Thesis Statement – Definition and Guidelines

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Too many graduate students these days are entering the culture of higher learning without the skills they need. Even if you went to a top University most, probably all, of your papers were graded by an over-worked graduate student who needed to get through a mountain of grading overnight. Once you got into graduate school it was assumed that you’d acquired the paper writing skills you need, but many students haven’t. If you’re one of those students know that you’re not alone and here’s some information to help your next paper go a lot smoother.

The most crucial part of any academic paper is the thesis statement. If you went to a good elementary school or junior high you probably had a paper writing exercise that programmed you to write a “Two-Fold and Three-Pronged Thesis Statement”, if you didn’t here’s what you missed:

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  • The thesis should tell the reader exactly what your paper is about to say.
  • It is two-fold because you should mention the counter argument and your argument.
  • It is three-pronged because you should mention the topics of each of your three body paragraphs.
  • An example would be “While some may think (counter argument) I feel (argument) which can be seen in (summary of paragraph 1), (paragraph 2), and (paragraph 3).

Now that you’re in graduate school things are a bit more complicated. Obviously, your 20 page paper will need more than three body paragraphs and your thesis statement needs a bit more finesse. Here are some tips for a graduate level thesis statement:

  • If you’re a beginner it should happen at the end of the first paragraph of your paper.
  • It should very specifically state (not discuss) the main point of your paper and nothing beyond.
  • At the graduate level a thesis should be adding something new to the existing literature. Of all the research you’ve done your thesis should be unique.
  • Think of your first paragraph as an introduction to a question you’ve been posed and the thesis is a preliminary answer to that question.
  • It should go through many revisions as your write your paper.
  • Many writers start with a simple two-fold three (or multi) -pronged thesis to get the writing process started and edit it into a sophisticated statement later.

If you’re having trouble with writing at the graduate level don’t worry, just a little bit of help can go a long way.