Module 8: Analysis and Synthesis

Analytical thesis statements, learning objective.

  • Describe strategies for writing analytical thesis statements
  • Identify analytical thesis statements

In order to write an analysis, you want to first have a solid understanding of the thing you are analyzing. Remember, when you are analyzing as a writer, you are:

  • Breaking down information or artifacts into component parts
  • Uncovering relationships among those parts
  • Determining motives, causes, and underlying assumptions
  • Making inferences and finding evidence to support generalizations

You may be asked to analyze a book, an essay, a poem, a movie, or even a song. For example, let’s suppose you want to analyze the lyrics to a popular song. Pretend that a rapper called Escalade has the biggest hit of the summer with a song titled “Missing You.” You listen to the song and determine that it is about the pain people feel when a loved one dies. You have already done analysis at a surface level and you want to begin writing your analysis. You start with the following thesis statement:

Escalade’s hit song “Missing You” is about grieving after a loved one dies.

There isn’t much depth or complexity to such a claim because the thesis doesn’t give much information. In order to write a better thesis statement, we need to dig deeper into the song. What is the importance of the lyrics? What are they really about? Why is the song about grieving? Why did he present it this way? Why is it a powerful song? Ask questions to lead you to further investigation. Doing so will help you better understand the work, but also help you develop a better thesis statement and stronger analytical essay.

Formulating an Analytical Thesis Statement

When formulating an analytical thesis statement in college, here are some helpful words and phrases to remember:

  • What? What is the claim?
  • How? How is this claim supported?
  • So what? In other words, “What does this mean, what are the implications, or why is this important?”

Telling readers what the lyrics are might be a useful way to let them see what you are analyzing and/or to isolate specific parts where you are focusing your analysis. However, you need to move far beyond “what.” Instructors at the college level want to see your ability to break down material and demonstrate deep thinking. The claim in the thesis statement above said that Escalade’s song was about loss, but what evidence do we have for that, and why does that matter?

Effective analytical thesis statements require digging deeper and perhaps examining the larger context. Let’s say you do some research and learn that the rapper’s mother died not long ago, and when you examine the lyrics more closely, you see that a few of the lines seem to be specifically about a mother rather than a loved one in general.

Then you also read a recent interview with Escalade in which he mentions that he’s staying away from hardcore rap lyrics on his new album in an effort to be more mainstream and reach more potential fans. Finally, you notice that some of the lyrics in the song focus on not taking full advantage of the time we have with our loved ones.   All of these pieces give you material to write a more complex thesis statement, maybe something like this:

In the hit song “Missing You,” Escalade draws on his experience of losing his mother and raps about the importance of not taking time with family for granted in order to connect with his audience.

Such a thesis statement is focused while still allowing plenty of room for support in the body of your paper. It addresses the questions posed above:

  • The claim is that Escalade connects with a broader audience by rapping about the importance of not taking time with family for granted in his hit song, “Missing You.”
  • This claim is supported in the lyrics of the song and through the “experience of losing his mother.”
  • The implications are that we should not take the time we have with people for granted.

Certainly, there may be many ways for you to address “what,” “how,” and “so what,” and you may want to explore other ideas, but the above example is just one way to more fully analyze the material. Note that the example above is not formulaic, but if you need help getting started, you could use this template format to help develop your thesis statement.

Through ________________(how?), we can see that __________________(what?), which is important because ___________________(so what?). [1]

Just remember to think about these questions (what? how? and so what?) as you try to determine why something is what it is or why something means what it means. Asking these questions can help you analyze a song, story, or work of art, and can also help you construct meaningful thesis sentences when you write an analytical paper.

Key Takeaways for analytical theses

Don’t be afraid to let your claim evolve organically . If you find that your thinking and writing don’t stick exactly to the thesis statement you have constructed, your options are to scrap the writing and start again to make it fit your claim (which might not always be possible) or to modify your thesis statement. The latter option can be much easier if you are okay with the changes. As with many projects in life, writing doesn’t always go in the direction we plan, and strong analysis may mean thinking about and making changes as you look more closely at your topic. Be flexible.

Use analysis to get you to the main claim. You may have heard the simile that analysis is like peeling an onion because you have to go through layers to complete your work. You can start the process of breaking down an idea or an artifact without knowing where it will lead you or without a main claim or idea to guide you. Often, careful assessment of the pieces will bring you to an interesting interpretation of the whole. In their text Writing Analytically , authors David Rosenwasser and Jill Stephen posit that being analytical doesn’t mean just breaking something down. It also means constructing understandings. Don’t assume you need to have deeper interpretations all figured out as you start your work.

When you decide upon the main claim, make sure it is reasoned . In other words, if it is very unlikely anyone else would reach the same interpretation you are making, it might be off base. Not everyone needs to see an idea the same way you do, but a reasonable person should be able to understand, if not agree, with your analysis.

Look for analytical thesis statements in the following activity.

Using Evidence

An effective analytical thesis statement (or claim) may sound smart or slick, but it requires evidence to be fully realized. Consider movie trailers and the actual full-length movies they advertise as an analogy. If you see an exciting one-minute movie trailer online and then go see the film only to leave disappointed because all the good parts were in the trailer, you feel cheated, right? You think you were promised something that didn’t deliver in its execution. A paper with a strong thesis statement but lackluster evidence feels the same way to readers.

So what does strong analytical evidence look like? Think again about “what,” “how,” and “so what.” A claim introduces these interpretations, and evidence lets you show them. Keep in mind that evidence used in writing analytically will build on itself as the piece progresses, much like a good movie builds to an interesting climax.

Key Takeaways about evidence

Be selective about evidence. Having a narrow thesis statement will help you be selective with evidence, but even then, you don’t need to include any and every piece of information related to your main claim. Consider the best points to back up your analytic thesis statement and go deeply into them. (Also, remember that you may modify your thesis statement as you think and write, so being selective about what evidence you use in an analysis may actually help you narrow down what was a broad main claim as you work.) Refer back to our movie theme in this section: You have probably seen plenty of films that would have been better with some parts cut out and more attention paid to intriguing but underdeveloped characters and/or ideas.

Be clear and explicit with your evidence. Don’t assume that readers know exactly what you are thinking. Make your points and explain them in detail, providing information and context for readers, where necessary. Remember that analysis is critical examination and interpretation, but you can’t just assume that others always share or intuit your line of thinking. Need a movie analogy? Think back on all the times you or someone you know has said something like “I’m not sure what is going on in this movie.”

