Writing Resources

Features of A Successful Thesis

This handout is available for download in DOCX format and PDF format.


  1. A thesis must consist of a claim. Questions are not claims; nor are simple descriptions. A thesis is not a topic or theme, either. It is a contention—something to be argued.
  2. A thesis should not be obviously true or false. If a claim is obviously true, there is no need to argue for it; and if is it obviously false, there is no reason to argue for it, either. Rather, the claim should be plausible, but in need of argument and evidence to establish its veracity.
  3. A thesis should not be overly abstract or general. It must be specific enough to be arguable, that is, specific enough to support with the evidence available to you.
  4. A thesis should be original. It should not merely recapitulate another writer’s argument. However, this does not mean that a thesis cannot be based on or influenced by the arguments of other writers.
  5. A thesis should be arguable. To be arguable:
    • There must be evidence available to support the claim made in the thesis.
    • The claim must be of an appropriate scope such that it can be adequately argued within the length of the paper.
  6. A thesis should be clear. Remove as much ambiguity as possible from your thesis statement, and define any technical or ambiguous terms (e.g., “Durkheim-Boas tradition,” “reductionism”) that appear in your thesis or essay.
  7. A thesis should be concise. Generally, a thesis will be contained within a single sentence, although sometimes more complex theses are developed over two or three sentences.
  8. A thesis should be obvious to your reader. Often, a thesis statement begins with a phrase like “I will argue…,” “In this essay I will contend…,” etc. Theses are often stated in the first paragraph or in introductory paragraphs.

University Writing Program Brandeis University