Creating a Thesis Statement: 5 Myths to (Sometimes) Ignore

Have you ever heard that touching a frog will give you warts or that Twinkies never expire?

These urban legends have been around a long time, but they’re simply myths.

While touching some frogs can irritate your skin, frogs don’t cause warts. They’re caused by viruses.

And Twinkies? Well, they may not be made from the most organic ingredients, but they certainly do have a shelf life and will expire.

My point here is that myths can lead to a lot of misinformation and that it’s often a better choice to ignore them.

The same is true for myths about writing, specifically myths about creating a thesis statement.

see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil monkey sculpture

When You Should Definitely Not Ignore Thesis Statement Myths

Let me start with a disclaimer: There are times when you should most definitely NOT ignore any thesis statement “myths.”

Case in point: A persnickety teacher who demands that you follow his or her exact guidelines for creating thesis statements, such as….

  • Underline the thesis statement in your essay
  • Use a three-part thesis statement
  • Write a thesis statement that is no longer than one sentence
  • Place the thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph

If your assignment requires you to follow a very specific format, then by all means follow it.

If your teacher is a stickler for guidelines, don’t be a rebel and break any rules.

On the other hand, if your teacher allows for a little more flexibility in your writing, here are five thesis statement myths that you can ignore (under the right circumstances, of course).

5 Thesis Statement Myths to (Sometimes) Ignore

The thesis statement is the road map to your essay. It lets readers know what to expect in your paper and helps you focus your ideas.

Most of us have learned specific “rules” for creating a thesis statement, and we generally stick with them in each essay. There are times, however, when these so-called “rules” can be broken.

Here are five examples of thesis statement myths and when it’s okay to ignore them.

Myth #1: A thesis statement can only be one sentence

After reading the above heading, you might ask, “Doesn’t a thesis statement always have to be one sentence?” And that might then prompt you to ask, “If it’s not one sentence, how long should a thesis statement be?”

While the general rule is that thesis statements should be one sentence, it’s not always necessary to limit your thesis to only one sentence.

If you’re writing a longer, more detailed paper (like a research essay or scientific report), for example, you might need two (or more) sentences to focus your ideas.

Take a look at this effective two-sentence thesis statement:

Recent research illustrates that children growing up in poverty struggle in school due to poor nutrition. The solution to this crisis is two-fold and requires schools to provide additional meals and increase education for both students and parents.

hungry young student staring out classroom window

Combining these two sentences into one would muddy the meaning and create an awkwardly worded statement.

Thus, in this case, a two-sentence thesis works well. It’s clear that the paper will not only focus on the fact that children in poverty suffer academically due to poor nutrition but also address solutions to help both children and their parents.

Want to see an example of a two-sentence thesis in the context of an actual essay? Read How Does Self-Esteem Interact With Adolescent Depression? The thesis appears at the end of the second paragraph:

Although it appears that depression leads to low self-esteem, through investigating the research, it becomes clear that the opposite is true in that low self-esteem leads to depression especially in adolescence. This is specifically seen in longitudinal studies that show adolescents with low self-esteem over time developing depression, especially when they have negative relationships with their parents and low attachment with their peers.

Myth #2: A thesis statement must be the last sentence of your introduction

Did you raise your eyebrows at my last sentence? The part that says “…the thesis appears at the end of the second paragraph,” I mean.

Teachers generally suggest you place your thesis statement at the end of the first paragraph, which often means it’s placed at the end of the introduction.

Sometimes, however, an introduction is longer than one paragraph, making it perfectly acceptable to place the thesis after the second or third paragraph.

There are also instances when you might place the thesis statement at the end of your paper (in the conclusion). Placing the thesis statement at the end of the paper can allow you to highlight the moral of the story in a narrative essay, for instance.

If you feel like being a radical, you might even try placing your thesis at the end of a research paper to establish your argument and lead readers to the conclusions you’ve reached based on your research.

Myth #3: Every essay needs a thesis statement

It’s true that most essays require creating a thesis statement to help establish the goals of the paper. But in some cases, forcing a thesis statement into certain types of essays (particularly in an introduction) simply makes the writing awkward.

Narrative essays

Narrative essays generally tell a story, so a traditional thesis statement doesn’t always work.

For example, if you’ve written a great hook that leaves readers on the edge of their seats as you describe the time you were attacked by a shark, you don’t want to ruin it with a forced thesis statement.

The focus or moral of the story will be evident as you develop your paper, so don’t ruin a great introduction just to insert a clunky transition to an equally clunky thesis.

To see an example of a successful narrative that doesn’t use a thesis statement, read The Story of How I Adopted My Cat Oliver.

large orange striped tom cat

Short essays

Most of us would agree that thesis statements work well (and are usually necessary) in longer essays, but what about short essays?

Short essays, of course, require a focus. But depending on your actual assignment, you may not need to include a traditional thesis statement in a short essay.

Op-eds, for example, provide a clear and concise opinion (usually in 750–1,000 words or less), so there’s no need to remind readers of the focus and key arguments by including a formal thesis statement.

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Myth #4: A thesis statement must have three “reasons” supporting the primary claim

When you first learned to write an essay, you were probably taught the basic five-paragraph essay. This meant that every essay you wrote consisted of an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

With each essay containing three body paragraphs, it made sense that the thesis statement needed to be written as a three-part thesis to support the main claim of the paper.

But what if you’re writing a much longer essay?

A longer essay could very well include four (or more) arguments to support the primary claim. Using a multi-pronged thesis structure for this type of essay doesn’t work well. The thesis statement becomes too long and difficult to read.

Here’s an awkwardly worded thesis statement example to illustrate:

In order to avoid gaining the “Freshman 15” during the first year of college, students should plan meals ahead of time, choose sensible meals when dining out, prepare as many meals as possible in their dorms, limit late-night snacking, and continue healthy exercise habits.

In this case, revising the thesis statement to eliminate the list of “reasons” would create a more focused and effective thesis.

Here’s the revised thesis statement:

In order to avoid gaining the “Freshman 15,” first-year college students should make healthy meal choices and continue healthy exercise habits.

This revised thesis clearly expresses the focus of the paper without listing each reason that will be included in the essay.

australian cheeseburger, fries, and beer

TAKE NOTE

Even if you do have only three main arguments to support your claim, you don’t necessarily need to use the standard three-part thesis.

As long as the thesis statement is worded concisely and expresses the focus of your paper, you can skip the three-part structure.

To see a well-written thesis statement that doesn’t use the three-part structure, take a look at this example essay from our database.

Myth #5: A thesis statement must be flashy to grab the reader’s attention

Granted, no one wants to read a boring thesis statement, but the purpose of a well-crafted thesis statement is to be effective, not necessarily flashy.

Take, for instance, creating a thesis statement for a scientific report.

The thesis for this type of writing needs to be straightforward and to the point. There’s no need to try to be flashy. The thesis statement simply needs to get the job done.

Here’s an example of an effective thesis statement for a scientific report.

Results of the Carpenter study indicate that, to increase traffic in the Student Center, both additional marketing and additional student-centered activities are needed to attract students.

Notice that this thesis statement is concise and far from flashy. But it is effective and appropriate for scientific writing (which requires factual data, rather than elaborate detail).

Besides, if you want to grab readers’ attention, it’s best to rely on a strong hook or attention grabber.

Looking For More Examples?

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If you’re looking for more thesis statements examples as inspiration before creating a thesis statement on your own, read the following:

In need of a little help crafting the perfect thesis? Try our Thesis Statement Generator.

Don’t forget: Expert help is also available 24/7 from Kibin editors. We’ve reviewed tens of thousands of thesis statements and can help you with yours too.

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