Move past obvious interpretations. Analyzing requires brainpower. Writing analytically is even more difficult. Don’t, however, try to take the easy way out by using obvious evidence (or working from an obvious claim). Many times writers have a couple of great pieces of evidence to support an interesting interpretation, but they feel the need to tack on an obvious idea—often more of an observation than analysis—somewhere in their work. This tendency may stem from the conventions of the five-paragraph essay, which features three points of support. Writing analytically, though, does not mean writing a five-paragraph essay (not much writing in college does). Develop your other evidence further or modify your main idea to allow room for additional strong evidence, but avoid obvious observations as support for your main claim. One last movie comparison? Go take a look at some of the debate on predictable Hollywood scripts. Have you ever watched a movie and felt like you have seen it before? You have, in one way or another. A sharp reader will be about as interested in obvious evidence as he or she will be in seeing a tired script reworked for the thousandth time.

One type of analysis you may be asked to write is a literary analysis, in which you examine a piece of text by breaking it down and looking for common literary elements, such as character, symbolism, plot, setting, imagery, and tone.

The video below compares writing a literary analysis to analyzing a team’s chances of winning a game—just as you would look at various factors like the weather, coaching, players, their record, and their motivation for playing. Similarly, when analyzing a literary text you want to look at all of the literary elements that contribute to the work.

The video takes you through the story of Cinderalla as an example, following the simplest possible angle (or thesis statement), that “Dreams can come true if you don’t give up.” (Note that if you were really asked to analyze Cinderella for a college class, you would want to dig deeper to find a more nuanced and interesting theme, but it works well for this example.) To analyze the story with this theme in mind, you’d want to consider the literary elements such as imagery, characters, dialogue, symbolism, the setting, plot, and tone, and consider how each of these contribute to the message that “Dreams can come true if you don’t give up.”

You can view the transcript for “How to Analyze Literature” here (opens in new window) .

Contribute!

Improve this page Learn More

  • UCLA Undergraduate Writing Center. "What, How and So What?" Approaching the Thesis as a Process. https://wp.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/UWC_handouts_What-How-So-What-Thesis-revised-5-4-15-RZ.pdf ↵
  • Keys to Successful Analysis. Authored by : Guy Krueger. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Thesis Statement Activity. Authored by : Excelsior OWL. Located at : https://owl.excelsior.edu/research/thesis-or-focus/thesis-or-focus-thesis-statement-activity/ . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • What is Analysis?. Authored by : Karen Forgette. Provided by : University of Mississippi. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • How to Analyze Literature. Provided by : HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College. Located at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr4BjZkQ5Nc . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License

Footer Logo Lumen Waymaker

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Thesis Statements

What this handout is about.

This handout describes what a thesis statement is, how thesis statements work in your writing, and how you can craft or refine one for your draft.

Introduction

Writing in college often takes the form of persuasion—convincing others that you have an interesting, logical point of view on the subject you are studying. Persuasion is a skill you practice regularly in your daily life. You persuade your roommate to clean up, your parents to let you borrow the car, your friend to vote for your favorite candidate or policy. In college, course assignments often ask you to make a persuasive case in writing. You are asked to convince your reader of your point of view. This form of persuasion, often called academic argument, follows a predictable pattern in writing. After a brief introduction of your topic, you state your point of view on the topic directly and often in one sentence. This sentence is the thesis statement, and it serves as a summary of the argument you’ll make in the rest of your paper.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement:

  • tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence near the beginning of your paper (most often, at the end of the first paragraph) that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

If your assignment asks you to take a position or develop a claim about a subject, you may need to convey that position or claim in a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. The assignment may not explicitly state that you need a thesis statement because your instructor may assume you will include one. When in doubt, ask your instructor if the assignment requires a thesis statement. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare and contrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue, it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support it persuasively. (Check out our handout on understanding assignments for more information.)

How do I create a thesis?

A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process. Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships. Once you do this thinking, you will probably have a “working thesis” that presents a basic or main idea and an argument that you think you can support with evidence. Both the argument and your thesis are likely to need adjustment along the way.

Writers use all kinds of techniques to stimulate their thinking and to help them clarify relationships or comprehend the broader significance of a topic and arrive at a thesis statement. For more ideas on how to get started, see our handout on brainstorming .

How do I know if my thesis is strong?

If there’s time, run it by your instructor or make an appointment at the Writing Center to get some feedback. Even if you do not have time to get advice elsewhere, you can do some thesis evaluation of your own. When reviewing your first draft and its working thesis, ask yourself the following :

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question. If the prompt isn’t phrased as a question, try to rephrase it. For example, “Discuss the effect of X on Y” can be rephrased as “What is the effect of X on Y?”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is likely to  be “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.

Suppose you are taking a course on contemporary communication, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment: “Discuss the impact of social media on public awareness.” Looking back at your notes, you might start with this working thesis:

Social media impacts public awareness in both positive and negative ways.

You can use the questions above to help you revise this general statement into a stronger thesis.

  • Do I answer the question? You can analyze this if you rephrase “discuss the impact” as “what is the impact?” This way, you can see that you’ve answered the question only very generally with the vague “positive and negative ways.”
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not likely. Only people who maintain that social media has a solely positive or solely negative impact could disagree.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? No. What are the positive effects? What are the negative effects?
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? No. Why are they positive? How are they positive? What are their causes? Why are they negative? How are they negative? What are their causes?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? No. Why should anyone care about the positive and/or negative impact of social media?

After thinking about your answers to these questions, you decide to focus on the one impact you feel strongly about and have strong evidence for:

Because not every voice on social media is reliable, people have become much more critical consumers of information, and thus, more informed voters.

This version is a much stronger thesis! It answers the question, takes a specific position that others can challenge, and it gives a sense of why it matters.

Let’s try another. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

You begin to analyze your thesis:

  • Do I answer the question? No. The prompt asks you to analyze some aspect of the novel. Your working thesis is a statement of general appreciation for the entire novel.

Think about aspects of the novel that are important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
  • Do I answer the question? Yes!
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose? Not really. This contrast is well-known and accepted.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? It’s getting there–you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation. However, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? Not yet. Compare scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions and anything else that seems interesting.
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?”

After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Anson, Chris M., and Robert A. Schwegler. 2010. The Longman Handbook for Writers and Readers , 6th ed. New York: Longman.

Lunsford, Andrea A. 2015. The St. Martin’s Handbook , 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

Ramage, John D., John C. Bean, and June Johnson. 2018. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing , 8th ed. New York: Pearson.

Ruszkiewicz, John J., Christy Friend, Daniel Seward, and Maxine Hairston. 2010. The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers , 9th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Make a Gift

Developing a Thesis Statement

Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.

Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements . If in doubt, please consult your instructor for assistance.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement . . .

  • Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic.
  • Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper.
  • Is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.
  • Is generally located near the end of the introduction ; sometimes, in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.
  • Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.

Not all papers require thesis statements! Ask your instructor if you’re in doubt whether you need one.

Identify a topic

Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper.

Consider what your assignment asks you to do

Inform yourself about your topic, focus on one aspect of your topic, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts, generate a topic from an assignment.

Below are some possible topics based on sample assignments.

Sample assignment 1

Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II.

