• Literary Terms
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write a Thesis

I. What is a Thesis?

The thesis (pronounced thee -seez), also known as a thesis statement, is the sentence that introduces the main argument or point of view of a composition (formal essay, nonfiction piece, or narrative). It is the main claim that the author is making about that topic and serves to summarize and introduce that writing that will be discussed throughout the entire piece. For this reason, the thesis is typically found within the first introduction paragraph.

II. Examples of Theses

Here are a few examples of theses which may be found in the introductions of a variety of essays :

In “The Mending Wall,” Robert Frost uses imagery, metaphor, and dialogue to argue against the use of fences between neighbors.

In this example, the thesis introduces the main subject (Frost’s poem “The Mending Wall”), aspects of the subject which will be examined (imagery, metaphor, and dialogue) and the writer’s argument (fences should not be used).

While Facebook connects some, overall, the social networking site is negative in that it isolates users, causes jealousy, and becomes an addiction.

This thesis introduces an argumentative essay which argues against the use of Facebook due to three of its negative effects.

During the college application process, I discovered my willingness to work hard to achieve my dreams and just what those dreams were.

In this more personal example, the thesis statement introduces a narrative essay which will focus on personal development in realizing one’s goals and how to achieve them.

III. The Importance of Using a Thesis

Theses are absolutely necessary components in essays because they introduce what an essay will be about. Without a thesis, the essay lacks clear organization and direction. Theses allow writers to organize their ideas by clearly stating them, and they allow readers to be aware from the beginning of a composition’s subject, argument, and course. Thesis statements must precisely express an argument within the introductory paragraph of the piece in order to guide the reader from the very beginning.

IV. Examples of Theses in Literature

For examples of theses in literature, consider these thesis statements from essays about topics in literature:

In William Shakespeare’s “ Sonnet 46,” both physicality and emotion together form powerful romantic love.

This thesis statement clearly states the work and its author as well as the main argument: physicality and emotion create romantic love.

In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne symbolically shows Hester Prynne’s developing identity through the use of the letter A: she moves from adulteress to able community member to angel.

In this example, the work and author are introduced as well as the main argument and supporting points: Prynne’s identity is shown through the letter A in three ways: adulteress, able community member, and angel.

John Keats’ poem “To Autumn” utilizes rhythm, rhyme, and imagery to examine autumn’s simultaneous birth and decay.

This thesis statement introduces the poem and its author along with an argument about the nature of autumn. This argument will be supported by an examination of rhythm, rhyme, and imagery.

V. Examples of Theses in Pop Culture

Sometimes, pop culture attempts to make arguments similar to those of research papers and essays. Here are a few examples of theses in pop culture:

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America’s food industry is making a killing and it’s making us sick, but you have the power to turn the tables.

The documentary Food Inc. examines this thesis with evidence throughout the film including video evidence, interviews with experts, and scientific research.

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Orca whales should not be kept in captivity, as it is psychologically traumatizing and has caused them to kill their own trainers.

Blackfish uses footage, interviews, and history to argue for the thesis that orca whales should not be held in captivity.

VI. Related Terms

Just as a thesis is introduced in the beginning of a composition, the hypothesis is considered a starting point as well. Whereas a thesis introduces the main point of an essay, the hypothesis introduces a proposed explanation which is being investigated through scientific or mathematical research. Thesis statements present arguments based on evidence which is presented throughout the paper, whereas hypotheses are being tested by scientists and mathematicians who may disprove or prove them through experimentation. Here is an example of a hypothesis versus a thesis:

Hypothesis:

Students skip school more often as summer vacation approaches.

This hypothesis could be tested by examining attendance records and interviewing students. It may or may not be true.

Students skip school due to sickness, boredom with classes, and the urge to rebel.

This thesis presents an argument which will be examined and supported in the paper with detailed evidence and research.

Introduction

A paper’s introduction is its first paragraph which is used to introduce the paper’s main aim and points used to support that aim throughout the paper. The thesis statement is the most important part of the introduction which states all of this information in one concise statement. Typically, introduction paragraphs require a thesis statement which ties together the entire introduction and introduces the rest of the paper.

VII. Conclusion

Theses are necessary components of well-organized and convincing essays, nonfiction pieces, narratives , and documentaries. They allow writers to organize and support arguments to be developed throughout a composition, and they allow readers to understand from the beginning what the aim of the composition is.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website

Thesis Definition

A thesis is a statement in a non- fiction or a fiction work that a writer intends to support and prove. One can find examples of thesis statement at the beginning of literary pieces. These thesis statements are of utmost importance, as they provide clear indicators as to which direction the writer will follow in their work.

A thesis statement is carefully crafted by a writer, and is marked by vigilant selection of words that will never miss its target. Generally, such a statement shows up in the first paragraph, or what is called an introduction . Despite writers’ efforts to prove their thesis statements, not all of these statements can be verified for their exactness. Nevertheless, they do develop an argument .

