Developing a Thesis Statement and Supporting Ideas

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the three questions used to develop a thesis statement.
  • Develop a thesis statement with supporting ideas.

In this lesson, you will learn how to develop a thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader? and the supporting ideasPoints that supply content and develop a thesis within an essay. that explain your purposeThe reason the writer is writing about a topic. It is what the writer wants the reader to know, feel, or do after reading the work. for writing.

Thesis Statements
Every essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. has a thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work., which is an overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis of the work. Most of the time, essays have a stated thesis statementA thesis statement that has been explicitly written in an article, essay, or other reading. that has been explicitly expressed; however, sometimes it is not. When it is not, the essay has what is called an implied thesis statementAn indirect overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis of an essay or dissertation but is never stated directly in the writing., or an indirect overall argument. In either situation, every essay must clearly identify a topicThe subject of a reading. and purpose for writing about it, which are the two essential components of a thesis statement.

You can develop a thesis statement by answering three questions:

  1. What is my topic?
  2. What am I trying to say about that topic?
  3. Why is this important to me or my reader?

The thesis statement is placed within the introductionThe first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis. of the essay. It is usually found at the end of the first paragraphA selection of a writing that is made up of sentences formed around one main point. Paragraphs are set apart by a new line and sometimes indentation., but if the essay is particularly long, the thesis may also appear in the second or third paragraph.  If the "essay" is only one paragraph long, the thesis statement is usually in the first or second sentence.

Supporting Ideas
Once you have written a thesis statement, you can then identify what information you must include to explain it to your audience. To do this, you need to identify supporting ideas by asking yourself the questions, "How?" or "What?" in response to the thesis statement you have written.

For example, consider an essay that has a short introduction such as:

Summer camps have long been a staple of American children's youth adventures. Parents who have never sent their children to summer camp before can rest easy knowing resources are available to help guide them in their search for the perfect summer camp experience for their children.

You can see that the thesis is the second sentence. You can then begin identifying supporting ideas by asking, "How can parents find resources?" or "What resources are available to parents?" Finding the answer to either of these questions will help you choose supporting ideas to write about.

For instance, some resources that are available to parents seeking out a good summer camp are family friends, school teachers, religious leaders, social media like Facebook or Twitter, and camp websites. Those examples would become the supporting details for the bodyThe main portion of a writing that contains the main ideas and supporting details of the writing. This is where the author's purpose and thesis statement are supported and/or developed. of the essay.