Formulating a Thesis Statement

The Purpose of this page is to give you an idea of what a Thesis Statement is,  and what it does for your paper.  Some of this information was taken from the Writing Tutorial Services Home Page.

What is a Thesis Statement?

Almost all of us--even if we don't do it consciously--look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is an arguable statement that you then set out, through  your discussion and examples, to support. You then, in your essay, conclude how what you have presented supports your thesis statement.

Why Should Your Essay Contain A Thesis Statement?  Because it will:
    * test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
    * better organize and develop your argument
    * provide your reader with a "guide" to your argument

If you think of a thesis statement as a direct answer to the question that your paper topic proposes, then you are reasonably sure to have a successful thesis statement.

How to Tell a Strong Thesis Sentence from a Weak One:

* A strong thesis takes some sort of stand.

Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper on William McDounough, you might write either of these two thesis statements:

     William McDounough argues that modern architecture is boring.

This is a weak thesis. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase "modern architecture is boring vague.

    William McDounough asserts that modern architecture is unsuccessful because it fails to meaningfully
    respond to the physical environment in which it is situated.

This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand.

* A strong thesis justifies discussion.

Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on Robert Venturi's mission as an architect, you might write either of these two statements:

     Robert Venturi's work is based on the belief that modern architecture failed to satisfy the public.

This is a weak thesis because it states an observation. Your reader won't be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.

     Robert Venturi's work is based on his belief that modern architecture failed to satisfy the public
     because of its lack of readily apparent symbolism.

This is a strong thesis because it not only makes a statement, but also because it provides a "because" statement that prompts readers to think about your reasoning.   A good strategy for creating
a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.

* A strong thesis expresses one main idea.

Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:

     Fumihiko Maki's typical spare modernist aesthetic is derived from traditional Japanese symbolism,
     and was very popular with the American public.

This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can't decide whether the paper is about Japanese aesthetics or the American public. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:

    At the time Fumihiko Maki was designing, the American public was fascinated with Japanese
    art and design.  Since his spare modernist aesthetic relied on Japanese aesthetics to express urban
    interaction and landscape symbolism, Maki's work was very popular with American audiences.

This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like "because," "since," "so," "although," "unless," and "however."

*A strong thesis statement is specific.

A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you write a paper on Alvar Aalto:

     Alvar Aalto's work is closely related to nature.

This is a weak thesis statement because "closely related to nature" is vague. You should be able to identify specific ways that his work is close to nature. A revised thesis might look like this:

     Alvar Aalto's works integrate nature and man-made environments in order to achieve his ideal of
     architecture's organic wholeness.

This is a strong thesis because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic and it also identifies the specific relationship between Aalto's work and nature.
Below are some examples of non-thesis statements.  Think about some ways you could revise them so they make stronger, more interesting statements:

Eero Saarinen, lacking a clear stylistic progression, designed creative buildings that give each work a sense of originality contributing to him becoming the most sculptural architect of his era.

Eero Saarinen's organic style architecture ensures that his structures become part of the total environment.

Alvar Aalto had catalysts throughout his younger career which would eventually lead him to the rhetorical diversity of his latter works.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater shows his mastery of designing a building that units (sic) the natural landscape and the environment.

Rogers' innovative combination of ordinary materials and technology produces highly flexible buildings that have extraordinary (sic) elegant results.

Louis Sullivan used ornamentation to express the architecture of his buildings.
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