Identified topic

Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis

This topic avoids generalities such as “Spain” and “World War II,” addressing instead on Franco’s role (a specific aspect of “Spain”) and the diplomatic relations between the Allies and Axis (a specific aspect of World War II).

Sample assignment 2

Analyze one of Homer’s epic similes in the Iliad.

The relationship between the portrayal of warfare and the epic simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64.

This topic focuses on a single simile and relates it to a single aspect of the Iliad ( warfare being a major theme in that work).

Developing a Thesis Statement–Additional information

Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic, or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. You’ll want to read your assignment carefully, looking for key terms that you can use to focus your topic.

Sample assignment: Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II Key terms: analyze, Spain’s neutrality, World War II

After you’ve identified the key words in your topic, the next step is to read about them in several sources, or generate as much information as possible through an analysis of your topic. Obviously, the more material or knowledge you have, the more possibilities will be available for a strong argument. For the sample assignment above, you’ll want to look at books and articles on World War II in general, and Spain’s neutrality in particular.

As you consider your options, you must decide to focus on one aspect of your topic. This means that you cannot include everything you’ve learned about your topic, nor should you go off in several directions. If you end up covering too many different aspects of a topic, your paper will sprawl and be unconvincing in its argument, and it most likely will not fulfull the assignment requirements.

For the sample assignment above, both Spain’s neutrality and World War II are topics far too broad to explore in a paper. You may instead decide to focus on Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis , which narrows down what aspects of Spain’s neutrality and World War II you want to discuss, as well as establishes a specific link between those two aspects.

Before you go too far, however, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts. Try to avoid topics that already have too much written about them (i.e., “eating disorders and body image among adolescent women”) or that simply are not important (i.e. “why I like ice cream”). These topics may lead to a thesis that is either dry fact or a weird claim that cannot be supported. A good thesis falls somewhere between the two extremes. To arrive at this point, ask yourself what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about your topic.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times . Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Derive a main point from topic

Once you have a topic, you will have to decide what the main point of your paper will be. This point, the “controlling idea,” becomes the core of your argument (thesis statement) and it is the unifying idea to which you will relate all your sub-theses. You can then turn this “controlling idea” into a purpose statement about what you intend to do in your paper.

Look for patterns in your evidence

Compose a purpose statement.

Consult the examples below for suggestions on how to look for patterns in your evidence and construct a purpose statement.

  • Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis
  • Franco turned to the Allies when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from the Axis

Possible conclusion:

Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: Franco’s desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power.

Purpose statement

This paper will analyze Franco’s diplomacy during World War II to see how it contributed to Spain’s neutrality.
  • The simile compares Simoisius to a tree, which is a peaceful, natural image.
  • The tree in the simile is chopped down to make wheels for a chariot, which is an object used in warfare.

At first, the simile seems to take the reader away from the world of warfare, but we end up back in that world by the end.

This paper will analyze the way the simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64 moves in and out of the world of warfare.

Derive purpose statement from topic

To find out what your “controlling idea” is, you have to examine and evaluate your evidence . As you consider your evidence, you may notice patterns emerging, data repeated in more than one source, or facts that favor one view more than another. These patterns or data may then lead you to some conclusions about your topic and suggest that you can successfully argue for one idea better than another.

For instance, you might find out that Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis, but when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from them, he turned to the Allies. As you read more about Franco’s decisions, you may conclude that Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: his desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power. Based on this conclusion, you can then write a trial thesis statement to help you decide what material belongs in your paper.

Sometimes you won’t be able to find a focus or identify your “spin” or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn . Thus, you might begin with something like this:

  • This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression.
  • I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society’s authority.

At some point, you can turn a purpose statement into a thesis statement. As you think and write about your topic, you can restrict, clarify, and refine your argument, crafting your thesis statement to reflect your thinking.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Compose a draft thesis statement

If you are writing a paper that will have an argumentative thesis and are having trouble getting started, the techniques in the table below may help you develop a temporary or “working” thesis statement.

Begin with a purpose statement that you will later turn into a thesis statement.

Assignment: Discuss the history of the Reform Party and explain its influence on the 1990 presidential and Congressional election.

Purpose Statement: This paper briefly sketches the history of the grassroots, conservative, Perot-led Reform Party and analyzes how it influenced the economic and social ideologies of the two mainstream parties.

Question-to-Assertion

If your assignment asks a specific question(s), turn the question(s) into an assertion and give reasons why it is true or reasons for your opinion.

Assignment : What do Aylmer and Rappaccini have to be proud of? Why aren’t they satisfied with these things? How does pride, as demonstrated in “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” lead to unexpected problems?

Beginning thesis statement: Alymer and Rappaccinni are proud of their great knowledge; however, they are also very greedy and are driven to use their knowledge to alter some aspect of nature as a test of their ability. Evil results when they try to “play God.”

Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.

Main idea: The reason some toys succeed in the market is that they appeal to the consumers’ sense of the ridiculous and their basic desire to laugh at themselves.

Make a list of the ideas that you want to include; consider the ideas and try to group them.

  • nature = peaceful
  • war matériel = violent (competes with 1?)
  • need for time and space to mourn the dead
  • war is inescapable (competes with 3?)

Use a formula to arrive at a working thesis statement (you will revise this later).

  • although most readers of _______ have argued that _______, closer examination shows that _______.
  • _______ uses _______ and _____ to prove that ________.
  • phenomenon x is a result of the combination of __________, __________, and _________.

What to keep in mind as you draft an initial thesis statement

Beginning statements obtained through the methods illustrated above can serve as a framework for planning or drafting your paper, but remember they’re not yet the specific, argumentative thesis you want for the final version of your paper. In fact, in its first stages, a thesis statement usually is ill-formed or rough and serves only as a planning tool.

As you write, you may discover evidence that does not fit your temporary or “working” thesis. Or you may reach deeper insights about your topic as you do more research, and you will find that your thesis statement has to be more complicated to match the evidence that you want to use.

You must be willing to reject or omit some evidence in order to keep your paper cohesive and your reader focused. Or you may have to revise your thesis to match the evidence and insights that you want to discuss. Read your draft carefully, noting the conclusions you have drawn and the major ideas which support or prove those conclusions. These will be the elements of your final thesis statement.

Sometimes you will not be able to identify these elements in your early drafts, but as you consider how your argument is developing and how your evidence supports your main idea, ask yourself, “ What is the main point that I want to prove/discuss? ” and “ How will I convince the reader that this is true? ” When you can answer these questions, then you can begin to refine the thesis statement.

Refine and polish the thesis statement

To get to your final thesis, you’ll need to refine your draft thesis so that it’s specific and arguable.

  • Ask if your draft thesis addresses the assignment
  • Question each part of your draft thesis
  • Clarify vague phrases and assertions
  • Investigate alternatives to your draft thesis

Consult the example below for suggestions on how to refine your draft thesis statement.

Sample Assignment

Choose an activity and define it as a symbol of American culture. Your essay should cause the reader to think critically about the society which produces and enjoys that activity.

