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Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202
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Developing Your Thesis

Here you will learn what a thesis statement is and what it is not. Use our tips and trick below to help you develop a solid thesis statement for your NHDI project!

What is a thesis statement?

Your project will consist of an argument that reflects your main idea – the message you want to get across to your audience that links the topic to the theme. The sentence(s) that capture(s) this argument in called your thesis.

Think of your thesis as an equation:

Thesis = Topic + Theme + Impact

A good thesis is short and sweet – no more than one or two sentences. You will explain and support your argument throughout the rest of your project.

A good thesis statement:

  • Addresses a narrow topic.
  • Is an informed opinion.
  • Explains what you believe to be the historical significance of your topic.
  • Connects the topic the the NHD theme.

A thesis statement is:

  • Not a question.
  • Not a list.
  • Not vague.

A thesis statement is not the same thing as a research question. Your research questions guide your research. Your thesis statement makes an argument about your topic using your research.

Writing a Good Thesis Statement

Writing a good thesis statement is a process. It will take time. This is the most important and sometimes most stressful part. Here are some key things to remember:

  • It will continue to evolve as you research. You may even go back to change it…and that’s OK.
  • It’s only set in stone once you have completed your project for the contest, and even then you will have an opportunity to improve it if you advance on to another contest.
  • Make sure you’re getting feedback on your thesis from parents, teachers, friends or an NHDI team member.

Let’s look at an example below:
We’ll use a previous NHD theme to give an example of how you might develop your thesis.

Theme: Conflict and Compromise
Interest Area:
Prisoners of war in World War I
Your narrowed subject:
Camp Atterbury POWs in WWII

Working thesis statement:
During WWII, approximately 3,000 Italian POWs were held at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. They compromised with U.S. soldiers to build a chapel, making life there better for themselves.

  • Take a look at the underlined section. Since it is stating a fact and introducing your topic, this information should be part of the your introduction.
  • Remember, your thesis is an argument about your main idea.

Final thesis statement:
The respectful treatment of Italian POWs at Camp Atterbury, along with the chaplain’s permission to buy their own chapel, created a long -lasting, positive relationship between the camp and the Italian soldiers once imprisoned there.

  • Notice how the underlined section was added – this is the basis of your argument.
  • You’re showing the impact of your topic and why it is important.
Worksheets to help you along the way!
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