Developing a Thesis Statement | St. Lawrence University WORD Studio

Developing a Thesis Statement

Topic: World War II

Fancy topic (what might pass for a thesis in high school): World War II caused great economic devastation, affecting millions of people.

A thesis must be focused (specific and narrow enough for the scope of the assignment) arguable (not commonly accepted, open to debate) researchable (able to be verified or supported by evidence)

World War II caused great economic devastation because the war displaced millions of refugees to countries whose post-war economies could not afford to support new citizens.

Notice the "Formula" we have here:

WWII caused economic devastation (assertion/thesis)
WWII (the war) displaced millions of refugees (proof/reason


1. An assertion (thesis) that is a complete idea answering a question at issue. (CLAIM)

2. A because clause that provides the central reason in support of the assertion. (EVIDENCE)

3. The statement must answer a question at issue in the author's social or academic community. It must address something that the community cares about but does not necessarily agree upon.

4. There should be an unstated assumption behind the thesis. This is the "truth" on which the argument rests. The assumption must be something everyone in the author's audience is likely to agree with as an effective starting point for the argument. In the sample thesis above, the shared assumption might be “Economic devastation is always a result of a refugee crisis.”

5. There should, ideally, be a shared term that appears at the beginning of both the assertion and the because clause. This ensures that there is an obvious logical connection between the two. (The shared term may be implied by use of a pronoun—“it," "they.")

Explain how this thesis statement meets these five criteria of a sound thesis:

After-school jobs are bad for teenagers because they take away study time.
After-school jobs are bad for teenagers because they [after-school jobs] take away study time.

1. The assertion is that "after-school jobs are bad for teenagers." (The term "bad" is a bit vague and would probably have to be more specific in a revised thesis.)
2. The reason is "because they take away study time."
3. The assertion has more than one side: Parents, teachers, and students are all likely to have different opinions on the matter, even within the groups.

4. The unstated assumption is that having less study time is bad for teenagers; this is the crux of the argument.

5. There is a shared term: "After-school jobs are bad for teenagers because they (after-school jobs) take away study time."