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mistakes to avoid in a thesis statement

What mistakes to avoid in a thesis statement

Jan 17, 2013 - Posted to  Thesis Writing
A sound and well-crafted thesis statement doesn't come without its share of trial and error. This is because good writing to any degree takes time and effort. Likewise, working out some of the initial kinks in your thesis statement means knowing what common and not so common mistakes you need to avoid.
Even if familiar with the basics of thesis statement structuring and formatting, every now and again you may find yourself falling into one of these obvious mistakes. Not because you don't know what needs to be done, but simply because the easy way to write is not always the best way to write. With that said, what are the common mistakes of thesis statement writing?

Making a very broad statement

Since one of the characteristics of a thesis statement is precision and focus, a big mistake to avoid is being too broad in your description of what you intend to cover in your paper. Sometimes broad is safe, but for thesis statements its actually quite dangerous because it leads the reader to believe that you intend to cover all of which is entailed in the statement you provided (since your thesis statement is similar to a 'map' of your paper). An example of a broad statement can be seen below;
Children undergo many changes in their lives.
A better statement would be...
Children undergo several developmental changes in their lives that impact the way in which they learn about the world around them.
Both examples are related to children's developmental changes but the second one is significantly more detailed and provides a provable point that can be investigated and examined in the confines of an essay or term paper. Here narrowness is very important as simply trying to write a paper on the changes in children's lives would take a very long time and likely be deficient in its coverage of the many issues connected to it.

Failing to accurately represent the contents of the paper

This second point is very closely connected to the first one. This is because in most cases broad topics do not adequately represent what is contained in the text of a paper. Narrow and more specific statements are more likely to include the exact information that the paper touches on or explores. Though even with some narrow statements, writers fail to convey the main points discussed in the paper.
This is major mistake can cause problems for the writer as well as the reader. In the case of the preparer, a vague thesis statement that doesn't match the paper can cause difficulty and confusion in terms of formulating an argument and providing unity and coherence throughout the paper. This is due to the fact that the thesis statement is considered the guiding post or 'roadmap' to the paper. So if your guide is faulty how will that impact your ability to reach your destination?
Secondly, for the reader (which in many cases is a professor) this shortcoming reveals serious inconsistencies and inadequacies in your argument. The understanding is that- if you can't efficiently summarize your main points into one or two sentences, then how can you efficiently support those points throughout your paper? Often times the answer is-you can't- and therefore this one point is definitely a tell tale sign of a poorly constructed paper.
*A good suggestion may be to have an outside reader look at your paper or essay and determine the main idea or thesis statement from what was read. If it differs from what you assumed it would be, then likely your thesis statement is not in-line with the rest of your paper.

Simply stating a fact rather than a debatable claim

Again, this is another common flaw in thesis preparation. In some cases a well developed fact-sentence may appear to work well as a thesis statement but it fails in one main area; it doesn't present an arguable or debateable point. For instance, the statement 'Children undergo ten major physical and linguistic changes from birth to five years' is very detailed and specific but doesn't work well as a thesis statement. This is because it lacks any depth or complexity beyond what is stated. It doesn't answer the question And? or So What?
Likewise, the thesis statement should present an interesting issue of contest, something that is worth studying and arguable to the point that it can be proven and supported (for or against).

Using terms such as "I believe" or "In my opinion"

This common error often appears with inexperienced writers just starting to get the knack of crafting formal academic pieces. In general, pronouns such as "I" or "my" should be used sparingly in most formal writings though they do have their place in certain forms such as the personal essay. But for the sake of the thesis statement, such phrases should be avoided; simply because they belittle the strength of the argument being presented. Many people have opinions and beliefs, and in most cases these things are very subjective and therefore not substantial enough to be used to support a particular statement or claim. Even if your beliefs are in accordance with the research that you produced or the evidences that you presented its still best to avoid this specific type of wording in your thesis statement.

Not so common errors in thesis construction

Lastly, there are a few issues that can also be addressed with regards to thesis statements which may or may not be commonly done.

Limiting yourself to one format

This is an interesting point to note for experienced as well as inexperienced students and writers. Sometimes people may get 'stuck' into one form of thesis statement writing without being attuned to other formats or approaches in crafting a thesis statement. Meaning that, several thesis statements can achieve their purpose without necessarily resembling each other in form. Though the objective is the same, the points touched on may differ slightly depending on the type of writing being formed.
For example, in a persuasive or argumentative essay you will want to ensure that your statement is debatable and provides the necessary evidences that are presented in your paper. Though for an expository paper for instance, in which your are defining or explaining something, your thesis statement may simply provide the main topics of discussion in the order in which they are presented.

Trying too hard to simplify your argument

This final point can plague many writers attempting to provide a clear and concise thesis statement. In doing this, a sometimes well developed and efficient argument may be 'dumbed down' to fit neatly into one sentence in the beginning of a paper. This is considered blameworthy as well because it skims away some of the very important issues that need to be addressed in the thesis statement. Therefore this blunder can also fall under the mistake of crafting a statement that does not adequately represent the contents of the paper.
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