You can turn a subject into a central idea by focusing. Begin by reviewing what you know about your subject or by looking over notes you have made about it through listing, brainstorming, clustering, freewriting, or other prewriting activities.

With these details fresh in your mind, ask yourself:

What is my purpose in writing about this topic? What main point do I want to make about the topic?

WHAT IS MY PURPOSE?

Let's say you decide to write about high school. You might tell a story about your history class, compare two schools you attended, or argue that high schools should require foreign-language study.

If you want to compare the two high schools you attended, you can include details about their academic programs, athletic teams, students, or teachers. But you probably wouldn't argue that high schools should stay open in summer because doing so would take you outside your declared purpose.

WHAT IS MY MAIN POINT?

The next step in focusing is to decide what to say about your subject. What is the most interesting or important point you want to make about the schools you are comparing? The answer will be your main point, which ties all the details of the essay together.

Again, you turn an abstract subject into a central idea by stating a main point about that subject. If your main point is that entering a new school improved your attitude about education, your central idea might read:

Changing high schools made me a more serious student.

MAKING A POINT ABOUT A SUBJECT

In the box below, main points have been added to subjects to form working topic sentences or thesis statements.

Back to Top

CHECK YOUR WORKING CENTRAL IDEA

After writing a working central idea, check it for qualities that will make it effective as the basis of a paragraph or essay. Ask yourself:

Is my central idea expressed in a complete thought? Is it specific? Does it express an idea that is worth developing in a full-length paragraph or essay? Is it limited enough to discuss in a short piece of writing?

Never confuse a central idea with a simple subject. Central ideas are expressed in complete sentences; subjects are words or phrases. Take these subjects:

The city zoo. Professional athletes. Majoring in foreign languages.

Can you write a paragraph or essay on one of these subjects? Only if you decide on the main point you want to make about it. Try these as working central ideas:

The city zoo is in great need of repairs. Professional athletes are overpaid. Studying foreign languages leads to many career choices.

A CENTRAL IDEA IS SPECIFIC

Make your central idea specific. The key to this step is to focus your main point as precisely as you can. That will give you a clear direction to follow as you develop an essay or paragraph. Take this central idea:

Jogging isn't for everybody.

It is correct, but it leaves questions unanswered. For example, what kind of people should not jog? What ill effects might jogging cause them? Now, try this:

Jogging can be harmful to people who suffer from heart, back, or joint problems.

A CENTRAL IDEA CONTAINS A MAIN POINT THAT IS WORTH DEVELOPING

Make sure your main point is an idea-not just a fact-that is worth developing in a full-length paragraph or essay. Read these two sentences:

The War Memorial is in Ottawa. The War Memorial has been severely vandalized.

The first sentence is a statement of fact; it does not call for discussion. The second lends itself to discussion. For example, you might describe what the vandals did, explain how much repairs will cost, or discuss ways to prevent future problems.

A CENTRAL IDEA IS LIMITED

Essays that beginning college or university students write usually contain approximately five to seven paragraphs of about 50 to 100 words. Therefore, you should limit your working topic sentence or thesis, making it as specific as you can. Otherwise, you won't be able to make your point clearly and completely.

LIMIT THE DISCUSSION TO A MANAGEABLE LENGTH

Let's say you want to convince someone to stop smoking. You might limit yourself to three reasons to stop smoking: the health risks, the costs, and its effects on others.

Here's your working thesis:

Break the habit: otherwise, it will ruin your health, empty your wallet, and annoy your friends.

Your working topic sentences, which will control the three body paragraphs, could be as follows:

Smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year by quitting. Smoking is offensive to friends and family.

LIMITING YOUR CENTRAL IDEA FURTHER

You begin a rough draft by discussing illnesses caused by smoking. However, you soon realize that you can't cover all three reasons for quitting and still keep the essay short. So you limit yourself to the issue of health risks.

Your thesis statement becomes:

Break the habit: smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, and cancer.

Your topic sentences become:

Smoking weakens the heart and impairs circulation. Smoking is a major cause of emphysema. Smoking has been linked directly to cancer of the mouth and the esophagus.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A TOPIC SENTENCE AND A THESIS

A topic sentence is the sentence that expresses the central idea of a paragraph. A thesis statement is a sentence that expresses the central idea of an essay.

It's a good idea to decide the topic sentence of a paragraph after writing the working version of an essay's thesis. A topic sentence explains one aspect or point in the thesis and, therefore, should always be more specific and limited than a thesis.

REVISE AND REFINE THE CENTRAL IDEA AS YOU WORK

You can revise a central idea whenever you need to. The working version of a topic sentence or thesis statement provides only a starting point and a sense of direction. Don't be afraid to look back to your central ideas and rewrite them often. As a matter of fact, focusing is something you should do throughout the writing process.

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6.1: The Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis

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Before any work can be done on crafting the body of your speech or presentation, you must first do some prep work—selecting a topic, formulating a general purpose, a specific purpose statement, and crafting a central idea, or thesis statement. In doing so, you lay the foundation for your speech by making important decisions about what you will speak about and for what purpose you will speak. These decisions will influence and guide the entire speechwriting process, so it is wise to think carefully and critically during these beginning stages.

Selecting a Topic

Generally, speakers focus on one or more interrelated topics—relatively broad concepts, ideas, or problems that are relevant for particular audiences. The most common way that speakers discover topics is by simply observing what is happening around them—at their school, in their local government, or around the world. Student government leaders, for example, speak or write to other students when their campus is facing tuition or fee increases, or when students have achieved something spectacular, like lobbying campus administrators for lower student fees and succeeding. In either case, it is the situation that makes their speeches appropriate and useful for their audience of students and university employees. More importantly, they speak when there is an opportunity to change a university policy or to alter the way students think or behave in relation to a particular event on campus.

But you need not run for president or student government in order to give a meaningful speech. On the contrary, opportunities abound for those interested in engaging speech as a tool for change. Perhaps the simplest way to find a topic is to ask yourself a few questions. See the textbox entitled “Questions for Selecting a Topic” for a few questions that will help you choose a topic.

Students speak about what is interesting to them and their audiences. What topics do you think are relevant today? There are other questions you might ask yourself, too, but these should lead you to at least a few topical choices. The most important work that these questions do is to locate topics within your pre-existing sphere of knowledge and interest. David Zarefsky (2010) also identifies brainstorming as a way to develop speech topics, a strategy that can be helpful if the questions listed in the textbox did not yield an appropriate or interesting topic. Starting with a topic you are already interested in will likely make writing and presenting your speech a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. It means that your entire speechwriting process will focus on something you find important and that you can present this information to people who stand to benefit from your speech.

Questions for Selecting a Topic

  • What important events are occurring locally, nationally and internationally?
  • What do I care about most?
  • Is there someone or something I can advocate for?
  • What makes me angry/happy?
  • What beliefs/attitudes do I want to share?
  • Is there some information the audience needs to know?

Once you have answered these questions and narrowed your responses, you are still not done selecting your topic. For instance, you might have decided that you really care about breeds of dogs. This is a very broad topic and could easily lead to a dozen different speeches. To resolve this problem, speakers must also consider the audience to whom they will speak, the scope of their presentation, and the outcome they wish to achieve.

Formulating the Purpose Statements

By honing in on a very specific topic, you begin the work of formulating your purpose statement. In short, a purpose statement clearly states what it is you would like to achieve. Purpose statements are especially helpful for guiding you as you prepare your speech. When deciding which main points, facts, and examples to include, you should simply ask yourself whether they are relevant not only to the topic you have selected, but also whether they support the goal you outlined in your purpose statement. The general purpose statement of a speech may be to inform, to persuade, to celebrate, or to entertain. Thus, it is common to frame a specific purpose statement around one of these goals. According to O’Hair, Stewart, and Rubenstein, a specific purpose statement “expresses both the topic and the general speech purpose in action form and in terms of the specific objectives you hope to achieve (2004). For instance, the home design enthusiast might write the following specific purpose statement: At the end of my speech, the audience will learn the pro’s and con’s of flipping houses . In short, the general purpose statement lays out the broader goal of the speech while the specific purpose statement describes precisely what the speech is intended to do. Some of your professors may ask that you include the general purpose and add the specific purpose.

Writing the Thesis Statement

The specific purpose statement is a tool that you will use as you write your talk, but it is unlikely that it will appear verbatim in your speech. Instead, you will want to convert the specific purpose statement into a central idea, or thesis statement that you will share with your audience.

Depending on your instructor’s approach, a thesis statement may be written two different ways. A thesis statement may encapsulate the main points of a speech in just a sentence or two, and be designed to give audiences a quick preview of what the entire speech will be about. The thesis statement for a speech, like the thesis of a research-based essay, should be easily identifiable and ought to very succinctly sum up the main points you will present. Some instructors prefer that your thesis, or central idea, be a single, declarative statement providing the audience with an overall statement that provides the essence of the speech, followed by a separate preview statement.

If you are a Harry Potter enthusiast, you may write a thesis statement (central idea) the following way using the above approach: J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella like story having gone from relatively humble beginnings, through personal struggles, and finally success and fame .

Writing the Preview Statement

However, some instructors prefer that you separate your thesis from your preview statement. A preview statement (or series of statements) is a guide to your speech. This is the part of the speech that literally tells the audience exactly what main points you will cover. If you were to open your Waze app, it would tell you exactly how to get there. Best of all, you would know what to look for! So, if we take our J.K Rowling example, let’s rewrite that using this approach separating out the thesis and preview:

J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella like rags to riches story. First, I will tell you about J.K. Rowling’s humble beginnings. Then, I will describe her personal struggles as a single mom. Finally, I will explain how she overcame adversity and became one of the richest women in the United Kingdom.

There is no best way to approach this. This is up to your instructor.

Writing the Body of Your Speech

Once you have finished the important work of deciding what your speech will be about, as well as formulating the purpose statement and crafting the thesis, you should turn your attention to writing the body of your speech. All of your main points are contained in the body, and normally this section is prepared well before you ever write the introduction or conclusion. The body of your speech will consume the largest amount of time to present; and it is the opportunity for you to elaborate on facts, evidence, examples, and opinions that support your thesis statement and do the work you have outlined in the specific purpose statement. Combining these various elements into a cohesive and compelling speech, however, is not without its difficulties, the first of which is deciding which elements to include and how they ought to be organized to best suit your purpose.

Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful.

~ Dieter Rams

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Online Guide to Writing and Research

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  • Online Guide to Writing

Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

So what? This is the question you will get asked if your thesis statement, or main idea, is not obvious in your paper. Your thesis statement is the most important part of your writing; without it, your paper doesn’t have a main point or stance. A thesis statement states the purpose and topic of your writing, and the controlling idea indicates the direction and, often, the writing strategy you will adopt. 

what is a central idea or thesis statement

Generally, your thesis is placed at the end of your introduction and is a concise and simple sentence that combines your topic and your position on the topic. Like a road map, your thesis lets your readers know what to expect from the rest of your paper. Your body paragraphs support it, and your essay lacks direction without it.

It is important to keep in mind that this early in your writing, your thesis statement is really a working thesis that you use to begin thinking about your topic. You may revise this thesis many times before you are finished thinking and ready to write your final draft. Below are some sample thesis statements.  

YOUR TOPIC + POSITION ON TOPIC = THESIS STATEMENT

Thesis statement do's and don'ts.

Present an argument, stance, or claim. Can your audience argue with it? 

Provide a key to the organization of your paper. Can you construct body paragraphs that support it? 

Mirror the assignment prompt. Are you following what is expected of you?

Present the thesis at the end of the introduction.  

Answer the question: “so what?”  

Present an argument that can be supported by reputable research. Is your argument logical?

Embrace the “how” and “why” elements. It’s a great strategy to present the problem, examine why it’s a problem, and show how it can be fixed. 

Include announcement style language like “this paper will discuss” or “this will be shown in this essay.” 

Be informative only with no argument or stance, such as, “Some high school seniors decide to take a gap year.” 

Include overly broad or generalized statements like, “Kids of this generation are lazy.”

Force the reader to guess what the paper will prove or discuss 

Be questions. 

Key Takeaways

Your thesis is one statement at the end of your introduction and should be clear, concise, and arguable.

Without a thesis, your paper lacks direction and purpose. 

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Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing

Chapter 1: College Writing

How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

What Is College Writing?

Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?

Chapter 2: The Writing Process

Doing Exploratory Research

Getting from Notes to Your Draft

Introduction

Prewriting - Techniques to Get Started - Mining Your Intuition

Prewriting: Targeting Your Audience

Prewriting: Techniques to Get Started

Prewriting: Understanding Your Assignment

Rewriting: Being Your Own Critic

Rewriting: Creating a Revision Strategy

Rewriting: Getting Feedback

Rewriting: The Final Draft

Techniques to Get Started - Outlining

Techniques to Get Started - Using Systematic Techniques

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Freewriting

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Summarizing Your Ideas

Writing: Outlining What You Will Write

Chapter 3: Thinking Strategies

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone: Style Through Vocabulary and Diction

Critical Strategies and Writing

Critical Strategies and Writing: Analysis

Critical Strategies and Writing: Evaluation

Critical Strategies and Writing: Persuasion

Critical Strategies and Writing: Synthesis

Developing a Paper Using Strategies

Kinds of Assignments You Will Write

Patterns for Presenting Information

Patterns for Presenting Information: Critiques

Patterns for Presenting Information: Discussing Raw Data

Patterns for Presenting Information: General-to-Specific Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Specific-to-General Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Summaries and Abstracts

Supporting with Research and Examples

Writing Essay Examinations

Writing Essay Examinations: Make Your Answer Relevant and Complete

Writing Essay Examinations: Organize Thinking Before Writing

Writing Essay Examinations: Read and Understand the Question

Chapter 4: The Research Process

Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Ask a Research Question

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Cite Sources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Collect Evidence

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Decide Your Point of View, or Role, for Your Research

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Draw Conclusions

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Find a Topic and Get an Overview

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Manage Your Resources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Survey the Literature

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Work Your Sources into Your Research Writing

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Human Resources

Research Resources: What Are Research Resources?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Electronic Resources

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Print Resources

Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure

Structuring the Research Paper: Informal Research Structure

The Nature of Research

The Research Assignment: How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?

