll kind of lose my way a little bit because I’ll get kind of entrenched in the research and really absorbed and I’ll say I’ll think to myself ok why am I writing this paper.

Cath Anne: [00:03:47] So that’s why it’s a good idea to have a really strong thesis statement. So when you do come to that point in writing your essay if you do you can look back to your thesis statement and say OK now I remember why I’m writing and what the point of my essay is. So you really want to have a strong thesis statement. Now that’s not to say that when you start writing and you start learning more about your topic that your thesis statement won’t change because it can change and grow and you can modify it as time goes on. But like I said it does act as an anchor for your paper so you’ll want to make sure that you do write one at the beginning of your paper and make sure that it’s kind of framing what you’ll be talking about. So I wanted to differentiate between the topic and the thesis statement. So the thesis statement is kind of that like I said overall argument or opinion whereas the topic is more specific to the actual information and evidence that you’ll be providing. Your thesis statement is not just a fact. Like I said it kind of incites a debate and you’re taking a position or a stance on a topic. So the topic would be that information and evidence that you provide to back up your thesis statement. So whereas the thesis statement is kind of the overall kind overarching theme of your paper the topic is this specific information that you’re providing.

Cath Anne: [00:05:30] So like as I mentioned a strong thesis statement gives your paper some dimension it gives your paper some direction and people know where you’re going with the paper. At the beginning of your thesis statement you can either formulate it into one sentence or you can use a couple of sentences that provide the evidence that you’ll be discussing with the rest of your paper. So important to note is that when you’re writing a thesis statement you want to consider whether you can prove it. So hopefully you’ve done a good overview of your research and you’ll know kind of what next steps you want to be providing in your in your paper that prove your thesis statement. So you’re not just going to pull something out of thin air it’s going to be a well researched formulated argument. So you want to be asking questions like Can I prove this. So hopefully you’ve done a bit of an outline and you understand where what your content of your paper is going to be and that’s going to provide the basis for your thesis statement. I’m going to give you a bit of an example just so we can get started off because I think examples are helpful then just rather than just kind of talking about the theoretical concept of what a thesis statement is. And I was hoping to be able to show you my screen but I tried that before and I haven’t quite figured that out so I’m actually just going to read these to you so hopefully that’s OK and that that’s somewhat helpful.

Cath Anne: [00:07:10] Consider that your thesis statement is this: There are several ways for college students to improve their study habits. That’s a very simple and basic thesis statement.

Cath Anne: [00:07:26] But then when you’re considering the topic maybe some of the evidence that you’re providing is the following:.

Cath Anne: [00:07:35] – Students can improve their study by studying in a quiet environment. – Pay attention in class and manage your time.

Cath Anne: [00:07:44] As you can see all of these topics could be discussed further and they all contribute to explaining the thesis statement. These pieces of information would be considered the topic or the topics whereas the thesis statement is: There are several ways for college students to improve their study habits. As you can see the thesis statement is kind of that overarching argument whereas the topics are the evidence and the information that you’re providing.

Cath Anne: [00:08:26] So a way to do this might be saying studying in a quiet environment helps students improve their study habits. That’s a piece of evidence that can be used to prove your thesis statement.

Cath Anne: [00:08:38] In the initial session we discussed, where does your thesis statement go. A good practice is to put your thesis statement in the opening paragraph and you always want to make sure that your thesis statement isn’t getting bogged down within that large paragraph. You always want to put it towards the end of your introductory paragraph.

Cath Anne: [00:09:08] You might preface it with some information and some background maybe some history and then put your thesis statement either in the second to last or last sentence so that it kind of frames your paper and your reader knows what to expect next. You could also use your thesis statement to introduce three points of evidence or three topics. You can have kind of two sentences which introduce your thesis and then provide evidence. This is a really clear and direct way to provide information to the reader and let them know what to expect in the rest of your paper and then hopefully that will trigger them to keep reading your paper.