Importance of a Thesis Statement

In writing an essay , a thesis statement determines the worth of the essay by its capacity to stay focused on its thesis statement. For instance, if a writer fails to clearly mention or define a solid thesis statement in his or her essay, it will be difficult for readers to track the issue the writer plans to discuss and explain. Suppose a writer wants to write an essay on how to make a perfect fruit salad, the quality of his or her writing will exceedingly improve if he or she lets the readers know the subject matter at the start of the essay, for example:

“In this essay, I will tell you how to make the perfect fruit salad. Not only will it be tasty, but also healthy for your body.”

Narrative Thesis

In a narrative essay, or narrative section of a piece of literature, a thesis statement is called a “narrative thesis.” A narrative thesis can be an apparent one or a hidden or implied one. In both cases, such a statement is a powerful, propelling force behind an entire work, that guides it toward its ultimate purpose and the lesson it intends to instruct.

Narrative Thesis Examples

Below is a list of a few narrative thesis examples – opening lines that determine the entire course of the narratives.

Example #1: Pride and Prejudice (By Jane Austen)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Example #2: One Hundred Years of Solitude (By Gabriel García Márquez)

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

Example #3: Lolita (By Vladimir Nabokov)

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

Example #4: Anna Karenina (By Leo Tolstoy)

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Example #5: 1984 (By George Orwell)

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Example #6: A Tale of Two Cities (By Charles Dickens)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness , it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Example #7: The Catcher in the Rye (By J. D. Salinger)

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Example #8: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (By James Joyce)

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.”

Function of Thesis

The above arguments clearly reveal the function of a thesis statements or a narrative thesis as a driving force behind a literary composition. It guides the narrative toward its ultimate purpose, which is the moral lesson it aims to inculcate.

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Literary Devices

Literary devices, terms, and elements, definition of thesis.

A thesis is a statement or central idea that a writer puts forward at the beginning of an argument , and will support throughout the following text. The thesis is a premise that the author believes to be true, and will give evidence for by way of facts or situations that reinforce this central idea. Thesis statements are most often found in academic writing, and have a subtler yet analogous role in fiction.

The word “thesis” comes from Greek, in which it means “something put forth.” The definition of thesis developed from this reference to an proposition for which the author wants to argue the validity.

Common Examples of Thesis

We generally do not use formal thesis examples in ordinary life. It is possible, however, to state a main idea and back this idea up with evidence. Someone could say, for example, “We’re destined to be together,” and give reasons why this is the case. The lyrics of the popular song “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers illustrates this concept:

1, 2, 3 I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweet (Ho!) So show me family (Hey!) All the blood that I would bleed (Ho!) I don’t know where I belong (Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong (Ho!) But I can write a song (Hey!)

Bob Dylan’s song “The Hurricane” also puts forward a thesis statement—Rubin Carter “The Hurricane was innocent of a crime he was charged with—and supports it with evidence of the story:

Pistols shots ring out in the barroom night Enter Patty Valentine from the upper hall She sees the bartender in a pool of blood Cries out “My God they killed them all” Here comes the story of the Hurricane The man the authorities came to blame For something that he never done Put him in a prison cell but one time he could-a been The champion of the world.

There are also countless examples of theses in academia; everyone who attains a Ph.D. must first present a thesis paper, sometimes called a dissertation, that is the product of many years of research and investigation. Examples of thesis papers are often found in other undergraduate and graduate studies as well.

Significance of Thesis in Literature

While the thesis of a work of literature can be harder to extract from the body of the text than in academic writing, it can be just as important. Writers have a certain point of view from which they are writing, and may construct entire poems and novels to prove certain ideas true. While an academic writer can base his or her argument off of fact and data, the literary writer often uses situations and the emotions they provoke to help prove certain ideas. This process can take longer to develop than in academic thesis examples, and yet the result can often be stronger. When authors of poetry and prose appeal to emotion as well as logic (both pathos and logos ), the reader is more likely to be convinced of a certain message, as well as remember the message for a longer period of time.

Examples of Thesis in Literature

JAQUES: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.

( As You Like It by William Shakespeare)

This famous example of thesis from the character of Jaques is a beautiful metaphor for the similarities between life and the stage. It is often quoted because it seems to reflect a world-view that Shakespeare probably held; everything that happens in the world can be read as a type of performance with everyone just trying to play their part.

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

( To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

The above excerpt from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is famous because it is an important central idea to the novel. Atticus Finch believes in empathy and understanding other people’s life stories and points of view. Therefore, he strongly believes that we must try to understand where other people are coming from. This one statement is a thesis that the rest of the book supports.

TOM: Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.

( The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams) Thesis examples can often be found at the beginning of a work of poetry, prose, or drama , as is the case with Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie . The character of Tom narrates the play, and often breaks the fourth wall to address the audience directly. In this quote, which opens the play, Tom presents the idea that the drama that is about to unfold is entertaining yet tells the truth. Similar to Shakespeare, this could be understood as Tennessee William’s thesis about the power of drama.

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.

