Chapter 6: The Writing Process and Pre-Writing

Working With a Thesis

After doing some researching and brainstorming, you have finally chosen one main idea (or closely related group of ideas) out of all of your possible ideas to focus on. Congratulations! Now, you need to decide what you want to say about it. If applicable, you may want to develop a working thesis to guide your drafting process.

A thesis is the controlling idea of a text (often an argument). Depending on the type of text you are creating, your writing may develop, explore multiple angles, and/or support your thesis.

But how do you know, before getting any of the paper written, exactly what your thesis is and how your sources will support it? Often, you can’t. The closest you can get in these cases is a working thesis, which is a best guess at what the thesis is likely to be, based on the information you are working with at this time. The main idea of it may not change, but the specifics are probably going to be tweaked a bit as you complete a draft and continue to do research.


Student Tip

Is a Thesis Always Needed?

Not all assignments will require you to develop a thesis, but some will, especially those involving persuasive, critical, and opinion types of writing. A thesis may not be appropriate for reflective writing, annotated bibliographies, and some analytical writing – you will still have a main idea for these types of writing. In general, if you need to argue something or take a stand or position, you will need a thesis statement. When in doubt, discuss it with your instructor.


Attribution statement

Other than the figure and student tip, content for this page was adapted (with editorial changes) from:

The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. Download for free at:


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The Scholarship of Writing in Nursing Education: 1st Canadian Edition Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Lapum; Oona St-Amant; Michelle Hughes; Andy Tan; Arina Bogdan; Frances Dimaranan; Rachel Frantzke; and Nada Savicevic is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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