Student Toolkit: How to Write a Thesis Paragraph

Guest Editor Bradford A. Rogers
The most difficult part about writing an essay for college or online education is often getting the momentum going with your introductory paragraph, or your thesis paragraph. A good thesis paragraph will explicitly demonstrate what will be covered in your essay and your central argumentative statement, or a thesis statement. Follow the steps below to breeze through that first essay paragraph and you'll have a solid starting point for the rest of your essay.

Outline, Outline, Outline

After you've finished your outline (read more about outlining here), the first thing you should set out to write is your thesis paragraph. However, this paragraph should have its own outline that mirrors that of your overarching outline, but in a much more condensed form. The purpose of this paragraph should be to concisely inform your reader of what you plan on covering and what argument you will posit. So, following your condensed paragraph outline, write a short sentence or two describing each main point of your paper. Keep doing this until you feel you have given a complete preview of what will be discussed in your paper.

Fill In the Gaps

Once you have covered all you intend to cover in your thesis paragraph, fill in the gaps to make the paragraph read smoother. For your first sentence, in which you kick-off the discourse of your paper, some teachers may prefer a hook (or an exciting first sentence that literally “hooks” the reader into reading more), while others may prefer that you dive right in to your argument without wasting time with ornamentation. Make sure you understand your teacher's expectations in this regard. Subsequently, do some initial editing to work it all together and don't be afraid to use transition words. Some good transition words include “certainly,” “however,” “therefore” or “thus,” etc. “Certainly” is useful when acknowledging a counterargument to your main point, and “however” can allow for a smooth transition to your refutation of that counterargument. Finally, use “therefore” or “thus” to introduce your main argument as it is based on your refutation of the counterargument. Of course, you may structure your paragraph however you would like and use different transitionary words, but the aforementioned should be helpful in getting your ideas flowing.

Make a Statement

Finally, you are ready to make your thesis statement, or the main argumentative statement of your paper. This should be included at the end of your thesis paragraph and should not span beyond one to two sentences. Explicitly define what you will be arguing in order to give your reader an idea of where you are taking your paper and in what frame they should analyze your argument. As with all rough drafting don't worry about your thesis statement or even your thesis paragraph being perfect the first time. You can always come back to it after you have written the rest of the paper and developed a more complete idea of your main statement (read more about essay writing and rough drafting here). Nevertheless, make sure that you thesis statement, in particular, directly addresses the prompt for the paper or fully satisfies that main argument you wish to make, and you'll be on your way to writing a solid essay.