Make an Easy Working Thesis Statement

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One of the places I see students struggle with the most in writing their college essays is crafting a working thesis statement. A thesis statement, in general, can be a struggle for many students. Even I can struggle with a thesis statement, and I get paid to teach how to write. It can be challenging to develop a thesis that works for a paper.

Writing can be even worse if the thesis statement is the thing that is stopping you from moving forward in your draft. You aren’t sure how to move on because your thesis statement won’t come together. Here is the thing… you don’t need to write your actual thesis until much later. Instead, you should develop a working thesis statement. A working thesis statement is a simple, temporary statement to help jumpstart your essay writing.

TLDR; use a working thesis statement to lay out points to kick-start your essay and then replace it with a more polished thesis statement later in the draft when you have a firmer grasp of your paper.

What is a working thesis statement?

Your working thesis statement is a temporary sentence or two that serves to organize your writing and is meant to be replaced later on. Most students get hung up by linearly writing their papers, as in writing their introduction and then working on the body paragraphs through the conclusion. Writing linearly is an inefficient way to write essays for college classes.

Think about it like this: how will you introduce a paper where you don’t even know what to write about?

Thesis statements are often considered a roadmap to the entire paper. A good thesis statement should convey the central argument and give an idea to the reader about how that argument will be supported. Think about “your argument is such because of the following points.”

But again, that question arises, what are the points?

When drafting your paper in the early stages, you should have a rough idea of your points. You may not have them locked in, but you at least have a direction. A working thesis statement is simply the argument and these rough points used to kick off the writing ahead.

Photo of someone typing at a laptop of Glenn Carstens-Peters, from Unsplash - a working thesis statement kicks off the writing process
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

How do I create a working thesis statement?

A working thesis statement is created by simply writing down your claim and a few points that support it as quickly as possible. Don’t overthink it!

The more mechanical you can be about this, the better. It’s like a math equation, plug in the variables and move on to solve the more significant problem. You want to use the Thesis Machine to create a working thesis statement. It is a simple formula that allows you to create a functional thesis statement that can kick off your writing.

[Claim] because [A], [B], [C].

The Thesis Machine

One way to think about this is that your thesis is your claim, and the three ways you will provide evidence of your claim are much like a checklist. By the end of your rough draft, you should be able to tick each of those points. And if you go in a different direction as you write, you can always revise that working thesis to support the paper better as it develops.

notebook with a "today" list from Suzy Hazelwood from Plexels - used in an article about working thesis statements, featuring listing
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

Any examples of the Thesis Machine?

So, how do we apply this format to a working thesis statement? Here is an example.

“Notorious criminals Bugsy Siegel, ‘Al’ Capone, and ‘Lucky’ Luciano became cultural institutions because they represented rebellion, cultivated their images, and were turned into celebrities in popular culture.”

This is a claim that is taking a stance and could be argued because the sentence states that these gangsters have become “cultural institutions.” Thus, the essay will need to present evidence to support this idea. But how do we get there?

“ […] because they represented rebellion [A], cultivated their images [B], and were turned into celebrities in popular culture [C].”

Our roadmap illustrates how we will argue that these criminals became cultural institutions. These are the reasons why we think this is the case. We have our [Claim] arguing that these criminals became cultural institutions and our evidence across statements marked by [A], [B]. and [C].

How will we show this in our paper?

  1. Explain how they represent rebellion.
  2. Explore how they cultivated their images.
  3. Examine how popular culture turned them into celebrities.

With this working thesis statement in place, I now have a checklist for writing, and I can get to the most critical part of creating the essay for my college class: the actual body paragraphs.

As for arriving at topics, that is the subject of an entirely separate discussion. You may want to consider investing in a book that covers topic generation.

Is that all?

In truth, your thesis will probably change anyway while you work on the rest of your paper, so don’t stress out too much over it until you are close to the finish line. Remember that this is likely a tentative (working) thesis, meaning a thesis that you know will change later on. Have something to work from and worry about making it sound nice once you know exactly what you want to say.

A working thesis statement is not the final step but rather what kicks off your composition. Do they work as thesis statements for full papers? Indeed, but not all the time, and you should always strive for something more interesting.

Think of the working thesis statement as a scaffold for your essay. It is there to support you while constructing a more substantial piece. Once the essay is built, the scaffolding can be removed.

Cite This Page

Here are citations for this webpage based on the most common undergrad essay formats.

MLA: X, Writer. “Make an Easy Working Thesis Statement – Essay Writing 101.” Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101, 29 Jan. 2023,

APA: X, Writer. (2023, January 29). Make an Easy Working Thesis Statement – Essay Writing 101. Essay Writing 101.

Chicago: Writer X, “Make an Easy Working Thesis Statement – Essay Writing 101,” Essay Writing 101, January 29, 2023,

Want to learn more? Visit Essay Writing 101 to uncover essential tips and resources to improve your college essays! You can always contact Writer X for help as well!

Writer X is an educator in Southern California who wants to share writing strategies for college writers.