The Research Assignment: When Is Research Needed?

The Research Assignment: Why Perform Research?

Chapter 5: Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Giving Credit to Sources

Giving Credit to Sources: Copyright Laws

Giving Credit to Sources: Documentation

Giving Credit to Sources: Style Guides

Integrating Sources

Practicing Academic Integrity

Practicing Academic Integrity: Keeping Accurate Records

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Paraphrasing Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Quoting Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Summarizing Your Sources

Types of Documentation

Types of Documentation: Bibliographies and Source Lists

Types of Documentation: Citing World Wide Web Sources

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - APA Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - CSE/CBE Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - Chicago Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - MLA Style

Types of Documentation: Note Citations

Chapter 6: Using Library Resources

Finding Library Resources

Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing

How Is Writing Graded?

How Is Writing Graded?: A General Assessment Tool

The Draft Stage

The Draft Stage: The First Draft

The Draft Stage: The Revision Process and the Final Draft

The Draft Stage: Using Feedback

The Research Stage

Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing

Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Article and Book Reviews

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Reaction Papers

Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Adapting the Argument Structure

Writing Arguments: Purposes of Argument

Writing Arguments: References to Consult for Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Anticipate Active Opposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Determine Your Organization

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Develop Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Introduce Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - State Your Thesis or Proposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Write Your Conclusion

Writing Arguments: Types of Argument

Appendix A: Books to Help Improve Your Writing

Dictionaries

General Style Manuals

Researching on the Internet

Special Style Manuals

Writing Handbooks

Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing

Collaborative Writing: Assignments to Accompany the Group Project

Collaborative Writing: Informal Progress Report

Collaborative Writing: Issues to Resolve

Collaborative Writing: Methodology

Collaborative Writing: Peer Evaluation

Collaborative Writing: Tasks of Collaborative Writing Group Members

Collaborative Writing: Writing Plan

General Introduction

Peer Reviewing

Appendix C: Developing an Improvement Plan

Working with Your Instructor’s Comments and Grades

Appendix D: Writing Plan and Project Schedule

Devising a Writing Project Plan and Schedule

Reviewing Your Plan with Others

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16 Formulating a Central Idea Statement

While you will not actually say your specific purpose statement during your speech, you will need to clearly state what your focus and main points are going to be (preferably after using an introductory method such as those described in Chapter 8). The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea).

Now, at this point we need to make a point about terminology. Your instructor may call the central idea statement “the thesis” or “the thesis statement.” Your English composition instructor probably uses that term in your essay writing. Another instructor may call it the “main idea statement.” All of these are basically synonymous and you should not let the terms confuse you, but you should use the term your instructor uses.

That said, is the central idea statement the very same thing as the thesis sentence in an essay? Yes, in that both are letting the audience know with- out a doubt your topic, purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view. No, in that the rules for writing a “thesis” or central idea statement in a speech are not as strict as in an essay. For example, it is acceptable in a speech to announce the topic and purpose, although it is usually not the most artful or effective way to do it. You may say,

“In this speech I will try to motivate you to join me next month as a volunteer at the regional Special Olympics.”

That would be followed by a preview statement of what the speech’s arguments or reasons for participating will be, such as,

“You will see that it will benefit the community, the participants, and you individually.”

However, another approach is to “capsulize” the purpose, topic, approach, and preview in one succinct statement.

“Your involvement as a volunteer in next month’s regional Special Olympics will be a rewarding experience that will benefit the community, the participants, and you personally.”

This last version is really the better approach and most likely the one your instructor will prefer.

So, you don’t want to just repeat your specific purpose in the central idea statement, but you do want to provide complete information. Also, unlike the formal thesis of your English essays, the central idea statement in a speech can and should use personal language (I, me, we, us, you, your, etc.) and should attempt to be attention-getting and audience-focused.

And importantly, just like a formal thesis sentence, it must be a complete, grammatical sentence.

The point of your central idea statement in terms of your audience is to reveal and clarify the ideas or assertions you will be addressing in your speech, more commonly known as your main points, to fulfill your specific purpose. However, as you are processing your ideas and approach, you may still be working on them. Sometimes those main points will not be clear to you immediately. As much as we would like these writing processes to be straightforward, sometimes we find that we have to revise our original approach. This is why preparing a speech the night before you are giving it is a really, really bad idea. You need lots of time for the preparation and then the practice.

Sometimes you will hear the writing process referred to as “iterative.” This word means, among other things, that a speech or document is not always written in the same order as the audience finally experiences it. You may have noticed that we have not said anything about the introduction of your speech yet. Even though that is the first thing the audience hears, it may be one of the last parts you actually compose. It is best to consider your speech flexible as you work on it, and to be willing to edit and revise. If your instructor asks you to turn the outline in before the speech, you should be clear on how much you can revise after that. Otherwise, it helps to know that you can keep editing your speech until you deliver it, especially while you practice.

Here are some examples of pairs of specific purpose statements and central idea statements.

Specific Purpose: To explain to my classmates the effects of losing a pet on the elderly.

Central Idea: When elderly persons lose their animal companions, they can experience serious psychological, emotional, and physical effects.

Specific Purpose: To demonstrate to my audience the correct method for cleaning a computer keyboard.

Central Idea: Your computer keyboard needs regular cleaning to function well, and you can achieve that in four easy steps.

Specific Purpose: To persuade my political science class that labor unions are no longer a vital political force in the U.S.

Central Idea: Although for decades in the twentieth century labor unions influenced local and national elections, in this speech I will point to how their influence has declined in the last thirty years.

Specific Purpose: To motivate my audience to oppose the policy of drug testing welfare recipients.

Central Idea: Many voices are calling for welfare recipients to go through mandatory, regular drug testing, but this policy is unjust, impractical, and costly, and fair-minded Americans should actively oppose it.

Specific Purpose: To explain to my fellow civic club members why I admire Representative John Lewis.

Central Idea: John Lewis has my admiration for his sacrifices during the Civil Rights movement and his service to Georgia as a leader and U.S. Representative.

Specific Purpose: To describe how makeup is done for the TV show The Walking Dead.

Central Idea: The wildly popular zombie show The Walking Dead achieves incredibly scary and believable makeup effects, and in the next few minutes I will tell you who does it, what they use, and how they do it.

Notice that in all of the above examples that neither the specific purpose nor the central idea ever exceeds one sentence. You may divide your central idea and the preview of main points into two sentences or three sentences, depending on what your instructor directs. If your central idea consists of more than three sentences, then you probably are including too much information and taking up time that is needed for the body of the speech. Additionally, you will have a speech trying to do too much and that goes overtime.

a statement that contains or summarizes a speech’s main points

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53 Formulating a Central Idea Statement

Learning objectives.

After reading this chapter, the student will be able to:

  • Distinguish between the specific purpose, central idea, and main points of a speech;
  • Differentiate between a speech to inform, persuade, and inspire or entertain;
  • Write a specific purpose statement;
  • Write a thesis or central idea statement;
  • Distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable specific purpose and central idea statements;
  • Compose appropriate specific purpose and central idea statements for informative, persuasive, and inspirational/entertaining speeches.

Formulating a Central Idea Statement – developing the thesis statement

While you will not actually say your specific purpose statement during your speech, you will need to clearly state what your focus and main points are going to be (preferably after using an introductory method such as those described in Chapter 8). The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea).

Central Idea Statement

a statement that contains or summarizes a speech’s main points

Now, at this point we need to make a point about terminology. Your instructor may call the central idea statement “the thesis” or “the thesis statement.” Your English composition instructor probably uses that term in your essay writing. Another instructor may call it the “main idea statement.” All of these are basically synonymous and you should not let the terms confuse you, but you should use the term your instructor uses.

That said, is the central idea statement the very same thing as the thesis sentence in an essay? Yes, in that both are letting the audience know without a doubt your topic, purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view. No, in that the rules for writing a “thesis” or central idea statement in a speech are not as strict as in an essay. For example, it is acceptable in a speech to announce the topic and purpose, although it is usually not the most artful or effective way to do it. You may say,

“In this speech I will try to motivate you to join me next month as a volunteer at the regional Special Olympics.”

That would be followed by a preview statement of what the speech’s arguments or reasons for participating will be, such as,

“You will see that it will benefit the community, the participants, and you individually.”

However, another approach is to “capsulize” the purpose, topic, approach, and preview in one succinct statement.

“Your involvement as a volunteer in next month’s regional Special Olympics will be a rewarding experience that will benefit the community, the participants, and you personally.”

This last version is really the better approach and most likely the one your instructor will prefer.

So, you don’t want to just repeat your specific purpose in the central idea statement, but you do want to provide complete information. Also, unlike the formal thesis of your English essays, the central idea statement in a speech can and should use personal language (I, me, we, us, you, your, etc.) and should attempt to be attention-getting and audience-focused. And importantly, just like a formal thesis sentence, it must be a complete, grammatical sentence.

The point of your central idea statement in terms of your audience is to reveal and clarify the ideas or assertions you will be addressing in your speech, more commonly known as your main points, to fulfill your specific purpose. However, as you are processing your ideas and approach, you may still be working on them. Sometimes those main points will not be clear to you immediately. As much as we would like these writing processes to be straightforward, sometimes we find that we have to revise our original approach. This is why preparing a speech the night before you are giving it is a really, really bad idea. You need lots of time for the preparation and then the practice.

Sometimes you will hear the writing process referred to as “iterative.” This word means, among other things, that a speech or document is not always written in the same order as the audience finally experiences it. You may have noticed that we have not said anything about the introduction of your speech yet. Even though that is the first thing the audience hears, it may be one of the last parts you actually compose. It is best to consider your speech flexible as you work on it, and to be willing to edit and revise. If your instructor asks you to turn the outline in before the speech, you should be clear on how much you can revise after that. Otherwise, it helps to know that you can keep editing your speech until you deliver it, especially while you practice.

Here are some examples of pairs of specific purpose statements and central idea statements.

Specific Purpose: To explain to my classmates the effects of losing a pet on the elderly.
Central Idea: When elderly persons lose their animal companions, they can experience serious psychological, emotional, and physical effects.
Specific Purpose: To demonstrate to my audience the correct method for cleaning a computer keyboard.
Central Idea: Your computer keyboard needs regular cleaning to function well, and you can achieve that in four easy steps.
Specific Purpose: To persuade my political science class that labor unions are no longer a vital political force in the U.S.
Central Idea: Although for decades in the twentieth century labor unions influenced local and national elections, in this speech I will point to how their influence has declined in the last thirty years.
Specific Purpose: To motivate my audience to oppose the policy of drug testing welfare recipients.
Central Idea: Many voices are calling for welfare recipients to have to go through mandatory, regular drug testing, but this policy is unjust, impractical, and costly, and fair-minded Americans should actively oppose it.
Specific Purpose: To explain to my fellow civic club members why I admire Representative John Lewis.
Central Idea: John Lewis has my admiration for his sacrifices during the Civil Rights movement and his service to Georgia as a leader and U.S. Representative.
Specific Purpose: To describe how makeup is done for the TV show The Walking Dead.
Central Idea: The wildly popular zombie show The Walking Dead achieves incredibly scary and believable makeup effects, and in the next few minutes I will tell you who does it, what they use, and how they do it.

Notice that in all of the above examples that neither the specific purpose nor the central idea ever exceeds one sentence. You may divide your central idea and the preview of main points into two sentences or three sentences, depending on what your instructor directs. If your central idea consists of more than three sentences, then you probably are including too much information and taking up time that is needed for the body of the speech.

Exploring Communication in the Real World Copyright © 2020 by Chris Miller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Writing a paper: thesis statements, basics of thesis statements.

The thesis statement is the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose. You might hear it referred to as simply a "thesis." Every scholarly paper should have a thesis statement, and strong thesis statements are concise, specific, and arguable. Concise means the thesis is short: perhaps one or two sentences for a shorter paper. Specific means the thesis deals with a narrow and focused topic, appropriate to the paper's length. Arguable means that a scholar in your field could disagree (or perhaps already has!).

Strong thesis statements address specific intellectual questions, have clear positions, and use a structure that reflects the overall structure of the paper. Read on to learn more about constructing a strong thesis statement.

Being Specific

This thesis statement has no specific argument:

Needs Improvement: In this essay, I will examine two scholarly articles to find similarities and differences.

This statement is concise, but it is neither specific nor arguable—a reader might wonder, "Which scholarly articles? What is the topic of this paper? What field is the author writing in?" Additionally, the purpose of the paper—to "examine…to find similarities and differences" is not of a scholarly level. Identifying similarities and differences is a good first step, but strong academic argument goes further, analyzing what those similarities and differences might mean or imply.

Better: In this essay, I will argue that Bowler's (2003) autocratic management style, when coupled with Smith's (2007) theory of social cognition, can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover.

The new revision here is still concise, as well as specific and arguable.  We can see that it is specific because the writer is mentioning (a) concrete ideas and (b) exact authors.  We can also gather the field (business) and the topic (management and employee turnover). The statement is arguable because the student goes beyond merely comparing; he or she draws conclusions from that comparison ("can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover").

Making a Unique Argument

This thesis draft repeats the language of the writing prompt without making a unique argument:

Needs Improvement: The purpose of this essay is to monitor, assess, and evaluate an educational program for its strengths and weaknesses. Then, I will provide suggestions for improvement.