  • Ask The phenomenon of drive-in facilities is an interesting symbol of american culture, and these facilities demonstrate significant characteristics of our society.This statement does not fulfill the assignment because it does not require the reader to think critically about society.
Drive-ins are an interesting symbol of American culture because they represent Americans’ significant creativity and business ingenuity.
Among the types of drive-in facilities familiar during the twentieth century, drive-in movie theaters best represent American creativity, not merely because they were the forerunner of later drive-ins and drive-throughs, but because of their impact on our culture: they changed our relationship to the automobile, changed the way people experienced movies, and changed movie-going into a family activity.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast-food establishments, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize America’s economic ingenuity, they also have affected our personal standards.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast- food restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize (1) Americans’ business ingenuity, they also have contributed (2) to an increasing homogenization of our culture, (3) a willingness to depersonalize relationships with others, and (4) a tendency to sacrifice quality for convenience.

This statement is now specific and fulfills all parts of the assignment. This version, like any good thesis, is not self-evident; its points, 1-4, will have to be proven with evidence in the body of the paper. The numbers in this statement indicate the order in which the points will be presented. Depending on the length of the paper, there could be one paragraph for each numbered item or there could be blocks of paragraph for even pages for each one.

Complete the final thesis statement

The bottom line.

As you move through the process of crafting a thesis, you’ll need to remember four things:

  • Context matters! Think about your course materials and lectures. Try to relate your thesis to the ideas your instructor is discussing.
  • As you go through the process described in this section, always keep your assignment in mind . You will be more successful when your thesis (and paper) responds to the assignment than if it argues a semi-related idea.
  • Your thesis statement should be precise, focused, and contestable ; it should predict the sub-theses or blocks of information that you will use to prove your argument.
  • Make sure that you keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Change your thesis as your paper evolves, because you do not want your thesis to promise more than your paper actually delivers.

In the beginning, the thesis statement was a tool to help you sharpen your focus, limit material and establish the paper’s purpose. When your paper is finished, however, the thesis statement becomes a tool for your reader. It tells the reader what you have learned about your topic and what evidence led you to your conclusion. It keeps the reader on track–well able to understand and appreciate your argument.

how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

Reference management. Clean and simple.

How to write a thesis statement + examples

Thesis statement

What is a thesis statement?

Is a thesis statement a question, how do you write a good thesis statement, how do i know if my thesis statement is good, examples of thesis statements, helpful resources on how to write a thesis statement, frequently asked questions about writing a thesis statement, related articles.

A thesis statement is the main argument of your paper or thesis.

The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any piece of academic writing . It is a brief statement of your paper’s main argument. Essentially, you are stating what you will be writing about.

You can see your thesis statement as an answer to a question. While it also contains the question, it should really give an answer to the question with new information and not just restate or reiterate it.

Your thesis statement is part of your introduction. Learn more about how to write a good thesis introduction in our introduction guide .

A thesis statement is not a question. A statement must be arguable and provable through evidence and analysis. While your thesis might stem from a research question, it should be in the form of a statement.

Tip: A thesis statement is typically 1-2 sentences. For a longer project like a thesis, the statement may be several sentences or a paragraph.

A good thesis statement needs to do the following:

  • Condense the main idea of your thesis into one or two sentences.
  • Answer your project’s main research question.
  • Clearly state your position in relation to the topic .
  • Make an argument that requires support or evidence.

Once you have written down a thesis statement, check if it fulfills the following criteria:

  • Your statement needs to be provable by evidence. As an argument, a thesis statement needs to be debatable.
  • Your statement needs to be precise. Do not give away too much information in the thesis statement and do not load it with unnecessary information.
  • Your statement cannot say that one solution is simply right or simply wrong as a matter of fact. You should draw upon verified facts to persuade the reader of your solution, but you cannot just declare something as right or wrong.

As previously mentioned, your thesis statement should answer a question.

If the question is:

What do you think the City of New York should do to reduce traffic congestion?

A good thesis statement restates the question and answers it:

In this paper, I will argue that the City of New York should focus on providing exclusive lanes for public transport and adaptive traffic signals to reduce traffic congestion by the year 2035.

Here is another example. If the question is:

How can we end poverty?

A good thesis statement should give more than one solution to the problem in question:

In this paper, I will argue that introducing universal basic income can help reduce poverty and positively impact the way we work.

  • The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina has a list of questions to ask to see if your thesis is strong .

A thesis statement is part of the introduction of your paper. It is usually found in the first or second paragraph to let the reader know your research purpose from the beginning.

In general, a thesis statement should have one or two sentences. But the length really depends on the overall length of your project. Take a look at our guide about the length of thesis statements for more insight on this topic.

Here is a list of Thesis Statement Examples that will help you understand better how to write them.

Every good essay should include a thesis statement as part of its introduction, no matter the academic level. Of course, if you are a high school student you are not expected to have the same type of thesis as a PhD student.

Here is a great YouTube tutorial showing How To Write An Essay: Thesis Statements .

how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

Think of yourself as a member of a jury, listening to a lawyer who is presenting an opening argument. You'll want to know very soon whether the lawyer believes the accused to be guilty or not guilty, and how the lawyer plans to convince you. Readers of academic essays are like jury members: before they have read too far, they want to know what the essay argues as well as how the writer plans to make the argument. After reading your thesis statement, the reader should think, "This essay is going to try to convince me of something. I'm not convinced yet, but I'm interested to see how I might be."

An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion. (Superlatives like "the best" almost always lead to trouble. It's impossible to weigh every "thing" that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn't that be "the best thing"?)

A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.

Steps in Constructing a Thesis

First, analyze your primary sources.  Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis.)

Once you have a working thesis, write it down.  There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration. And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely. You probably will not be able to write out a final-draft version of your thesis the first time you try, but you'll get yourself on the right track by writing down what you have.

Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction.  A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.

Anticipate the counterarguments.  Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you'll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counterargument. If yours doesn't, then it's not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument.)

This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a "soft-on-crime" image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counterargument, you'll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.

Some Caveats and Some Examples

A thesis is never a question.  Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question ("Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?") is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water.

A thesis is never a list.  "For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" does a good job of "telegraphing" the reader what to expect in the essay—a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons. However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn't advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important.

A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational.  An ineffective thesis would be, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil." This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading.

An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim.  "While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline" is an effective thesis sentence that "telegraphs," so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, "Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim."

A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible.  Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions. For example, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite's inability to address the economic concerns of the people" is more powerful than "Communism collapsed due to societal discontent."

Copyright 1999, Maxine Rodburg and The Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University

Shapiro Library

FAQ: What is a thesis statement and how do I write one?

