When is a thesis considered weak?

A well-developed thesis statement should clearly and concisely communicate the main point, purpose, or argument of a paper. A weak thesis may be unfocused, incomplete, or inaccurate in some way. Building a focused, accurate thesis can be a challenge, but revising a weak thesis to make it complete and insightful will strengthen the paper’s foundation.

How can a weak thesis be revised to make it stronger and more insightful?

  • Avoid asking a question: Clearly state a purpose or position rather than posing a question.
    • Weak: Should schools require students to take Physical Education courses or play a school sport?
    • Revised: A productive form of physical activity should be offered by schools to encourage healthy exercise habits and contribute to lowering the childhood obesity rate.
  • Avoid making a statement of fact or accepted knowledge: Establish a thesis that is arguable, and state the how or why of the position clearly.
    • Weak: Taking affirmative action is a way to confront discrimination.
    • Revised: Taking affirmative action is still necessary today to confront discrimination and ensure fair representation of gender and ethnicity within universities and work places.
  • Avoid simply stating an opinion: A thesis should state a position that is supported by reliable evidence.
    • Weak: Marijuana should not be legalized because smoking it is morally wrong.
    • Revised: Marijuana should not be legalized because research has shown that its use negatively affects brain cells, compromises the user’s judgment, and can become addictive.

  • Avoid vague statements: Replace vague terms with relevant details that address the who, what, where, when, why, and/or how of the thesis.
    • Weak: Teenagers have things easier than in the past due to several advancements in society.
    • Revised: Today’s teenagers can access information quickly and easily due to technological advancements such as the wide availability of computers, high-speed Internet connections, and electronically searchable databases.
  • Avoid including conflicting ideas and unnecessary information:Focus consistently on one main idea and include only relevant details that support your idea.
    • Weak: Providing iPads for each student is probably an unrealistic goal because damaging cuts are being made to educational spending, but this new technology should be provided as it is a useful tool for teaching students several skills.
    • Revised: Public schools should provide an iPad for each student because the device can be used as a helpful teaching tool in a variety of subject areas.

How should a thesis be developed?

The topic

  • e. g., unwanted teen pregnancy

The main point, purpose, or argument

  • e. g., incidence can be reduced

The how or why of the purpose or argument

  • e. g., by providing support for abstinence programs, increasing funding for sex education, and making contraceptives more accessible to teens

Example of a well-developed thesis:

The incidence of unwanted teen pregnancies can be reduced by providing support for abstinence programs, increasing funding for sex education, and making contraceptives more accessible to teens.

For more information about thesis development, see also:

What is a thesis?

A thesis consists of one or two sentences that clearly and concisely summarize the main point, purpose, and/or argument of an academic document. The thesis serves as the foundation—or heartbeat—of a paper; without a thesis, a paper is incomplete and lifeless. Ideally, a well-crafted thesis increases the likelihood that the target audience will engage with the writer’s discussion.