64 Writing a Thesis Statement

Readers always want to know “What is the big idea?” Every type of non-fiction writing – from a short essay to a 10-page term paper to a lengthy thesis or dissertation– needs a controlling idea as a “spine” that holds the paper together (see Figure 6.6). Look at Table 6.3: Topics and Thesis Statements for a comparison of topics and thesis statements.

Table 6.3: Topics and thesis statements: A comparison

Topic Thesis Statement

Healthcare funding

To plan and fund healthcare, local health networks are better at improving the patient experience and access to care than a large central body.

Acute respiratory distress syndrome

Positioning clients with acute respiratory distress syndrome in the prone position increases ventilation and decreases mortality rates.


Skeleton with spine labelled healthcare funding and the limbs are words from the thesis statement

Figure 6.6: Thesis skeleton


Begin by writing a working thesis statement. You will need this working thesis statement when you begin to outline and organize your assignment. As you continue to develop your paper, you can limit the working thesis statement if it is too broad or expand it if it proves too narrow for what you want to say. Each draft of the thesis statement will bring you closer to the exact wording that expresses your controlling idea.


Student Tip

The Controlling Idea

The controlling idea should be broader for a longer piece of writing than for a shorter piece of writing. Make sure the controlling idea is appropriate for the length of the assignment. How many pages it will take to explain and explore the controlling or main idea in detail? Be reasonable with your estimate. Then expand or trim the controlling or main idea to match the required length.



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Writing for Success 1st Canadian Edition by Tara Horkoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. Download for free at: https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/


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The Scholarship of Writing in Nursing Education: 1st Canadian Edition Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Lapum; Oona St-Amant; Michelle Hughes; Andy Tan; Arina Bogdan; Frances Dimaranan; Rachel Frantzke; and Nada Savicevic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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