Good History Thesis Statement Example

Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center


Guide to Writing Thesis Statements

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Your thesis statement is the central argument of your essay. It must be concise and well-written.
  • Your thesis goes in the introductory paragraph. Don't hide it; make it clearly asserted at the beginning of your paper.
  • Your thesis must make an argument. It is the road map to the argument you will subsequently develop in your paper.

The key difference between an opinion statement and thesis statement is that a thesis conveys to the reader that the claim being offered has been thoroughly explored and is defendable by evidence. It answers the "what" question (what is the argument?) and it gives the reader a clue as to the "why" question (why is this argument the most persuasive?).

Examples of good thesis statements:
  • "The ability to purchase television advertising is essential for any candidate's bid for election to the Senate because television reaches millions of people and thus has the ability to dramatically increase name recognition."
  • The organizational structure of the United Nations, namely consensus voting in the security council, makes it incapable of preventing war between major powers."


1. Thesis statements must make a claim or argument. They are not statements of fact.

Statement of fact: "A candidates ability to afford television advertising can have an impact on the outcome of Congressional elections." This is essentially an indisputable point and therefore, not a thesis statement.

Similarly, the claim "The United Nations was established to promote diplomacy between major powers." is not likely to inspire much debate.

2. Thesis statements are not merely opinion statements.

Statement of opinion:"Congressional elections are simply the result of who has the most money." This statement does make a claim, but in this format it is too much of an opinion and not enough of an argument.

Similarly, "The United Nations is incapable of preventing war" is closer to a thesis statement than the factual statement above because it raises a point that is debatable. But in this format, it doesn't offer the reader much information; it sounds like the author is simply stating a viewpoint that may or may not be substantiated by evidence.

In conclusion, your thesis should make clear what your argument is; it should also provide the reader with some indication of why your argument is persuasive.

For example: In the congressional elections example, why is money important (and whose money? The candidates'? Corporations'? Special interests'?), are other factors irrelevant (the candidates' views on the issues?) and for which types of elections is this true (is your argument equally true for Senatorial elections and elections for the House of Representatives? Why or why not?)?

In the other example, you will need to think about why the United Nations is not capable of preventing war. Your thesis should indicate that you have an understanding of the relevant historical circumstances and that you are aware of alternative explanations.

Of course, one can re-work a thesis statement indefinitely and one can almost always find something at fault with it. The point is that you must be sure that your thesis statement is indicating to your reader that you have an argument to make.



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A research essay cannot simply report on historical events or ideas, it must have a particular point. The reader wants to know, “Why am I reading this?” “What is the author arguing here?” You may think about it in this way: a prosecuting attorney would not simply present a host of evidence to a jury without arguing a particular case. The evidence itself does not constitute an argument – it must be presented to the reader after they have been advised of the argument, or “charges” at hand. When formulating a thesisstatement, consider the kinds of questions that students typically have:

  • What is a thesis? A thesis is the central, core argument being made by the author. The thesis should provide the research paper with a point, or reason for presenting the evidence uncovered during the investigation of the topic. It is the “case” being made for the consideration of the jury of the author’s peers. Writing a paper without a thesis is like reviewing evidence without prosecuting a case – the reader will be confused and may even grow irritated, and will question the author’s point.
  • Are a thesis statement and an introduction the same thing? No, they are not, however the thesis, or statement of the author’s argument, is expected by the reader to appear early in the paper – in the introduction, or very soon thereafter. The introduction presents the topic to the audience, defines the subject, period, and event or ideas to be discussed. The thesis statement makes clear to the reader exactly what is being argued by the author.

When formulating a thesis statement, the author should consider the following angles:

  • What is it about this topic that is problematic? Many topics are naturally problem-based, and are readily debatable. Determining on which side of the debate you stand can lead to the formulation of an argument. Other subjects involve causal relationships between events. These subjects are often chronologically oriented, and while there may be several competing schools of thought on why a particular event took place in the way it did, you may see one or two of them as primary. Focusing upon them and arguing for their preeminence as causal factors would constitute a thesis for your paper.
  • Do I agree with the scholarship? Determining where you stand on the chosen topic can be a starting point when developing an argument. Some topics are widely documented, but their sources may disagree with one another or present contrasting hypotheses or explanations. Some sources are much more recent than other works of prior scholarship, and they may involve revised or “revisionist” theories. Examine them carefully. Are you convinced by the newer approaches to a particular topic? Are they based upon newly discovered evidence that you find persuasive?
  • Are there specific themes within this topic that I can investigate? Many topics, such as wars, social or political revolutions, or aspects of societal change, involve many different actors or agents. You may wish to examine such a topic by focusing upon a particular sub-theme such as the role of women or minorities, the state of political or gender relations, or the influence of science and technology. This can be further explored in light of causative or consequential effects – that is, how did the actors or agents affect events, or how did the events affect the actors?
  • Can the evidence that I have uncovered support the claim I am making? It would be wise to consider the evidence you have found during your investigation and weigh it objectively before writing your essay. Devising an argument before fully considering the material could lead to an unexpected discovery: your argument is flawed or unsupportable. Working in reverse order to substantiate an uncertain argument is the equivalent of finding your suspect guilty or innocent before deciding on the case you wish to make. Read your sources critically, and take careful notes of what you have discovered. These notes will become crucial to the formulation of your thesis, or case. After you have made your initial determination and formulated an argument, these notes will then help you to form the body of your essay. The more notes you have, and the more carefully you have kept track of the key evidence you have uncovered, the more easily you will be able to construct and link together the main points of your paper.

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