You can see here that the student has simply stated the paper's assignment, without articulating specifically how he or she will address it. The student can correct this error simply by phrasing the thesis statement as a specific answer to the assignment prompt.

Better: Through a series of student interviews, I found that Kennedy High School's antibullying program was ineffective. In order to address issues of conflict between students, I argue that Kennedy High School should embrace policies outlined by the California Department of Education (2010).

Words like "ineffective" and "argue" show here that the student has clearly thought through the assignment and analyzed the material; he or she is putting forth a specific and debatable position. The concrete information ("student interviews," "antibullying") further prepares the reader for the body of the paper and demonstrates how the student has addressed the assignment prompt without just restating that language.

Creating a Debate

This thesis statement includes only obvious fact or plot summary instead of argument:

Needs Improvement: Leadership is an important quality in nurse educators.

A good strategy to determine if your thesis statement is too broad (and therefore, not arguable) is to ask yourself, "Would a scholar in my field disagree with this point?" Here, we can see easily that no scholar is likely to argue that leadership is an unimportant quality in nurse educators.  The student needs to come up with a more arguable claim, and probably a narrower one; remember that a short paper needs a more focused topic than a dissertation.

Better: Roderick's (2009) theory of participatory leadership  is particularly appropriate to nurse educators working within the emergency medicine field, where students benefit most from collegial and kinesthetic learning.

Here, the student has identified a particular type of leadership ("participatory leadership"), narrowing the topic, and has made an arguable claim (this type of leadership is "appropriate" to a specific type of nurse educator). Conceivably, a scholar in the nursing field might disagree with this approach. The student's paper can now proceed, providing specific pieces of evidence to support the arguable central claim.

Choosing the Right Words

This thesis statement uses large or scholarly-sounding words that have no real substance:

Needs Improvement: Scholars should work to seize metacognitive outcomes by harnessing discipline-based networks to empower collaborative infrastructures.

There are many words in this sentence that may be buzzwords in the student's field or key terms taken from other texts, but together they do not communicate a clear, specific meaning. Sometimes students think scholarly writing means constructing complex sentences using special language, but actually it's usually a stronger choice to write clear, simple sentences. When in doubt, remember that your ideas should be complex, not your sentence structure.

Better: Ecologists should work to educate the U.S. public on conservation methods by making use of local and national green organizations to create a widespread communication plan.

Notice in the revision that the field is now clear (ecology), and the language has been made much more field-specific ("conservation methods," "green organizations"), so the reader is able to see concretely the ideas the student is communicating.

Leaving Room for Discussion

This thesis statement is not capable of development or advancement in the paper:

Needs Improvement: There are always alternatives to illegal drug use.

This sample thesis statement makes a claim, but it is not a claim that will sustain extended discussion. This claim is the type of claim that might be appropriate for the conclusion of a paper, but in the beginning of the paper, the student is left with nowhere to go. What further points can be made? If there are "always alternatives" to the problem the student is identifying, then why bother developing a paper around that claim? Ideally, a thesis statement should be complex enough to explore over the length of the entire paper.

Better: The most effective treatment plan for methamphetamine addiction may be a combination of pharmacological and cognitive therapy, as argued by Baker (2008), Smith (2009), and Xavier (2011).

In the revised thesis, you can see the student make a specific, debatable claim that has the potential to generate several pages' worth of discussion. When drafting a thesis statement, think about the questions your thesis statement will generate: What follow-up inquiries might a reader have? In the first example, there are almost no additional questions implied, but the revised example allows for a good deal more exploration.

Thesis Mad Libs

If you are having trouble getting started, try using the models below to generate a rough model of a thesis statement! These models are intended for drafting purposes only and should not appear in your final work.

  • In this essay, I argue ____, using ______ to assert _____.
  • While scholars have often argued ______, I argue______, because_______.
  • Through an analysis of ______, I argue ______, which is important because_______.

Words to Avoid and to Embrace

When drafting your thesis statement, avoid words like explore, investigate, learn, compile, summarize , and explain to describe the main purpose of your paper. These words imply a paper that summarizes or "reports," rather than synthesizing and analyzing.

Instead of the terms above, try words like argue, critique, question , and interrogate . These more analytical words may help you begin strongly, by articulating a specific, critical, scholarly position.

Read Kayla's blog post for tips on taking a stand in a well-crafted thesis statement.

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Central Idea Mastery: Tips for Identifying Main Themes in Texts

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Ever struggled to figure out what a piece of literature is really about?

I have. I’m a math and sciences geek, and English Lit was never my strong suit in school. But I figured out a way to get straight to the central idea.

Studies show that grasping the central idea is one of the most challenging aspects for readers, freelance writers , and in-company writers alike.

This post will take you on a journey to understand clearly what a central idea statement in literature entails, how it differs from themes or thesis statements , and why it matters so much.

Ready for an enlightening ride into the realm of literary analysis? Let’s dive in!

What is the Central Idea in Literature?

The central idea in literature is the main point or message the author wants to convey to the reader. It is often the well written central ideas, expressed through a thesis statement , which serves as the foundation for the entire work of literature.

The central idea statement should be distinct from the story’s theme itself, as it focuses more on the author’s specific argument or perspective. To identify this in literature, readers can analyze key details and keywords as a map and keep their predictions short and straightforward.

The Relationship between Central Idea and Thesis Statement

Central idea versus a thesis statement in literature.

A central idea is like a map for a story or essay. It guides readers through the words and themes. 

On the other hand, a thesis statement is a claim or argument in an essay, article or research work.

This is often based on the central idea but goes further by giving an opinion about the topic. You can think of these as two good friends. Both play key roles in shaping any piece of writing, and they rely on each other to make sense.

For instance, if you write an essay arguing that reading helps improve vocabulary – your central idea might be ‘the benefits of reading,’ while your thesis statement could be ‘reading regularly improves one’s vocabulary.’

The Difference between Central Idea and Theme

Central idea versus a theme in literature.

The central idea and theme are two critical parts of a story. They may seem the same but tell different parts of the tale. The main topic or message in a text is the central idea .

It’s like telling what a book or essay is about.

A theme, though, dives deeper into the story. It shows us life lessons or morals that we can learn from it. 

Think of it as an undercover message hiding inside the words and scenes of a story! An easy way to spot them? Central ideas often pop up more in texts that give information.

Themes make their home primarily in stories with lots of action, conflict and drama.

How to Identify the Central Idea in Literature

Use details and keywords as a map.

Use details and keywords as a map to determine the central idea in literature.

Words and clues in a story can help find the main idea. Look for words that repeat . They matter a lot to the writer. Think of keywords as signposts on a map. When you use a map when lost, use these words when stuck on an idea.

Stay away from small details that only discuss one thing in the text. Focus on ideas that cover all parts of the story instead. Those tell you what is most important to know.

Keep Predictions Short and Simple

Keep predictions short and simple, narrow down options and eliminate choices.

When identifying the central idea statement in literature, keeping your predictions short and simple is essential. By predicting the answer in your own words, you can narrow down the options and eliminate choices that don’t match the passage.

Keeping your predictions brief makes it easier to compare them with the given choices. If you’re having trouble understanding a passage, try summarizing paragraphs or sentences to help clarify things.

Remember, taking it slow and staying calm can improve your performance in the SAT reading and writing section. So, keep those predictions concise and straightforward!

Importance of Central Ideas in Literature

The central ideas in literature play a crucial role in your content strategy and in understanding the text and its deeper meaning, as they serve as the backbone that holds the entire work together.

The Role of Central Ideas in Understanding Literature

The central idea plays a crucial role in helping us understand literature. It acts as the primary focus or point of the text, providing a clear picture of what the author wants to convey.

By identifying and analyzing the central idea, we can better comprehend the overall message and themes of a piece of writing. The well written central idea guides readers, helping them navigate through the details and supporting evidence presented in the text.

It helps us see how all these elements connect to create a cohesive whole.

The Connection between Central Ideas and Details

The connection between central ideas and details in literature is meaningful because the details provide evidence and examples to support and strengthen the central idea. 

Details are specific pieces of information or examples that help to bring the story’s main idea to life and make it more relatable for readers.

By analyzing the central idea and details, readers can engage with the text deeper and uncover hidden meanings and themes. 

A central idea can be explicit, stated directly in the text, or implicit, requiring readers to infer and interpret what the author is trying to convey.

So, paying attention to details helps readers understand and appreciate the overall message of a work of literature.

Central Ideas Examples in Literature

Central ideas examples in literature and essay writing.

Central ideas in literature can vary greatly depending on the genre and themes explored. 

For instance, classification essays may focus on a central idea related to categorization and justification, while works of English literature might delve into a central idea about societal norms or personal identity.

Additionally, environmental science literature may explore a central idea surrounding sustainability and conservation. These examples demonstrate the diverse range found across different types of literature.

Central Ideas in Classification Essays

The central idea in a classification essay is the main topic and the categories or subtopics we use to organize our thoughts . It’s like a roadmap for our essay, showing us how to structure it and what message we want to convey.

In other words, it’s the same as the thesis statement in a classification essay . 

By stating the main topic and explaining why we’re categorizing things in a certain way, we can say something meaningful about how different parts of the topic are related or how they relate to the whole subject.

So, when writing a classification essay, ensure your central idea is clear and helps guide your readers through your thoughtful categories!

Central Ideas in English Literature

Understanding the central ideas in English literature is crucial for writers. These help us grasp the main themes and messages in literary works. They cover most details and emphasize key points, allowing readers to analyze the text effectively.

When analyzing literature, it’s important to avoid focusing too much on one detail or introducing new ideas not addressed in the text. 

Central ideas play a vital role in answering exam questions like the SAT, where students identify the main idea or specific details based on a passage.

Notable Examples

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Central Idea: The American Dream and its corruption. This novel delves deep into the idea of the American Dream—the pursuit of happiness, wealth, and social status—and the lengths people go to achieve it. Set in the Roaring Twenties, the story showcases the opulence of the time but also the moral bankruptcy and hollowness that often accompanied the pursuit of wealth and social status. The novel questions the true meaning of success and challenges the superficial values of society.

“ To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Central Idea: Racism and the loss of innocence. Set in the American South during the 1930s, this novel tackles the deep-seated racial prejudices of the time. Through the eyes of a young girl named Scout Finch, readers witness the injustice and cruelty meted out to a Black man, Tom Robinson, who is falsely accused of raping a white woman. The story also deals with the idea of growing up and losing innocence as Scout and her brother Jem navigate the complexities of their small town’s social structure.

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

Central Idea: Adolescent alienation and the challenges of growing up. The novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, represents the quintessential disaffected youth. As he navigates the adult world, which he views as “phony,” he struggles with his own sense of identity, his place in the world, and the impending responsibilities of adulthood. The story is a poignant examination of the complexities of adolescence and the inevitable loss of childhood innocence.

Whether it’s contemporary or classic works, central ideas can be found throughout English literature.

Central Ideas in Environmental Science Literature

The central idea in environmental science literature is essential. It helps us understand the main topic and categories/subtopics discussed in the text. It gives us an overview of what the whole thing is about.

The central idea also helps structure the essay and conveys a message about the topic. So, if you’re writing about environmental science, ensure you have a clear main idea that divides your topic into different parts, helping readers quickly grasp the main points.

One way to find the main idea is by locating the thesis statement in your text.

Tips for Writing a Central Idea

Here are some tips for writing central ideas for your literary work.

Crafting a strong main idea requires clarity and conciseness. Use clear and specific language to express the main point of your work, ensuring that it is debatable and not just a statement of fact.

Consider the purpose of your writing and the audience you are targeting to shape your central idea effectively.

Formulation of the Central Idea

To formulate a well written central idea, you need to think carefully about the main point or message you want to convey.

When formulating the central idea, make sure it covers most of the details introduced in your text and emphasizes any important points. Avoid focusing too much on just one detail or introducing new ideas not addressed in your writing.

Also, be careful not to contradict any information from your text.

To help with formulation, summarize your text in your own words and determine the task or purpose of your writing. If you need clarification on the story’s main character or idea, revisit your summary to find the overarching theme .

Predicting the answer can also be useful as it helps narrow down choices and eliminate options that don’t align with your writing.

The Purpose of a Central Idea in Literature

The purpose of a central idea in literature is to provide a main theme or message that ties together all the different parts of a literary work. It helps readers understand and grasp the overall meaning and purpose of the text.

When writing a central idea, it’s important to consider the main theme or message, analyze key elements in the text, and think about what the author wants to convey. The central idea should cover most of the details introduced in the text and mention any points of emphasis.

However, it shouldn’t focus too much on just one detail, introduce new ideas not addressed in the text, or contradict information from the text.

Wrapping up the Central Idea

Understanding the central idea in literature is crucial for writers and readers alike. By grasping the main message of a text, we can delve deeper into its themes and analyze it with greater clarity.

Through examples and explanations, this blog has highlighted the importance of central ideas and provided tools to identify them effectively. So go forth, writers, armed with this knowledge, and create works that captivate audiences by conveying powerful central ideas!

1. What is the central idea in literature?

The central idea in literature refers to the main point or theme that the author wants to explain or convey through their story or writing.

2. How can I identify the central idea in a piece of literature?

You can identify the central idea by looking for recurring themes, key messages, and important moments that shape the text’s overall meaning.

3. Why is understanding the central idea important when reading literature?

Understanding the central idea helps you grasp the deeper meaning and purpose behind a piece of literature, allowing you to appreciate its message and connect with it more meaningfully.

4. Can multiple central ideas exist in a single piece of literature?

While some texts may have multiple themes or ideas, there is typically one primary central idea that serves as the core focus of the work.

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Module 5: Choosing and Researching a Topic

Finding the purpose and central idea of your speech, learning objectives.

  • Identify the specific purpose of a speech.
  • Explain how to formulate a central idea statement for a speech.

