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ENGL 107 College Composition: Crafting a Thesis

This guide is for all sections of English 107: College Composition


What is a thesis, exactly? A thesis is a central argument your paper is trying to make. Your thesis serves as the centerpiece of your paper, which your research and evidence support. A thesis contains two parts: your topic and your claim. Your topic is what you're writing about, and your claim is the argument you're making about your topic. 


Posting selfies on social media is a form of self-expression that can build self-confidence in young women.

Topic: selfies and social media

Claim: posting selfies builds self-confidence

This thesis statement has a clear topic and an arguable claim.


The Working Thesis

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Many students believe that when writing, you start with your thesis and then look for evidence to prove it. This is not the case! Your thesis can only be written after you assess the information that's out there on your topic. You may have a hunch as to the answer to your research question as you begin your assignment, and many times it's important to have an idea of what your thesis may be as you start your research. This is called a working thesis and is used to help guide your research. You will adjust your working thesis as you gather information.

To help create a working thesis, ask yourself questions about your topic based on basic background research- not the stuff you'll cite in your paper, but the information you gathered to give you general information on your topic. You can ask yourself the 5 W's (and H!) questions about your topic: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?, and thinking about themes central to the course and to your assignment or topic. For instance, if you're writing about intersectional feminism in contemporary television shows, you may want to ask yourself questions like who are the women featured in these shows?; what struggles or conflicts are they experiencing?; and how are these things connected to depictions of feminism? Your working thesis might be: Contemporary television depicts realistic challenges of intersectional feminism through the narratives of young African American women transitioning into adulthood.

You can further revise this working thesis by making it more specific, by comparing two shows, or by changing your assertion that the depictions in television actually are not realistic. You would be able to make these changes based on the research you completed.  

Writing Your Thesis Statement

Research Question vs Thesis Statement

Research questions and thesis statements are often thought of as the same thing, but they're different! A research question is a question your paper seeks to answer, whereas a thesis statement is a definitive stance or declaration you're making. You can think of your thesis statement as the answer to a research question. Look at the following for an example of a research question and a thesis statement on the same topic:

Research Question: What are the societal factors that contribute to maternal health disparities in the D.C. region?

Thesis Statement: The lack of access to quality maternity wards in hospitals within the District negatively impacts maternal health outcomes and increases maternal health disparities. 

Research questions can be helpful in narrowing down your topic, but you'll need to develop a clear, concise thesis statement to use at the beginning of your paper. 

Is your thesis weak or strong??

A thesis should make a solid claim that responds to a research question. A weak thesis simply restates the question or doesn't offer new knowledge about the topic.

strong thesis, on the other hand, makes a clear and concise claim about your topic. It is specific and uses active verbs to illustrate the importance of your topic. 

Things to help form your thesis

  • Brainstorming 
  • Use strong action verbs instead of verbs like "to be"
  • Do background research with accessible material, like Wikipedia (but don't cite this in your paper!)

Thesis Checklist

Ask yourself the following:

  • Is it located in the first paragraph or page of your paper?
  • Does your thesis statement make a claim? Is it arguable?
  • Does it relate to the evidence you include in your paper?
  • Have you revised it?
  • Does your statement explain why your thesis (and topic) are important?