  • 7 Academic Integrity & Plagiarism
  • 60 Academic Support, Writing Help, & Presentation Help
  • 27 Access/Remote Access
  • 7 Accessibility
  • 9 Building/Facilities
  • 7 Career/Job Information
  • 26 Catalog/Print Books
  • 26 Circulation
  • 128 Citing Sources
  • 14 Copyright
  • 310 Databases
  • 24 Directions/Location
  • 18 Faculty Resources/Needs
  • 7 Hours/Contacts
  • 2 Innovation Lab & Makerspace/3D Printing
  • 25 Interlibrary Loan
  • 43 IT/Computer/Printing Support
  • 3 Library Instruction
  • 37 Library Technology Help
  • 6 Multimedia
  • 17 Online Programs
  • 19 Periodicals
  • 25 Policies
  • 8 RefWorks/Citation Managers
  • 4 Research Guides (LibGuides)
  • 217 Research Help
  • 23 University Services

Last Updated: Apr 01, 2024 Views: 16

What is a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is a sentence that states the main idea of your paper. It is not just a statement of fact, but a statement of position. What argument are you making about your topic? Your thesis should answer that question.

How long should my thesis statement be?

Thesis statements are often just one sentence. Keep thesis statements concise, without extra words or information. If you are having trouble keeping your thesis statement to one sentence, consider the following:

  • Is your thesis is specific enough?
  • Does your thesis directly supports your paper?
  • Does your thesis accurately describes your purpose or argue your claim?

Can I see some example thesis statements?

The following websites have examples of thesis statements:

  • Thesis Statements This link opens in a new window (UNC)
  • Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements This link opens in a new window (OWL at Purdue)
  • Writing an Effective Thesis Statement This link opens in a new window (Indiana River State College)

These web resources may be helpful if you are looking for examples. However, be sure to evaluate any sources you use! The Shapiro Library cannot vouch for the accuracy of information provided on external websites.

Where can I find more information?

Video tutorials.

  • The Persuasive Thesis: How to Write an Argument This link opens in a new window (SNHU Academic Support)
  • Research and Citation Playlist This link opens in a new window (SNHU Academic Support)
  • Planning a Paper series: Drafting a Thesis Statement This link opens in a new window ( Infobase Learning Cloud - SNHU Login Required)

More Information

  • Build a Critical Analysis Thesis This link opens in a new window (SNHU Academic Support)
  • Build a Compare & Contrast Thesis This link opens in a new window  (SNHU Academic Support)
  • Build a History Thesis This link opens in a new window  (SNHU Academic Support)
  • Build a Persuasive Thesis This link opens in a new window  (SNHU Academic Support)

Further Help

This information is intended to be a guideline, not expert advice. Please speak to your instructor about the appropriate way to craft thesis statements for your class assignments and projects.

Campus Students

To access Academic Support, visit your Brightspace course and select “Tutoring and Mentoring” from the Academic Support pulldown menu.

Online Students

To access help with citations and more, visit the Academic Support via modules in Brightspace:

  • Academic Support Overview: Getting Help with your Schoolwork This link opens in a new window

  • Share on Facebook

Was this helpful? Yes 0 No 0

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a self-serve option for users to search and find answers to their questions. 

Use the search box above to type your question to search for an answer or browse existing FAQs by group, topic, etc.

Tell Me More

Link to Question Form

More assistance.

Submit a Question

Related FAQs

Logo for Open Library Publishing Platform

Want to create or adapt books like this? Learn more about how Pressbooks supports open publishing practices.

Critical Analysis

Some more descriptive analytical data, here focusing on external form.

The speaker is not a persona, but an older version of the “I” in the poem.

Every stanza but the last includes three lines, usually of pentameter, and the last two lines form a rhyming couplet broken up by a stanza break.

The speaker describes every scene.

The use of enjambment is far more frequent, with many thoughts running over the end of poetry lines. The third line, and also the final two lines, are end-stopped.

Some more descriptive analytical data, here focusing on imagery and figures

The image can be read metaphorically, whereby the knelling bells might be compared to bells that toll at a funeral, and whereby the vehicle “classes” can be compared with the tenor “life”.

See, for example, most of the first stanza, as well as the reference to “ten o’clock [when] the ambulance arrived” (and 14), the “[n]ext morning” 916) and “the first time in six weeks” (18).

Also, many descriptions indicate the age of characters.

See “[s]nowdrops/[a]nd candles [which] soothed the bedside” (16-17).

(tenor = injury/bruise, vehicle = poppy, ground = the colour red, cause of forgetfulness, something small, yet powerful.

Some preliminary argumentative statements

reinforcing the idea that the death of a child disrupts normal conceptions of the life cycle.

suggesting the way poem focuses on how to manage grief.

indicates the implicit perspective of an older speaker who is reflecting on a family tragedy from an emotional distance.

Building a Better Thesis Statement Copyright © by Neta Gordon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book

Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts

Developing a Thesis

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

This handout covers major topics relating to writing about fiction. This covers prewriting, close reading, thesis development, drafting, and common pitfalls to avoid.

Once you've read the story or novel closely, look back over your notes for patterns of questions or ideas that interest you. Have most of your questions been about the characters, how they develop or change?

For example: If you are reading Conrad's The Secret Agent , do you seem to be most interested in what the author has to say about society? Choose a pattern of ideas and express it in the form of a question and an answer such as the following: Question: What does Conrad seem to be suggesting about early twentieth-century London society in his novel The Secret Agent ? Answer: Conrad suggests that all classes of society are corrupt. Pitfalls: Choosing too many ideas. Choosing an idea without any support.

Once you have some general points to focus on, write your possible ideas and answer the questions that they suggest.

For example: Question: How does Conrad develop the idea that all classes of society are corrupt? Answer: He uses images of beasts and cannibalism whether he's describing socialites, policemen or secret agents.

To write your thesis statement, all you have to do is turn the question and answer around. You've already given the answer, now just put it in a sentence (or a couple of sentences) so that the thesis of your paper is clear.

For example: In his novel, The Secret Agent , Conrad uses beast and cannibal imagery to describe the characters and their relationships to each other. This pattern of images suggests that Conrad saw corruption in every level of early twentieth-century London society.

Now that you're familiar with the story or novel and have developed a thesis statement, you're ready to choose the evidence you'll use to support your thesis. There are a lot of good ways to do this, but all of them depend on a strong thesis for their direction.

For example: Here's a student's thesis about Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent . In his novel, The Secret Agent , Conrad uses beast and cannibal imagery to describe the characters and their relationships to each other. This pattern of images suggests that Conrad saw corruption in every level of early twentieth-century London society. This thesis focuses on the idea of social corruption and the device of imagery. To support this thesis, you would need to find images of beasts and cannibalism within the text.

How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Literary Analysis Essay

Erica sweeney.

Read a book carefully to craft a good thesis statement.

A literary analysis essay discusses a particular aspect of a work of literature. It essentially presents an argument or an interpretation about that work. Developing a clear, concise thesis for a literary analysis essay is highly important in guiding the reader through the essay and expressing your interpretation of the work. There is much preliminary work to do before actually writing the thesis.