( East of Eden by John Steinbeck)

In his novel East of Eden , John Steinbeck often makes authorial interjections. These passages seem to highlight Steinbeck’s own views on different matters, rather than any particular character’s views. The short excerpt above is one of the strongest examples of a thesis statement in all of literature; Steinbeck firmly believe in free will, and vows to fight against anything that would limit free will. He presents more than one example of thesis in his novel, and creates characters and situations that support his beliefs.

so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.

(“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams)

Poetry can have examples of thesis statements just as easily as prose or drama. William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” is famously enigmatic, while also being quite direct. He makes the straightforward argument that “so much depends” on a certain intangible object. In this case, “a red wheel / barrow.” Many readers and scholars have interpreted this short thesis statement in countless different ways. Thus, it is an interesting thesis example because Williams states it so unswervingly, yet does not support it with other evidence. Readers are left to interpret and prove this thesis example themselves.

Test Your Knowledge of Thesis

1. Which of the following statements is the best thesis definition? A. A minor claim to support the main proposition that author has put forth. B. A central idea which the author intends to support via evidence. C. A piece of evidence or a fact.

2. What thesis could be extracted from the following quote from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden?

Monsters are variations from the accepted normal to a greater or a less degree. As a child may be born without an arm, so one may be born without kindness or the potential of conscience.

A. All people with physical deformities are monsters. B. All monsters are evil. C. Some people can be born without kindness, making them monstrous.

3. What is the thesis in William Shakespeare’s “ Sonnet 116”?

Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle’s compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

A. True love does not change when problems arise. B. Love is a game for fools. C. Only married people understand true love.

Writing Explained

What is a Thesis? Definition, Examples of Theses in Literature

Home » The Writer’s Dictionary » What is a Thesis? Definition, Examples of Theses in Literature

Thesis definition: A thesis is a statement in which the writer conveys his position regarding a topic.

What is a Thesis?

A thesis statement refers to part of an essay where the writer establishes his position regarding a topic. This is the position that the writer will further explore throughout his paper.

Example of Thesis

  • Topic : religious freedom.
  • Thesis : All citizens of the United States should be allowed to exercise the religion of their choice freely without interference from government.
  • Explanation : In this thesis statement, the writer has taken the position that all citizens should be free to worship and practice their religion as they see fit. The government should not pressure citizens into any religion, and it should not persecute members of any faith community.

The Importance of a Thesis Statement

Thesis statements are important in order to establish the writer’s position regarding a topic or idea. They help to introduce the essay and set a focus for the reader.

Narrative thesis statements are found in narrative essays or in literature. They set the scene for the lesson that will be explored or taught through the piece.

Famous opening lines that exemplify a narrative thesis:

  • The following narrative thesis is found in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

The Function of Thesis in Literature

Narrative thesis statements are important in literature in order to establish the purpose for the work or introduce the lesson that the novel will attempt to teach. This allows the reader to have a focus when beginning the novel in order to effectively engage them into the story.

Examples of Theses in Literature

In the memoir, I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, a thesis statement can be found in the beginning pages of her story.

  • “One year ago I left my home for school and never returned. I was shot by a Taliban bullet and was flown out of Pakistan unconscious. Some people say I will never return home, but I believe firmly in my heart that I will. To be torn from the country that you love is not something to wish on anyone.”

In this thesis statement, Yousafzai establishes the basis of her memoir, which is to tell the story of how she was forced to leave her home.

In Vladmir Nabokov’s Lolita , a thesis can be seen in the line, “Lolita, light of my life, the fire of my loins”.

Here the narrator establishes the identity of the young nymph that he is unhealthily obsessed with in the story. Lolita is a young child while he is a grown man; therefore, this statement creates the uneasy feeling about him that continues throughout the novel.

Summary: What Are Theses?

Define thesis in literature: In summation, a thesis statement establishes a purpose in the piece of writing. It may establish the lesson or story to be told, or in an essay it may establish the position the writer assumes when exploring a topic.

Either way, it is important for the thesis to be clear in order to effectively convey the writer’s message.

Final Example:

In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” the thesis statement can be found in the first line of the short story. Montresor immediately states his purpose, “the thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.”

In this statement, Montresor states that he will be seeking revenge after being treated wrongly by Fortunato. By beginning the story with the narrative thesis establishes the purpose for the remainder of the piece.

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

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Literary Criticism

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SAMPLE THESIS STATEMENTS

These sample thesis statements are provided as guides, not as required forms or prescriptions.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The thesis may focus on an analysis of one of the elements of fiction, drama, poetry or nonfiction as expressed in the work: character, plot, structure, idea, theme, symbol, style, imagery, tone, etc.

In “A Worn Path,” Eudora Welty creates a fictional character in Phoenix Jackson whose determination, faith, and cunning illustrate the indomitable human spirit.

Note that the work, author, and character to be analyzed are identified in this thesis statement. The thesis relies on a strong verb (creates). It also identifies the element of fiction that the writer will explore (character) and the characteristics the writer will analyze and discuss (determination, faith, cunning).

Further Examples:

The character of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet serves as a foil to young Juliet, delights us with her warmth and earthy wit, and helps realize the tragic catastrophe.

