Module 3: Thesis Statement And Outline

For this assignment, you will be drafting your thesis statement and creating a plan for writing your paper through the creation of a full sentence outline.

  • Review the How to Write a Thesis Statement for History in the eText (see attachment)
  • Based on the topic you chose and your instructor approved earlier, draft a one to two sentence argumentative thesis statement.
  • Write a full sentence outline in outline format with at least three main arguments or support (see the arguments you included in your thesis statement).
    • Each argument should have at least one to two subtopics.
  • Make sure you review the example Thesis Statement and Outline to review the layout.
  • Once you are satisfied that you have included all the required elements, submit your completed Thesis Statement and Outline to the Assignment folder by the due date on the Course Schedule in .docx or .rtf format (no PDFs).

How to Write A Thesis Statement for History

A thesis statement is one to two sentences that clearly and decisively state your research papers main argument or main idea and explains why. If you believe that your thesis statement needs to three sentences or more, then you probably have not clearly defined the main point of your paper.

A thesis statement is a declarative sentence, not a question. Often it helps to begin with a research question. What do you want to answer with your research? The answer to your research question is your thesis.

The thesis statement should be the last sentence of your introductory paragraph. Your introductory paragraph is designed to bring the reader into your essay and grab his or her interest. The thesis statement will then act as a key to a map. It will tell your reader what you will be arguing and how you are going to get there. This tells your audience from the very beginning how you have interpreted the history you are discussing.

Don’t be afraid to change your thesis statement. The thesis statement you create for this assignment, like your bibliography, is a working one. Your ideas, interpretation or focus may change as you write your essay. Your thesis statement doesn’t need to be static. It’s fine to go back and change your thesis statement to match your final draft.

Mary Lynn Rampolla, in her A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, tells us “A history paper, like many other kinds of academic writing, usually takes the form of an argument in support of a thesis – a statement that reflects the conclusion you have reached about your topic after a careful analysis of the sources.” 1  As you develop your thesis, keep these points in mind:

· A thesis is not a description of your topic.

· A thesis is not a question.

· A thesis is not a statement of fact.

· A thesis is not a statement of opinion. It is your interpretation based on evidence from your sources.

So what is a thesis statement? “a thesis is a statement that reflects what you have concluded about the topic of your paper, based on a critical analysis and interpretation of the source materials you have examined.” 2

· The thesis is not a question, but it does answer your research question. .

· A thesis is specific. It tries to tell the reader what happened in a particular event in history, and why. It is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper. If you need 12 pages to prove your thesis, then your thesis is not focused enough. .

· The thesis is argumentative or debatable. It takes a stand – THIS happened in THIS way for THIS reason. Someone must be able to disagree with your statement. If you do not take a stand, if you are stating a truth that is so obvious you don’t have a stand, then you probably have a statement of fact, and not a thesis. For example, no one can argue that Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, so this is not a thesis statement. .

· A thesis statement for history answers a historical question. WHY did this happen this way? What were the causes, effects, influences on – the answer to each question is the beginning of your thesis. .

· A thesis statement for history should be closed. The thesis should act as the key to the map. The reader knows where the paper is going and how the writer is going to get there.

If… Then…
Your proposed thesis does no more than repeat the topic you are writing about… It is not a thesis.
Your proposed thesis poses a question without suggesting an answer… It is not a thesis.
Your proposed thesis articulates a fact or a series of facts… It is not a thesis.
Your proposed thesis reflects a personal belief or preference… It is not a thesis.




If… Then…
Your proposed thesis:

· Suggests an answer to a question you proposed while reading, and

· is specific rather than general, and

· is debatable or argumentative, and

· Can be supported by evidence from sources, and

· Is closed, laying out the major arguments of your paper

It is a thesis.



A thesis involving a single person, or region for a single event or decade is likely a better thesis than one that tries to describe all people for centuries on end. For example, a thesis about Nat Turner’s Rebellion would be much more focused than one on slavery in the British colonies. Avoid sweeping generalities. Avoid words like “all,” “always,” “every;” these will make your thesis too general. Don’t exaggerate or use hyperbole. Get rid of terms like “Throughout history” and “everyone knows”. Time periods discussed in a thesis should be very limited as should the number of people discussion, for the same reasons.

There is no one way to write a thesis statement for history, but sometimes it is helpful to begin with a formula. In general, a thesis statement makes a claim and includes the major support or topics to prove your claim. Thus a general formula for a closed argumentative thesis statement is:

Claim, as [seen, illustrated, proven, etc.] by X, Y, and Z.

The verb used in a thesis statement is up to you, but in general you need to connect your support (X, Y, and Z) to your Claim.

Watch the following video for more information on how to create a thesis statement for history:

The Office of Digital Learning. “Thesis Statement – Writing Tutorials, US History, Dr. Robert Scafe.” University of Oklahoma. YouTube.  7:32.


OWL Purdue also has some helpful tips on  how to create various types of thesis statements  as well. Make sure you focus on argumentative thesis statements!

Creating an Outline

An outline is basically a table of contents for your paper in full sentence format. The purpose of the outline is to help you plan your project by organizing your big paper into smaller parts that are ordered logically. The second purpose is to list not only the various topics of your project, but also to make sure you have evidence for every topic. When you’ve done your outline, if there are topics without evidence, you know you need to go back to your research for quotations and other evidence for that topic. Remember, you should have at least one quotation or other piece of evidence for every paragraph.

In this class, the purpose of the outline also serves as a way for you to share your plan and major evidence/support with your instructor. Your instructor can then give you feedback and suggestions on any places you might need to change or add to make a stronger argumentative research paper.

Please see the example in this module to visualize what your Thesis and Outline assignment should look like. You may also reference the  Alphanumeric Outline at Purdue OWL (see Full Sentence Outlines).


This video will help you use MS Word to automatically make an alphanumeric outline.


Check your Knowledge

Important Note: Below you will find a series of questions that you will need to know before you proceed through this course. If you recieve a correct answer, you may move onto the next question. If you receive an incorrect answer, feedback will be provided to you with a link that directs you to the portion of the reading that contains the relevant information. You may then review the material again to ensure you understand the concepts that will assist you in this course.

Question 1: True or False – A thesis statement is a paragraph that explains your research argument.

Option 1: True


Option 2: False



Question 2: A closed argumentative thesis for history should follow the basic formula _______________ and appear at the end of your introduction to guide the reader how to read your paper.

Option 1: Claim, as [seen, illustrate, proven, etc.] by x, y, and z.


Option 2: Claim.


Option 3: Fact, as shown by x, y, and z.




1. Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing In History 9th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2018), 56. 

2. Ibid., 57. 

3. Ibid., 59.