Explore this article

  • Gather Ideas and Information
  • Read the work
  • Develop a topic for the essay
  • Make that the topic
  • Write the Thesis
  • Write one sentence
  • Express a sort
  • Do not simply state a fact
  • Do not announce the thesis

1 Gather Ideas and Information

2 read the work.

Read the work of literature that you plan to write about. Read it more than once and read it carefully. Make sure that you understand the plot, who the characters are and what makes the work of literature special.

3 Brainstorm

Brainstorm about the important elements in the work. Do any symbols or themes stand out? How important is the setting? Critical thinking about the work at this stage will help you choose a topic and form an interpretation.

4 Develop a topic for the essay

Develop a topic for the essay. Use guidelines that your instructor has given you to do this. A topic for a literary analysis should focus on an important aspect of the work. It should advance knowledge in some way and not simply express a summary of the work.

5 Make that the topic

Make sure that the topic expresses an interpretation about the work. In developing a topic, answer this question to help you decide if your topic is acceptable: What can you tell people about the work that they can’t get from simply reading it?

6 Write the Thesis

7 write one sentence.

Write one sentence that expresses the aspect of the literary analysis that you are discussing and your interpretation of it. Both of these items must be clear in the thesis. The reader should read this one statement and know exactly what the essay will discuss.

8 Express a sort

Clearly express a sort of hypothesis that you will explain in the essay. This is an example of a good, argumentative thesis: "The narrator’s description of the family’s old house, their dream house and the house on Mango Street conveys the family’s struggle with expectations and reality."

9 Do not simply state a fact

Do not simply state a fact about the story. The following thesis is not a good one because it does not attempt to advance knowledge and it simply states a fact: "Emily killed Homer and kept his body for years. From reading William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” we know that this is a summation of the story’s ending."

10 Use clear

Use clear, concise and specific language. Don’t be too broad. If you want to write about symbolism in a work, you can’t possibly write about all of the symbols. To make the thesis more concise, pick just a few. Be very specific by listing the symbols you will discuss.

11 Do not announce the thesis

Do not announce the thesis in a literary analysis. For example, do not write: "This essay will discuss symbolism in 'A Rose for Emily.' "

About the Author

Erica Sweeney is a freelance writer and editor based in Little Rock, Ark. She has a master's in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her work has been published at SaidIt.org, Arkansas Times, Aging Arkansas and Arkansas Business.

Related Articles

How to Write a Literary Analysis Paper

How to Write a Literary Analysis Paper

How to Write an Essay About a Piece of Literature

How to Write an Essay About a Piece of Literature

How to Write a Reflection Essay

How to Write a Reflection Essay

How to Write an Insight Paper

How to Write an Insight Paper

How to Write an Informative Summary

How to Write an Informative Summary

What Are the Writing Elements for a Personal Narrative?

What Are the Writing Elements for a Personal Narrative?

How to Write a Conclusion for a Literary Criticism

How to Write a Conclusion for a Literary Criticism

How to Write an Essay Synopsis

How to Write an Essay Synopsis

How to Write a Book Summary for 5th Graders

How to Write a Book Summary for 5th Graders

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Summary

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book Summary

How to Write an Introduction for a Literary Analysis Essay

How to Write an Introduction for a Literary Analysis...

How to Critique a Dissertation

How to Critique a Dissertation

Higher Order Thinking Skills for Reading

Higher Order Thinking Skills for Reading

How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay About a Story

How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay About a Story

Creative Writing Topics for Second Grade on the Chinese New Year

Creative Writing Topics for Second Grade on the Chinese...

How to Make Assertions in Literature

How to Make Assertions in Literature

How to Write an Argumentative Essay on Poetry

How to Write an Argumentative Essay on Poetry

Guidelines for Students to Write a Memoir

Guidelines for Students to Write a Memoir

How to Write a Conclusion for a Compare & Contrast Essay

How to Write a Conclusion for a Compare & Contrast...

How to Write a College Book Analysis

How to Write a College Book Analysis

Regardless of how old we are, we never stop learning. Classroom is the educational resource for people of all ages. Whether you’re studying times tables or applying to college, Classroom has the answers.

  • Accessibility
  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Copyright Policy
  • Manage Preferences

© 2020 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. Based on the Word Net lexical database for the English Language. See disclaimer .

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • How to write a rhetorical analysis | Key concepts & examples

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis | Key Concepts & Examples

Published on August 28, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay  that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience.

Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text

Upload your document to correct all your mistakes in minutes

upload-your-document-ai-proofreader

Table of contents

Key concepts in rhetoric, analyzing the text, introducing your rhetorical analysis, the body: doing the analysis, concluding a rhetorical analysis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about rhetorical analysis.

Rhetoric, the art of effective speaking and writing, is a subject that trains you to look at texts, arguments and speeches in terms of how they are designed to persuade the audience. This section introduces a few of the key concepts of this field.

Appeals: Logos, ethos, pathos

Appeals are how the author convinces their audience. Three central appeals are discussed in rhetoric, established by the philosopher Aristotle and sometimes called the rhetorical triangle: logos, ethos, and pathos.

Logos , or the logical appeal, refers to the use of reasoned argument to persuade. This is the dominant approach in academic writing , where arguments are built up using reasoning and evidence.

Ethos , or the ethical appeal, involves the author presenting themselves as an authority on their subject. For example, someone making a moral argument might highlight their own morally admirable behavior; someone speaking about a technical subject might present themselves as an expert by mentioning their qualifications.

Pathos , or the pathetic appeal, evokes the audience’s emotions. This might involve speaking in a passionate way, employing vivid imagery, or trying to provoke anger, sympathy, or any other emotional response in the audience.

These three appeals are all treated as integral parts of rhetoric, and a given author may combine all three of them to convince their audience.

Text and context

In rhetoric, a text is not necessarily a piece of writing (though it may be this). A text is whatever piece of communication you are analyzing. This could be, for example, a speech, an advertisement, or a satirical image.

In these cases, your analysis would focus on more than just language—you might look at visual or sonic elements of the text too.

The context is everything surrounding the text: Who is the author (or speaker, designer, etc.)? Who is their (intended or actual) audience? When and where was the text produced, and for what purpose?

Looking at the context can help to inform your rhetorical analysis. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has universal power, but the context of the civil rights movement is an important part of understanding why.

Claims, supports, and warrants

A piece of rhetoric is always making some sort of argument, whether it’s a very clearly defined and logical one (e.g. in a philosophy essay) or one that the reader has to infer (e.g. in a satirical article). These arguments are built up with claims, supports, and warrants.

A claim is the fact or idea the author wants to convince the reader of. An argument might center on a single claim, or be built up out of many. Claims are usually explicitly stated, but they may also just be implied in some kinds of text.

The author uses supports to back up each claim they make. These might range from hard evidence to emotional appeals—anything that is used to convince the reader to accept a claim.

