An academic thesis statement is a sentence or two, usually at the end of your essay's introduction, that makes a claim regarding the subject you are discussing. A strong thesis, regardless of the topic, lets the reader know what to expect, and serves as a roadmap for your essay. It serves a few other functions as well, all of which can be tested by asking yourself a few simple questions.
Does It Answer the Prompt?
All academic essays begin with a prompt, either one assigned by a teacher or chosen by you. A prompt usually involves a question or problem within a certain field, and as the essayist you are charged with answering that question or problem with your thesis statement. For example, if you are assigned to argue a position regarding the No Child Left Behind Act, you need to make sure you take an explicit stance regarding the act, which you clearly state with your thesis. If it does, you are on your way to a successful essay. If not, re-think your position until you arrive at an idea that deals with the prompt appropriately.
Is Your Claim Supportable?
A strong thesis statement is not simply an opinion regarding your topic; it needs to be supported by evidence so that you can offer it as a statement of fact. While brainstorming your thesis, make a list of all available evidence and determine whether it is enough for a fully developed essay. For example, if you're writing about how you think the No Child Left Behind Act can be adjusted to work better, make sure you have studies and examples you can reference in order to build a thorough and credible argument.
Is Your Thesis Specific?
You might have a thesis statement that answers the question and is sufficiently supported, but what if the scope of your statement is just too big? Consider the No Child Left Behind Act. You might have a solution for its failure, but what if you need 10 pages to explain it and the assignment only allows for five pages? Make sure your thesis is specific enough for the assignment. For example, a specific thesis might be that NCLB should be abandoned because all grade assessments are inherently flawed. Conversely, you might propose a new evaluation system that is promising, but is too broad and complex for the assignment, and would therefore be a weaker thesis. A side effect of specificity is that you don't overload the reader with information, so that he or she can easily follow your essay and position.
Is Your Thesis Disputable?
This might come as a surprise, but you want your thesis to be disputable, and not simply accepted as fact. An educational thesis needs to be fresh, and designed to invite others who care about the subject to engage in conversation about your topic, inspired by your argument. A helpful way to approach your thesis statement is to look at the essay as a gateway to discussion on your subject, not the final word on it.