The works of ecstatic love poets Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir use symbols such as a lover’s longing and the Tavern of Ruin to illustrate the human soul’s desire to connect with God.

The thesis may focus on illustrating how a work reflects the particular genre’s forms, the characteristics of a philosophy of literature, or the ideas of a particular school of thought.

“The Third and Final Continent” exhibits characteristics recurrent in writings by immigrants: tradition, adaptation, and identity.

Note how the thesis statement classifies the form of the work (writings by immigrants) and identifies the characteristics of that form of writing (tradition, adaptation, and identity) that the essay will discuss.

Further examples:

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame reflects characteristics of Theatre of the Absurd in its minimalist stage setting, its seemingly meaningless dialogue, and its apocalyptic or nihilist vision.

A close look at many details in “The Story of an Hour” reveals how language, institutions, and expected demeanor suppress the natural desires and aspirations of women.

The thesis may draw parallels between some element in the work and real-life situations or subject matter: historical events, the author’s life, medical diagnoses, etc.

In Willa Cather’s short story, “Paul’s Case,” Paul exhibits suicidal behavior that a caring adult might have recognized and remedied had that adult had the scientific knowledge we have today.

This thesis suggests that the essay will identify characteristics of suicide that Paul exhibits in the story. The writer will have to research medical and psychology texts to determine the typical characteristics of suicidal behavior and to illustrate how Paul’s behavior mirrors those characteristics.

Through the experience of one man, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, accurately depicts the historical record of slave life in its descriptions of the often brutal and quixotic relationship between master and slave and of the fragmentation of slave families.

In “I Stand Here Ironing,” one can draw parallels between the narrator’s situation and the author’s life experiences as a mother, writer, and feminist.

SAMPLE PATTERNS FOR THESES ON LITERARY WORKS

1. In (title of work), (author) (illustrates, shows) (aspect) (adjective). 

Example: In “Barn Burning,” William Faulkner shows the characters Sardie and Abner Snopes struggling for their identity.

2. In (title of work), (author) uses (one aspect) to (define, strengthen, illustrate) the (element of work).

Example: In “Youth,” Joseph Conrad uses foreshadowing to strengthen the plot.

3. In (title of work), (author) uses (an important part of work) as a unifying device for (one element), (another element), and (another element). The number of elements can vary from one to four.

Example: In “Youth,” Joseph Conrad uses the sea as a unifying device for setting, structure and theme.

4. (Author) develops the character of (character’s name) in (literary work) through what he/she does, what he/she says, what other people say to or about him/her.

Example: Langston Hughes develops the character of Semple in “Ways and Means”…

5. In (title of work), (author) uses (literary device) to (accomplish, develop, illustrate, strengthen) (element of work).

Example: In “The Masque of the Red Death,” Poe uses the symbolism of the stranger, the clock, and the seventh room to develop the theme of death.

6. (Author) (shows, develops, illustrates) the theme of __________ in the (play, poem, story).

Example: Flannery O’Connor illustrates the theme of the effect of the selfishness of the grandmother upon the family in “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

7. (Author) develops his character(s) in (title of work) through his/her use of language.

Example: John Updike develops his characters in “A & P” through his use of figurative language.

Perimeter College, Georgia State University,  http://depts.gpc.edu/~gpcltc/handouts/communications/literarythesis.pdf

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What is a Thesis in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary Thesis

Thesis is the major claim or point made by an author in a work of writing. A thesis statement is the sentence in a composition that introduces the main argument or main point of view. It introduces the main idea of the following writing.

What is a Thesis?

Thesis statements can be found in all types of writing and are used by the author to introduce what is the intended topic of focus. A thesis gives a work of writing direction and indicates to the reader what is about to be discussed, supported, or developed.

Since thesis statements help to give context to the following writing, they are found in the beginning of a composition— usually in the first paragraph.

For example, in an essay about a literary work, a thesis statement would look something like this:

  • In Ovid’s Metamorphoses , stories of transformation are told in order to support Ovid’s personal belief that art and art alone allows humans to transcend suffering.

The Importance of a Thesis Statement

Without a thesis statement to guide it, an essay, narrative story, or any other kind of writing, may lack direction. Without a clearly defined thesis, readers can have trouble comprehending and following what the writer plans to explain and develop.

In an essay, a thesis statement will introduce the writer’s main point or argument so that the reader understands what is about to be discussed. A structure and source of direction is developed in a successful thesis statement when it is introduced in the first paragraph. The rest of the essay then follows what the thesis has clearly outlined.

In narrative, or story-telling writing, a narrative thesis also provides a jumping-off point for the story by giving the reader information which helps set context. Narrative theses can be apparent or implied, or hidden. In either case, thesis guides the story towards development and its overall purpose.

The Importance of Thesis in Literature

In literature, a thesis acts as an early source of information about what kind of story is about to be told. Authors can state the thesis outright in a literary work, or they can hide the thesis so that it blends in with the beginning of the story.

