How to Write a Strong Thesis Without Laundry Listing

Use a variety of strategies to write an effective thesis sentence.
... Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images

A good thesis statement can make the difference between a poor, average, or excellent grade. Avoid a "laundry list," which is a term instructors use to describe a simple list of poorly related elements included in the body of the paper. Include well-connected ideas to create a sophisticated, thoughtful thesis. Use the thesis to build a strong paper that will achieve a better grade instead of a weak list of academic terms or unrelated concepts.

1 What is a "Laundry List" Thesis Sentence?

Textbook authors David Rossenwasser and Jill Stephen identified two types of weak thesis statements in student papers. The first was called "Procrustean Bed," in which students cut out necessary concepts to fit a narrow thesis, resulting in short, unsophisticated papers. The second problem thesis, the "Laundry List," is a list of unrelated or poorly related ideas or information. Expanding the "Laundry List" in the body of the paper produces incoherent writing that makes little sense.

2 Consider the Paper Assignment

Develop your thesis statement to fit the type of paper you have been assigned to write. Identify at least three to four connected components of an assigned topic, and include them in the thesis for an analytical paper. Determine three or four key elements of an explanation to answer the prompt for an expository paper. Include at least three or four in-depth grounds or reasons in support of your opinion or claim for an argumentative paper.

3 Use a Preliminary Thesis Sentence

Writing instructor Karen Gocsik advises students to sketch out their ideas about a paper and rethink them before finding an "umbrella idea" that will include all of the major concepts the paper will cover. Write a preliminary thesis statement as you start writing the paper. Review your writing and revise the preliminary thesis statement to fit the big umbrella of all of your ideas after you complete a rough draft or detailed outline.

4 Examine Your Assumptions

Opinions that are not carefully considered are called assumptions. Eliminate assumptions and develop more sophisticated ideas by combining new information with your own opinions. Note the specific words used by authors in material you have been asked to study and write about. Analyze the specific words and concepts first; then add your own opinion. You will automatically synthesize the new information with what you previously thought and write a more complex, sophisticated thesis sentence and paper.

Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.