Skip to content

Thesis Statement Four Steps To A Great Essay

Hungry for tacos?  Feel like you can’t fully concentrate on your writing assignment until you make a trip for a late-night snack?

As tempting as a few tacos and a burrito sound right now, don’t rush to satisfy your cravings just yet.

Instead continue reading, as this blog post contains important information you’ll need to write that paper—in particular, how to write a thesis statement in 5 simple steps.  This blog post discusses tacos, too, so that alone should give you incentive to keep reading!

What’s the Purpose of a Thesis Statement?

The short answer

The purpose of a thesis statement is to inform readers of:

  • the subject of your paper.
  • your claim (or opinion) of the topic.

The longer answer

A thesis statement generally appears at the end of the introductory paragraph; it tells your readers what you’re writing about and tells your readers your opinion of the topic.  The thesis essentially serves as a mini outline for the paper.

A thesis statement is necessary to focus your paper.  It helps you articulate your ideas and helps readers understand the purpose of your paper.

Don’t think you really need an effective thesis?  Think again!

Have you ever read the first one or two paragraphs of a paper and wondered, “What’s the point?” or “So what?”

Has someone ever read one of your papers and said, “I don’t get it.  What’s this paper about?”

If so, chances are the paper is missing a thesis statement.  Without a thesis statement, readers are less likely to understand the main point (or focus) of the paper and are less likely to keep reading.

5 Essential Steps to Writing a Thesis Statement

Okay, so here’s where we talk tacos.

No, tacos aren’t part of essay writing or thesis statement writing…though they can be.  It’s always good to maintain your strength, and you shouldn’t write on an empty stomach, so feel free to make that trip for tacos after reading this post.

First, let’s go through the five essential steps of how to write a thesis statement.

How to write a thesis statement step #1: Pick a topic

To write an effective thesis statement, you first need a topic for your paper.

Today’s paper topic:  Taco Bell.

Now that you have a topic for your paper, think about what you want to say about the topic.

This is where you’ll begin to develop an effective thesis statement.

How to write a thesis statement step #2: Be specific

Let’s say you started developing your ideas with the following working thesis:  A lot of people go to Taco Bell.  

The first problem with this thesis is that it’s not specific at all.  Ask yourself “Who goes to Taco Bell?”  Ask “Why do they go to Taco Bell?”

Let’s try again:College students often go to Taco Bell late at night because it’s open 24 hours.

This time, you’ve managed to be a bit more specific, but readers are still going to say, “So what?” You’ve included a topic, but you haven’t yet included your opinion about the topic.

Let’s move on to the third component and revise again.

How to write a thesis statement step #3: Be arguable

Our most recent revision (College students often go to Taco Bell late at night because it’s open 24 hours) doesn’t provide any form of argument.  It’s merely a statement.

Think about how you could create an argument about Taco Bell.  What is it you want to say about Taco Bell?

Pretend you and a group of friends are sitting around late at night trying to think of where you should go to eat.  A friend mentions another fast food restaurant, but you argue for Taco Bell. What would you say to convince your friend that you should eat there?

Let’s try thesis statement revision #2:College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around.

Now we’re getting somewhere.  We have a specific statement that is arguable.

But it’s still missing something; it doesn’t explain why Taco Bell is so great and doesn’t tell readers the key points of your paper.

Because the thesis statement still isn’t perfect, we’ll move on to the next essential component.

How to write a thesis statement step #4: Create a mini-outline of the paper

A basic thesis statement will provide readers with a clear outline of your paper.  It will tell readers what to expect in the upcoming paragraphs.

Your thesis doesn’t do that yet.

When your readers see your current thesis, they know the subject and the stance of your paper, but they don’t yet know what they’ll be reading in the body of the paper.

Let’s revise again.

Thesis revision #3:College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around and has cheap prices, good food, and is open 24 hours.

This thesis statement seems to meet all of the requirements, right?  It includes a topic and offers your opinion. It is specific and arguable, and it creates a mini-outline for your paper.

While your thesis does include all of the required elements, the wording is less than perfect, and you still need to revise for clarity and style.

How to write a thesis statement step #5: choose your words wisely

“Are we done yet?”

Not yet.  Let’s look at your current thesis statement again: College students like to go to Taco Bell because it’s one of the best fast-food restaurants around and has cheap prices, good food, and is open 24 hours.

Ask yourself these questions to refine your wording.

