Nailing an Effective Thesis Statement for Your Blog

The Harvard College Writing Center frames it well: As a reader, you are the judge and the jury. The writer is the lawyer, either smooth-talking and savvy or fumbling and awkward. The argument of the writer is what stands trial. When we write, we usually experience one of two reactions: where’s my Nobel Prize, or what the hell was I thinking? Regardless of your level of natural confidence, you must step back and be the jury. It takes a lot of courage to look at your writing as if you are the reader. But in order to take the ideas swirling around in your head and successfully communicate them on paper, you must self-critique. This is paramount when building an effective thesis statement. By using a step-by-step process, you can prepare and create the thesis your writing needs.

Preparing the Thesis

Start out by selecting the most relevant sources of information to your topic. Preferably these would be primary sources of information. (If you are uncertain about what is and what is not a primary resource, check out this explanation from Yale University). After scanning them for the information you need, set about analyzing the data from the different sources. Does the data from the various sources correspond? Basically, are the sources saying the same thing? Or, do the sources contradict each other? You decide, and then draw your own conclusion.

Your drawn conclusion is at this point what we call a working thesis. That means it is a fresh idea, still raw and not yet molded into an eloquently worded argument. Jot it down on paper, so that way you can take it in its pure form and evolve it into something you’d like to put into your final draft.

The standard place for your thesis is at the end of your introductory paragraph. This allows a little build up in the introduction, but it is stated early enough that your reader knows what you want to say.

Finally, one of the most important parts of thesis preparation is being aware of possible counterarguments. It’s always good to know and communicate your strengths; its great if you know what are your weaknesses, because your competitors and critics most certainly will. Anticipate the weaknesses of your thesis statement which could likely bring about snide remarks or attacking advertisments from the competition. Once you can pick out the weak spots of your thesis, then you can most certainly strenghen it with a rewrite. After you’ve gone through the steps of preparation, and you feel like your thesis is rock solid, be sure to check it against the following characteristics of an effective thesis.

Characteristics of an Effective Thesis

1) An effective thesis needs to be clearly worded and focused.

Your purpose in blog writing is to communicate to your audience. If you want to be cryptic or use flowery language, try writing poetry or fictional prose. On the other hand, be weary of what I’ll call insiders language. What I mean is, unless you’ve decided that your target audience is restricted to the experienced and the educated of your field, avoid masking your message in industry jargon. To an outsider, that stuff might as well be a foreign language. Use a simple vocabulary that is understandable to your target audience. Having a specific person in mind, someone you know and whose conversational style you can imagine, while writing will help you choose the best language that gets the point across.

Bad example: Our flourishing business is blooming like spring flowers.

Good example: Our business is great because of our unbeatable rates and our staff of experts.

2) An effective thesis shouldn’t be an obvious fact; it should arguable information.

There is little point to write about something that is an established fact. If everyone in your audience knows that your business is the only one of its kind in town, then you don’t need to tell them again. Instead, save those facts for your topic or building sentences which support a thesis. Offer the reader, and potential client, something that is not an established fact. In other words, tell them something that they may not know about your business. Use your power of the written word to explain or convince them why your business is better than the competitors.

Bad example: We do more business than any competitor in town (assuming this is common knowledge).

Good example: We do more business than any competitor in town because it’s our mission to satisfy every potential customer (assuming that is the mission)

3) An effective thesis is not a question; it’s an answer to a question

It always helps to ask a question when trying to come up with a great thesis. Asking a question can direct you in your writing and it helps you think from the perspective of your audience. If you want to ask a question, consider doing that in the first line of your writing.

Bad example: Why should you do business with us?

Good example: Doing business with us is a pleasant and sure way to satisfy your needs.

4) An effective thesis should not be a list

First, let me say this: generally you want to avoid the style of the list. I know, I know: the list is all the rage in blog writing and social media journalism — 5 Reasons to Quit Your Job Now, 27 Wonderful Things about France, 100 Stellar DIY Ideas. Employing the list style depends very much on your audience and the tone you want to use. If your tone is very casual and your audience has the habit of consuming information from social media, then a list style might be good for you. If you are, however, going for the more professional approach that is geared towards an audience which doesn’t typically scan social media for news, then avoid the list style.

Regarding the list thesis, it comes about in a few different forms. Check these out:

List thesis 1: Here are five reasons to do business with us today.

List thesis 2: There are many ways our business can improve your situation.

The first example here leads into the very common list style article. Once again, depending on the general persona of your target audience, this could be good or it could be bad. The second example also leads into a list style post. The problem with both of these is that they are empty statements. They don’t explain anything; they don’t demonstrate anything; they don’t convince your audience of anything. Elevate your writing game and offer an attractive thesis which truly sparks the interest of your audience. Also, if you have many different reasons why potential customers should do business with you, dedicate one reason per blog post. Make that one reason your thesis. If you restrict yourself to one reason per post, then you can keep your posts shorter, and you are saving material for future writing.

5) An effective thesis statement is supported by the facts

Before knocking out the blank page with an excellent blog post, some sort of research is typically required, as I mentioned above. The amount of research obviously depends on the depth of reliable information you already have. Regardless of the hours you put in, be certain that your thesis is a conclusion you’ve drawn from the research you’ve done. As your unofficial writing consultant, I must say DON’T MAKE the research support your thesis. In other words, don’t have the thesis already in your head and then select only the information that supports it. Like any good student writing a paper or investor preparing for the next move, analyze all the data you can within the time limit you have, and then draw the thesis out of your analysis. Now, you may be thinking, but all kinds of people, from business owners to politicians, make unsupported arguments on a daily basis. And, you’re right. It happens so much that we saw the rise of fact checkers in political news coverage. But when your word, and therefore your business, is on the line make sure it’s backed by reliable information.

Coming up with the perfect thesis isn’t as easy as sleeping in on a cold rainy day. But you can rest assured that you’re certainly not the first person in history who’s had the task of articulating your ideas. The step-by-step process of thesis preparation can be used to help organize your ideas. The list of effective thesis characteristics should be used as a reference to test how your argument holds up on paper. If you still want for resources, check out these online writing centers here, here, and here.

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This post was originally posted on Co.Writer, an online publication dedicated to helping working professionals improve their writing skills.