The main purpose of a thesis in any type of literature, whether narrative or essay/academic, is to concisely outline the writing that will follow. The function of this is to provide readers with a clear concept of what kinds of material they are about to read.

For example, in an argumentative essay, the thesis will clearly state the argument and how it will be supported. In a narrative thesis statement, some context will be given to the story. This can include hints about setting, characters, and tone or style.

How Theses are Used in Literature

The following examples show how thesis has been used in various ways in classic literary works:

In One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez , the thesis serves to frame the overall context for the story that is about to follow:

  • Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliana Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy does a similar thing by informing the reader that they are about to read a story about one unhappy family’s trials and tribulations:

  • Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

The wildly popular contemporary memoir, Wild by Cheryl Strayed uses thesis to provide a framework and also set the plot in motion:

  • My solo three-month hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had many beginnings. There was the first, flip decision to do it, followed by the second, more serious decision to actually do it, and then the long third beginning, composed of weeks of shopping and packing and preparing to do it.

Recap: What is a Thesis in Literature?

Thesis is a tool used to provide context in the beginning of a work of writing that will help the reader to gain an idea of what is about to be argued, revealed, or developed. Thesis statements are necessary to providing structure and direction for the reader and good writing upholds the thesis statement throughout the entirety of the piece.

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What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

Published on September 14, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master’s program or a capstone to a bachelor’s degree.

Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation , it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: choosing a relevant topic , crafting a proposal , designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .

Thesis template

You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.

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Table of contents

Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about theses.

You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.

  • A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarize the central points of your academic essay .
  • A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement for Master’s programs, and is also sometimes required to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts colleges.
  • In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.
  • In other countries (particularly the UK), a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.

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The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:

  • Your discipline
  • Your theoretical approach

Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.

In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section ,  results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .

Thesis examples

We’ve compiled a short list of thesis examples to help you get started.

  • Example thesis #1:   “Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807” by Suchait Kahlon.
  • Example thesis #2: “’A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man’: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947″ by Julian Saint Reiman.

The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:

  • Your full title
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date.

Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

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thesis statement literary definition

An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.

Read more about abstracts

A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.

Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.

Read more about tables of contents

While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the “Insert Caption” feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetized list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialized or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetize the terms you want to include with a brief definition.

Read more about glossaries

An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:

  • Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
  • Define the scope of your work
  • Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
  • State your research question(s)
  • Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed

In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.

Read more about introductions

A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:

  • Selecting relevant sources
  • Determining the credibility of your sources
  • Critically evaluating each of your sources
  • Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:

  • Addressing a gap in the literature
  • Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
  • Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
  • Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
  • Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyzes the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
  • Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
  • Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
  • The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.

Your results section should:

  • State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Explain how each result relates to the research question
  • Determine whether the hypothesis was supported

Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.

Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.

For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasize what your research specifically has contributed to your field.

Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.

Read more about conclusions

In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.

Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.

Read more about appendices

Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!

Consider using a professional thesis editing service or grammar checker to make sure your final project is perfect.

Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.

After your defense , your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.

Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:

  • Plan to attend graduate school soon
  • Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
  • Are considering a career in research
  • Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience

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Thesis Definition A thesis is a declaration in a non-fiction or a fiction work that a creator intends to aid and prove. One can find examples of thesis announcement at the beginning of literary pieces. These thesis statements are of extreme importance, as they provide clear signs as to which direction the author will follow of their work. A thesis assertion is carefully crafted with the aid of a creator, and is marked via vigilant choice of phrases that will never miss its target. Generally, such a declaration suggests up in the first paragraph, or what is called an introduction. Despite writers’ efforts to show their thesis statements, not all of those statements can be verified for their exactness. Nevertheless, they do increase an argument. Importance of a Thesis Statement In writing an essay, a thesis declaration determines the well worth of the essay through its potential to live targeted on its thesis assertion. For instance, if a writer fails to genuinely point out or outline a solid thesis assertion in his or her essay, it will be hard for readers to track the issue the author plans to talk about and explain. Suppose a writer desires to write an essay on how to make a really perfect fruit salad, the great of his or her writing will enormously enhance if he or she we could the readers recognize the subject count number at the start of the essay, for example: “In this essay, I will tell you how to make the proper fruit salad. Not most effective will or not it's tasty, however also healthful in your body.” Narrative Thesis In a story essay, or narrative segment of a piece of literature, a thesis declaration is referred to as a “narrative thesis.” A narrative thesis may be an obvious one or a hidden or implied one. In both cases, such a announcement is a powerful, propelling force at the back of an entire paintings, that guides it toward its last reason and the lesson it intends to instruct. Narrative Thesis Examples Below is a list of some narrative thesis examples – starting strains that determine the entire route of the narratives. Example #1: Pride and Prejudice (By Jane Austen) “It is a reality universally stated that a single guy in possession of an excellent fortune, have to be in need of a wife.” Example #2: One Hundred Years of Solitude (By Gabriel García Márquez) “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía became to don't forget that distant afternoon while his father took him to find out ice.” Example #3: Lolita (By Vladimir Nabokov) “Lolita, mild of my life, fireplace of my loins.” Example #4: Anna Karenina (By Leo Tolstoy) “Happy households are all alike; every sad family is unhappy in its own way.” Example #5: 1984 (By George Orwell) “It turned into a bright cold day in April, and the clocks have been putting thirteen.” Example #6: A Tale of Two Cities (By Charles Dickens) “It changed into the best of times, it became the worst of times, it turned into the age of wisdom, it turned into the age of foolishness, it turned into the epoch of belief, it changed into the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it became the season of Darkness, it become the spring of hope, it changed into the winter of despair.” Example #7: The Catcher in the Rye (By J. D. Salinger) “If you really want to hear approximately it, the first factor you’ll probably want to realize is where I turned into born, and what my awful formative years become like, and the way my parents were occupied and all before they'd me, and all that David Copperfield type of crap, but I don’t experience like going into it, if you need to realize the fact.” Example #8: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (By James Joyce) “Once upon a time and a excellent time it became there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that changed into coming down along the street met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.” Function of Thesis The above arguments simply screen the function of a thesis statements or a narrative thesis as a driving pressure at the back of a literary composition. It guides the narrative closer to its ultimate cause, which is the moral lesson it aims to inculcate.

