Can a Thesis Statement Be a Question?

By: Angelina Grin

8 min

8

07.11.2022

Can a Thesis Statement Be a Question?

A thesis statement forms the backbone of an academic paper. Put simply, it should be one or two sentences that summarize the main point of your argument, letting your readers know what to expect from your dissertation. 

If you are working on a paper, you may wonder, “Can my thesis statement be a question?” In this article, we tackle this very topic, including some example questions for you to see how you should format your own. 

Should a Thesis Be a Question?

In short, no, you should not express your thesis statement as a question. This is because it should be a debatable claim or argument that your readers can either agree or disagree with. In other words, it should be assertive, not inquisitive. 

Remember, your statement should indicate to your readers what stance your dissertation will be taking. When you present your evidence and arguments, it should be with the aim of backing up your claim. If your thesis argument is presented as a question, you will have no claim to defend. This is why it is not a good idea to have it be a question.

When writing a discursive essay or dissertation, one should always keep their thesis argument at the forefront of their mind, ensuring that each point they present in their research study supports their claim. This may sound challenging, and it can be. But it is also helpful since writing with your main argument in mind will help you stay on topic.

If you’ve ever wondered, “Does a thesis have to be a question?”, here is a simple way of thinking about the problem. The purpose of any dissertation is to put forward and answer a question, to which your statement should be the answer. Throughout the rest of your research study, you should show your reader how you arrived at that answer. Show them the analytical footpaths you followed to reach your final destination — the conclusion.

Example

❌ Incorrect: Are the three witches in Macbeth fantastical distractions from the tragedy of the play, or do they serve as a powerful narrative device that helps develop the themes of the story?

✅ Correct: While the three witches in Macbeth may at first seem to be fantastical distractions from the tragedy of the play, they in fact serve as a powerful narrative device, underscoring the unstoppable force of fate.

Can You Ask a Question in a Thesis Statement?

If you are still wondering, can you use a question as a thesis statement, the answer is NO. In academic writing, this would not be deemed acceptable. 

This is because a question, unlike a statement or claim, cannot be proven. It cannot be debated or interrogated. The entire purpose of your statement is to answer a question. Expressing it as an inquiry, therefore, would entirely negate its purpose in the first place.

When you think, "Should a thesis statement be a question?", make sure that you are not confusing a thesis statement with a topic sentence. Topic sentences present the main idea of a body paragraph, giving your reader a sense of what it will tackle and stimulating their curiosity. Topic sentences can be expressed as questions. However, you should make sure that the following paragraph goes on to answer it.

Nonetheless, you may still believe that your thesis argument would be best expressed as a question. If that’s the case, take a moment to sit down and think it over. Can a question be a thesis statement, and if so, how? What is the point you are trying to express? Is there a way you could phrase it that would make it seem more assertive? Try a few different ways of rephrasing the inquiry into a sentence.

One easy fix is to answer the question the statement asks. This will help you figure out a way to phrase your claim that’s more confident and assertive.

Example

Incorrect: In medieval Islamic culture, were magic practitioners embraced by the community or frowned upon, and did the treatment of magic change over time?

Correct: The status of magic in medieval Islamic culture shifted over time and between different regions. By and large, however, magical practices remained fairly popular throughout the years, exemplifying how the lived experience of medieval Muslims often went against orthodoxy.

Can You Start a Thesis With a Question?

In academic writing, you can include a question within your introductory paragraph, so long as your thesis statement itself isn’t phrased as an inquiry. For example, you may rephrase the essay question immediately before your statement to reinforce your answer. 

You may wonder can your thesis statement be a question because you don’t feel sure enough to declare your point. We understand that it can be difficult to find the confidence to be assertive when writing an academic work. However, that is precisely what your readers and markers are looking for. Your argument should therefore be concise and to the point. 

Ideally, your argument should only be one sentence. However, depending on the structure of your research study or the depth of your argument, it may be more appropriate to divide it into multiple sentences. This does not mean you shouldn’t still strive for clarity and precision.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’ve phrased your statement correctly, you can always check with your teacher or professor. It may not always feel like it, but they’re there to help! Getting an expert opinion on this crucial part of your dissertation early on can be a big help. Your professors were once in the same position as you, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed about seeking their assistance and asking, "Can my thesis be a question?". They want you to achieve the best marks possible.

Remember, your thesis statement forms the core of your work. If you ensure you have a solid claim early on, then writing your dissertation will be far easier.

Example

Incorrect: How does J.R.R. Tolkien’s narrative voice change between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and does this have an impact on how the reader experiences each text?

Correct: While in The Hobbit, Tolkien adopts a tongue-in-cheek tone, with the narrator speaking directly to the reader, in The Lord of the Rings he takes a more somber approach, underscoring the serious nature of his material.

Can a thesis be a question after all of this? A thesis cannot be a question because a question doesn't make a claim or take a stand that others can agree or disagree with. It should be a sentence that supports the author's point of view without posing a query to the audience. The author argues the research study based on this statement.

If you are looking for more information, be sure to check out our video, don't forget to read our articles on the topic, and get in touch with us if you need assistance with your thesis. Our experts are here to help.

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Angelina Grin

Creative Writer and Blog Editor

Despite my relatively young age, I am a professional writer with more than 14 years of experience. I studied journalism at the university, worked for media and digital agencies, and organized several events for ed-tech companies. Yet for the last 6 years, I've worked mainly in marketing. Here, at Studybay, my objective is to make sure all our texts are clear, informative, and engaging.

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