Set V, 10


A thesis sentence is the main idea of an essay. Thus, everything written in the paragraphs of the essay work to prove the thesis sentence. Below are some qualities of thesis sentences which you should know.


A thesis sentence is limited according to the length of the essay. For instance, a short essay such as we have been writing needs a small thesis that can be covered specifically in 400-500 words.

Too Broad: There are serious objections to grading systems in American universities."

Limit this by place: There are serious objections to the grading system at ISU."

But this is still too broad because serious objections could cover more objections than you could cover in a short paper.

Limit this by selecting one major problem:

Thesis #1 At NCWC students value grades more than learning.

This thesis could then be covered using your personal experience. You could draw examples from your knowledge of yourself and your fellow students and focus the paper on this one objection to the grading system.


A thesis sentence, though broader than the topic sentences that support it, is also clear and specific.

Not this: Grading causes problems with learning.

This: At NCWC too many students value grades more than learning.

In a thesis, avoid vague terms such as "interesting," "great," "unique," "complex," "neat" etc.


A thesis is placed in the introduction. In a short paper, the introduction is the first paragraph. A good place for the thesis is at the end of the introduction. Sometimes professional writers place it in the middle or at the beginning of the introduction, but beginners should stick to putting the thesis at the end of the introduction. That way, your reader always knows what the thesis is. For example:

Receiving good grades is important for many reasons such as winning scholarships and earning a diploma, but do grades always show what students have learned? Sometimes grades do indicate learning, but other times they just show that a student has done well on tests and may have forgotten the material later. While all of us forget some course material, many students forget most of it because they are concerned with merely memorizing information at test time. At NCWC, too many students value grades more than learning.

Relationship to Topic Sentences

A thesis is related to the topic sentences of the body paragraphs in that all the topic sentences are sub-points of the thesis. In other words, all the topic sentences add up to support the thesis sentence. For instance:

Thesis: At NCWC, too many students value grades more than learning.

Topic sentence of first body paragraph: Some students cram to get good grades, but students who cram learn very little. (this topic sentence would then be supported by examples showing why cramming does not enable people to learn)

Topic sentence of second body paragraph: Some students avoid good but tough teachers just to preserve their grade point averages. (again examples would show why this practice hurts learning).

Topic sentence of third body paragraph: Many times students put more energy into worrying about their average in a course rather than giving that energy to the work itself. (again examples would develop the topic sentence).

The Argumentative or Demonstrable Edge

A thesis is statement that can be argued or demonstrated. It is not an obvious fact that everyone knows.

Fact: New York is the largest city in the U.S. Thesis: A person must make at least $40,000 a year to live comfortably in New York City.

Fact: NCWC is not as big as UNC. Thesis: Students can get just as good an education at NCWC as they can at UNC.

Fact: Jim McMahon is the quarterback of the Chicago Bears. Thesis: Jim McMahon is a poor role model for the youth of America.

Thesis Exercises

Below are some thesis sentences that are not very good. They are either not limited, not specific, or lack an argumentative/ demonstrable edge. Place an L, S, or A/D next to each one to identify its problem. If the thesis has more than one problem, put two letters next to it. Then in the space provided, rewrite the thesis to make it as effective as you can. One of the thesis sentences is good; mark it o.k.

1. Star Wars is a very interesting movie.

2. Male-female relationships can be very complex.

3. My paper is about my home carpentry, which is my favorite hobby.

4. The team's lack of coaching and dissension among the players contribute to its poor performances this season.

5. Drunken drivers can cause many problems.

Below are six subject areas. Come up with a good thesis sentence for each one.
Dating Holidays
Teachers Your hometown (or neighborhood)
Indiana St. Fashion

Here are examples for each category. Now try your own.

1. Group dates are a good way to get to know a new partner.

2. To be a good teacher, one has to be part scholar, part preacher, and part ham.

3. Prices at the NCWC bookstore are inflated.

4. Thanksgiving is one holiday where family tradition is more important than commerciality.

5. The Lakeview section of Paterson, N.J., is a model of ethnic diversity.

6. Preppy clothes are smart looking, comfortable, and durable.

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