Dr. Kristi Siegel

Mount Mary College

2900 North Menomonee River Parkway

Milwaukee, WI  53222




Writing the Thesis Statement

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Writing is a circular rather than a linear process.

How is a thesis statement developed?

Slowly. Writing is more of a recursive/circular process than a sequential one. Before a thesis statement evolves you must fill the "well." That is, by using various pre-writing strategies such as free-writing, brainstorming, clustering, journaling, answering prompts, you not only will gather data but create it. Even after your pre-writing is "done" (and it may not be), your thesis will be preliminary. It’s important to realize, as you continue to write, that your thesis may change and probably should change. Consider your working thesis (as well as your thesis statement) a work in progress. Do not be tempted to distort, abridge, or stretch your materials and data to fit the thesis; fix the thesis instead.

What is a "working" thesis?

A "working" or preliminary thesis, in the words of Leonard Rosen, is "a general statement about your topic, usually in the form of a single sentence, that summarizes what you expect will be the controlling idea of an essay." Even if you don’t have a completed thesis statement, a working thesis provides an "arrow"—a sense of direction—so that you can begin to focus your writing.

What are the qualities of a good thesis statement?

A good thesis statement clearly identifies the subject, furnishes the "claim or assertion you will make about the subject," interests your audience, and presents a topic narrow enough to fit the scope of the paper.

During and after pre-writing and some drafting, a thesis statement might emerge in stages like these:

Marriage ~ Weddings ~ Expensive ~ First working thesis: "Weddings are unnecessarily expensive."     Revised thesis: "The average wedding now costs over $15,000; fortunately you can plan a wedding for under $2,000 that is just as meaningful and a lot less stressful."

***And, the thesis above may go through several more changes before you are finished writing.

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