General Purpose

The general purpose of most speeches will fall into one of four categories: to inform , to persuade , to entertain , and to commemorate or celebrate . The first step of defining the purpose of your speech is to think about which category best describes your  overall  goal with the speech. What do you want your audience to think, feel, or do as a consequence of hearing you speak? Often, the general purpose of your speech will be defined by the speaking situation. If you’re asked to run a training session at work, your purpose isn’t to entertain but rather to inform. Likewise, if you are invited to introduce the winner of an award, you’re not trying to change the audience’s mind about something; you’re honoring the recipient of the award. In a public speaking class, your general purpose may be included in the assignment: for instance, “Give a persuasive speech about . . . .”  When you’re assigned a speech project, you should always make sure you know whether the general purpose is included in the assignment or whether you need to decide on the general purpose yourself.

Specific Purpose

Now that you know your general purpose (to inform, to persuade, or to entertain), you can start to move in the direction of the specific purpose. A specific purpose statement builds on your general purpose and makes it more specific (as the name suggests). So if your first speech is an informative speech, your general purpose will be to inform your audience  about a very specific realm of knowledge.

In writing your specific purpose statement, you will take three contributing elements and bring them together to help you determine your specific purpose :

  • You (your interests, your background, experience, education, etc.)
  • Your audience
  • The context or setting

A diagram with three words at the top: YOU, YOUR AUDIENCE, and YOUR CONTEXT, each with an arrow pointing to the next level, which is a box containing the words Specific Purpose Statement. This box points to the next box: Central Idea Statement

There are three elements that combine to create a specific purpose statements: your own interests and knowledge, the interests and needs of your audience, and the context or setting in which you will be speaking.

Keeping these three inputs in mind, you can begin to write a specific purpose statement, which will be the foundation for everything you say in the speech and a guide for what you do not say. This formula will help you in putting together your specific purpose statement:

To _______________ [ Specific Communication Word (inform, explain, demonstrate, describe, define, persuade, convince, prove, argue)] _______________ [ Target Audience (my classmates, the members of the Social Work Club, my coworkers] __________________. [ The Content (how to bake brownies, that Macs are better than PCs].

Example: The purpose of my presentation is to demonstrate to  my coworkers the value of informed intercultural communication .

Formulating a Central Idea Statement

While you will not actually say your specific purpose statement during your speech, you will need to clearly state what your focus and main points are going to be. The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea). Just as you would create a thesis statement for an essay or research paper, the central idea statement helps focus your presentation by defining your topic, purpose, direction, angle, and/or point of view. Here are two examples:

  • Central Idea—When elderly persons lose their animal companions, they can experience serious psychological, emotional, and physical effects.
  • Central Idea—Your computer keyboard needs regular cleaning to function well, and you can achieve that in four easy steps.

Please note that your central idea will emerge and evolve as you research and write your speech, so be open to where your research takes you and anticipate that formulating your central idea will be an ongoing process.

Below are four guidelines for writing a strong central idea.

  • Your central idea should be one, full sentence.
  • Your central idea should be a statement, not a question.
  • Your central idea should be specific and use concrete language.
  • Each element of your central idea should be related to the others.

Using the topic “Benefits of Yoga for College Students’ Stress,” here are some correct and incorrect ways to write a central idea.

A strong central idea shows that your speech is focused around a clear and concise topic and that you have a strong sense of what you want your audience to know and understand as a result of your speech. Again, it is unlikely that you will have a final central idea before you begin your research. Instead, it will come together as you research your topic and develop your main points.

  • Purpose and Central Idea Statements. Provided by : eCampusOntario. Project : Communication for Business Professionals. License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Finding the Purpose of Your Speech. Authored by : Susan Bagley-Koyle with Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution

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8.2  The Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis

Before any work can be done on crafting the body of your speech or presentation, you must first do some prep work—selecting a topic, formulating a general purpose, a specific purpose statement, and crafting a central idea, or thesis statement. In doing so, you lay the foundation for your speech by making important decisions about what you will speak about and for what purpose you will speak. These decisions will influence and guide the entire speechwriting process, so it is wise to think carefully and critically during these beginning stages.

Understanding the General Purpose

Before any work on a speech can be done, the speaker needs to understand the general purpose of the speech.  The general purpose is what the speaker hopes to accomplish and will help guide in the selection of a topic. The instructor generally provides the general purpose for a speech, which falls into one of three categories. A general purpose to inform would mean that the speaker is teaching the audience about a topic, increasing their understanding and awareness, or providing new information about a topic the audience might already know.  Informative speeches are designed to present the facts, but not give the speaker’s opinion or any call to action. A general purpose to persuade would mean that the speaker is choosing the side of a topic and advocating for their side or belief.  The speaker is asking the audience to believe in their stance, or to take an action in support of their topic. A general purpose to entertain often entails short speeches of ceremony, where the speaker is connecting the audience to the celebration. You can see how these general purposes are very different.  An informative speech is just facts, the speaker would not be able to provide an opinion or direction on what to do with the information, whereas a persuasive speech includes the speaker’s opinions and direction on what to do with the information. Before a speaker chooses a topic, they must first understand the general purpose.

Selecting a Topic

Generally, speakers focus on one or more interrelated topics—relatively broad concepts, ideas, or problems that are relevant for particular audiences. The most common way that speakers discover topics is by simply observing what is happening around them—at their school, in their local government, or around the world. Opportunities abound for those interested in engaging speech as a tool for change. Perhaps the simplest way to find a topic is to ask yourself a few questions, including:

  • What important events are occurring locally, nationally, and internationally?
  • What do I care about most?
  • Is there someone or something I can advocate for?
  • What makes me angry/happy?
  • What beliefs/attitudes do I want to share?
  • Is there some information the audience needs to know?

Students speak about what is interesting to them and their audiences. What topics do you think are relevant today? There are other questions you might ask yourself, too, but these should lead you to at least a few topical choices. The most important work that these questions do is to locate topics within your pre-existing sphere of knowledge and interest. Topics should be ideas that interest the speaker or are part of their daily lives.  In order for a topic to be effective, the speaker needs to have some credibility or connection to the topic; it would be unfair to ask the audience to donate to a cause that the speaker has never donated to.  There must be a connection to the topic for the speaker to be seen as credible. David Zarefsky (2010) also identifies brainstorming as a way to develop speech topics, a strategy that can be helpful if the questions listed above did not yield an appropriate or interesting topic. Brainstorming involves looking at your daily activities to determine what you could share with an audience.  Perhaps if you work out regularly or eat healthy, you could explain that to an audience, or demonstrate how to dribble a basketball.  If you regularly play video games, you may advocate for us to take up video games or explain the history of video games.  Anything that you find interesting or important might turn into a topic. Starting with a topic you are already interested in will make writing and presenting your speech a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. It means that your entire speechwriting process will focus on something you find important and that you can present this information to people who stand to benefit from your speech. At this point, it is also important to consider the audience before choosing a topic.  While we might really enjoy a lot of different things that could be topics, if the audience has no connection to that topic, then it wouldn’t be meaningful for the speaker or audience.  Since we always have a diverse audience, we want to make sure that everyone in the audience can gain some new information from the speech.  Sometimes, a topic might be too complicated to cover in the amount of time we have to present, or involve too much information then that topic might not work for the assignment, and finally if the audience can not gain anything from a topic then it won’t work.  Ultimately, when we choose a topic we want to pick something that we are familiar with and enjoy, we have credibility and that the audience could gain something from. Once you have answered these questions and narrowed your responses, you are still not done selecting your topic. For instance, you might have decided that you really care about breeds of dogs. This is a very broad topic and could easily lead to a dozen different speeches. To resolve this problem, speakers must also consider the audience to whom they will speak, the scope of their presentation, and the outcome they wish to achieve.

Formulating the Purpose Statements

By honing in on a very specific topic, you begin the work of formulating your purpose statement. In short, a purpose statement clearly states what it is you would like to achieve. Purpose statements are especially helpful for guiding you as you prepare your speech. When deciding which main points, facts, and examples to include, you should simply ask yourself whether they are relevant not only to the topic you have selected, but also whether they support the goal you outlined in your purpose statement. The general purpose statement of a speech may be to inform, to persuade, to celebrate, or to entertain. Thus, it is common to frame a specific purpose statement around one of these goals. According to O’Hair, Stewart, and Rubenstein, a specific purpose statement “expresses both the topic and the general speech purpose in action form and in terms of the specific objectives you hope to achieve” (2004). The specific purpose is a single sentence that states what the audience will gain from this speech, or what will happen at the end of the speech. The specific purpose is a combination of the general purpose and the topic and helps the speaker to focus in on what can be achieved in a short speech.

To go back to the topic of a dog breed, the general purpose might be to inform, a specific purpose might be: To inform the audience about how corgis became household pets. If the general purpose is to persuade the specific purpose might be: to persuade the audience that dog breeds deemed “dangerous” should not be excluded from living in the cities. In short, the general purpose statement lays out the broader goal of the speech while the specific purpose statement describes precisely what the speech is intended to do.  The specific purpose should focus on the audience and be measurable, if I were to ask the audience before I began the speech how many people know how corgis became household pets, they could raise their hand, and if I ask at the end of my speech how many people know how corgis became household pets, I should see a lot more hands.  The specific purpose is the “so what” of the speech, it helps the speaker focus on the audience and take a bigger idea of a topic and narrow it down to what can be accomplished in a short amount of time.

Writing the Thesis Statement

The specific purpose statement is a tool that you will use as you write your speech, but it is unlikely that it will appear verbatim in your speech. Instead, you will want to convert the specific purpose statement into a central idea, or thesis statement that you will share with your audience.  Just like in a written paper, where the thesis comes in the first part of the paper, in a speech, the thesis comes within the first few sentences of the speech.  The thesis must be stated and tells the audience what to expect in this speech. A thesis statement may encapsulate the main idea of a speech in just a sentence or two and be designed to give audiences a quick preview of what the entire speech will be about. The thesis statement should be a single, declarative statement followed by a separate preview statement. If you are a Harry Potter enthusiast, you may write a thesis statement (central idea) the following way using the above approach: J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella-like story of a rise to fame.

Writing the Preview Statement

A preview statement (or series of statements) is a guide to your speech. This is the part of the speech that literally tells the audience exactly what main points you will cover. If you were to get on any freeway, there would be a green sign on the side of the road that tells you what cities are coming up—this is what your preview statement does; it tells the audience what points will be covered in the speech. Best of all, you would know what to look for! So, if we take our J.K Rowling example, the thesis and preview would look like this: J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella-like rags-to-riches story. First, I will tell you about J.K. Rowling’s humble beginnings. Then, I will describe her personal struggles as a single mom. Finally, I will explain how she overcame adversity and became one of the richest women in the United Kingdom.

Writing the Body of Your Speech

Once you have finished the important work of deciding what your speech will be about, as well as formulating the purpose statement and crafting the thesis, you should turn your attention to writing the body of your speech. The body of your speech consists of 3–4 main points that support your thesis and help the audience to achieve the specific purpose.  Creating main points helps to chunk the information you are sharing with your audience into an easy-to-understand organization. Choosing your main points will help you focus in on what information you want to share with the audience in order to prove your thesis. Since we can’t tell the audience everything about our topic, we need to choose our main points to make sure we can share the most important information with our audience. All of your main points are contained in the body, and normally this section is prepared well before you ever write the introduction or conclusion. The body of your speech will consume the largest amount of time to present, and it is the opportunity for you to elaborate on your supporting evidence, such as facts, statistics, examples, and opinions that support your thesis statement and do the work you have outlined in the specific purpose statement. Combining these various elements into a cohesive and compelling speech, however, is not without its difficulties, the first of which is deciding which elements to include and how they ought to be organized to best suit your purpose.

clearly states what it is you would like to achieve

“expresses both the topic and the general speech purpose in action form and in terms of the specific objectives you hope to achieve” (O'Hair, Stewart, & Rubenstein, 2004)

single, declarative sentence that captures the essence or main point of your entire presentation

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Chapter 5: Presentation Organization

32 Purpose and Central Idea Statements

Speeches have traditionally been seen to have one of three broad purposes: to inform, to persuade, and — well, to be honest, different words are used for the third kind of speech purpose: to inspire, to amuse, to please, or to entertain. These broad goals are commonly known as a speech’s general purpose, since, in general, you are trying to inform, persuade, or entertain your audience without regard to specifically what the topic will be. Perhaps you could think of them as appealing to the understanding of the audience (informative), the will or action (persuasive), and the emotion or pleasure.

Now that you know your general purpose (to inform, to persuade, or to entertain), you can start to move in the direction of the specific purpose. A specific purpose statement builds on your general purpose (to inform) and makes it more specific (as the name suggests). So if your first speech is an informative speech, your general purpose will be to inform your audience about a very specific realm of knowledge.

In writing your specific purpose statement, you will take three contributing elements (shown in figure 5.3) that will come together to help you determine your specific purpose :

  • You (your interests, your background, past jobs, experience, education, major),
  • Your audience
  • The context or setting.

diagram demonstrating three beginning categories, you, your audience, your context leading to a specific purpose statement followed by a central idea statement.

Putting It Together

Keeping these three inputs in mind, you can begin to write a specific purpose statement , which will be the foundation for everything you say in the speech and a guide for what you do not say. This formula will help you in putting together your specific purpose statement:

To _______________ [Specific Communication Word (inform, explain, demonstrate, describe, define, persuade, convince, prove, argue)] my [ Target Audience (my classmates, the members of the Social Work Club, my coworkers]  __________________. [T he Content (how to bake brownies, that Macs are better than PCs].

Example: The purpose of my presentation is to demonstrate for my coworkers the value of informed intercultural communication.

