A thesis is a statement or group of statements asserting a text's main idea, opinion, analysis, or argument. There are countless theses and possible theses, because there are countless ideas, opinions, analyses, and arguments. However, though the content of theses can vary incredibly, most theses follow a standard thesis format. This format is essentially a statement of WHAT the main point of the text is, and HOW that point will be made. Some thesis formats are more specific than this, in that they specify a particular number of HOWs. The prime example of this is the three-point thesis, which asserts the main point of a text and then lists three ways in which that point will be explored.
Thesis format is not the same as a thesis itself: the format is simply the arrangement the thesis takes. The thesis is the content—the actual statement of what the main point of the text is and how that point will be made.
Some students believe that proper thesis format presents the thesis in one sentence only. A thesis may be encapsulated in one sentence, but it does not have to be. Sometimes, thesis statements require several sentences to fully explain the what and the how. Article formats can even be entire (albeit brief) paragraphs.
Another common misperception about thesis formats is that there can be no interruption between sentences expressing the thesis statement. Though it would be unwise to separate the what and the how of the thesis by so much text that the reader has forgotten the what before she reaches the how, it is perfectly fine to have some intervening sentences between the statement of the main point of the text and the author's description of how that point will be explored. Article formats are flexible, so long as they contain both the main point of the text and a description of how that point will be made.
If a student wishes to follow a particular thesis format like the three-point thesis format, he simply needs to be certain that the description of how the main point of the text will be made includes three clearly defined elements. For instance, he may wish to write a paper on the reasons why trees lose their leaves in the fall. His three-point-thesis would then be "Trees lose their leave in the fall due to lack of sunlight, cooler temperatures, and changes in precipitation." This paper would then discuss each of the three elements presented in the thesis.
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