Cath Anne: [00:10:07] Another thing I wanted to go over is this idea of how to write properly and academically. As a beginning student I know it was tempting for me sometimes when I when I first began my degree to start the paper and say things like this paper will discuss such and such or the topic of this paper will be such and such. This is not an appropriate way to write an academic paper although it might seem a little bit more clear. Professors don’t like this and it just does not show a strong level of writing skill. You’re really going to want to do your research and develop a strong thesis statement that provides information while not being too obvious like those types of statements. When you’re writing your thesis statement you’re going to want to ask yourself: is this statement specific? You don’t want it to be too general. Because you want your reader to get a sense of what you’re going to be talking about in particular. You’re going to want to avoid words such as interesting, exciting, unusual, difficult, negative. All those words are vague. They don’t really tell you much of what the topic is going to be.

Cath Anne: [00:11:42] They don’t really give much emphasis to what you’re discussing. So for example you would want to avoid a statement like: The book by Brene Brown is interesting. That doesn’t tell me anything about a book. The statement doesn’t tell me anything about Brene Brown. It doesn’t tell me anything about why I think that book is interesting or why the reader should think it’s interesting so it’s a very vague statement.

Cath Anne: [00:12:22] You also want to avoid words like society, values, culture, because although as an undergraduate student or even a graduate student you know that it’s probably going to be your professor that reads your paper. You don’t know how your professor is going to interpret that word or your reader is going to interpret that word. So words like society and culture unless you’re in a sociology program are vague and everyone has a different understanding of what those kinds of words mean. Unless you really truly define those concepts or unless you’re discussing those concepts you’ll want to avoid them because they’re general and you want to make sure that you’re being a bit more specific in your writing.

Cath Anne: [00:13:22] As mentioned you’re going to want to avoid making generalizations about a topic. For example here is a vague thesis statement: Today’s horror movies present serious challenges to society. Similar to the earlier example, the statement doesn’t really tell me much about horror movies. It doesn’t tell me anything about what society I’m talking about and what the challenges are that these movies present. More specifically you might write something like: Modern cinematic techniques have provided filmmakers with the opportunity to create more graphic films, therefore horror movies have desensitized Canadian youths. Let me read that again: Modern cinematic techniques have provided filmmakers with the opportunity to create more graphic films, therefore horror movies have desensitized Canadian youth. That is an example of a specific thesis statement. It tells me that there are different techniques that are used now to create more graphic films. Horror movies are clearly more graphic as well. And then it makes an argument that because of this Canadian youth has become desensitized to violence. So that makes me want to keep reading because I want to hear what this person has to say about Canadian youth being desensitized by horror movies. So there’s a lot more detail a lot more specificity in this statement as compared to the one that I read before which was: Today’s horror movies present serious challenges to society.

Cath Anne: [00:15:28] You also want to make sure that your thesis statement is clear. One example of not so great thesis statement is: Eating fast food is bad for human health. It’s a very general statement. It’s more of a statement and it doesn’t really give us any proof about anything. Maybe there’s a little bit of an argument but not really. So an alternative to that would be: Regular consumption of fast foods can lead to preventable and chronic health conditions such as diabetes obesity and heart disease, therefore Canadians should limit their intake. As you can see it gives you some evidence of chronic health conditions. You are aware that the writer is probably going to discuss some of these health conditions a little bit more in-depth. It’s an argument that Canadians should limit their intake of these items because of the alleged health conditions. So that is very specific and thorough thesis statement.

Cath Anne: [00:17:02] Another topic that came up during our first Livestream session was the notion that when someone is reading your essay and they ask ‘so what’ you have an answer for that question. So when you’re writing a thesis statement or when you’re writing an essay ask yourself ‘so what’. Why should the reader care about what you’re writing? And I think that’s a strong way of being able to understand why you’re writing an essay and what the point of your essay is and that will really strengthen your essay. I think you know if you take anything away from this remember the words: ‘So what’. Because it’s such a simple thing to recall but I think it offers such a strength to your ability to write an essay. If it’s too vague or to general it is just a statement your reader isn’t going to care about what you’re writing. But if you’re being more specific if you’re triggering some interest then maybe the right reader will say oh OK this person has something to say and continue reading.

