Writing and Learning

Connect. Collaborate. Achieve.

Thesis Statements

A thesis statement or controlling idea is the overriding point that your essay seeks to explain and/or defend.

Thesis statements can be clearly stated or implied, but in either case the reader must feel as if he/she understands clearly what that controlling idea is and how each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph serves to support that idea. In addition, the reader needs to feel as if the idea being explained or defended is worth reading about--that is, the idea must have substance and not be something obvious or trivial. There's no point in writing an essay that says "Exercise is good for your heart." It's been said too many times to warrant another essay. Nor does a reader want to be dragged through three to five pages of text only to find out that the point was "Playing pool can be fun."

A thesis is a substantial, precise topic with a definite attitude or opinion attached to it. Here are some examples:

  • The Chisos Mountains are terrifyingly beautiful. (Precise subject: Chisos Mountains. Opinion: Terrifyingly beautiful.)
  • Wine is a more healthful drink than beer.
  • The U.S. government should draft women.
  • The abortion issue in our time has been likened to the slavery issue in the 1800s: emotions run high, and the citizenry is deeply divided over what is universally acknowledged to be more than a superficial issue. In fact, there is a more fundamental similarity: in both cases an important underlying issue is, "What is a human being?" (Robert Bissel, "A Calm Look at Abortion Arguments")
  • Nothing is more detrimental to the health of the American mind than television. This medium, unlike all others, encourages conformity, mindlessness, and sloth.
  • Television is a vast, phosphorescent Mississippi of the senses, on the banks of which one can soon lose one's judgement and eventually lose one's mind. The medium itself is depressing. The shuddering flouresent jelly of which it's made seems to corrode the eye of the spectator and soften his brain.
    (J. Miller, "Medium")
  • To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor.
    (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Related Content

Big News!

The Office of Writing and Learning is excited to co-sponsor a guest lecture from renowned literacy and language scholar Dr. April Baker-Bell on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. More information is available on the OUDI webpage.

Our offices have temporarily relocated as a result of the Library construction project. Come visit us in our new space in the Graphic Arts Building (26), Room 110A. We look forward to supporting your learning!

Connect. Collaborate. Achieve.

Academic Preparation and Transitions

The Academic Preparation and Transitions Department plays an integral role in help incoming first-year students prepare for a successful college experience through the Early Assessment Program and the Supportive Pathways for First-Year Students program. More information is available on the Academic Preparation and Transitions webpage

Learning Support Programs

The Learning Support Programs department offers a comprehensive menu of programs and resources designed to help you navigate course expectations and achieve your learning goals: free tutoring for subjects across the curriculum, peer-led supplemental workshops and study sessions provide support for STEM-specific courses, and an online study strategies library. More information is available on the Learning Support Programs webpage. 

Graduation Writing Requirement

All undergraduate students who are seeking a Cal Poly degree must fulfill the GWR before a diploma can be awarded. Students must have upp division standing (completed 90 units) before they can attempt to fulfill the requirement and should do so before the senior year. The two pathways to GWR completion are 1) in an approved upper-division course and 2) via the GWR Portfolio. More information is available on the GWR webpage