The cornerstone of every well-structured, well-researched and well-written paper is the thesis statement. Learning how to develop that core argument is one of the most valuable skills a student will acquire in his or her academic career. Your first goal is to see that a student formulates that framework sentence based on a guiding criteria, or checklist, that you’ll provide them with. A handout with the following requirements will be of great service to students looking to put together a thesis statement.

PROVABILITY – Writers must be able to provide visual proof that supports their claims.  A statement such as, “Macbeth is a great play” would not suffice for a thesis. However, an argument stating, “In Macbeth, Shakespeare places greater importance on the roles of men than the roles of women” would be both provable and acceptable.  

SCOPE – The student’s paper must remain focused on and built around a specific statement. Depending on the length of the assignment, the thesis statement will vary in its depth. For example, “The herbs that Ophelia mentions during her mad scene had meanings to the Elizabethan public that foreshadowed the rest of Hamlet” might apply to a five-page paper, while “Hamlet's hesitation to act is based on his immaturity” would be best suited for a longer paper of thirty-five pages or more.

DIRECTNESS – The essence of the student’s argument must be captured within his or her thesis statement; it should forecast to the reader what to expect. Saying that, “Mercutio’s soliloquy might foretell the events later in Romeo and Juliet” is not direct enough. A more appropriate wording would be along the lines of,  “Mercutio’s soliloquy foretells the tragic outcome of Romeo and Juliet.”