Developing a Thesis Statement
A thesis statement explains what you believe to be the significance and impact of your topic. Your opinion of your topic should be guided by your research. National History Day says that a good thesis statement should
- Addresses a narrow topic;
- Explains what the researcher believes to be the historical significance of the topic; and
- Connects your topic to the National History Day theme.
The steps below, borrowed from Wisconsin History Day's A Student Guide to National History Day, provides easy to follow guidance on developing a thesis statement that relates to the National History Day theme.
Step 1: “Immigration to Milwaukee."
This is not a thesis statement yet because it doesn’t address a specific, narrow issue related to immigration to Milwaukee. What will the project examine? Health and sanitation in immigrant neighborhoods? Labor issues? The polka? There are thousands of immigration topics that a historian could research about Milwaukee. This topic needs to be narrowed quite a bit before it can be used to build a thesis.
Step 2: “Lizzie Black Kander and Jewish immigration to Milwaukee from 1880–1920.”
This is a nice and narrow topic, but it’s still not a thesis. This phrase expresses no opinion and makes no argument about the significance of Kander and Jewish immigration.
Step 3: “Lizzie Black Kander used her cooking classes and The Settlement Cookbook to teach Milwaukee’s Jewish immigrants about American culture.”
This sentence is close to a thesis statement, but it isn’t quite there yet. The researcher now shows an opinion about the purpose of Kander’s work, but still doesn’t tell us why the topic is significant. What effects did The Settlement Cookbook and her cooking classes have? How did Kander’s actions change the lives of Jewish immigrants?
Step 4: “Through her cooking classes and The Settlement Cookbook, Lizzie Black Kander introduced Milwaukee’s Jewish immigrants to American culture, helping them assimilate and avoid ethnic discrimination.”
We have a winner! This thesis looks at a narrow topic, expresses an opinion, and evaluates the significance of the topic. A History Day project based on this thesis statement would discuss Kander’s work and show evidence that she helped immigrants assimilate and avoid discrimination.