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Online Guide to Writing and Research

The Writing Process


Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

So what? This is the question you will get asked if your thesis statement, or main idea, is not obvious in your paper. Your thesis statement is the most important part of your writing; without it, your paper doesn’t have a main point or stance. A thesis statement states the purpose and topic of your writing, and the controlling idea indicates the direction and, often, the writing strategy you will adopt. 

Your thesis is like a road map, guiding your readers so that they know what to expect.

Generally, your thesis is placed at the end of your introduction and is a concise and simple sentence that combines your topic and your position on the topic. Like a road map, your thesis lets your readers know what to expect from the rest of your paper. Your body paragraphs support it, and your essay lacks direction without it.

It is important to keep in mind that this early in your writing, your thesis statement is really a working thesis that you use to begin thinking about your topic. You may revise this thesis many times before you are finished thinking and ready to write your final draft. Below are some sample thesis statements.  


Internet useActions need to be taken to help maintain a balance because many people are addicted.While some argue that daily technology use has little effect on wellbeing, research shows that physical, mental, and social repercussions are undeniable and drastic actions need to be taken to help young people find balance.
Fast foodFast food causes health issues.Consuming fast food regularly leads to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity and there are lifestyle solutions to prevent these health issues.
Global warmingThere are many things we can do to slow global warming.Global warming is a real threat to the world; as human beings, we can slow climate change by carpooling, using less energy at home, and eating a mostly plant-based diet.

Thesis Statement Do's and Don'ts

  • Present an argument, stance, or claim. Can your audience argue with it? 

  • Provide a key to the organization of your paper. Can you construct body paragraphs that support it? 

  • Mirror the assignment prompt. Are you following what is expected of you?

  • Present the thesis at the end of the introduction.  

  • Answer the question: “so what?”  

  • Present an argument that can be supported by reputable research. Is your argument logical?

  • Embrace the “how” and “why” elements. It’s a great strategy to present the problem, examine why it’s a problem, and show how it can be fixed. 

  • Include announcement style language like “this paper will discuss” or “this will be shown in this essay.” 

  • Be informative only with no argument or stance, such as, “Some high school seniors decide to take a gap year.” 

  • Include overly broad or generalized statements like, “Kids of this generation are lazy.”

  • Force the reader to guess what the paper will prove or discuss 

  • Be questions. 

Key Takeaways

  • Your thesis is one statement at the end of your introduction and should be clear, concise, and arguable.

  • Without a thesis, your paper lacks direction and purpose. 

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