The Thesis Sentence

Effective thesis sentences tell us what you’re going to argue and how, specifically, you’ll do it. You can be inventive about almost all sentences in your paper except this one. This one has a rule to follow and the rule is simple: It has to sound like a thesis sentence in order for your reader to know that it is a thesis sentence. There are many ways to do this, but generally you must be explicit about what you’re doing. Some of your teachers will have told you that a thesis sentence should announce itself by saying “I’m a thesis! Here I am!” Other of your teachers will have told you “Never write a sentence that begins ‘My thesis for this paper is…'” Obviously, when you receive such clear instruction from your teachers, you would be wise to heed their advice. In my class, however, I’d like you to choose the approach that seems best to you. If you are absolutely sure that you can write a strong declarative sentence like the last sentence listed below, by all means, do that. If you feel more confident with a thesis sentence that announces itself, then do that. Here are some examples:

My thesis for this paper is….

In this paper, I will argue X by doing a, b, and c.

Violence hurts both the victims and the perpetrators through a, b, and c.

In my discussion of sentences with meat on their bones, I explain how all sentences should earn their word count by being substantial rather than vague. This, for me, is the most important criteria for every sentence, but especially your thesis.

Skeletal thesis:

There are serious objections to today’s horror movies.

Meaty:

Because modern cinematic techniques have allowed filmmakers to get more graphic, horror flicks have desensitized young American viewers to violence.

The pornographic violence in “bloodbath” slasher movies degrades both men and women.

Today’s slasher movies fail to deliver the emotional catharsis that 1930s horror films did.

Click through to Purdue for more examples here.

Getting Practical: Sentence Templates

One useful tip for making that thesis sentence worthwhile involves using parallel structures to show how your ideas are linked. Parallel constructions must be identical in their grammatical form. Here are some examples:

Four parallel objects of the preposition “through”:

Through her concern with cultural alienation, her relentless questioning of the Church’s social and temporal role, her ardent expression of the need for peace and understanding among the world’s peoples, and her vision of the urgency of social reconstruction and reform, Gabrielle Roy anticipated the Quiet Revolution in her two Montreal novels and went considerably beyond its ideological confines.

Ben-Z Shek

Three where clauses that are subjects of “is”

Here is where the hot wind blows and the old ways do not seem relevant, where the divorce rate is double the national average and where one person in every thirty eight lives in a trailer.

Joan Didion

It [a giant water bug] seizes a victim with these legs, hugs it tight, and paralyzes it with enzymes injected during a vicious bite.

Annie Dillard

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.

John F. Kennedy

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