Formulating a Central Idea Statement

While you will not actually say your specific purpose statement during your speech, you will need to clearly state what your focus and main points are going to be. The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea). Just as you would create a thesis statement for an essay or research paper, the central idea statement helps focus your presentation by defining your topic, purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view. Here are two examples:

Specific Purpose –  To explain to my classmates the effects of losing a pet on the elderly.

Central Idea –  When elderly persons lose their animal companions, they can experience serious psychological, emotional, and physical effects.

Specific Purpose –  To demonstrate to my audience the correct method for cleaning a computer keyboard.

Central Idea –  Your computer keyboard needs regular cleaning to function well, and you can achieve that in four easy steps.

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Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable) 

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence) 

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim 

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim 

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis 

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
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Central Idea in Literature: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

Krystal Craiker headshot

Krystal N. Craiker

central idea

In literature, there are many elements that work together to make a cohesive story. At the heart of each story is the central idea.

The central idea, also called the main idea, is a brief, overall summary of what the entire story is about. Typically, we explain the central idea in one sentence.

The central idea is different from the theme and the message. It’s the backbone of a story’s plot. Let’s take a closer look at what the central idea means in literature.

central idea definition

Central Idea Definition: What Is It in a Story?

Central idea meaning: what does it mean, the importance of a central idea in a story, tips on using central ideas in your story, examples of the central idea of a story, conclusion on central ideas in a story.

The definition of the central idea is a statement that explains the main scenario of a story. All plot lines, supporting details, and conflicts support the central idea.

You can think of the central idea as a very brief summary of a story. In other words, if someone asks what the story is about, the central idea is what you would tell them.

Fairy tales are a great way to understand literary elements. Let’s use Goldilocks and the Three Bears as an example.

The central idea of this story is:

A girl named Goldilocks enters a house in the woods, helps herself to porridge, and breaks furniture, not knowing the house belongs to three bears.

We don’t explore every individual event of the story or even dive into the themes. We briefly summarize the plot and hint that there will be consequences to Goldilocks’ actions. The central idea doesn’t give away “spoilers” by revealing what happens in the story’s climax when the bears come home.

People often confuse the central idea with a story’s theme. These two literary elements are closely related but distinct.

The central idea addresses the main ideas of the plot. The theme, on the other hand, is the unifying element or elements weaved into a story. A literary theme is a generic truth found in many stories. Themes often have a message for readers from the author.

Examples of literary themes include courage, friendship, revenge, and power.

Central ideas are not generic. They are specific to an individual story.

Let’s return to our example of Goldilocks and the Three Bears . The theme is the effect of selfishness on others. There’s a message or moral there too: Be considerate of other people.

You can see how these differ from the central idea statement, which dealt with the story’s main character and plot.

central idea vs theme

The theme and message all come from the central idea. You can’t have a cohesive story without the central idea as a starting point.

Imagine writing a story is like building a house. When you have a clear central idea for your story, you have laid the foundation. This foundation supports every other part of the story.

The floors and walls of your story are the external conflict, internal conflict, characters, plot elements, setting, and more. The theme is like the electrical system that runs throughout the entire building.

You can’t have a sturdy house without a solid foundation. Likewise, you can’t have a strong story without a clear central idea.

In the Goldilocks story, the plot events, characters, and theme all relate back to our central idea. Imagine if the theme of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was forbidden love overcoming all. That doesn’t fit the story at all! The fable would sound very strange.

Here are a few tips on the most effective ways to use central ideas in your writing.

Write a Strong Central Idea Statement

The stronger your foundation, the sturdier your house. The same goes with a central idea.

You can get the point across with a poorly written central idea statement. In fact, a poorly written central idea is a great starting point.

But spend some time honing your central idea. A well-written central idea will explore not just the main plotline but also touch on underlying themes.

Let’s improve our Goldilocks central idea statement:

A young girl suffers the consequences of her selfish actions after breaking and entering and destroying property in a home owned by three bears.

This central idea still tells us the gist of the story and introduces the main characters, while also touching on the theme of selfishness.

Match the Theme to the Story

Like we discussed above, throwing in a theme about forbidden love to the classic Goldilocks tale won’t fit the story. The themes of a story must be relevant to the central idea.

Most novels or other long-form work have more than one theme expressed in the story. Spend some time figuring out which themes fit your central idea. Then you can plan character arcs , conflicts, or other elements to help you explore that theme.

Start Big, Narrow Down

It’s difficult to sum up an entire story in one or two brief sentences. Start with a big overview then whittle it down to find your central idea.

You can start by writing a synopsis, which is a roughly two-page plot summary. Then try to narrow that down into a paragraph by focusing on the main events and key characters.

Writing a central idea statement from a paragraph is much easier. Keep it short: one or two sentences max.

As an added bonus, you can then use your central idea as your elevator pitch to quickly introduce people to your book.

tips for using the central idea

Your book is likely more complicated than a fairy tale. Let’s look at some examples of central ideas in other works.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Two young, star-crossed lovers cause a deadly war between opposing families when they hastily marry.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In the 1920s, Jay Gatsby has achieved great wealth through unsavory means in an attempt to impress the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. Regardless, they are still divided by their differences in social status, rampant materialism, and Daisy’s abusive husband.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A lonely miser named Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future to confront his life choices and learn about love and compassion.

Finding the central idea of a story will help you understand how the plot and themes work together. Discovering your own story’s central idea will guide your writing process and help you develop a cohesive story.

Do you want to know how to build a world your readers won’t forget? Download this free book now:

World-Building 101: How to construct an unforgettable world for your fantasy or sci-Fi story!

World-Building 101: How to Construct an Unforgettable World for your Fantasy or Sci-Fi Story!

This guide is for all the writers out there who want to construct an unforgettable world that your readers can't help but get lost in, learn how to invent species, gods, monsters and more in our immersive guide..

what is a central idea or thesis statement

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Krystal N. Craiker is the Writing Pirate, an indie romance author and blog manager at ProWritingAid. She sails the seven internet seas, breaking tropes and bending genres. She has a background in anthropology and education, which brings fresh perspectives to her romance novels. When she’s not daydreaming about her next book or article, you can find her cooking gourmet gluten-free cuisine, laughing at memes, and playing board games. Krystal lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, child, and basset hound.

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8 Chapter 8: Organizing and Outlining

Victoria Leonard, College of the Canyons

Adapted by William Kelvin, Professor of Communication Studies, Katharine O’Connor, Ph.D., and Jamie C. Votraw, Professor of Communication Studies, Florida SouthWestern State College

Outlining with post it notes

Figure 8.1: Outlining with Post it Notes 1

Introduction

One of your authors remembers taking an urban studies course in college. The professor was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the subject. Do you think that alone made her want to go to class? Unfortunately not. As great as this professor was in so many ways, the lectures were not organized. As much as she tried to take great notes and follow along, it felt like a hopeless task. Having a great topic that you are passionate about is important, but organizing your speech so that the audience can follow along is vital to the success of your speech.

When students are faced with developing a speech, they face the same challenges as a student asked to write an essay. Although the end product may be different in that you are not writing an essay or turning one in, you will go through much of the same process as you would in writing an essay.

Before you get too far into the writing process, it is important to know what steps you will have to take to write your speech. Note that the speech-writing process is formulaic: it is based on time-honored principles of rhetoric established thousands of years ago. Your initial preparation work will include the following:

  • Selecting a topic
  • Writing a general purpose
  • Writing a specific purpose
  • Writing a thesis statement
  • Selecting main points
  • Writing a preview statement
  • Writing the body of the speech

This chapter will explain each of these steps so that you can create a thorough and well-written speech. As with anything we do that requires effort, the more you put in, the more you will get out of the writing process, in terms of both your education and your grade.

The Speech Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis

Selecting a topic.

We all want to know that our topics will be interesting to our audience. If you think back to Chapter 5, Identifying Topic, Purpose, and Audience, you will recall how important it is to be audience-centered. Does this mean that you cannot talk about a topic that your audience is unfamiliar with? No, what it does mean is that your goal as a speaker is to make that topic relevant to the audience. Whether you are writing an informative speech on earthquakes or the singer Jhené Aiko, you will need to make sure that you approach the speech in a way that helps your speech resonate with the audience. Although many of you would not have been alive when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992, this is an important topic to people who live in hurricane zones. Explaining hurricanes and hurricane preparation would be a great way to bring this topic alive for people who may not have lived through this event. Similarly, many audience members may be unfamiliar with Jhené Aiko, and that allows you to share information about her that might lead someone to want to check out her music.

If you are writing a persuasive speech, you might approach your topic selection differently. Think about what is happening in the world today. You can look at what affects you and your peers at a local, state, national, or global level. Whether you believe that gun violence is important to address because it is a problem at the national level, or you wish to address parking fees on your campus, you will have given thought to what is important to your audience. As Chapter 2 explained, your topics must fulfill the ethical goals of the speech. If you are ethical and select a topic you care about and make it relevant for the audience, you are on the right track.

Here are some questions that might help you select a topic:

  • What are some current trends in music or fashion?
  • What hobbies do I have that might be interesting to others?
  • What objects or habits do I use every day that are beneficial to know about?
  • What people are influencing the world in social media or politics?
  • What authors, artists, or actors have made an impact on society?
  • What events have shaped our nation or our world?
  • What political debates are taking place today?
  • What challenges do we face as a society or species?
  • What health-related conditions should others be aware of?
  • What is important for all people to be aware of in your community?

Once you have answered these questions and narrowed your responses, you are still not done selecting your topic. For instance, you might have decided that you really care about dogs. This is a very broad topic and could easily lead to a dozen different speeches. Now you must further narrow down the topic in your purpose statements.

Writing the Purpose Statements

Purpose statements allow you to do two things. First, they allow you to focus on whether you are fulfilling the assignment. Second, they allow you to narrow your topic so that you are not speaking too broadly. When creating an outline for your speech, you should include the general purpose and specific purpose statement at the beginning of your outline.

A general purpose statement is the overarching goal of a speech whether to inform, to persuade, to inspire, to celebrate, to mourn, or to entertain. It describes what your speech goal is, or what you hope to achieve. In public speaking classes, you will be asked to do any of the following: To inform, to persuade, or to entertain . Thus, your general purpose statement will be two words —the easiest points you will ever earn! But these two words are critical for you to keep in mind as you write the speech. Your authors have seen many persuasive speeches submitted inappropriately as informative speeches. Likewise, one author remembers a fascinating “persuasive speech” on the death penalty that never took a stance on the issue or asked the audience to—that would be an informative speech, right?  You must always know your broad goal. Your audience should know it, too, and so should your instructor!  Knowing your purpose is important because this is what you begin with to build your speech. It is also important to know your general purpose because this will determine your research approach. You might use different sources if you were writing a speech to inform versus to persuade.

A specific purpose statement is consistent with the general purpose of the speech, written according to assignment requirements, and clearly identifies desired audience outcomes. It is a declaration starting with the general purpose and then providing the topic with the precise objectives of the speech. It will be written according to your general purpose. For instance, the home design enthusiast might write the following specific purpose statement: To inform my audience about the pros and cons of flipping houses.

Specific purpose statements are integral in knowing if your speech is narrowed enough or if you need to narrow it further. Consider these examples:

  • To inform my audience about musical instruments
  • To inform my audience about string instruments
  • To inform my audience about the violin

As you can see, the first two examples are far too broad. But is the third purpose statement sufficiently narrow? Will the speaker be covering the violin’s design, physics, history, cost, or how to play it? What do you think about these possible topics?

  • To inform my audience about the life and contributions of Patricia Bath
  • To inform my audience about the invention of the wheelchair
  • To inform my audience about the Biloxi Wade-Ins
  • To inform my audience about how Fibromyalgia affects the body

Dr. Patricia Bath

Figure 8.2: Dr. Patricia Bath 2

Hopefully, you can see that the examples above would work for an informative speech. They are specific and limited in their scope.

Your instructor will give you a time limit for your speech. Your specific purpose should help you see if you can stay within the time limit. You should put the purpose statements on your outline. Others may only ask you to put these on your topic submission. However, you do not state a general purpose or specific purpose during the delivery of your speech! These are simply guidelines for you as you write and for your instructor as they assess your writing.

Writing the Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a single, declarative statement that encapsulates the essence of your speech. Just like in essay writing, you want your thesis statement, or central idea, to reveal what your speech is about. Thesis statements can never be written as questions, nor can they include a research citation. The thesis statement is not a list of main points, it is an over-arching idea that encapsulates them all.

Portrait of Author, J.R.R. Tolkien

Figure 8.3: Portrait of Aut h or, J.R.R. Tolkien 3

As a Lord of the Rings enthusiast, I may choose to write a speech on author J.R.R. Tolkien. Here is an example of what a thesis statement may sound like:

J.R.R. Tolkien is known as the father of modern fantasy literature and became a pop culture icon after his death.

The thesis you just read provides the audience with just enough information to help them know what they will hear ahd learn from your speech.

Selecting Main Points

The main points are the major ideas you want to cover in your speech. Since speeches have time requirements, your outline will always be limited to two to three  main points. Many instructors suggest that you have no more than three main points so you can do justice to each idea and stay within the time frame. You will also lose time on each main point describing it in the preview statement, internal transitions, and review of main points in the conclusion. Plus, it can be difficult for audiences to remember many points.

Let’s determine the main points for a short speech using the J.R.R. Tolkien thesis above. Having researched his life, you might come up with an initial list like this:

  • Childhood and Background
  • Military service
  • Literary fame and honors

As interesting as all of these topics are, there is not enough time to speak about each idea. This is where the difficult decision of narrowing a speech comes in. Brainstorming all of the points you could cover would be your first step. Then, you need to determine which of the points would be the most interesting for your audience to hear. There are also creative ways to combine ideas and touch on key points within each main point. You will see how this can be achieved in the next section as we narrow down the number of topics we will discuss about J.R.R. Tolkein.

