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How to Prove a Thesis Statement: Analyzing an Argument

Phew! You've finally finished reading that giant book for your English class and deciding on an argument for your essay. Or maybe you just finished reading a series of lab reports for your biology class and figured out what you want to argue in your own paper. Either way, you have an argument, also known as a thesis statement, and now it's time to get into the analysis, also known as the proof and evidence.

You might be a little lost about what to do next. After all, all the reading and research is only half the battle in formulating and proving your argument. That's okay, we're going to simplify the process for you. First, let's define a thesis statement. After all, you can't begin to prove one if you haven't properly written one.

Thesis statement

road map with red pins
Your thesis statement acts like a road map for the rest of your essay. Photo by Tryfonov.

Before we dive in to how you should go about proving your thesis statement, let's discuss some of the requirements for writing a thesis statement. Most generally, your thesis statement is your argument. Here are some requirements for your thesis statement:

  • Must be argumentative: Hence, the argument part. Your thesis statement shouldn't be a fact. Sure, these are easy to provide evidence for because they're, well, facts, but that doesn't make for a very interesting paper. Nobody is going to argue with a fact, so people aren't going to be enticed by your factual paper. Instead, you want to narrow your focus and choose something that can be argued. So, let's hone those analytical and critical thinking skills and make a solid argument.
  • Choose something unexplored: Some of the best thesis statements are the unexpected ones. What we mean by this is that some books and topics will cover popular thesis topics, meaning multiple people have probably already explored that argument. If you want to stand out from the crowd and introduce a new piece of research into the conversation, then you should find something that has limited research or maybe even no research. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire others in your field to explore your topic!
  • Start small: This is in line with choosing something unexplored, but he best way to go about doing that is to start small and really narrow down your focus. If you're writing an essay on a five-hundred-page book, you might be completely lost in the pages, literally. If you choose something small to write your argument about, then you are most likely cutting those five hundred pages down to 10 or 15. Trust us, we've done it before, and it feels like a huge weight off our shoulders. But wait, doesn't that mean less material to work with? Isn't that bad? No! Despite what you may think, it's actually great to have less material to work with. This helps narrow your evidence, so you can closely analyze the material. Close reading becomes much easier and thus, your essay just got one step closer to expert material.
  • Must discuss what you are going to explore: This might be obvious, but your thesis statement should give your readers insight into what your paper is about. It should grab your readers' attention and make them interested and invested in reading your paper. This is why we suggested choosing something small and unexplored. Readers will be curious about a topic they have little knowledge about, and you're their resident expert.
  • Must be found at the end of the introduction: Your paper is going to be led by your thesis statement, so it's important to place it at the end of your introduction. You can think of it like a road map for the rest of your paper. If you don't have the map from the start, then you're going to get extremely lost on the rest of the journey. Trust us, we would know.

This may seem like quite a lot of requirements for a simple statement, but that's because a thesis is not just a statement. It's an argument. Now that we know what goes into a thesis statement, let's try writing one ourselves.

For example, let's say you're writing an essay technology use in classrooms. You might start off with this statement:

Many kids are bringing technology into the classroom, as students receive phones at younger ages than previously.

Is this a thesis statement? Not really. It is a fact that more and more kids are getting phones and other devices at younger and younger ages, and those devices are being brought into the classroom, with or without school approval. How can we make this into a thesis statement? You could take a stance on the topic.

For example, you might write:

Students should be allowed to bring technological devices into classrooms because it enriches the learning experience by providing them with an abundance of resources and it teaches them to use the tools at their disposal.

Now, this is a thesis statement. It's definitely argumentative, because not everyone will agree with your stance. That's fine, so long as you can prove your thesis statement. How do you do that? Without further ado, let's get into it!

Simple steps to prove your thesis

female student listening to music while reading a book
Keeping track of patterns while you're reading will save you time when gathering evidence to prove your thesis statement. Photo by GalakticDreamer.

Now that we've finally established how to make sure you've written a proper thesis, it's time to prove your argument. This can be a bit of a daunting task. You don't want your thesis to be amazing just for your proof to fall flat. Fear not! We have compiled a list of steps to check off as you write the rest of your paper. By the end of this list, you'll have everything you need to know to decide if you've really proven your point.

