Union Institute and University

Writing Center

writing-center@myunion.edu | 800-861-6400 ext. 1156

Symptom Tracker

Problems With Thesis Statements Or Main Ideas

Everything you write should have a main idea

The one sentence in your paper that states the main idea is often called a thesis statement.
Writers have 3 common problems with thesis statements. Does one of these describe your paper?

  1. 1. Your paper doesn’t really have a main point, and so you don’t really have a thesis statement
  2. 2. Your paper has a main idea, and you’ve written a thesis statement, but it is not a very strong or interesting idea
  3. 3. You know what your main idea is, but for some reason it is not clear to the people reading it

This page from the University of Wisconsin Madison online writing center will help you to figure out what’s wrong with your thesis statement and how to fix it.

People often confuse the “thesis” with a statement about the “purpose” of their paper. Your thesis should be a complete sentence and state an idea that a reasonable purpose might disagree with.


Purpose: “To argue in favor of more rigorous licensing for local tattoo artists”
Thesis: “Tattoo artists in our state should be licensed with as much careful regulation as hair stylists.”

For more information, take a look at this page from the University of Wisconsin online Writer’s Handbook.

Are you having trouble coming up with good ideas?

It may be time to revisit the prewriting step of the writing process. This page from the Purdueonline writing center might be helpful.