Depending on the rhetorical mode of writing you are working on, you can tailor specific aims—the gist of your overall message—into your thesis statement. Whether you are writing an expository essay, such as description, narration, definition, comparison and contrast, or a persuasive essay, such as argument, you can “shade” your thesis statement in such a way that it reflects the “color” of your thesis.

Specific Aims in Narration and Description

Narration and Description

The specific aims in the theses of narrative and descriptive writings are somewhat similar; they both focus on expository aspects of the given topic. A narrative essay tells a story with a sense of discovery at the end; its thesis could be, “My marriage was the most important event in my life, for it helped me settle down, enjoy raising children and broadened my perspectives in life.” The thesis statement of a descriptive essay, on the other hand, focuses more on the depiction of the topic: “Beekeeping is my favorite hobby: it is relaxing, protects the environment and provides delicious, local honey.” In essence, they both attempt to explain and clarify each topic, and the thesis statements in both reflect that—ultimately working to convince others as in argumentative writing.

Specific Aims in Process Analysis and Definition

Process Analysis and Definition

The specific aims in both process analysis and definition can be explanatory in the sense that they explain how something is done or how to do something. The thesis in a process analysis focuses on instruction or illustration rather than simply describing something or telling a story about it. Its thesis is direct, focused and narrow: it tells you how to buy a house, save the environment, join the navy or change oil in your car, step by step, following a well-established sequence of events—how to perform a given task. It does not argue or discuss: it tells you what, when and how to do something. Similarly in definition, you illuminate the meaning of the term under discussion through definition by synonym, by class, by negation and by operation. The specific aim of your thesis in definition is to clarify the meaning of the term being defined: “A nerd is not a jock,” for example, is a good example of defining the term “nerd” through negation: “not” a jock.

Specific Aims in Comparison and Contrast

Comparison and Contrast

The specific aim of comparison and contrast writing is not to give you a direction as to how to do something or how something is done; rather, the thesis presents two items under set criteria to be compared. If you are comparing tornadoes with hurricanes, establish set criteria to compare the two, such as wind velocity, precipitation and scale of damage. Your thesis statement will reflect your specific aim of comparing and contrasting the two: “I will examine which natural event is worse in terms of wind velocity, precipitation and scale of damage,” for instance. The specific aim in comparison and contrast writing is to simply examine two items, impartially, side by side, under set criteria in an attempt to accentuate and highlight their similarities and differences.

Specific Aims in Argument


In argumentative or persuasive writing, the specific aim of the thesis is to make a claim to influence others so that they would change either their views or actions according to what the thesis advocates. Unlike comparison and contrast writing, argumentative writing should not be neutral in stance; rather, it should take a side, pro or con, since its specific aim is to convince and persuade others with its claim. It does not simply describe something, as in description, nor does it simply tell a story, as in narration. Rather, it advocates a particular claim, such as “Smoking causes lung cancer,” “Global warming is real,” “Neonicotinoids kill bees” or “America will bankrupt Social Security in 10 years.”