In training we had in our county, we were taught that the claim is the argument in an argument essay. The thesis statement is the term used for explanatory writing. In essence, they are both a statement of of what the reader can expect to read in the rest of the paper. The difference is the type of writing. We use the term claim when referring to the thesis statement of an argument essay and thesis statement when referring to an explanatory essay.
In my opinion, the claim is part of a good thesis statement. If the thesis statement is written well, it makes a debatable claim that can be defended using evidence.
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A thesis is a summary statement of your position, and the claim or claims is/are the sub-element(s) or argument(s) that you are trying to prove. Your statement may have any number of claims which you try to substantiate or prove in your paper.
I would agree with Kimberly, that a thesis statement makes a specific claim, that hopefully will be supported throughout the text by providing evidence and debating counter-evidence.
Hope this helps!
I can understand how students might be confused about this, since if you asked a few teachers, and each one had their own opinion about this. We actually never deviate from what our established textbooks from NCTE, and NEA say about writing, which only becomes problematic if a teacher says I think it is "this", even though the book says it is "that." The best policy on anything, even when it comes to citations, is to remain consistent.
A claim is a sentence that is a strong opinion or suggestion. A thesis statement can be proved. A sentence that starts with "This paragraph will explain" or a similar starting and has a claim after it, is a weak claim.
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