Parts of a Thesis Sentence

A thesis sentence has to contain two parts:

  1. Topic – what the essay is about.
  2. Angle – your idea about the topic. This second part, your idea/insight/claim/argument about a topic, is the important characteristic in creating a thesis sentence for a college essay. The angle makes a promise to your reader about your insight into, claim, or logical argument about the topic. Your angle in your thesis sentence indicates and controls what the rest of the essay will be about.

Note above that I’ve called the angle a number of different things: idea, insight, claim, argument. Even though you may have slightly different angles when you’re writing for different purposes, all of these variations of the angle have one really important thing in common: they all offer your own viewpoint on your topic. Your own viewpoint, backed up by examples and evidence, is the important thing in a college essay.

Thesis sentence: "Topic" is what the essay is about. "Angle" is you own insight or assertion about the topic.

One mistake that a lot of beginning college writers make is to focus on the topic as opposed to the angle in a thesis sentence. Beginning writers often think it’s enough to describe a management theory or a historical event or a psychological philosophy to show knowledge gained. However, if a writing assignment is to write an essay or “paper,” the likely expectation is that you’ll offer your own argument or angle to show how you’ve evaluated and applied knowledge gained, e.g., Although management theory Y supports the worker’s own initiative much more fully than management theory X, contingency theory is most often applied in the contemporary workplace, because of a number of characteristics of 21st century businesses.

Note that the sample thesis you just read has a third part, what’s often called a “because clause,” or some indication of reasons why you are making the claim you’re making in the angle.  You may decide to use a “because clause” in certain cases and not in others; decide if your thesis would be clearer to both you as a writer and to your reading audience with the inclusion of these additional reasons in your thesis.

As you start to develop a working thesis sentence for an essay, take time to review and analyze that working thesis to make sure that all of the parts are feasible:

  • Is there an actual thesis sentence with a topic and an angle?  Relying only on an essay topic, or relying only on an essay title, is not enough.
  • Does the angle offer a debatable insight (again, not just a topic and not just a statement of fact)?
  • Is the angle supportable with examples and evidence?
  • Is the angle appropriate for the scope of the essay (e.g., angle is not too broad or too narrow)?
  • If there are reasons included in a “because clause,” are those reasons clear, direct, and related to the claim in the angle?

The following video is lengthy, but contains some useful information about writing the different parts of a thesis.