Writing the Preview Statement

A preview statement is a guide to your speech. This is the part of the speech that literally tells the audience exactly what main points you will cover. If you were to open an app on your phone to get directions to a location, you would be told exactly how to get there. Best of all, you would know what to look for, such as landmarks. A preview statement in a speech fulfills the same goal. It is a roadmap for your speech. Let’s look at how a thesis and preview statement might look for a speech on J.R.R. Tolkien:

Thesis: J.R.R. Tolkien is known as the father of modern fantasy literature and became a pop culture icon after his death.

Preview: First, I will tell you about J.R.R. Tolkien’s humble beginnings. Then, I will describe his rise to literary fame. Finally, I will explain his lasting cultural legacy.

Notice that the thesis statement captures the essence of the speech. The preview concisely names each main point that supports the thesis. You will want to refer to these main point names, or  taglines , throughout the speech. This repetition will help audience members remember each main point; use variations of these taglines in your preview statement, when introducing each point, and again in the conclusion.

Always use your words to make the audience feel that they are part of the performance. This makes them feel included and on your side. Also, occasionally audience members will have more expertise than you. Imagine how an expert would feel when you begin your speech with “Today I will teach you about…” when they already know a lot about the subject. Use inclusive language in your preview statement–“Get ready to join me on a fantastic adventure…”

Organizing the Main Points

Once you know what your speech is about, you can begin developing the body of your speech. The body of the speech is the longest and most important part of your speech because it’s where the general purpose is executed, e.g., you inform or persuade with the main points that you listed in your preview statement. In general, the body of the speech comprises about 75% to 80% of the length of your speech. This is where you will present the bulk of your research, evidence, examples, and any other supporting material you have. Chapter 7 will provide you with specifics on how to do research and support your speech.

Several patterns of organization are available to choose from when writing a speech. You should keep in mind that some patterns work only for informative speeches and others for persuasive speeches. The topical, chronological, spatial, or causal patterns discussed here are best suited to informative speeches. The patterns of organization for persuasive speeches will be discussed in Chapter 10.

Topical Pattern

The chronological pattern needed main points ordered in a specific sequence, whereas the topical pattern arranges the information of the speech into different subtopics. For example, you are currently attending college. Within your college, various student services are important for you to use while you are there. You may visit the Richard H. Rush Library and its computer lab, Academic Support Centers, Career Services and the Office of Student Financial Aid.

Valencia Campus Library Stacks

Figure 8.6: Valencia Campus Library Stacks 6

To organize this speech topically, it doesn’t matter which area you speak about first, but here is how you could organize it:

Topic: Student Services at Florida SouthWestern State College

Thesis Statement: Florida SouthWestern State College has five important student services, which include the library, the library computer lab, Academic Support Centers, Career Services and the Financial Aid office.

Preview : This speech will discuss each of the five important student services that Florida SouthWestern State College offers.

Main Points:

I. The Richard H. Rush Library can be accessed five days a week and online and has a multitude of books, periodicals, and other resources to use.

II.The library’s computer lab is open for students to use for several hours a day, with reliable, high-speed internet connections and webcams.

III.The Academic Support Centers have subject tutors, computers, and study rooms.

IV.CareerSource offers career services both in-person and online, with counseling and access to job listings and networking opportunities.

V. The Office of Student Financial Aid is one of the busiest offices on campus, offering students a multitude of methods by which they can supplement their personal finances by paying for both tuition and books.

Note that many novices appreciate the topical pattern because of its simplicity. However, because there is no internal logic to the ordering of points, the speech writer loses an opportunity to include a mnemonic device (phrasing that helps people remember information) in their performance. Audience members are more likely to remember information if it hangs together in an ordered, logical way, such as the following patterns employ.

Chronological (Temporal) Pattern

When organizing a speech based on time or sequence, you would use a chronological (temporal) pattern of organization. Speeches that look at the history of someone or something, or the evolution of an object or a process could be organized chronologically. For example, you could use this pattern in speaking about President Barack Obama, the Holocaust, the evolution of the cell phone, or how to carve a pumpkin. The challenge of using this pattern is to make sure your speech has distinct main points and that it does not appear to be storytelling.

Barack Obama

Figure 8.4: Barack Obama 4

Here is an example of how your main points will help you make sure that the points are clear and distinct:

Topic: President Barack Obama

Specific Purpose: To inform my audience about the life of President Barack Obama.

Thesis: From his humble beginnings, President Barack Obama succeeded in law and politics to become the first African-American president in U.S. history.

Preview: First, let’s look at Obama’s background and career in law. Then, we will look at his rise to the presidency of the United States. Finally, we will explore his accomplishments after leaving the White House.

I. First, let’s look at the early life of Obama and his career as a lawyer and advocate.

II. Second, let’s examine how Obama transitioned from law to becoming the first African-American President of the United States.

III. Finally, let’s explore all that Obama has achieved since he left the White House.

We hope that you can see that the main points clearly define and isolate different parts of Obama’s life so that each point is distinct. Using a chronological pattern can also help you with other types of informative speech topics.

Pumpkn Carving

Figure 8.5: Pumpkin Carving 5

Here is an additional example to help you see different ways to use this pattern:

Topic : How to Carve a Pumpkin

Specific Purpose: To inform my audience how to carve a pumpkin.

Thesis: Carving a pumpkin with special techniques and tools can result in amazing creations.

Preview: First, I will explain the process of gutting the pumpkin in preparation for carving. Then, I will describe the way you use your special tools to carve the face you hope to create. Finally, I will show you a variety of different designs that are unique to make your pumpkin memorable.

I. First, let me explain exactly how you open up the pumpkin, remove the seeds, and clean it so it is ready to carve.

II. Second, let me describe how the tools you have on hand are used to draw and carve the face of the pumpkin.

III. Finally, let me show you several unique designs that will make your pumpkin dazzle your friends and neighbors.

Note that some instructors prefer their students not give “how-to” speeches. Always clear your topic with your instructor early on in the speech-writing process.

Spatial Pattern

A spatial pattern arranges ideas according to their physical or geographic relationships. Typically, we can begin with a starting point and look at the main points of your speech directionally from top to bottom, inside to outside, left to right, north to south, and so on. A spatial pattern allows for creativity as well as clarity. For example, a speech about an automobile could be arranged using a spatial pattern and you might describe the car from the front end to the back end or the interior to the exterior. A speech on Disneyland might begin with your starting point at the entrance on Main Street, and each subsequent main point may be organized by going through each land in the park in a directional manner. Even a speech on the horrific tsunami off the Indonesian coast of Sumatra on December 26, 2004, could be discussed spatially as you use the starting point and describe the destruction as it traveled, killing 250,000 people.

If you have never heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is marine debris that is in the North Pacific Ocean. Just like the tsunami in the previous example, this mass could likewise be discussed using a spatial pattern.

Infographic explaning The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Figure 8.7: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch 7

In an informative speech, you could arrange your points spatially like this:

Topic: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Thesis: The Great Pacific Garbage patch is not well known to most people; it consists of marine debris that is located in the North Pacific Ocean.

Preview: First, I will describe the Eastern Garbage Patch. Finally, I will explain the Western Patch.

I. The Eastern Garbage patch is located between the states of Hawaii and California.

II. The Western Garbage Patch is located near Japan.

Causal Pattern

A causal pattern of organization can be used to describe what occurred that caused something to happen, and what the effects were. Conversely, another approach is to begin with the effects and then talk about what caused them. For example, in 1994, there was a 6.7 magnitude earthquake that occurred in the San Fernando Valley in Northridge, California.

Northridge Meadows Apartment Building Collapse

Figure 8.8: Northridge Meadows Apartment Building Collapse 8

Let’s look at how we can arrange this speech first by using a cause-effect pattern:

Topic: Northridge Earthquake

Thesis: The Northridge, California earthquake was a devastating event that was caused by an unknown fault and resulted in the loss of life and billions of dollars of damage.

I. The Northridge earthquake was caused by a fault that was previously unknown and located nine miles beneath Northridge.

II. The Northridge earthquake resulted in the loss of 57 lives and over 40 billion dollars of damage in Northridge and surrounding communities.

Depending on your topic, you may decide it is more impactful to start with the effects and work back to the causes ( effect-cause pattern ). Let’s take the same example and flip it around:

Thesis: The Northridge, California earthquake was a devastating event that resulted in the loss of life and billions of dollars in damage and was caused by an unknown fault below Northridge.

I. The Northridge earthquake resulted in the loss of 57 lives and over 40 billion dollars of damage in Northridge and surrounding communities.

II. The Northridge earthquake was caused by a fault that was previously unknown and located nine miles beneath Northridge.

Why might you decide to use an effect-cause approach rather than a cause-effect approach? In this particular example, the effects of the earthquake were truly horrible. If you heard all of that information first, you would be much more curious to hear about what caused such devastation. Sometimes natural disasters are not that exciting, even when they are horrible. Why? Unless they affect us directly, we may not have the same attachment to the topic. This is one example where an effect-cause approach may be very impactful.

One take-home idea for you about organizing patterns is that you can usually use any pattern with any topic. Could the Great Pacific Garbage Patch be explained using the chronological or causal patterns? Could the Northridge quake be discussed using the chronological or spatial patterns? Could a pumpkin-carving speech be spatially organized? The answer to all of the above is yes. The organizational pattern you select should be one that you think will best help the audience make sense of, and remember, your ideas.

Developing the Outline

Although students are often intimidated by the process of outlining a speech, you should know that it is a formulaic process. Once you understand the formula–the same one speech instructors have long taught and used to assess throughout the nation–speech writing should be a cinch. And remember, this process is what organizes your speech. A well-organized speech leads to better delivery. Simply, outlining is a method of organizing the introduction, body with main points, and conclusion of your speech. Outlines are NOT essays; they are properly formatted outlines! They use specific symbols in a specific order to help you break down your ideas in a clear way. There are two types of outlines: the preparation outline and the speaking outline.

Outline Types

When you begin the outlining process, you will create a preparation outline. A preparation outline consists of full, complete sentences, and thus, is void of awkward sentences and sentence fragments. In a full-sentence preparation outline, only one punctuated sentence should appear beside each symbol. In many cases, this type of outline will be used in preparing your speech, but will not be allowed to be used during your speech delivery. Remember that even though this outline requires complete sentences, it is still not an essay. The examples you saw earlier in this chapter were written in complete sentences, which is exactly what a preparation outline should look like.

A speaking outline is less detailed than the preparation outline and will include brief phrases or words that help you remember your key ideas. It is also called a “key word” outline because it is not written in complete sentences–only key words are present to jog your memory as needed. It should include elements of the introduction, body, and conclusion, as well as your transitions. Speaking outlines may be written on index cards to be used when you deliver your speech.

Confirm with your professor about specific submission requirements for preparation and speaking outlines.

Outline Components

Introduction and conclusion.

In Chapter 9, we identified the components of effective introductions and conclusions. Do you remember what they were? Your preparation outline should delineate the five elements of an introduction and the four elements of a conclusion . Recall, a complete introduction includes an attention-getter, relates the topic to the audience, establishes speaker credibility, states the thesis, and previews the main points. A quality conclusion will signal the speech is ending, restate the thesis, review the main points, and finish with a memorable ending.

Main Points

Main points are the main ideas in the speech. In other words, the main points are what your audience should remember from your talk, and they are phrased as single, declarative sentences. These are never phrased as a question, nor can they be a quote or form of citation. Any supporting material you have will be put in your outline as a subpoint. Since this is a public speaking class, your instructor will decide how long your speeches will be, but in general, you can assume that no speech will be longer than 10 minutes in length. Given that alone, we can make one assumption: All speeches will fall between 2 to 3 main points based simply on length. If you are working on an outline and you have ten main points, something is wrong, and you need to revisit your ideas to see how you need to reorganize your points.

All main points are preceded by Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV, V). Subpoints are preceded by capital letters (A, B, C, etc.), sub-sub points by Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.), then sub-sub-sub points by lowercase letters (a, b, c, etc.). You may expand further than this. Here is a short template:

I. First main point

  • First subpoint
  • Second subpoint
  • First sub-subpoint
  • First sub-sub-subpoint
  • Second sub-sub-subpoint
  • Second main point
  • Third main point

References List

A quality speech requires a speaker to cite evidence to support their claims. Your professor will likely require that you incorporate evidence from your research in both your outline and speech. In Chapter 7, we reviewed how to gather information, incorporate the research into your speech, and cite your sources, both in your written outline and during oral delivery. An ethical and credible speaker gives credit where credit is due and shares source information with the audience. Accordingly, the last piece of your preparation outline is the References List.  The references list will include full written citations for all resources used in the composition and presentation of your speech. The structure of the references list follows a specific format dictated by the American Psychological Association 7th Ed. (remember, the Communication Studies discipline uses this APA formatting). Since formatting varies by source type, it is useful to refer to a reference guide to determine the exact citation formatting when writing your references list.

Written Oral Citations

There is a good chance your professor will ask you to include oral citations in your speech delivery. If so, you should include these in your preparation outline. The written oral citation is where you share your evidence and details of how you plan to cite the source during the delivery. Often, this is written in a similar format as “According to an article titled [title], written by [author] in [year], [resource content].” You should include enough source-identifying information for your audience to verify the accuracy and credibility of the content. In your outline, write out the specific source-information you will use to orally cite the source in your speech. Discuss the required number of oral citations with your professor and include all of them in your written outline. At FSW, we require three oral citations.

Outlining Principles

Next, we will cover the principles of outline which are outlining “rules” that you want to follow to be most effective. (Your English teachers will thank us, too!). First, read through this example outline for a main point about dogs. We will recall this example as we move through the principles. Don’t skip this example. Read it now!

Big and Small Dog both are light brown

Figure 6.9: Big and Small Dog 9

Topic: Dogs

Thesis: There are many types of dogs that individuals can select from before deciding which would make the best family pet.

