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Skidmore College
The Skidmore Guide to Writing

Thesis Statement, Argument, Main Idea, Focus

All essays should have a main idea: a sentence or two that tells your reader what the essay is about. This sentence usually appears in your first paragraph or introduction. If you have trouble formulating a main idea, you may not understand the question you are being asked to write about, you may not have done enough reading or research, or you simply may not have done enough thinking.

We'll use the term "main idea' interchangeably with "argument," "focus," or "thesis statement."

A strong thesis statement

  • reflects your own critical thinking about the topic
  • conveys your own argument or point of view
  • is not self-evident or obvious (if you can add the word "obviously" to your thesis statement, you should think of ways to strengthen your idea)
  • can be supported by evidence from readings, course material, observations, data
  • allows for development of ideas, not just repetition of one idea.

Thesis Statement, Argument, Main Idea, Focus are some of the useful terms you should know. To read about others click here.