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Writing a Thesis Statement

By Bradley Ramos,2014-04-06 20:17
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Writing a Thesis Statement

Writing a Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement is a sentence (or sentences) that expresses the main ideas of your paper and answers the question or questions posed by your paper. It offers your readers a quick and easy to follow summary of what the paper will be discussing and what you as a writer are setting out to tell them.

    General Thesis Statement Tips

    ; A thesis statement generally consists of two parts: your topic,

    and then the analysis, explanation(s), or assertion(s) that you're

    making about the topic. The kind of thesis statement you write

    will depend on what kind of paper you're writing.

    ; A thesis statement is a very specific statement -- it should

    cover only what you want to discuss in your paper, and be

    supported with specific evidence. The scope of your paper will be

    determined by the length of your paper and any other

    requirements that might be in place.

    ; Generally, a thesis statement appears at the end of the first

    paragraph of an essay, so that readers will have a clear idea of

    what to expect as they read.

    ; You can think of your thesis as a map or a guide both for

    yourself and your audience, so it might be helpful to draw a

    chart or picture of your ideas and how they're connected to help

    you get started.

    ; As you write and revise your paper, it's okay to change your

    thesis statement -- sometimes you don't discover what you

    really want to say about a topic until you've started (or finished)

    writing! Just make sure that your "final" thesis statement

    accurately shows what will happen in your paper.

Analytical Thesis Statements

    In an analytical paper, you are breaking down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluating the issue or idea, and presenting this breakdown and evaluation to your audience. An analytical thesis statement will explain:

    ; what you are analyzing

    ; the parts of your analysis

    ; the order in which you will be presenting your analysis Example: An analysis of barn owl flight behavior reveals two kinds of flight patterns: patterns related to hunting prey and patterns related to courtship.

    A reader who encountered that thesis in a paper would expect an explanation of the analysis of barn owl flight behavior, and then an explanation of the two kinds of flight patterns.

    Questions to ask yourself when writing an analytical thesis statement:

    ; What did I analyze?

    ; What did I discover in my analysis?

    ; How can I categorize my discoveries?

    ; In what order should I present my discoveries?

    Expository (Explanatory) Thesis Statements

    In an expository paper, you are explaining something to your audience. An expository thesis statement will tell your audience:

    ; what you are going to explain to them

    ; the categories you are using to organize your explanation

    ; the order in which you will be presenting your categories Example: The lifestyles of barn owls include hunting for insects and animals, building nests, and raising their young.

    A reader who encountered that thesis would expect the paper to explain how barn owls hunt for insects, build nests, and raise young. Questions to ask yourself when writing an expository thesis statement:

    ; What am I trying to explain?

    ; How can I categorize my explanation into different parts?

    ; In what order should I present the different parts of my

    explanation?

    Argumentative Thesis Statements

    In an argumentative paper, you are making a claim about a topic and justifying this claim with reasons and evidence. This claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. However, this claim must be a statement that people could possibly disagree with, because the goal of your paper is to convince your audience that your claim is true based on your presentation of your reasons and evidence. An argumentative thesis statement will tell your audience:

    ; your claim or assertion

    ; the reasons/evidence that support this claim

    ; the order in which you will be presenting your reasons and

    evidence

    Example: Barn owls' nests should not be eliminated from barns because barn owls help farmers by eliminating insect and rodent pests. A reader who encountered this thesis would expect to be presented with an argument and evidence that farmers should not get rid of barn owls when they find them nesting in their barns.

    Questions to ask yourself when writing an argumentative thesis statement:

    ; What is my claim or assertion?

    ; What are the reasons I have to support my claim or assertion?

    ; In what order should I present my reasons?

