How to Find a Thesis in an Essay

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A thesis statement lays the groundwork for an essay. It tells the reader what the essay is about and what to expect as he reads through the essay. Locating and understand the thesis statement, however, isn't always easy. Sometimes it requires that you read the entire essay, find the thesis statement and then read the essay again. The second time you read, you can then compare what the thesis statement said the essay was about to your thoughts about the essay's meaning.

  • Read the essay entirely. Take notes along the way about what you think the essay is about. These notes should be about big-picture meaning, not of specific passages.

  • Write a brief paragraph describing the main objective of the essay. Use the notes you took to back up why you think what you've written is the meaning.

  • Search the first two paragraphs for a statement that matches the purpose of the essay. This might appear in the form of direct statement or might be a hypothesis that the author says he will prove. For example, if you said the purpose of the essay was that coffee hydrates the body, the author could say directly that coffee hydrates the body or that he intends to prove that coffee hydrates the body. Both qualify as a thesis statement.

  • Re-read the essay if you felt like the thesis statement provides more clarity to what you have already read. Keeping the thesis statement at the forefront of your mind while reading the essay a second time can help you better understand the author's objectives and findings.

Tips & Warnings

  • A thesis statement can be one or two sentences. Don't limit your search for the thesis by trying to select a single sentence if the author has spread it out over two.
  • A poorly written paper may not possess a concrete thesis. Be aware that if you can't find the thesis statement, the paper may not have one. On the other hand, you may not have understood the essay and may need to read it a second time.

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