A thesis statement can be multiple sentences long In fact, your thesis statement can be an entire paragraph if appropriate.
Despite the fact that you may have learned that the thesis statement is a single sentence located at the end of the introduction paragraph, this is not usually the case. No matter how short the piece of writing, it is extremely hard to cram all of your main argument into one measly sentence. Doing so often means being extremely vague.
For (a completely made up) example:
I Love Ice Cream by Joe Dairyman argues that ice cream is the best food on the planet.
A slightly better alternative is:
I Love Ice Cream by Joe Dairyman argues that, due to its cold temperature, smooth texture, and variety of flavors, ice cream is the best food on the planet.
Although this one at least mentions what aspects of ice cream the essay will discuss, it is still way too broad. The reader wonders “What about the temperature, texture, and flavor?”
So, unless you want to make a ginormous sentence, you’ll have to use at least a few sentences to state your entire thesis thoroughly:
I Love Ice Cream by Joe Dairyman argues that ice cream is the best food on the planet. The cold temperature is not only refreshing but actually helps alleviate headaches. Despite the inconvenience of it melting and dripping, the smooth texture enables the person to eat with a minimal degree of effort. And unlike other desserts, the amount of flavors is nearly infinite.
Now the reader not only knows what points will be in the paper but also the argument within each point…but it took four sentences to do this! Make sure your attention-getter is directly related to your topic/thesis It’s obvious you don’t usually want to begin any piece of writing with a boring sentence. Besides the title, this sentence is the first impression the reader has not only of the paper but of you as a writer. When you meet someone for the first time, you don’t usually want to say something that makes you seem like the dullest person around…writing shouldn’t be any different.
High school examples of “good” attention-grabbing sentences probably included a quote, question, or metaphor. But be careful assuming such things will aid your writing…many times these are forced and thus end up being only very, very, very loosely related to your topic.
For (another completely made up) example:
Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Mr. Cid of Bob Smith’s Cowards was afraid of the dark since childhood. But, finally realizing how much his fear inhibits any meaningful action, he conquers his fear and begins actually enjoying nighttime.
Yeah, we get it…fear. But is this quote really that necessary to make your point? In fact, isn’t this quote forcing you to make a weak connection about a generalized idea (fear) rather than really digging deep into why Bob was afraid of the dark and how he overcame this fear?
Another example from an actual student paper:
Why do we grieve someone’s death? This certain individual is recognizable; he or she has been in a portion of your life and thus made some degree of impact upon it. The American Civil War saw the deaths of recognizable faces nearly every day. Those who did not die would havedied if the surgeons were constantly paralyzed with grief. In order to perform their jobs successfully, surgeons must be able to maintain level heads within an atmosphere abounding with suffering and grief. The demands of being a wartime surgeon disable the surgeons from forming human bonds with their patients. War, and consequently death, is the ultimate threat to living human relationships. In Hospital Sketches, by Louisa May Alcott, American Civil War surgeons and nurses are combined in an effort to improve the holistic health of suffering human beings; surgeons sacrifice their emotion as they distance themselves from human suffering in order to heal physical wounds, while nurses preserve their emotion in the face of suffering in order to heal emotional grief.
This example not only has the irrelevant attention-getter (the reasons for grieving the death of another is such a large, complicated issue…how could this be specifically relevant to an analysis of medical professionals in a novel?) but also the ineffective, weak one-liner of a thesis.
Does this mean you should never use a quote or a question as your first sentence? Certainly not. There are plenty of powerful introductions beginning with a question or quotation. The point is to always ask yourself, “Is this really the best way to begin?” Make sure your first sentence is relevant to your thesis. In fact, it might even be part of your thesis statement! You are allowed to use “I” in your writing There’s a good chance at least one of your English teachers told you, “never use ‘I’!” It’s true to some extent that since you are the one writing the essay, the reader does not need to be reminded of this fact through such cues as “I think that…” or “I argue that…” Much of the time, these phrases are completely unnecessary and may actually weaken your argument and the tone of your writing.
So, for the most part, avoid using “I.” However, there are some cases in which “I” is completely called for. Consider this:
You want to include what the author says about X, what a critic says about what the author says about X, what the critic actually thinks about X, what you interpret the author is saying about X, what you think of what the critic says that the author is saying about X, and what you actually think of X.
What!!?? Exactly. If you tried to explain all this without using “I” the reader would be just as confused about who thought what about whom. In such situations, “I, however, believe that…” is an extremely helpful cue to the reader of what your position is among the others.
Here’s an example without and with “I”
In His Book, Manly Man argues that women are by nature inferior to men. Their only place in which to work is the home. Feminist Girly Girl in her essay “Women in the Work Force” remarks that such a claim arises out of the tradition of male dominance in American history. From such a perspective, the legitimacy of women can be clouded. Manly Man’s personal experiences with women contribute to his worldview. Having dated women more than willing to simply cook for him and clean his house, he has decided that this is a perfect role for women.
In His Book, Manly Man argues that women are by nature inferior to men. Their only place in which to work is the home. Feminist Girly Girl in her essay “Women in the Work Force” remarks that such a claim arises out of the tradition of male dominance in American history. From such a perspective, the legitimacy of women can be clouded. I would argue, however, that Manly Man’s personal experiences with women contribute to his worldview. Having dated women more than willing to simply cook for him and clean his house, he has decided that this is a perfect role for women.
Notice how in the first example, it is unclear whether or not Girly Girl’s essay mentions Manly Man’s personal experiences in addition to historical tradition. The reader senses that these are two separate ideas; but without clear indication that the writer is shifting to his or her own opinion of the reasons behind Manly Man’s view, the reader is led to believe that the writer is just continuing Girly Girl’s point.
So, don’t use ‘I’ unless you have to. Much of the time, rephrasing a sentence involving “I” makes the idea crisper and more direct. But, if you find yourself wanting to specifically emphasize the fact that you personally think something—that this is what you, as opposed to the author or critic or teacher, believe—an “I” can indeed serve that purpose.