  • Keep track of patterns: One of the best pieces of advice we ever received from a professor was to keep track of patterns while you read. Wait a minute, how can I keep track of patterns if I already finished reading the book or source material? Well, you don't! This step actually requires you to think ahead, but don't worry, this will pay off majorly in the long run. For example, remember how we mentioned that five-hundred-page book you may be reading for class and how easy it may be for you to get lost in those pages? Here is a sure way to minimize any confusion! As you read, keep note of certain patterns you find interesting and thesis-worthy. This may be the repetition of a particular punctuation mark, or a character's behavior. Whatever the pattern may be, keeping track of it throughout the reading process will save you tons of time narrowing down your topic and evidence later on in the pre-writing phase.
  • Gather evidence: This is why keeping track of patterns while you read is such a good idea: you'll have already gathered your evidence. If you didn't do that, however, there's no need to worry; you can still gather your evidence. What should your evidence look like? Your evidence will largely depend on what you're arguing and your field of study. For example, an English essay will most likely be peppered with direct quotations from the book you read, whether that be character dialogue, character interactions, or passages you found interesting and relevant. Meanwhile, if you're in a STEM field, your thesis statement may require more quantitative research. For some papers, you may wish to gather statistics and visuals such as charts and graphs to include as evidence. Regardless of what you're arguing, you must ensure that your evidence is relevant to proving your thesis. Do not throw in examples or images for the sake of word count—everything you include must matter.
  • Analyze, analyze, analyze: We cannot stress this enough. Analysis is the key to proving your thesis statement. Your evidence will have very little meaning or sway if you don't explain its significance. If you provide evidence, you need to analyze it and, in your analysis, emphasize its relevance to proving your thesis. Why does this piece of evidence matter? That's what you need to ask yourself as you write. Do not merely provide a summary of the evidence or toss it in your essay without explanation. Instead, analyze every detail. Nothing is too big or small.
  • Bring in an outside source: This is how to take your academic writing to the next level. There are most likely tons of experts in your field, and you're going to run into a lot of external research when you conduct your own. One of the best ways to prove your own thesis is to incorporate research from another academic into your own work. Maybe their research agrees with your own, or maybe it doesn't. Either way, you can use this to your advantage in your own writing. In fact, using research from a source that doesn't agree with your argument will actually make your writing more persuasive. You can use it as a way to acknowledge another argument, proving you've done your research, but then explain why your argument is stronger.
  • Stay focused: One of the hardest parts about proving a thesis is remaining on topic. Wait, really? Yes, really! Your thesis should be located at the end of the introduction of your paper, which may be pages and pages above where you're currently writing body paragraph four, which means you may not be able to see your thesis. You may be thinking, just because I can't see my thesis doesn't mean I don't remember it. While this is true, sometimes it's easy to get lost in your own words. For example, maybe you found a piece of evidence you're really passionate about, so you devote a large chunk of time to close-reading and analyzing it, so much so that you've got yourself a whopping one-page body paragraph. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing, this does increase the likelihood of confusion and rambling. So, remind yourself of what it is you're arguing and then ask yourself, does all of this prove my point, or did I go overboard?
  • Stay organized: This is another point you may find to be a bit obvious, but it's actually really easy to get disorganized in the essay writing process. If you're disorganized, there's going to be a higher likelihood of you losing focus. We just finished stressing the importance of remaining focused, so don't let your scatterbrain tendencies get in the way of you writing an awesome argument. One way for you to remain organized it to use transitional statements. Each paragraph you write should feel cohesive and connected. Your reader shouldn't be left wondering why you talked about one thing in the second paragraph and then brought up something entirely different in the third. Since your evidence is all geared towards proving your thesis, these ideas should be relevant to each other. Using transitional statements at the beginning and end of each body paragraph is a great way to draw a clear connection between your ideas.
  • Write your thesis last: Are we crazy? Possibly, but hear us out on this one. If you're like some of us, you actually find writing your entire essay then writing your thesis statement is a little easier. Have you ever sat in front of a blank document or notebook, scratching your head while you try to think of a potential thesis statement? We certainly have, and guess what? We wasted literal hours doing this! One technique that could help you is working backwards. You might not yet have an argument, but you have a specific topic you want to focus on, and you know which passages you want to include in your essay. So, start by close-reading and analyzing those passages. Once you've done this, think about what all your analysis has in common, and boom! You have the roots of your argument. Now you can work backwards and formulate that thesis to fit your evidence, not the other way around. If you aren't convinced, go back to our introduction. (In case you were wondering, we wrote that part last.)

Proving your point

If you managed to check off everything on both of our lists, then congratulations! You've not only written a killer thesis statement, but you've also thoroughly proven it! You're several steps closer to increasingly improving your academic writing and becoming an expert in your field. Now that you've written your thesis statement and body paragraphs, it's time for your conclusion, but we'll leave that for another time.

Header photo by Evgenia.

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