Preview: First, I will describe the characteristics of large breed dogs,  then I will discuss the characteristics of small breed dogs.

  • Some large breed dogs need daily activity.
  • Some large breed dogs are dog friendly.
  • After eating is one of the times drooling is bad.
  • The drooling is horrible after they drink, so beware!
  • Great Pyrenees Mountain dogs drool as well.
  • If you live in an apartment, these breeds could pose a problem.

Transition statement: Now that we’ve explored the characteristics of large breed dogs, let’s contrast this with small breeds.

  • Some small breed dogs need daily activity.
  • Some small breed dogs are dog friendly.
  • They will jump on people.
  • They will wag their tails and nuzzle.
  • Beagles love strangers.
  • Cockapoos also love strangers.

This dog example will help us showcase the following outlining principles.

Subordination and Coordination

The example above helps us to explain the concepts of subordination and coordination . Subordination is used in outline organization so the content is in a hierarchical order. This means that your outline shows subordination by indention. All of the points that are “beneath” (indented in the format) are called subordinate points. For example, if you have a job with a supervisor, you are subordinate to the supervisor. The supervisor is subordinate to the owner of the company. Your outline content works in a similar way. Using the dog example outlined in the previous section of this chapter, subpoints A, B, and C described characteristics of large breed dogs, and those points are all subordinate to main point I. Similarly, subpoints i and ii beneath subpoint C.1. both described dogs that drool, so those are subordinate to subpoint C. If we had discussed “food” under point C, you would know that something didn’t make sense! Overall, to check your outline for coherence, think of the outline as a staircase; walking down the outline one step at a time.

Tech tip: You can use the Ruler function of word processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create tabs that align subordinated points with each other and keep the following lines of text properly aligned. If you only use the tab key, text that flows beyond the first line will usually not align with the proper tab stop for a given sub-point. Some instructors may provide you with a template, but experiment with the Ruler function on your own. It’s very useful!

You will also see that there is a coordination of points. Coordination is used in outline organization so that all of the numbers or letters represent the same idea. You know they coordinate because they align vertically and there is no diagonal relationship between the symbols. In the dog example, A, B, and C were all characteristics of large breed dogs, so those are all coordinated and represent the same “idea.” Had C been “German Shepherd,” then the outline would have been incorrect because that is a type of dog, not a characteristic, therefore, breaking the rules of subordination and coordination.

Figure 8.10 below provides you with a visual graphic of the subordination and coordination process. You will see that the topic of this very brief outline is bread. The main point tells you that there are different types of bread: sourdough, wheat, white, and egg.

To check this brief outline for subordination, you would look to see what subpoints fall beneath the main point. Do all of the sub-points represent a type of bread? You will see that they do! Next, to check for coordination, you would look at all of the subpoints that have a vertical relationship to each other. Are the subpoints these four types of bread? They are. The image also allows you to see what happens when you make a mistake. The third example shows the subpoints as sourdough, wheat, white, and jelly. Clearly, jelly is not a type of bread. Thus, there is a lack of both subordination and coordination in this short example. Make sure you spend some time checking the subordination and coordination of your own subpoints all the way throughout the outline until you have reached your last level of subordination. Now, study the image so that these principles of outlining are crystal clear; please ask your professor questions about this because it is a major part of speechmaking.

A visual graphic of the subordination and coordination process.

Figure 8.10: Checking Your Outline 10

You may be wondering why we bother with subordination and coordination. It actually helps both your listeners and your instructors. Listening is difficult. Any techniques that help audiences make sense of information are welcome. As soon as you begin talking, audiences listen for cues on how you are structuring information. If you organize clearly using logical relationships, your audience will be better able to follow your ideas. Further, for busy instructors examining many students’ outlines, when students’ grasp of subordination and coordination jump off the page due to their proper visual alignment, we know that students understand how to organize information for verbal delivery.

Parallelism

Another important rule in outlining is known as parallelism . This means that, when possible, you begin your sentences in a similar way, using a similar grammatical structure. For example, in the previous example on dogs, some of the sentences began with “some large breed dogs.” This type of structure adds clarity to your speech. Students often worry that parallelism will sound boring. It’s actually the opposite! It adds clarity. However, if you had ten sentences in a row, we would never recommend you begin them all the same way. That is where transitions come into the picture and break up any monotony that could occur.

The principle of division is an important part of outlining. Division is a principle of outlining that requires a balance between two subpoints in an outline. For each idea in your speech, you should have enough subordinate ideas to explain the point in detail and you must have enough meaningful information so that you can divide it into a minimum of two subpoints (A and B). If subpoint A has enough information that you can explain it, then it, too, should be able to be divided into two subpoints (1 and 2). So, in other words, division means this: If you have an A, then you need a B; if you have a 1, then you need a 2, and so on. What if you cannot divide the point? In a case like that, you would simply incorporate the information in the point above.

Connecting Your 2-3 Main Points

There are different types of transitions , which are words or phrases that help you connect all sections of your speech. To guarantee the flow of the speech, you will write transition statements to make connections between all sections of the outline. You will use these transitions throughout the outline, including between the introduction and the body, between the 2-3 main points, and between the body and the conclusion.

  • Internal Reviews (Summaries) and Previews are short descriptions of what a speaker has said and will say that are delivered between main points.

Internal Reviews give your audience a cue that you have finished a main point and are moving on to the next main point. These also help remind the audience of what you have spoken about throughout your speech. For example, an internal review may sound like this, “So far, we have seen that the pencil has a long and interesting history. We also looked at the many uses the pencil has that you may not have known about previously.”

Internal Previews lay out what will occur next in your speech. They are longer than transitional words or signposts. For example, “Next, let us explore what types of pencils there are to pick from that will be best for your specific project.”

  • Signposts are transitional words that are not full sentences, but connect ideas using words like “first,” “next,” “also,” “moreover,” etc. Signposts are used within the main point you are discussing, and they help the audience know when you are moving to a new idea.
  • A nonverbal transition is a transition that does not use words. Rather, movement, such as pausing as you move from one point to another is one way to use a nonverbal transition. You can also use inflection by raising the pitch of your voice on a signpost to indicate that you are transitioning.

The most effective transitions typically combine many or all of the elements discussed here. Here is an example:

Now ( signpost ) that I have told you about the history of the pencil, as well as its many uses, ( internal review ) let’s look at what types of pencils you can pick from (mime picking up a pencil and moving a few steps for nonverbal transition ) that might be best for your project ( internal preview ).

Although this wasn’t the splashiest chapter in the text, it is one of the most critical chapters in speechmaking. Communicating your ideas in an organized and developed fashion means your audience will easily understand you. Each one of the principles and examples provided should be referenced as you work to develop your own speech. Remember that your speech will have a general purpose (typically to inform or persuade) and a specific purpose that details exactly what you hope to accomplish in the speech. Your speech’s thesis statement will be the central idea, what audiences most remember. The thesis is not just a list of main points, but it is a larger idea encompassing the two to three main points supporting it in the speech. Speeches should follow an organizational pattern, use standard formatting practices, and progress from full-sentence preparation outlines to key word speaking outlines before your performance. To see how all of these pieces come together, check out the sample preparation outline included at the bottom of the chapter. When writing your own preparation outline, use this sample as a guide. Consider each component a puzzle piece needed to make your outline complete.

Reflection Questions

  • How has the information regarding general and specific purpose statements helped you to narrow your topic for your speech?
  • Using brainstorming, can you generate a list of possible main points for your speech topic? Then, how will you decide which are the best choices to speak on?
  • Which pattern(s) of organization do you think would be best for your informative speech? Why?
  • Researchers say writing in small bursts is better. Do you agree that it is more effective to write your outline in small chunks of time rather than writing an entire speech in one day? Why or why not?

Body of the Speech

Coordination

General Purpose Statement

Internal Review (Summary)

Internal Preview

Nonverbal Transition

Preparation Outline

Preview Statement

Speaking Outline

Specific Purpose Statement

Subordination

Thesis Statement

Transitions

Written Oral Citation

Sample Speaking Outline

General Purpose: To inform

Specific Purpose: By the end of this speech, my audience will be able to explain bottle bricking, bottle brick benches, and their purposes.

Introduction — 

I. Attention Getter: How many of you have thrown away a piece of plastic in the last 24 hours? Perhaps you pulled cellophane off a pack of gum or emptied out a produce bag. You probably don’t think about it, but those little pieces of plastic have two potential destinations – if they’re obedient, they go to a landfill. If they’re rogue, they can end up in waterways.

II. Thesis Statement: Today we will learn about a revolutionary way of dealing with plastic trash called bottle bricking.

III. Relevance Statement: As our planet’s ecological crises worsen, each of us should reflect on our impact on the environment. According to the Sea Education Society, a non-profit dedicated to reducing pollution through environmental education, there are more than one million pieces of plastic per square mile in the most polluted parts of the Atlantic Ocean, as Kirsten Silven of Earthtimes.org reported in (2011). If you want to take steps to preserve our world’s natural beauty for future generations, this speech is for you.

IV. Credibility Statement: When I first learned about bottle bricks I was incredulous. I thought “what is the point of stuffing plastic into plastic bottles?”. But soon the idea took hold of me and I was volunteering with local groups, eventually inspiring the creation of a Bottle Brick Bench at a high school I worked at.

V. Preview Main Points Statement: In this speech, we will learn how a bottle brick is made, how they are turned into benches, and the purpose behind this seemingly strange activity.

Transition: Before we go any further, let’s learn how to make a bottle brick.

Body — 

  • You will soon notice it everywhere.
  • The trash must be clean and dry.
  • Other hard-plastic bottles work, also.
  • The bottles must be clean and dry.
  • The stick should be long enough to reach the bottom of the bottle.
  • Pick a smooth stick or give it a handle.

Transition: Now we know how to transform our trash into tools. But, what can bottle bricks be used for? One answer: a bench.

  • Most creators argue you should use reclaimed stone (urbanite).
  • Bricks make up the backrest.
  • Cob is like mud.
  • The benches make us realize how much plastic we toss, writes Brennan Blazer Bird on earthbench.org (2014) , home of the Peace on Earthbench Movement that the 25-year-old ecological educator founded.
  • Later, people might think about it the plastic away they throw away
  • Currently we have little use for soft plastic; most film plastics are not recyclable.
  • Benches are a sign for change, and they are comfortable.
  • Plastic “sequestered” in a bottle avoids landfills and the ocean.
  • In landfills it gets into drinking water.
  • All five subtropical ocean gyres have plastic “garbage patches,” according to 5gyres, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating plastic pollution in the gyres (5gyres.org, 2014) .
  • To have fun! The Harvest Collective called natural building such as earthbenches “incredibly fun and inspiring” on its website theharvestcollective.org (2014) .

Transition: So now that we understand why someone would make a bottle brick bench, let’s see if we’ve successfully “stuffed” this knowledge into our heads. [ I can make a bottle-stuffing motion to have fun during transition. ]

Conclusion —

  • Signal end of the speech: I think it’s safe to say that every one of us throws away plastic on a regular basis has some degree of concern for the health of our planet.
  • Review Main Points: Today we’ve learned how to make bottle bricks, how to put them into a bottle brick bench, and the reasons for doing so.
  • Restate Thesis: Today we have seen that we can turn our seemingly useless, polluting trash into safe, useful technology. Maybe we can use such forward-thinking attitudes to promote sustainable cycles in all aspects of society.
  • Specify desired audience response: I know that you aren’t all going to rush home and start bricking, but I’d like you to remember the basic premises underlying bottle bricks. But, by all means, if you’re interested in adding to the Peace on Earth Bench for Movement, visit earthbench.org or talk to me in class sometime.
  • Strong closing (clincher): Who knows, maybe when you’re about to graduate you will be able to sit on a Bottle Brick Bench on campus reminding us all that we, through our individual choices, have the power to transform our species’ problems into solutions.

Introduction to Public Speaking Copyright © by Jamie C. Votraw, M.A.; Katharine O'Connor, Ph.D.; and William F. Kelvin, Ph.D.. All Rights Reserved.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

Frequently asked questions: Writing an essay

For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

Your essay’s conclusion should contain:

  • A rephrased version of your overall thesis
  • A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
  • An indication of why your argument matters

The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.

The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.

An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph  essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :

  • Research has shown that the meat industry has severe environmental impacts.
  • However, many plant-based foods are also produced in environmentally damaging ways.
  • It’s important to consider not only what type of diet we eat, but where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.

The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .

However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.

You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.

Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.

Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

If you’re not given a specific prompt for your descriptive essay , think about places and objects you know well, that you can think of interesting ways to describe, or that have strong personal significance for you.

The best kind of object for a descriptive essay is one specific enough that you can describe its particular features in detail—don’t choose something too vague or general.

If you’re not given much guidance on what your narrative essay should be about, consider the context and scope of the assignment. What kind of story is relevant, interesting, and possible to tell within the word count?

The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to reflect on a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

Don’t worry too much if your topic seems unoriginal. The point of a narrative essay is how you tell the story and the point you make with it, not the subject of the story itself.

Narrative essays are usually assigned as writing exercises at high school or in university composition classes. They may also form part of a university application.

When you are prompted to tell a story about your own life or experiences, a narrative essay is usually the right response.

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

An expository essay is a common assignment in high-school and university composition classes. It might be assigned as coursework, in class, or as part of an exam.

Sometimes you might not be told explicitly to write an expository essay. Look out for prompts containing keywords like “explain” and “define.” An expository essay is usually the right response to these prompts.

An expository essay is a broad form that varies in length according to the scope of the assignment.

Expository essays are often assigned as a writing exercise or as part of an exam, in which case a five-paragraph essay of around 800 words may be appropriate.

You’ll usually be given guidelines regarding length; if you’re not sure, ask.