The warrant is the logic or assumption that connects a support with a claim. Outside of quite formal argumentation, the warrant is often unstated—the author assumes their audience will understand the connection without it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the implicit warrant in these cases.

For example, look at the following statement:

We can see a claim and a support here, but the warrant is implicit. Here, the warrant is the assumption that more likeable candidates would have inspired greater turnout. We might be more or less convinced by the argument depending on whether we think this is a fair assumption.

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing

Rhetorical analysis isn’t a matter of choosing concepts in advance and applying them to a text. Instead, it starts with looking at the text in detail and asking the appropriate questions about how it works:

  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • Do they focus closely on their key claims, or do they discuss various topics?
  • What tone do they take—angry or sympathetic? Personal or authoritative? Formal or informal?
  • Who seems to be the intended audience? Is this audience likely to be successfully reached and convinced?
  • What kinds of evidence are presented?

By asking these questions, you’ll discover the various rhetorical devices the text uses. Don’t feel that you have to cram in every rhetorical term you know—focus on those that are most important to the text.

The following sections show how to write the different parts of a rhetorical analysis.

Like all essays, a rhetorical analysis begins with an introduction . The introduction tells readers what text you’ll be discussing, provides relevant background information, and presents your thesis statement .

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how an introduction works.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of oratory in American history. Delivered in 1963 to thousands of civil rights activists outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech has come to symbolize the spirit of the civil rights movement and even to function as a major part of the American national myth. This rhetorical analysis argues that King’s assumption of the prophetic voice, amplified by the historic size of his audience, creates a powerful sense of ethos that has retained its inspirational power over the years.

The body of your rhetorical analysis is where you’ll tackle the text directly. It’s often divided into three paragraphs, although it may be more in a longer essay.

Each paragraph should focus on a different element of the text, and they should all contribute to your overall argument for your thesis statement.

Hover over the example to explore how a typical body paragraph is constructed.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis wraps up the essay by restating the main argument and showing how it has been developed by your analysis. It may also try to link the text, and your analysis of it, with broader concerns.

Explore the example below to get a sense of the conclusion.

It is clear from this analysis that the effectiveness of King’s rhetoric stems less from the pathetic appeal of his utopian “dream” than it does from the ethos he carefully constructs to give force to his statements. By framing contemporary upheavals as part of a prophecy whose fulfillment will result in the better future he imagines, King ensures not only the effectiveness of his words in the moment but their continuing resonance today. Even if we have not yet achieved King’s dream, we cannot deny the role his words played in setting us on the path toward it.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

College essays

  • Choosing Essay Topic
  • Write a College Essay
  • Write a Diversity Essay
  • College Essay Format & Structure
  • Comparing and Contrasting in an Essay

 (AI) Tools

  • Grammar Checker
  • Paraphrasing Tool
  • Text Summarizer
  • AI Detector
  • Plagiarism Checker
  • Citation Generator

The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2023, July 23). How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis | Key Concepts & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved April 2, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/rhetorical-analysis/

Is this article helpful?

Jack Caulfield

Jack Caulfield

Other students also liked, how to write an argumentative essay | examples & tips, how to write a literary analysis essay | a step-by-step guide, comparing and contrasting in an essay | tips & examples, "i thought ai proofreading was useless but..".

I've been using Scribbr for years now and I know it's a service that won't disappoint. It does a good job spotting mistakes”

explanatorythesis.com

Great Explanatory Thesis Esamples

http://www.explanatorythesis.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/853/2021/09/cropped-main.jpg

How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Literary Analysis Essay

Many people would read a literature work for fun or purely educational purposes. However, it isn’t so fun when you have to formulate a thesis statement for a literary analysis essay. Find out everything you need to know about how to write a thesis for literary analysis.

What is a literary analysis essay?

A literary analysis essay is an essay that analyzes a literature work. A literature work can come in different forms ranging from poems to poetry. It is often an argument for or against a segment of the literary work. It is important to note, however, that a literary analysis is not merely a literature review. This kind of essay focuses on specific parts of a book and not the whole book in general. The focus could be a theme, plot setting, or character featured in the work.

Features of a Literary Analysis Thesis

  • It Answers the Question of your Literary Analysis Essay

One of the most important features of a thesis statement for a literary essay is the need to answer the question of your literary analysis. A literary analysis essay generally aims to address thought-provoking questions. This could come as a plain question or an argument. Hence, what your thesis would do is to examine the manner through which your topic comes and address it. 

  • It is Concise

Your literary thesis statement should be concise and not too broad. Being broad goes beyond the number of sentences or words you use to relay your message. It concerns the area or field that you intend to analyze. Many things could be analyzed about literature no matter how short the work appears to be. Always remember that you must discuss every point mentioned in your thesis. It is for this reason that you should be careful while constructing your thesis statement. You don’t want to cover too many aspects that you do not give enough attention to the work. It is better to give quality work.

  • It Features Facts about Literature

The primary feature of an argument-based essay is the need to make constant references to facts. More often than not, your thesis would have to point towards facts to back up your claims and arguments. It is important therefore that you make proper research concerning what your argument would be about before you begin to construct your thesis. As the writer of the essay, it is assumed that you know everything there is about the literary work. You hence must criticize, justify, analyze, and break down actions, plots, or themes in the work. This is why there are experts in certain fields of literary analysis. If you’re analyzing themes and devices used in the work, you must be well informed in concepts like onomatopoeia, oxymoron, pun, metaphor, etc.

  • It is Argumentative

Your literary essay thesis should not aim to point out an already known fact about a book or literary piece. Everyone probably already knows that the book is interesting, fiction, nonfiction, or boring. What people would rather know is why certain acts behaved the way they did, and if they could have handled a situation better. They would like to argue if the theme of the poem is contrary to the poetic device employed. Your thesis should give room for debate and sharing of opinions.

  • Its Primary Purpose is with the Book

Sometimes, writers get tempted to include scenery that does not correlate with the literature they’re analyzing. For instance, bringing an author’s personal life history into an analysis. It is important to note that in literary analysis, your work should be all about the work and facts related to it, and your thesis statement should not be any different. If the character or plot setting is not originally included in the work you’re analyzing, there should be no reason for you to involve it.

How to Write a Literary Analysis Thesis

To write the best thesis statement for a literary analysis essay, you need to follow certain procedures. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to write a literary analysis thesis.

  • Understand the Work you want to Analyze

To get the right thesis for your literary essay, you need to first understand the work that you wish to understand. This is important for many reasons; your thesis has to be in context with the work even if you include external facts to back up your claims. You must read and understand the context of the literature work before you think of drafting a thesis statement.

  • Draft out the Title of your Literary Essay

After you have understood the work you want to analyze, you can go ahead and draft out your topic. Remember that your topic should not be too broad, rather it should be concise and precise. This will help your thesis statement to be organized and less bulky.

