Thesis Crafting

How to Generate a Thesis Statement in Response to a Prompt

  1. Dissect the prompt. Make sure you understand what the question is asking. See other post.
  2. Answer the question, taking into consideration how the prompt lends itself to structure (See other post)
  3. Map out the essay’s body paragraphs, referring back to the thesis and revising if needed.
  4. Double check the thesis’ strength (see below).


QUESTION: Gertrude Stein said of the 1920’s, “We are, after all, a lost generation.” How does F. Scott Fitzgerald develop this concept in The Great Gatsby?

POSSIBLE THESIS: Rather than selflessness or spiritual values, the materialism and search for personal pleasure which Gertrude Stein observed in the 1920’s are clearly apparent in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby.

QUESTION: It has been said that A Farewell to Arms has a “darkness of perception.” Explain what you think this might mean. What is Hemingway’s vision of life and love?

POSSIBLE THESIS: In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway demonstrates his dark perception of life by illustrating that in love there is always despair and in life there is ultimately death.

Thesis Crafting

How to Generate a Thesis Statement without a Prompt

*Mostly for research papers

  1. PICK SOMETHING THAT INTERESTS YOU. There is nothing more painful than writing a paper on a topic of absolutely no interest to you. The best topic would be something of interest to you, relevant to the class, and, most importantly, has enough information on the subject to feasibly write a 5 or 7 page paper.
  2. Research the topic, and Narrow it down to a single issue you’d like to explore.
  3. Take a Stance on the topic.
  4. Unify the whole thesis into a coherent sentence that clearly states one main idea.
  5. Use specific language to define anything that could be ambiguous to your readers.



Step 1: (topic) British North America and the US movement for Confederation

Step 2: (research and narrow) British North America’s relations with the US affected the movement for Confederation.

Step 3: (take a stance) The movement for Confederation was affected by British North America’s relations with the United States, because British North Americans reacted to the Civil War and responded to trade relations with the United States.

Step 4: (unify) The movement for Confederation was affected by the British North Americans’ reaction to the civil War and their response to trade relations with the United States.

Step 5: (be specific) From 1861 to 1866, the movement for Confederation was accelerated by the British North Americans’ fear of the large Union Army and their dismay at the ending of the reciprocity treaty.

Thesis Crafting

A Strong Thesis…

A Strong Thesis…

Takes a Stand. Controversial or not, the thesis should be arguing a stance.

BAD: There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.

Weak: This thesis fails to take a stand and is very vague.

GOOD: Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.

Justifies Discussion. There should be some sort of bigger picture the thesis can ultimately connect to, answering the question “Why am I reading/writing this?”

BAD: My family is an extended family.

Weak: This thesis states an observation instead of making an argument, and the reader has no reason to keep reading further.

GOOD: While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families like my own believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.

Strong: This thesis makes an argument worth having, and is very specific (#4).

Expresses One Main Idea. Remember, the thesis is the thread holding the entire paper together. If there are several parts to the idea, make sure they are related using words like “because,” “since,” “so,” “although,” “unless,” and “however.”

BAD: Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.

Weak: The reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or web pages.

GOOD: Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.

Strong: This thesis clearly shows the relationship between the two ideas.

Is Specific/Precise. A specific thesis helps you keep your paper manageable, and helps you ensure you can thoroughly discuss your topic. It’s not so precise that you don’t understand until you read the rest of the paper, and it’s not so general that it fails to represent any position.

BAD: World hunger has many causes and effects.

Weak: One, world hunger cannot be discussed in a 5-10 page paper. Second, many causes and effects is extremely vague.

GOOD: Hunger persists in Appalachia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.

Strong: This thesis narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic and identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.