  • Alliteration
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  • Deus Ex Machina
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  • Foreshadowing
  • Internal Rhyme
  • Juxtaposition
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4.6: Literary Thesis Statements

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  • Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap
  • City College of San Francisco via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

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.

Just like in other argumentative essays, the thesis statement should be a kind of opinion based on observable fact about the literary work.

Thesis Statements Should Be

  • This thesis takes a position. There are clearly those who could argue against this idea.
  • Look at the text in bold. See the strong emphasis on how form (literary devices like symbolism and character) acts as a foundation for the interpretation (perceived danger of female sexuality).
  • Through this specific yet concise sentence, readers can anticipate the text to be examined ( Huckleberry Finn) , the author (Mark Twain), the literary device that will be focused upon (river and shore scenes) and what these scenes will show (true expression of American ideals can be found in nature).

Thesis Statements Should NOT Be

  • While we know what text and author will be the focus of the essay, we know nothing about what aspect of the essay the author will be focusing upon, nor is there an argument here.
  • This may be well and true, but this thesis does not appear to be about a work of literature. This could be turned into a thesis statement if the writer is able to show how this is the theme of a literary work (like "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid) and root that interpretation in observable data from the story in the form of literary devices.
  • Yes, this is true. But it is not debatable. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who could argue with this statement. Yawn, boring.
  • This may very well be true. But the purpose of a literary critic is not to judge the quality of a literary work, but to make analyses and interpretations of the work based on observable structural aspects of that work.
  • Again, this might be true, and might make an interesting essay topic, but unless it is rooted in textual analysis, it is not within the scope of a literary analysis essay. Be careful not to conflate author and speaker! Author, speaker, and narrator are all different entities! See: intentional fallacy.

Thesis Statement Formula

One way I find helpful to explain literary thesis statements is through a "formula":

Thesis statement = Observation + Analysis + Significance

  • Observation: usually regarding the form or structure of the literature. This can be a pattern, like recurring literary devices. For example, "I noticed the poems of Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir all use symbols such as the lover's longing and Tavern of Ruin "
  • Analysis: You could also call this an opinion. This explains what you think your observations show or mean. "I think these recurring symbols all represent the human soul's desire." This is where your debatable argument appears.
  • Significance: this explains what the significance or relevance of the interpretation might be. Human soul's desire to do what? Why should readers care that they represent the human soul's desire? "I think these recurring symbols all show the human soul's desire to connect with God. " This is where your argument gets more specific.

Thesis statement: The works of ecstatic love poets Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir use symbols such as a lover’s longing and the Tavern of Ruin to illustrate the human soul’s desire to connect with God .

Thesis Examples

SAMPLE THESIS STATEMENTS

These sample thesis statements are provided as guides, not as required forms or prescriptions.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Literary Device Thesis Statement

The thesis may focus on an analysis of one of the elements of fiction, drama, poetry or nonfiction as expressed in the work: character, plot, structure, idea, theme, symbol, style, imagery, tone, etc.

In “A Worn Path,” Eudora Welty creates a fictional character in Phoenix Jackson whose determination, faith, and cunning illustrate the indomitable human spirit.

Note that the work, author, and character to be analyzed are identified in this thesis statement. The thesis relies on a strong verb (creates). It also identifies the element of fiction that the writer will explore (character) and the characteristics the writer will analyze and discuss (determination, faith, cunning).

The character of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet serves as a foil to young Juliet, delights us with her warmth and earthy wit, and helps realize the tragic catastrophe.

The Genre / Theory Thesis Statement

The thesis may focus on illustrating how a work reflects the particular genre’s forms, the characteristics of a philosophy of literature, or the ideas of a particular school of thought.

“The Third and Final Continent” exhibits characteristics recurrent in writings by immigrants: tradition, adaptation, and identity.

Note how the thesis statement classifies the form of the work (writings by immigrants) and identifies the characteristics of that form of writing (tradition, adaptation, and identity) that the essay will discuss.

