Write a Thesis
All college students must learn how to write a thesis. A thesis is a statement or group of statements that expresses the main point or argument of a piece of writing. Every document—whether it is a three-page essay or a multi-volume book, will have a thesis. Learning how to write theses—and write them well—is an essential skill for college writing.
To write a thesis is to make an assertion. An assertion is a bold statement of idea, opinion, or argument. An assertion is confident and precise. Therefore, although to write a thesis is to present one's own idea or opinion, writing a thesis is not the same as merely expressing oneself. Often, self-expression uses the first-person voice: "I think that..." or "My opinion is...." These are not theses; they are only expressions of self. A thesis must transform that expression into an assertion that the writer presents as a true statement that can be logically defended. For example, if one were to write a critical assertion on one's belief that Beethoven was a better composer than Mozart, one would not say: "I think that Beethoven was a better composer than Mozart." This is self-expression. To make a thesis from this opinion requires the writer to cast this in assertive language, remove the first-person voice, and present justification for the opinion: "Though lacking Mozart's impressive productivity, Beethoven was a superior composer because his work demonstrates increasingly complex innovation over the course of his career." Notice that in this thesis, there is a phrase that explains why Beethoven was a superior composer. A thesis presents a point, and always gives justification for that point by saying why or how the point is valid.
To write theses well, one must perform a process of multiple revisions. Revising the thesis requires carefully considering each word and phrase and determining if that word or phrase is assertive and precise. It also requires determining whether or not the claims the thesis makes are valid, defendable, and complex enough to write about. One cannot write theses on definitive facts such as "A foot consists of twelve inches," because there is nothing to say. Similarly, a thesis cannot assert that "There are fourteen deities on Mars" because that thesis cannot be defended using any valid scholarly document.
Writing good theses takes time, but, like most skills, can be learned. Students will benefit greatly from seeking the assistance and feedback of their instructors or their university writing centers. These writing professionals can walk students through the process of constructing solid and compelling thesis statements.
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