Almost every paragraph has a main idea, but biggest main idea in a group of related paragraphs, like an essay or article, is called the "thesis." (Actually, short essays can be only one paragraph long, but usually when an author has something to say they write longer pieces.)
The "topic" is related to the thesis, but the topic and thesis are not the same thing. The topic is broader--it is the general subject of the essay.
"Details" in are the points thoughout the piece that support the main idea. These can be factual information or examples.
Thesis and Topic
<A topic is the broad subject of the written piece.
Example: the reason for high highschool drop out rates in Arkansas
<A thesis is the big main idea and always relates to the topic. It tells what the author wants the reader to know about the topic and is more specific than the topic.
Example: A study at the University of Arkansas shows that high school drop-out rates in Arkansas are on the rise because poor kids tend to feel pressure to get jobs and if they have thought about college, are discouraged about paying back financial aid loans when jobs are hard to get.
<A thesis is stated or written in a complete sentence.
<An easy way to make sure you are on the right track when you state a thesis of an essay is to begin in the following way:
The thesis of this essay is that...
The message of this essay is that…
<Titles or sub-headings of writings may suggest the topic or the thesis, so begin finding a thesis by looking at the title and heading if they exist.
<Think of the thesis is the message that the writer wants to give you, often her/his opinion. It is the "controlling idea" that ties everything in the written piece together.
<Details are examples or further explanations of different aspects of a thesis.
<Details do not provide the entire message, but together help support the authors message with evidence or examples. Details are what give the thesis its strength.
You are ready to do the assignment at the bottom of the page. See your class calendar for a due date.
More information on how to find the thesis: look through these files before you begin your Topic and Thesis Assignment. Remember that the main idea of a paragraph and the thesis are similar; each paragraph has a main idea. Each essay has a thesis, the "mother of all" main ideas in its paragraphs.