When composing your thesis statement, which of the following questions should you ask yourself?

Developing a Thesis Statement and Supporting Ideas

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the three questions used to develop a thesis statement.
  • Develop a thesis statement with supporting ideas.

In this lesson, you will learn how to develop a thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader? and the supporting ideasPoints that supply content and develop a thesis within an essay. that explain your purposeThe reason the writer is writing about a topic. It is what the writer wants the reader to know, feel, or do after reading the work. for writing.

Thesis Statements
Every essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. has a thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work., which is an overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis of the work. Most of the time, essays have a stated thesis statementA thesis statement that has been explicitly written in an article, essay, or other reading. that has been explicitly expressed; however, sometimes it is not. When it is not, the essay has what is called an implied thesis statementAn indirect overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis of an essay or dissertation but is never stated directly in the writing., or an indirect overall argument. In either situation, every essay must clearly identify a topicThe subject of a reading. and purpose for writing about it, which are the two essential components of a thesis statement.

You can develop a thesis statement by answering three questions:

  1. What is my topic?
  2. What am I trying to say about that topic?
  3. Why is this important to me or my reader?

The thesis statement is placed within the introductionThe first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis. of the essay. It is usually found at the end of the first paragraphA selection of a writing that is made up of sentences formed around one main point. Paragraphs are set apart by a new line and sometimes indentation., but if the essay is particularly long, the thesis may also appear in the second or third paragraph.  If the "essay" is only one paragraph long, the thesis statement is usually in the first or second sentence.

Supporting Ideas
Once you have written a thesis statement, you can then identify what information you must include to explain it to your audience. To do this, you need to identify supporting ideas by asking yourself the questions, "How?" or "What?" in response to the thesis statement you have written.

For example, consider an essay that has a short introduction such as:

Summer camps have long been a staple of American children's youth adventures. Parents who have never sent their children to summer camp before can rest easy knowing resources are available to help guide them in their search for the perfect summer camp experience for their children.

You can see that the thesis is the second sentence. You can then begin identifying supporting ideas by asking, "How can parents find resources?" or "What resources are available to parents?" Finding the answer to either of these questions will help you choose supporting ideas to write about.

For instance, some resources that are available to parents seeking out a good summer camp are family friends, school teachers, religious leaders, social media like Facebook or Twitter, and camp websites. Those examples would become the supporting details for the bodyThe main portion of a writing that contains the main ideas and supporting details of the writing. This is where the author's purpose and thesis statement are supported and/or developed. of the essay.


Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose, and the supporting ideas supply the content that develops the thesis. When writing a business proposal, you will need to clarify what you are proposing and why (thesis statement) and then outline reasons why the audience should support this (supporting ideas). The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers billions of dollars in loans to new businesses every year. A person who writes a proposal using a clear thesis with strong supporting ideas has a good chance of having the proposal accepted and getting the money needed to start a new business.


Look at the example of how to use the three questions to develop a thesis statement about the general topic of traveling.1. What is my topic?My topic is vacations.2. What am I trying to say about that topic?I am writing about what makes a good vacation spot.3. Why is this important to me or my reader?

Vacations are expensive and people need to choose how to spend their money wisely.

As you can see, the writer began by answering a very general question, but as she continued, she was able to narrow her topic and arrive at a clear purpose for writing. As a result of answering these questions, the writer has a tentative thesis statementAn early form of a thesis statement that can be developed into a more formal thesis statement by creating supporting details., which can be developed into a more formal thesis statement with supporting details.

Thesis statement:

"Today's vacations can be expensive, so a family needs to plan ahead to find the right vacation place with the right price for them."

The writer can now develop her essay's organization by planning the supporting details. To do this, she will take her tentative thesis statement and answer the question, "How can families plan ahead?" Her answers will provide supporting details that she will develop into paragraphs within her essay.

Families can plan ahead by doing the following:

Supporting details:

  • Creating a vacation budget
  • Selecting the best times to travel
  • Making a list of places to visit
  • Identifying ways to save money

Here, the writer has chosen four ideas that can be developed into paragraphs supporting her thesis. She can also use this as part of an outlineA preliminary plan for a piece of a writing, often in the form of a list. It should include a topic, audience, purpose, thesis statement, and main and supporting points. for the essay.


Using the general topic of "Best or Worst Restaurants," choose a specific restaurant and work through the three questions for writing a thesis statement and supporting ideas.

1. What is my topic?

Best restaurant: Bitsy's Slice of Home Diner

2. What am I trying to say about that topic?

I am writing about why Bitsy's Slice of Home Diner is the best made-from-scratch restaurant in the Midwest.

3. Why is this important to me or my reader?

Many people who travel don't want to eat at chain restaurants.

Using your answers to the three questions, write a thesis statement.

Many people who travel don't want to eat at chain restaurants. They should know about Bitsy's, including where it is, and what it is like, so they have an alternative to the "same old thing."

Now, ask yourself a "How" or "What" question about your thesis statement to develop supporting ideas.

What will draw people to Bitsy's?

Finish by writing some supporting details that answer your question.

  • Made-from-scratch meals
  • Friendly service
  • Relaxed, "no-rush" atmosphere


What is the most important element you will take away from this lesson about writing a thesis statement?

I always thought writing a thesis statement was some mysterious process that only really good writers could do well. Now I have learned that thesis statements aren't really that difficult once you think about them in terms of answering three questions. Learning that made the task much simpler than I thought it would be.

Explain how asking questions about the thesis statement using "how" or "what" is an important part of identifying supporting ideas.

When I ask myself "how" or "what" about a thesis, I realize that I need to dig deeper into what I am really writing about. This helps me think through my topic more and decide if it is really a good topic to write about.