Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Academic Writing

Thesis vs. Topic

Topic vs. Thesis: What's the Difference?


A topic can be defined as the issue you are going to address in your essay; it is the subject the essay focuses on (e.g., hunger in Applachia).


A thesis can be defined as what you are going to say about this issue – what you think, and why you think it (e.g., Hunger in Appalachia has become a problem because of poor soil for farming and lack of state and government resources).


Your topic and thesis should appear in different sentences in your introduction; your topic should be introduced first, while your thesis should be developed out of your topic.


For example:


Hunger is currently a major problem for people in Appalachia, specifically in southeast Ohio. Home to some of the poorest counties in the state, southeast Ohio frequently tops the state's poverty list. Southeastern Ohio was even feautred on Dateline NBC's "Friends and Neighbors" series, a show that covered the region for nine months in order to capture the impact of the recession on what were once farming and mining communities. Although there are people in southeast Ohio who attempt to farm, the soil in many places is nutrient-deficient and unable to bear large amounts of crops. The mining industry has all but left the region. In addition, there amount of people turning to food pantries and other local services for help has grown to the point where the services can't keep up with the needs of the population. Hunger in southeastern Ohio has become an issue for concern, because jobs are scarce and services for the needy are overwhelmed.


What is the topic of this essay? What might be the thesis?

Strong vs. Weak Thesis

Strong Thesis vs. Weak Thesis


A strong thesis makes a claim that:

      (1) requires proof 

      (2) offers some point about the significance of your evidence that would not have been immediately

           obvious to your readers.


Elements of a Strong Thesis

      (1) A statement that takes some sort of stand (is debatable)
      (2) A statement that seeks to engage the reader and shows why the topic should be discussed
      (3) A statement that expresses one main idea
      (4) A statement that is specific and original


A weak thesis makes a claim that does not need proving.


Elements of a Weak Thesis

      (1) Makes no claim

      (2) Is obviously true or a statement of fact

      (3) Is cliche

      (4) Offers personal opinion as the basis for the claim (begins with "I think" or "I believe")

      (5) Makes a claim that is too broad for the scope of the essay