How To Compose An MLA Research Paper Thesis Statement


There are many different formats for papers, including MLA, APA, Chicago, and Harvard, and all of them require that you form a thesis statement for your paper. This can be intimidating, but really all it means is that you should be able to sum up the point of your paper in a few sentences.

Follow these easy guidelines to learn how to compose a great thesis statement for your research paper:

  • Don’t finalize your thesis statement until you have done enough research
  • The first impulse of many students is to try to write their thesis statement before they have done all their research because they think that they need to have it right away. Avoid this urge and allow your it to form on its own as you do research. For instance, you may start out knowing that you want to write about South Africa, but allow yourself to remain open to different topics as you read. You may decide you want to write about the countries history, or its politics, or its economy. Or you may find something interesting about it that you never knew before that you want to focus on.


  • Find and interesting aspect of your topic to focus on
  • As you learn about your topic, keep in mind that your thesis statement should make some definitive statement about your topic. For instance, it isn’t just enough for it to be “South Africa is a large country is southern Africa”, that isn’t telling your reader anything about it that they didn’t already know, and it isn’t giving you anything to bring your research together with and tie in different ideas and information. Instead, try to come up with a thesis statement that is more like “South Africa has a long history of racial oppression that both predates and remains after apartheid”. This thesis statement narrows down your topic racial oppression, and makes a clear statement about it—that it existed before apartheid and that it continues to exist—that you can spend the rest of your paper defending.


  • Word your thesis statement carefully and concisely
  • You should be able to fit your thesis statement into one sentence, which means that you will have to word it carefully and concisely. Your reader should be able to have a clear idea of what your paper is about from reading it, but at the same time you should keep in mind that it will be in your introduction, so don’t worry about including background information in it.