  • Write out what you want to Analyze from your Title

Once you’ve sorted what you want your topic to be, you need to write out what you want to analyze. For instance, if your essay topic is on the character in a book, you might want to analyze his emotional vulnerability. If you like you can include his gullibility, weaknesses, and strengths.

  • Tell your Readers why you want to Analyze that Area

Why would you want to analyze a character’s vulnerability? Perhaps it affects the storyline of the book negatively, and if his character had been otherwise, the book just might be better. This is one given assumption as to why you may consider critically examining a character. Your reason for picking out a literary piece for analysis may be entirely different, depending on what you’re analyzing. Always remember that your thesis statement should be backed up with facts and not personal emotions.

Everything you need to know about how to write a thesis for literary analysis has been addressed in this article. The outcome of your thesis statement is determined from the moment that you formulate the idea to write a literary analysis essay. In writing a literary analysis thesis statement, you must be able to observe, analyze, and state the importance of a literary work. To get the best result, apply the guidelines here to your writing.

how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

IMAGES

  1. 25 Thesis Statement Examples (2024)

    how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

  2. How to Write a Good Thesis Statement

    how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

  3. 30 Strong Thesis Statement Examples For Your Research Paper

    how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

  4. FREE 7+ Analysis Essay Examples in PDF

    how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

  5. How to Write an Effective Thesis Statement

    how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

  6. 45 Perfect Thesis Statement Templates (+ Examples) ᐅ TemplateLab

    how to write a thesis statement for a textual analysis

VIDEO

  1. How to Write a THESIS Statement

  2. Teaching class how to write thesis statement

  3. What is Thesis Statement? Writing Thesis Statement with Practice in Urdu/Hindi #researchmethodology

  4. Thesis Statement| English Essay by Dr Arif Javid

  5. how to write thesis statement? / CSS Essay

  6. How to Write a STRONG Thesis Statement Scribbr 🎓

COMMENTS

  1. PDF Developing a Thesis Statement for the Textual Analysis Essay

    These sample thesis statements exemplify the types of thesis that could work well in a textual analysis essay. (Note: I've underlined the judgment and bolded the rhetorical elements in each example.) A. "On the Uses of Liberal Education": Although Mark Edmunson's ethos may hurt his argument, his use of pathos and logos ultimately

  2. PDF Thesis Statement (Textual Analysis) Mini-Lesson

    Thesis Statement (Textual Analysis) Mini-Lesson . Lesson Objective . The purpose of this lesson is to provide students with a working definition of a thesis statement while also helping them acquire techniques that will aid them in constructing their own thesis statements, particularly in response to an essay assignment focusing on textual ...

  3. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 2: Write your initial answer. After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process. The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.

  4. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Table of contents. Step 1: Reading the text and identifying literary devices. Step 2: Coming up with a thesis. Step 3: Writing a title and introduction. Step 4: Writing the body of the essay. Step 5: Writing a conclusion. Other interesting articles.

  5. Analytical Thesis Statements

    Identify analytical thesis statements. In order to write an analysis, you want to first have a solid understanding of the thing you are analyzing. Remember, when you are analyzing as a writer, you are: Breaking down information or artifacts into component parts. Uncovering relationships among those parts.

  6. Textual Analysis

    Textual analysis is a broad term for various research methods used to describe, interpret and understand texts. All kinds of information can be gleaned from a text - from its literal meaning to the subtext, symbolism, assumptions, and values it reveals. The methods used to conduct textual analysis depend on the field and the aims of the ...

  7. PDF Literary Analysis Thesis Statements

    Baugh Building Room 279 210-924-4338 ext. 270 [email protected]. University Writing Center. Rev. 2/2017. LITERARY ANALYSIS THESIS STATEMENTS. A thesis in a literary analysis or literary research paper can take many forms. The thesis statement is one of the (if not the) most important parts of your paper.

  8. Thesis Statements

    A thesis statement: tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper. directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself.

  9. Developing a Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement . . . Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic. Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper. Is focused and specific enough to be "proven" within the boundaries of your paper. Is generally located near the end ...

  10. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  11. PDF HOW TO WRITE A LITERARY ANALYSIS ESSAY

    The thesis statement tells your reader what to expect: it is a restricted, precisely worded declarative sentence that states the purpose of your essay -- the point you are trying to make. Without a carefully conceived thesis, an essay has no chance of success. The following are thesis statements which would work for a 500-750 word literary ...

  12. PDF Rhetorical Analysis Thesis Statements

    A strong thesis statement for a rhetorical analysis is NOT… A simple statement of your topic A broad statement A statement of facts or statistics A summary of the author's essay you are analyzing A statement of what you're going to do in the essay Examples of weak rhetorical analysis thesis statements:

  13. How to write a thesis statement + Examples

    It is a brief statement of your paper's main argument. Essentially, you are stating what you will be writing about. Organize your papers in one place. Try Paperpile. No credit card needed. Get 30 days free. You can see your thesis statement as an answer to a question. While it also contains the question, it should really give an answer to the ...

  14. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement. 1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.; An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.; An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies ...

  15. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  16. 12.6: Literary Thesis Statements

    The Literary Thesis Statement. Literary essays are argumentative or persuasive essays. Their purpose is primarily analysis, but analysis for the purposes of showing readers your interpretation of a literary text. So the thesis statement is a one to two sentence summary of your essay's main argument, or interpretation.

  17. FAQ: What is a thesis statement and how do I write one?

    Writing an Effective Thesis Statement This link opens in a new window (Indiana River State College) These web resources may be helpful if you are looking for examples. ... Build a Critical Analysis Thesis This link opens in a new window (SNHU Academic Support) Build a Compare & Contrast Thesis This link opens in a new window ...

  18. Critical Analysis

    Critical Analysis. This section includes some descriptive and analytical "data," as well as associated critical assertions. As per the essay writing "pathway," interpretation, description, analysis, as well as a certain amount of thinking about why what one has noticed is significant, should precede the crafting of a thesis statement.

  19. Developing a Thesis

    Answer: He uses images of beasts and cannibalism whether he's describing socialites, policemen or secret agents. To write your thesis statement, all you have to do is turn the question and answer around. You've already given the answer, now just put it in a sentence (or a couple of sentences) so that the thesis of your paper is clear. For example:

  20. How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Literary Analysis Essay

    A literary analysis essay discusses a particular aspect of a work of literature. It essentially presents an argument or an interpretation about that work. Developing a clear, concise thesis for a literary analysis essay is highly important in guiding the reader through the essay and expressing your interpretation of ...

  21. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

    A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience. A rhetorical analysis is structured similarly to other essays: an introduction presenting the thesis, a body analyzing ...

  22. How to Write a Thesis Statement for a Literary Analysis Essay

    In writing a literary analysis thesis statement, you must be able to observe, analyze, and state the importance of a literary work. To get the best result, apply the guidelines here to your writing. Many people would read a literature work for fun or purely educational purposes. However, it isn't so fun when you have to formulate a thesis ...