  • Do all college students go to Taco Bell?  Clearly not all college students do, so you might revise to say “Many college students…”
  • Are the words “cheap” and “good” the most effective word choices?  Probably not. These words are boring and general.  Use more specific wording.  You might try “inexpensive” and “delicious” instead.

Let’s try our 4th (and hopefully final) revision:Many college students believe Taco Bell is the best fast-food restaurant because it is inexpensive, offers delicious food, and is open 24 hours.

Now this is a thesis statement!

It includes the topic and your opinion.  It is clear, specific, arguable, and provides readers with a mini-outline of your paper.  And, of course, it is now worded effectively.

This is a thesis that deserves a celebration!   It’s time to make that trip for tacos.  You’ve earned it!

You can use this checklist I made to make sure that your thesis statement covers all the bases:

If you want to read more about thesis statements before you go on a taco run, I recommend reading 10 Thesis Statements to Inspire Your Next Argumentative Essay and this quick Thesis Statement Handout.

If you need additional assistance with your paper, Kibin editors are always willing to help.

Good luck!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

If you’re going to write a winning essay, you definitely need a thesis. That’s why I decided to make you a step-by-step video on how to write an awesome thesis statement.

Writing a thesis statement is all about figuring out the main idea for your paper, and then explaining that main idea to your reader. But where to begin?

Begin with the question—the question you’re answering with your essay. We’ll use The Scarlet Letter as an example.

Let’s say your teacher gave you the following question as your essay topic:

What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Thesis Statement Step 1:

SYMBOLS, not CYMBALS. Find out more about symbols and other terms of literary analysis in the Recap Resource.

Assuming you’ve read the book (and really, you can’t write a paper without having read the book) answer the question off the top of your head.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Preliminary thesis: In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A is asymbol.

That’s a good start, but you haven’t answered the whole question. Remember that the second part of the question is: and why is the A important?

Thesis Statement Step 2:

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a complicated man. What prompted him to write The Scarlet Letter? Here's one theory. Here's another.

So now you need to refine your answer. At this point, you’ll probably need to look back at your notes about the book to figure out why the A is important. After you do, revise your thesis statement.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Revised thesis:In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A is more than a symbol; it actually helps define Hester’s identity.

That’s not a bad thesis, but remember that your thesis sends the reader off into your essay not just knowing what you’re going to write about, but how you’re going to make your case. In other words, you want to give your reader a little bit more direction.

This is where examples come in.

Thesis Statement Step 3:

Before you finish refining your thesis, you need to know which examples from the book are going to help you make your case. For this question, we might look at the way the meaning of the scarlet letter A changes over the course of the novel. First, it defines Hester as an adulteress. Later, it shows how “able” Hester is. And finally, it comes to stand for “angel” as Hester takes control of her own identity.

So, with these examples in mind, let’s revise that thesis statement one more time.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Finalized thesis, version 1: In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A is more than a symbol; it actually helps define Hester’s identity, transforming her from an “adulteress,” to a woman who’s “able,” and finally, into an “angel.”

That’s a great thesis (if I do say so myself), but I want to point out something that happened as I wrote that thesis. Sometimes, when you start working with examples, an even deeper, more nuanced response to the question emerges.

So here’s an optional final step.

Thesis Statement Step 4:

Ask yourself: Am I really saying all I could be saying with my thesis? Am I really saying it in the clearest possible way? Or are my examples leading me to tweak my thesis and say something a little different, a little deeper?

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, revise again.

Question: What role does the scarlet letter A play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important?

Finalized thesis, version 2: In The Scarlet Letter, the letter A isn’t just a symbol of Hester’s downfall; as Hester moves from “adulteress,” to a woman who’s “able,” and finally, to an “angel,” the A becomes a symbol of Hester’s “agency” in defining her own identity.

Thesis Statements: Four Steps to a Great Essay

Get Psyched! Check out our eight-part 60second Recap® video tutorial mini-series, Write a Great Essay!

Let’s look at those steps one last time. To write your thesis statement:

1. Answer the question.
2. Refine your answer, making sure you’ve answered all parts of the question.
3. Refine your answer into a more focused thesis statement by including a reference to the examples you plan to use.
4. Refine your thesis so that it answers the question not just in a focused way, but also in a creative, thoughtful, even profound way.

There you have it: An awesome thesis statement, and a solid foundation for an A+ essay.


Ready to write your A+ Essay?
Step 1: Think Like a Prosecutor. Read about it here.


Thesis Statements: Four Steps to a Great Essay was last modified: October 11th, 2015 by 60second Recap