How to figure out the main point of your essay

Here is an example I often use in workshops to demonstrate the importance of your main point. We’ll also use this question to explore the writing of introductions, the body and conclusions in the links below.

Essay Question: “Discuss the influence of celebrity culture on mainstream culture”

Okay, so this question is asking you to talk about the ways celebrities’ impact or influence the ways we all live our lives. 

And, as with every essay question you’ll ever be given, there are a number of perspectives on the topic. You might think that:

  • Celebrities have a negative influence on non celebrity culture, or that
  • celebrities have a positive influence on non celebrity culture, or, you could even decide to narrow you focus and look at one area of influence and discuss how
  • celebrities set the fashion trends for non celebrity culture.

Your perspective becomes the main point (main theme / thesis statement) of your essay. If you decide celebrities have a positive influence, you might talk about philanthropy and the joy of entertainment in your essay; if you decide they have a negative influence, your essay would focus on things like consumerism, anorexia and glamorising drug use. 

So, the main point of your essay is critical because it determines what you will focus on. 

Your main point is the highway of your essay and everything you use to defend your main point are little side roads that eventually lead back to the highway.

Just in case you’re not convinced, here are some other reasons you should be trying to figure out the main point of your essay as soon as you can:

  • Your main point determines what you will research
  • The sooner you can articulate your main point the sooner you can start reading relevant information (rather than wasting precious time reading stuff you’ll never end up using in your essay) and this means
  • You’ll get your essay done quickly AND write a great essay that actually has a point!