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7.2 The Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis

Before any work can be done on crafting the body of your speech or presentation, you must first do some prep work—selecting a topic, formulating a general purpose, a specific purpose statement, and crafting a central idea, or thesis statement. In doing so, you lay the foundation for your speech by making important decisions about what you will speak about and for what purpose you will speak. These decisions will influence and guide the entire speechwriting process, so it is wise to think carefully and critically during these beginning stages.

Selecting a Topic

Generally, speakers focus on one or more interrelated topics—relatively broad concepts, ideas, or problems that are relevant for particular audiences. The most common way that speakers discover topics is by simply observing what is happening around them—at their school, in their local government, or around the world. Student government leaders, for example, speak or write to other students when their campus is facing tuition or fee increases, or when students have achieved something spectacular, like lobbying campus administrators for lower student fees and succeeding. In either case, it is the situation that makes their speeches appropriate and useful for their audience of students and university employees. More importantly, they speak when there is an opportunity to change a university policy or to alter the way students think or behave in relation to a particular event on campus.

But you need not run for president or student government in order to give a meaningful speech. On the contrary, opportunities abound for those interested in engaging speech as a tool for change. Perhaps the simplest way to find a topic is to ask yourself a few questions, including:

• What important events are occurring locally, nationally and internationally? • What do I care about most? • Is there someone or something I can advocate for? • What makes me angry/happy? • What beliefs/attitudes do I want to share? • Is there some information the audience needs to know?

Students speak about what is interesting to them and their audiences. What topics do you think are relevant today? There are other questions you might ask yourself, too, but these should lead you to at least a few topical choices. The most important work that these questions do is to locate topics within your pre-existing sphere of knowledge and interest. David Zarefsky (2010) also identifies brainstorming as a way to develop speech topics, a strategy that can be helpful if the questions listed above did not yield an appropriate or interesting topic. Starting with a topic you are already interested in will likely make writing and presenting your speech a more enjoyable and meaningful experience. It means that your entire speechwriting process will focus on something you find important and that you can present this information to people who stand to benefit from your speech.

Once you have answered these questions and narrowed your responses, you are still not done selecting your topic. For instance, you might have decided that you really care about breeds of dogs. This is a very broad topic and could easily lead to a dozen different speeches. To resolve this problem, speakers must also consider the audience to whom they will speak, the scope of their presentation, and the outcome they wish to achieve.

Formulating the Purpose Statements

By honing in on a very specific topic, you begin the work of formulating your purpose statement . In short, a purpose statement clearly states what it is you would like to achieve. Purpose statements are especially helpful for guiding you as you prepare your speech. When deciding which main points, facts, and examples to include, you should simply ask yourself whether they are relevant not only to the topic you have selected, but also whether they support the goal you outlined in your purpose statement. The general purpose statement of a speech may be to inform, to persuade, to celebrate, or to entertain. Thus, it is common to frame a specific purpose statement around one of these goals. According to O’Hair, Stewart, and Rubenstein, a specific purpose statement “expresses both the topic and the general speech purpose in action form and in terms of the specific objectives you hope to achieve” (2004). For instance, the home design enthusiast might write the following specific purpose statement: At the end of my speech, the audience will learn the pro’s and con’s of flipping houses. In short, the general purpose statement lays out the broader goal of the speech while the specific purpose statement describes precisely what the speech is intended to do. Some of your professors may ask that you include the general purpose and add the specific purpose.

Writing the Thesis Statement

The specific purpose statement is a tool that you will use as you write your talk, but it is unlikely that it will appear verbatim in your speech. Instead, you will want to convert the specific purpose statement into a central idea, or thesis statement that you will share with your audience.

Depending on your instructor’s approach, a thesis statement may be written two different ways. A thesis statement may encapsulate the main points of a speech in just a sentence or two, and be designed to give audiences a quick preview of what the entire speech will be about. The thesis statement for a speech, like the thesis of a research-based essay, should be easily identifiable and ought to very succinctly sum up the main points you will present. Some instructors prefer that your thesis, or central idea, be a single, declarative statement providing the audience with an overall statement that provides the essence of the speech, followed by a separate preview statement.

If you are a Harry Potter enthusiast, you may write a thesis statement (central idea) the following way using the above approach: J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella like story having gone from relatively humble beginnings, through personal struggles, and finally success and fame.

Writing the Preview Statement

However, some instructors prefer that you separate your thesis from your preview statement . A preview statement (or series of statements) is a guide to your speech. This is the part of the speech that literally tells the audience exactly what main points you will cover. If you were to open your Waze app, it would tell you exactly how to get there. Best of all, you would know what to look for! So, if we take our J.K Rowling example, let’s rewrite that using this approach separating out the thesis and preview:

J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella like rags to riches story. First, I will tell you about J.K. Rowling’s humble beginnings. Then, I will describe her personal struggles as a single mom. Finally, I will explain how she overcame adversity and became one of the richest women in the United Kingdom.

There is no best way to approach this. This is up to your instructor.

Writing the Body of Your Speech

Once you have finished the important work of deciding what your speech will be about, as well as formulating the purpose statement and crafting the thesis, you should turn your attention to writing the body of your speech. All of your main points are contained in the body, and normally this section is prepared well before you ever write the introduction or conclusion. The body of your speech will consume the largest amount of time to present; and it is the opportunity for you to elaborate on facts, evidence, examples, and opinions that support your thesis statement and do the work you have outlined in the specific purpose statement. Combining these various elements into a cohesive and compelling speech, however, is not without its difficulties, the first of which is deciding which elements to include and how they ought to be organized to best suit your purpose.

clearly states what it is you would like to achieve

“expresses both the topic and the general speech purpose in action form and in terms of the specific objectives you hope to achieve" (O'Hair, Stewart, & Rubenstein, 2004)

single, declarative sentence that captures the essence or main point of your entire presentation

the part of the speech that literally tells the audience exactly what main points you will cover

Introduction to Speech Communication Copyright © 2021 by Individual authors retain copyright of their work. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Central Idea

central idea graphic

One method to help determining a central idea is to answer the specific purpose as though it leaves a question unanswered, such as why or what. If the specific purpose is “To inform the audience about the effects of mindfulness on health,” then the question unanswered by this statement is, what? What does the speaker want the audience to know about the effects of mindfulness on health in a single sentence? In other words, what is the central idea behind this purpose that will ultimately lead to achieving that goal?

Keep the central idea simple, yet focused. If preparing a 6- to 8-minute speech informing an audience of the causes for the Industrial Revolution, the central idea “The history of Western civilization is complex” would not work well. Such a central idea is too broad and vague, opening up the possibility to present a speech with far too much information for the speaker to cover in that short time period. Instead, the speaker should want a more specific central idea that more specifically summarizes the content of the speech, as the following example demonstrates:

“Beginning with Gutenberg’s printing press, the explosion of information-sharing in Western civilization led to rapid technological development.”

Helpful Hint

Students often struggle to determine if they have effectively stated their central idea as an assertion. Figure out by asking if someone could disagree with the central idea or develop a speech on a different perspective regarding the same topic.

For example, the central idea “Even with limited space, growing your own vegetables is easy and has many mental and physical benefits” could lead someone to present a different perspective on this topic and propose an alternate central idea such as: “Growing your own vegetables is a complex and challenging process that requires immense time and ample space.”

Chef preparing meal.

Referencing the specific purpose regarding the effects of mindfulness on health, an ideal central idea could look something like this: Developing mindfulness through regular practice produces benefits in all aspects of life, from mental health to physical well-being. Note that the sentence is complete, grammatically correct, asserts a perspective, and includes just enough information from which to derive the main points. From this single sentence, speakers can write a speech about mindfulness, the practices that nurture it, and the physical and mental benefits individuals might expect from doing so. This central idea, once written, supports the specific purpose and becomes the hinge around which everything else in the speech will revolve. Keep in mind that the central idea may need to remain flexible during the research phase of preparing the speech in order to tailor the information specifically to the audience. The specific purpose, regardless, remains the same. Different audiences may require different methods to relay the same message, so keep the central idea fluid until more information is known about their preferences.

Bringing It All Together

Topic : study cycle, general purpose : to inform, specific purpose : to inform my audience about the study cycle, central idea : the study cycle offers a simple set of steps that will support your effectiveness and efficiency as a student..

Messages that Matter: Public Speaking in the Information Age - Third Edition Copyright © 2023 by North Idaho College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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IMAGES

  1. How to Write a Thesis Statement: Fill-in-the-Blank Formula

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  3. 25 Thesis Statement Examples (2024)

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  4. How to Write a Good Thesis Statement

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  6. Mastering the Thesis Statement: Examples and Tips for Academic Success

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  1. How to Write a THESIS Statement

  2. Mastering Research: Choosing a Winning Dissertation or Thesis Topic

  3. Thesis Writing: Outlining Part III

  4. What is Thesis Statement? Writing Thesis Statement with Practice in Urdu/Hindi #researchmethodology

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

  2. Thesis/Central Idea

    A thesis statement is a sentence that expresses the central idea of an essay. It's a good idea to decide the topic sentence of a paragraph after writing the working version of an essay's thesis. A topic sentence explains one aspect or point in the thesis and, therefore, should always be more specific and limited than a thesis.

  3. 4.3: Formulating a Central Idea Statement

    The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central ... purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view. No, in that the rules for writing a "thesis" or central idea statement in a speech are not as strict as in an essay. For example, it is acceptable in a speech to announce the ...

  4. Writing

    A thesis statement, sometimes referred to as the central idea statement, clearly explains the argument or analysis of the main idea. It is important because it helps readers understand what the ...

  5. 6.1: The Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis

    The thesis statement for a speech, like the thesis of a research-based essay, should be easily identifiable and ought to very succinctly sum up the main points you will present. Some instructors prefer that your thesis, or central idea, be a single, declarative statement providing the audience with an overall statement that provides the essence ...

  6. Writing: Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

    A thesis statement states the purpose and topic of your writing, and the controlling idea indicates the direction and, often, the writing strategy you will adopt. Your thesis is like a road map, guiding your readers so that they know what to expect. Generally, your thesis is placed at the end of your introduction and is a concise and simple ...

  7. Formulating a Central Idea Statement

    That said, is the central idea statement the very same thing as the thesis sentence in an essay? Yes, in that both are letting the audience know with- out a doubt your topic, purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view. No, in that the rules for writing a "thesis" or central idea statement in a speech are not as strict as in an essay.

  8. Formulating a Central Idea Statement

    Central Idea Statement. a statement that contains or summarizes a speech's main points. Now, at this point we need to make a point about terminology. Your instructor may call the central idea statement "the thesis" or "the thesis statement.". Your English composition instructor probably uses that term in your essay writing.

  9. What Is a Thesis?

    A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay, and should clearly and concisely summarize the central points of your academic essay. A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to ...

  10. Academic Guides: Writing a Paper: Thesis Statements

    The thesis statement is the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose. You might hear it referred to as simply a "thesis." Every scholarly paper should have a thesis statement, and strong thesis statements are concise, specific, and arguable. Concise means the thesis is short: perhaps one or two sentences for a shorter paper.

  11. Central Idea Mastery: Tips for Identifying Main Themes in Texts

    The central idea in literature is the main point or message the author wants to convey to the reader. It is often the well written central ideas, expressed through a thesis statement, which serves as the foundation for the entire work of literature. The central idea statement should be distinct from the story's theme itself, as it focuses ...

  12. Finding the Purpose and Central Idea of Your Speech

    The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea). Just as you would create a thesis statement for an essay or research paper, the central idea statement helps focus your presentation by defining your topic, purpose, direction, angle, and/or point of view. Here are two examples:

  13. 8.2 The Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis

    The thesis statement should be a single, declarative statement followed by a separate preview statement. If you are a Harry Potter enthusiast, you may write a thesis statement (central idea) the following way using the above approach: J.K. Rowling is a renowned author of the Harry Potter series with a Cinderella-like story of a rise to fame.

  14. Purpose and Central Idea Statements

    The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea). Just as you would create a thesis statement for an essay or research paper, the central idea statement helps focus your presentation by defining your topic, purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view.

  15. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  16. PDF Developing a Central Claim

    Central Claim What is a thesis? A thesis is the central claim or main argument of an essay. Because it provides a unifying theme for the rest of the essay, it typically appears early on—in shorter papers, most often within the first paragraph or two. The thesis should be analytic or interpretive rather than merely descriptive or factual.

  17. Central Idea in Literature: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

    The definition of the central idea is a statement that explains the main scenario of a story. All plot lines, supporting details, and conflicts support the central idea. You can think of the central idea as a very brief summary of a story. In other words, if someone asks what the story is about, the central idea is what you would tell them.

  18. Chapter 8: Organizing and Outlining

    Your speech's thesis statement will be the central idea, what audiences most remember. The thesis is not just a list of main points, but it is a larger idea encompassing the two to three main points supporting it in the speech. Speeches should follow an organizational pattern, use standard formatting practices, and progress from full-sentence ...

  19. What is a thesis statement?

    The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons: It gives your writing direction and focus. It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point. Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

  20. 7.2 The Topic, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Thesis

    The thesis statement for a speech, like the thesis of a research-based essay, should be easily identifiable and ought to very succinctly sum up the main points you will present. Some instructors prefer that your thesis, or central idea, be a single, declarative statement providing the audience with an overall statement that provides the essence ...

  21. Central Idea

    Central Idea Once speakers identify the specific purpose, they must next figure out the central idea. ... A thesis statement concisely presents an assertion or proposition that the speaker must then support with evidence. One method to help determining a central idea is to answer the specific purpose as though it leaves a question unanswered ...

  22. Central Idea of a Speech

    The central idea of a speech is very similar to a thesis statement in a written essay. It is a specific and detailed statement which informs the audience of the goal or purpose of the speech.