how to identify a thesis
A good thesis statement is developed from the point of view of the reader. Be very careful you’re not developing a topic that is of interest to you alone. This is a harsh yet necessary question to ask yourself: will my readers have any reason to care about what I’m writing?
It’s worth reiterating that a strong thesis statement is specific. If you find yourself using general words like “good,” then you’re not digging deep enough.
The first paragraph serves as kind of a funnel opening to the essay which draws and invites readers into the discussion, which is then focused by the thesis statement before the work of the essay actually begins. You will discover that some writers will delay the articulation of the paper’s focus, its thesis, until the very end of the paper. That is possible if it is clear to thoughtful readers throughout the paper what the business of the essay truly is; frankly, it’s probably not a good idea for beginning writers.
The thesis statement usually appears near the beginning of a paper. It can be the first sentence of an essay, but that often feels like a simplistic, unexciting beginning. It more frequently appears at or near the end of the first paragraph or two. Here is the first paragraph of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.’s essay The Crisis of American Masculinity. Notice how everything drives the reader toward the last sentence and how that last sentence clearly signals what the rest of this essay is going to do.
Keep in mind: Reference works do not have theses. Remember the definition of a thesis: a point that an essay is trying to prove. Reference works don�t try to prove a point. They simply report information. Usually it�s the more in-depth general interest works, and especially the scholarly sources, that have theses. So those are the ones you�ll want to focus on.
However, an abstract is not always provided. In those cases, you may need to read the first few paragraphs to get the gist of the article. This is typically where the author will lay out the argument and, again, state the point that they are trying to prove. In more difficult cases it may be necessary to read the conclusion as well, since this is often where they sum up the argument one last time. Sometimes its clearer in the conclusion than in the introduction.
A thesis statement lays the groundwork for an essay. It tells the reader what the essay is about and what to expect as he reads through the essay. Locating and understanding the thesis statement, however, isn’t always easy. Sometimes it requires that you read the entire essay, find the thesis statement and then read the essay again. The second time you read, you can then compare what the thesis statement said the essay was about to your thoughts about the essay’s meaning.
Re-read the essay if you felt like the thesis statement provides more clarity to what you have already read. Keeping the thesis statement at the forefront of your mind while reading the essay a second time can help you better understand the author’s objectives, findings and conclusions.
Some Caveats and Some Examples
This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a “soft-on-crime” image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counterargument, you’ll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.