Cath Anne: [00:19:10] Another important point to bear in mind when writing a thesis statement is to make sure is that you are not being wishy washy. You want to take a stance when you’re writing an essay. So instead of saying something like: Secondhand smoking is bad and can cause heart disease and cancer, therefore smoking should be outlawed in public places, but as long as smoking is unfair to smokers so maybe nonsmokers can just hold their breath or wear asks around smokers instead.

Cath Anne: [00:19:42] Ok. I know that is a funny statement but I think it gets across the point that the person who is writing this doesn’t really have an opinion on the matter. They’re kind of going back and forth. When you’re writing an essay you want to take a stand on something and you want to make an argument. As an alternative this could be a very strong thesis statement: Second hand smoke is just as harmful as smoking and leads to higher prevalence of heart disease and cancer. What’s worse, people who inhale secondhand smoke are doing so without consent. Therefore smoking in public places should be banned. You can see how that is much stronger thesis statement.

Cath Anne: [00:20:32] It alludes to potential health concerns that are caused by cancer or caused by smoking. It suggests that people who inhale smoke are doing so with their consent and therefore it argues that smoking in public places should be banned. So that is a stronger thesis statement than the first one because it takes a stance on the issue and it makes an argument.

Cath Anne: [00:21:26] Here are some tips to writing these statements. 1. Make sure you know your topic. Like I mentioned you’re going to want to make sure that you do a thorough job of research. You want to know your topic inside and out before you start writing. So write down notes make an outline and gather your information and as such give yourself lots of time to work on the essay. Because if you’re doing it last minute and you’re not going to have the time that it takes to do a full overview of full literature review into the topics you want to give yourself time to process and to form an opinion about way you’re going to be writing about. And that’s going to get you the best grade and help you to do the best work. You’ll also want to consider your personal experience or any other research that you’ve done that informs your opinion because as you continue to learn and explore as a student you will develop a stronger opinion about different things especially if you’re focused on a certain discipline. So you’re going to eventually develop an opinion.

Cath Anne: [00:22:37] The more that you gather information so give yourself the time to explore that. You also don’t want to consider limiting your topic so you’re probably if you’re an undergraduate degree or even in a graduate degree you’re going to mostly be limited to five to 10 page papers so you don’t want to take on a huge broad topic and not be able to do it justice. You’re going to want to narrow it down very specifically and in turn then your thesis statement will be specific as well and you want to make sure that you’re giving yourself enough content to work with but also not going so broad that you can’t be very specific.

Cath Anne: [00:23:27] Another tip is to do some brainstorming. While you’re doing your research you know write down some ideas, keep some notes and then go back to them and see if you start to see any patterns emerge. As you do that you will evidently develop an opinion about the topic that you’re thinking of covering.

Cath Anne: [00:23:54] Finally, if there is anything I want to put forth in this session is that question of ‘so what’. Why is the person reading this and why should they care about what they’re reading when you’re writing your statement? What is the reader gaining from this? You are wanting to provide the reader some value and some information. Think about why you care about writing about this and that should help you to frame your thesis statement. What do you want your audience to walk away with? What kind of information do you want to provide to your audience that they will come away and say I’m glad you read that paper and that should help you to formulate a thesis statement.

Cath Anne: [00:24:41] In sum a thesis statement should have three main components. You must introduce your argument. You want to take a stand. Don’t let your argument be wishy washy and you don’t want to just regurgitate information you want to make sure that you’re taking a stance and forming an opinion. It should provide evidence and it should show that you have some kind of interest in the topic at hand so that the reader wants to keep reading.

Cath Anne: [00:25:21] I hope that was helpful. I’m glad that I was able to tape this again because unfortunately we did have some technical difficulties the first time around but I’m hoping this was helpful. And please next week join us on Tuesday. I’m not sure if it’s going to be during the day or in the evening. But keep tuned into Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and we will keep you posted for the next Livestream with “The Homework Help Learning Studio”.

Cath Anne: [00:25:54] Next week we will be covering the topic of effective research methods. So we’ll be going over some things like Boolean searches how to do research on Google Scholar and different databases and how to maximize your return on the research that you’re doing. So good luck out there on all your papers and on your midterms. I know it’s probably starting to get busy. All the best and I can’t wait to see you next week. Thanks for joining me and take care!