Defining Your Thesis

    Two things happen when you fail to define your thesis clearly:

    1. First, you don't know what you have committed yourself to--in fact, you may not

    have committed yourself to anything. As a result, your paper lacks unity. A

    unified essay is one in which all of your arguments, directly or indirectly, support

    your thesis. If you have not defined your thesis clearly, you will not know what

    your arguments should support. Consequently, you will ramble: some of your

    arguments will be irrelevant to any thesis your readers might infer; others will be

    contradictory. Whatever unity you achieve will be largely accidental.

    2. The second consequence of an inadequately defined thesis stems directly from the

    first: when you don't know what you have committed yourself to, your essay lacks

    unity, and your readers have no thread to help them find their way through your

    thoughts. As you ramble, your readers grope.

    Focusing Your Thesis

    A thesis can be clearly defined and still lead to a rambling essay if it is not adequately focused. A good thesis narrows your topic to an idea that you can successfully develop within the framework of your essay.

    Example: "The average American is exposed to many health hazards."

    This thesis, though clearly defined, is so broad that you would never be able to cover it adequately in a short essay. You would wind up either jumping from one health hazard to another, discussing each only superficially, or zeroing in on one or two health hazards and, thus, failing to demonstrate your own thesis. A more narrowly focused thesis, such as:

    "The Constitution of the United States should be amended to prohibit the production and sale of cigarettes"

    commits you to an idea that you can carefully analyze and defend in four or five pages. Supporting Your Thesis

    The third requirement of a good thesis, that it be well supported, might more properly be considered a requirement of the essay as a whole. In any case, if the essay is to be effective--if it is to persuade readers of your thesis, or at least of your credibility--you must provide arguments that are cogent and numerous enough to satisfy the critical reader, and you must go on to support these arguments with facts and examples. Tentative and Definitive Theses

    Finally, there is an important distinction between a tentative and a definitive thesis. A tentative or working thesis is often valuable in the early stages of the writing process in that it guides your inquiry into your subject, suggesting questions, problems, and strategies. The best definitive theses, however, generally come late in the writing process.

    Directions: For each of the following preliminary working theses, after specifying an audience, evaluate each thesis in terms of interest, specificity, and manageability. Working in your group, revise each as necessary to meet these criteria.

    1. Homeland security presents the United States with an ongoing problem.

    2. Abortion is a right.

    3. Othello is a complex character whose greatest strength is, ironically, also his

    greatest weakness.

    4. White-collar crime poses greater danger to the economy than street crime, even

    though the latter is more obvious.

    5. An educated public is the key to a successful democracy.

    Directions: For each of the following preliminary working theses, after specifying an audience, evaluate each thesis in terms of interest, specificity, and manageability. Working in your group, revise each as necessary to meet these criteria.

    1. Homeland security presents the United States with an ongoing problem.

    2. Abortion is a right.

    3. Othello is a complex character whose greatest strength is, ironically, also his

    greatest weakness.

    4. White-collar crime poses greater danger to the economy than street crime, even

    though the latter is more obvious.

    5. An educated public is the key to a successful democracy.

    Directions: For each of the following preliminary working theses, after specifying an audience, evaluate each thesis in terms of interest, specificity, and manageability. Working in your group, revise each as necessary to meet these criteria.

    1. Homeland security presents the United States with an ongoing problem.

    2. Abortion is a right.

    3. Othello is a complex character whose greatest strength is, ironically, also his

    greatest weakness.

    4. White-collar crime poses greater danger to the economy than street crime, even

    though the latter is more obvious.

    5. An educated public is the key to a successful democracy.

    Directions: For each of the following preliminary working theses, after specifying an audience, evaluate each thesis in terms of interest, specificity, and manageability. Working in your group, revise each as necessary to meet these criteria.

    1. Homeland security presents the United States with an ongoing problem. 2. Abortion is a right.

    3. Othello is a complex character whose greatest strength is, ironically, also his

    greatest weakness.

    4. White-collar crime poses greater danger to the economy than street crime, even

    though the latter is more obvious.

    5. An educated public is the key to a successful democracy.

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