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame reflects characteristics of Theatre of the Absurd in its minimalist stage setting, its seemingly meaningless dialogue, and its apocalyptic or nihilist vision.

A close look at many details in “The Story of an Hour” reveals how language, institutions, and expected demeanor suppress the natural desires and aspirations of women.

Generative Questions

One way to come up with a riveting thesis statement is to start with a generative question. The question should be open-ended and, hopefully, prompt some kind of debate.

  • What is the effect of [choose a literary device that features prominently in the chosen text] in this work of literature?
  • How does this work of literature conform or resist its genre, and to what effect?
  • How does this work of literature portray the environment, and to what effect? 
  • How does this work of literature portray race, and to what effect?
  • How does this work of literature portray gender, and to what effect?
  • What historical context is this work of literature engaging with, and how might it function as a commentary on this context?

These are just a few common of the common kinds of questions literary scholars engage with. As you write, you will want to refine your question to be even more specific. Eventually, you can turn your generative question into a statement. This then becomes your thesis statement. For example,

  • How do environment and race intersect in the character of Frankenstein's monster, and what can we deduce from this intersection?

Expert Examples

While nobody expects you to write professional-quality thesis statements in an undergraduate literature class, it can be helpful to examine some examples. As you view these examples, consider the structure of the thesis statement. You might also think about what questions the scholar wondered that led to this statement!

  • "Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as 'the other world,' the antithesis of Europe and therefore civilization, a place where man's vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality" (Achebe 3).
  • "...I argue that the approach to time and causality in Boethius' sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy can support abolitionist objectives to dismantle modern American policing and carceral systems" (Chaganti 144).
  • "I seek to expand our sense of the musico-poetic compositional practices available to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, focusing on the metapoetric dimensions of Much Ado About Nothing. In so doing, I work against the tendency to isolate writing as an independent or autonomous feature the work of early modern poets and dramatists who integrated bibliographic texts with other, complementary media" (Trudell 371).

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. "An Image of Africa" Research in African Literatures 9.1 , Indiana UP, 1978. 1-15.

Chaganti, Seeta. "Boethian Abolition" PMLA 137.1 Modern Language Association, January 2022. 144-154.

"Thesis Statements in Literary Analysis Papers" Author unknown.  https://resources.finalsite.net/imag...handout__1.pdf  

Trudell, Scott A. "Shakespeare's Notation: Writing Sound in Much Ado about Nothing " PMLA 135.2,  Modern Language Association, March 2020. 370-377.

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The Thesis Statement

Thesis Statements in Literary Analysis Papers  

Tips and Examples for Writing a Thesis Statement (OWL @ Purdue)

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Thesis Definition

A thesis is a statement in a non- fiction or a fiction work that a writer intends to support and prove. One can find examples of thesis statement at the beginning of literary pieces. These thesis statements are of utmost importance, as they provide clear indicators as to which direction the writer will follow in their work.

A thesis statement is carefully crafted by a writer, and is marked by vigilant selection of words that will never miss its target. Generally, such a statement shows up in the first paragraph, or what is called an introduction. Despite writers’ efforts to prove their thesis statements, not all of these statements can be verified for their exactness. Nevertheless, they do develop an argument .

Importance of a Thesis Statement

In writing an essay , a thesis statement determines the worth of the essay by its capacity to stay focused on its thesis statement. For instance, if a writer fails to clearly mention or define a solid thesis statement in his or her essay , it will be difficult for readers to track the issue the writer plans to discuss and explain. Suppose a writer wants to write an essay on how to make a perfect fruit salad, the quality of his or her writing will exceedingly improve if he or she lets the readers know the subject matter at the start of the essay , for example:

“In this essay , I will tell you how to make the perfect fruit salad. Not only will it be tasty, but also healthy for your body.”

Narrative Thesis

In a narrative essay , or narrative section of a piece of literature, a thesis statement is called a “ narrative thesis.” A narrative thesis can be an apparent one or a hidden or implied one. In both cases, such a statement is a powerful, propelling force behind an entire work, that guides it toward its ultimate purpose and the lesson it intends to instruct.

Narrative Thesis Examples

Below is a list of a few narrative thesis examples – opening lines that determine the entire course of the narratives.

Example #1: Pride and Prejudice (By Jane Austen)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Example #2: One Hundred Years of Solitude (By Gabriel García Márquez)

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

Example #3: Lolita (By Vladimir Nabokov)

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.”

Example #4: Anna Karenina (By Leo Tolstoy)

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Example #5: 1984 (By George Orwell)

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

Example #6: A Tale of Two Cities (By Charles Dickens)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Example #7: The Catcher in the Rye (By J. D. Salinger)

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Example #8: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (By James Joyce)

“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo.”

Function of Thesis

The above arguments clearly reveal the function of a thesis statements or a narrative thesis as a driving force behind a literary composition. It guides the narrative toward its ultimate purpose, which is the moral lesson it aims to inculcate.

