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Creating an Argument: sub-module 3 of 3 of planning your writing

In argumentative or persuasive writing, the thesis statement performs two tasks: it informs your reader of the topic you are writing about, and— more important in this kind of writing— it identifies your position or opinion on the topic you are discussing.
A thesis statement always expresses an opinion, and since it is an opinion, the writer must expect and be ready for that opinion to be challenged.



  • Remember what your argument is.A handy way to construct a thesis statement —but not to write one —is to use a formula like “I want to persuade you that…”
  • Use the ‘Why?’ Test: If what you say does not make your reader or listener want to ask ‘Why do you think that? you are probably stating a fact.
  • Make sure that you answer the 'Why?' question.You should know why you believe your argument is strong.
  • Have the research to support your thesis.Remember, a thesis statement that you cannot support will fall like a stone. You need strong points to help it from falling.

Study Tools

Constructing a Thesis Statement

Learn to Write a Thesis Statement

Watch this video or read the text below to learn how to write an effective thesis statement. You can also download the Mastering a Thesis Statement Video Transcript.

Click on the boxes below to read about thesis statements.

A thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. Its purpose is to tell your audience what point or claim you will prove in your essay. In an essay, a thesis statement is most often found at the end of the introductory paragraph. In this way, the thesis statement creates more of an impact on the audience.

All thesis statements should have the following characteristics in common:

  • It should narrow the subject to a single, central idea.
  • It should claim something specific and significant about your subject.
  • It should be an idea that you can support with evidence, rather than a fact.
  • It should convey your purpose and reason for writing.
  • It can provide an outline of the points that you will be discussing in your essay. This will let the reader know what to expect, and it will help keep your argument focused.

When you are writing an essay you should construct your thesis statement around the question provided by your professor. If your professor has not given you a particular question, you should construct your thesis statement around your own viewpoint.

Make sure the topic is not too broad or general (e.g. choosing ‘the media’ as a topic is too broad; whereas focusing on one aspect of the media, such as television, is better). Your thesis statement should focus on a specific aspect of this topic. Make sure that your thesis statement clearly expresses your position or viewpoint on the topic. Think of an idea or viewpoint that you can easily defend with examples and evidence.

Also, be sure to keep in mind the type of essay you are writing (e.g. comparison/contrast, cause/effect, etc.) There are different ways you can formulate your thesis depending on whether you have to write about fiction or non-fiction.

Non-Fiction —Five paragraph essay

When you are writing a five paragraph essay, it is important to include three main points (one from each body paragraph).

Example: “Many people immigrate to Canada to escape oppression, avoid poor living conditions, and learn the English language.”

The main points that you are covering are:

  • People immigrate to escape oppression.
  • People immigrate to avoid poor living conditions.
  • People immigrate to learn the English language.

Fiction—Short story

When you are writing an essay on a short story, your thesis tends to be more specific and usually relates directly either to the question that you have been given, the short story, or both.

  • e.g. Question: Show how John is unable to escape a life of crime by referring to specific examples in the short story.
  • Thesis: “John is unable to escape a life of crime because of his abusive father, circle of friends, and drug problems.”

You can use the thesis statement checklist opens in new window to make sure your thesis statement is an effective thesis statement.