What Is the Function of the Thesis Statement in a Personal Essay?

Great personal stories always involve some degree of conflict.
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Just like a smooth-running car engine, a thesis statement powers an essay. It provides direction and focus and sets the reader’s expectations for what it is come. Although the thesis remains “under the hood,” unseen, after the first or second paragraph of an essay, its presence remains keenly felt, especially in a personal essay. That’s because the thesis serves one of two functions – and in the process, keeps the essay and the reader moving steadily along and on track.

1 Internal Conflict

Similar to a narrative essay, a personal experience essay tells a story. As such, it must resolve a conflict – a struggle of forces that is either internal or external. In the former case, the function of a thesis statement in a personal essay will cue the reader that the writer has confronted and resolved an issue, question or problem from within. An example: “Having been tagged with the ‘over-achiever’ label since grade school, it wasn’t until I got to college that I learned this trait is actually a beneficial one.”

2 External Conflict

An external conflict involves one between the writer and an event, circumstance or another person. Therefore, the function of a thesis statement in this type of personal essay tells the reader how the writer has reconciled this outside force. An example: “I quietly stomached my boss’s daily insults, put-downs and sarcastic asides for five years until things finally came to a head between us one hectic business day, which resulted in a shakeup of the entire company hierarchy."

3 Promises Made Are Promises Kept

Fundamentally, a thesis statement makes a promise, so it’s vital to deliver on that promise. In a personal essay, the reader will expect to know the pertinent details of the internal or external conflict and how, exactly, you faced and solved it.

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.