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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

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 this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college
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  • thesis statement

a short statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, etc., and is developed, supported, and explained in the text by means of examples and evidence.

Origin of thesis statement

Words nearby thesis statement.

  • short end of the stick, the
  • The show must go on
  • thesis play
  • Sketch Book, The
  • Skin of Our Teeth, The
  • sky's the limit, the
  • Snows of Kilimanjaro, The
  • The Social Contract

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

IMAGES

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COMMENTS

  1. Thesis: Definition and Examples

    I. What is a Thesis? The thesis (pronounced thee -seez), also known as a thesis statement, is the sentence that introduces the main argument or point of view of a composition (formal essay, nonfiction piece, or narrative).

  2. Examples and Definition Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement is a statement that occurs at the end of the introduction, after the background information on the topic. The thesis statement is connected with the background information through a transition, which could be a full sentence, or a simple transition word, such as therefore, because, but etc.

  3. Thesis

    A thesis is a statement in a non- fiction or a fiction work that a writer intends to support and prove. One can find examples of thesis statement at the beginning of literary pieces. These thesis statements are of utmost importance, as they provide clear indicators as to which direction the writer will follow in their work.

  4. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 1: Start with a question Step 2: Write your initial answer Step 3: Develop your answer Step 4: Refine your thesis statement Types of thesis statements Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about thesis statements What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay.

  5. Thesis Examples and Definition

    A thesis is a statement or central idea that a writer puts forward at the beginning of an argument, and will support throughout the following text. The thesis is a premise that the author believes to be true, and will give evidence for by way of facts or situations that reinforce this central idea.

  6. 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.

  7. What is a Thesis? Definition, Examples of Theses in Literature

    Define thesis in literature: In summation, a thesis statement establishes a purpose in the piece of writing. It may establish the lesson or story to be told, or in an essay it may establish the position the writer assumes when exploring a topic.

  8. Thesis Statements

    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.

  9. thesis examples

    1. In (title of work), (author) (illustrates, shows) (aspect) (adjective). Example: In "Barn Burning," William Faulkner shows the characters Sardie and Abner Snopes struggling for their identity. 2. In (title of work), (author) uses (one aspect) to (define, strengthen, illustrate) the (element of work).

  10. What is a Thesis in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary Thesis

    A thesis statement is the sentence in a composition that introduces the main argument or main point of view. It introduces the main idea of the following writing. What is a Thesis? Thesis statements can be found in all types of writing and are used by the author to introduce what is the intended topic of focus.

  11. Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement is the main argument of a piece of writing. It can be found in academic/formal writing novel writing. A thesis statement is a position the author holds and that which they're going to prove through the text. It summarizes the writing that's going to follow and is usually found in the first paragraph of the introduction.

  12. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

    Literary analysis means closely studying a text, interpreting its meanings, and exploring why the author made certain choices. It can be applied to novels, short stories, plays, poems, or any other form of literary writing. A literary analysis essay is not a rhetorical analysis, nor is it just a summary of the plot or a book review.

  13. What Is a Thesis?

    A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay, and should clearly and concisely summarize the central points of your academic essay. A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to ...

  14. Thesis

    A thesis is a declaration in a non-fiction or a fiction work that a creator intends to aid and prove. One can find examples of thesis announcement at the beginning of literary pieces. These thesis statements are of extreme importance, as they provide clear signs as to which direction the author will follow of their work.

  15. 4.6: 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.

  16. PDF Literary Analysis Thesis Statements

    The thesis statement is the announcement of your analytical argument that you intend to make and prove in the duration of your paper. It is a road map for the paper—it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper. It should be placed somewhere in the introduction of your paper.

  17. ENGL 2111 and 2112 World Literature: Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement should be specific and make a clear, definable and arguable claim. For the literary research paper, a thesis statement may suggest a particular way of reading or understanding a story, perhaps providing an original or even controversial interpretation. Developing a Thesis Statement (Univ. of Wisconsin Madison)

  18. Thesis definition and example literary device

    Thesis Definition. A thesis is a statement in a non-fiction or a fiction work that a writer intends to support and prove.One can find examples of thesis statement at the beginning of literary pieces. These thesis statements are of utmost importance, as they provide clear indicators as to which direction the writer will follow in their work.

  19. What Is a Thesis Statement? Definition and Examples.

    A thesis statement is a declaration of one or two sentences that gives the topic and purpose of an essay or speech. More specifically, it provides information to the audience about what the author/speaker intends to prove or declare, with specific discussion points. The thesis statement is usually placed toward the end of the introductory ...

  20. Strong Thesis Statements

    An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.

  21. 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 ...

  22. THESIS STATEMENT Definition & Usage Examples

    noun a short statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, etc., and is developed, supported, and explained in the text by means of examples and evidence. Recommended videos Powered by AnyClip AnyClip Product Demo 2022

  23. Thesis Generator

    a definition. an interesting fact. a question that will be answered in your paper. some background information on your topic. The idea is to begin broadly and gradually bring the reader closer to the main idea of the paper. At the end of the introduction, you will state your thesis statement.