A tentative thesis is a statement in an essay that explains the overall purpose of the piece and provides focus for the content within the academic paper. The term tentative refers to a thesis that is in progress and open to revision as the essay is written and developed.
A tentative thesis, or working thesis, is the writer's overall promise to the reader regarding what the essay will deliver. For example, when writing an argumentative essay, the tentative thesis should detail the writer's primary argument or position. A tentative thesis in an analysis paper details the topic the writer will be investigating, evaluating and analyzing.
The working thesis should strive to tell the reader something new and innovative and reach for unique theories versus common ideas. For example, if a writer chooses to write a persuasive essay about the death penalty, the working thesis should detail if the writer is for or against the death penalty and show with details and facts why the position is justifiable, logical and ethical. Regardless of the type of essay a writer is composing, the tentative thesis should serve as the guiding idea or primary angle of the topic to clarify the contents of the paper for the reader.