Presentation on theme: "How to Write a Thesis Statement... or, everything you always wanted to know but couldn’t bring yourself to ask."— Presentation transcript:
How to Write a Thesis Statement... or, everything you always wanted to know but couldn’t bring yourself to ask.
Why should your essay contain a thesis statement? To test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two To better organize and develop your argument To provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument
ALMOST ALL ASSIGNMENTS, NO MATTER HOW COMPLICATED, CAN BE REDUCED TO A SINGLE SENTENCE. TRUE OR FALSE?
1. A strong thesis statement takes some kind of stand. Your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject.
Assignment: Evaluate a weight-loss product “There are many positive and negative aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.” (weak: fails to take a stand) “Because the Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to consumers.” (strong: takes a stand and is specific)
2. A strong thesis justifies discussion. It should be possible for reasonable people to disagree on the subject you are exploring in your paper.
Assignment: Write a paper on kinship systems. “My family is an extended family.” (weak: merely states an observation) “While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.” (strong: shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view)
3.A strong thesis expresses one main idea. Readers need to see that your paper has one main point.
Assignment: Write a paper on the marketing potential of the Internet “Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.” (weak: the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or web pages) “Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.” (strong: it shows the relationship between two ideas)
HINT Many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because, since, so, although, unless, and however.
4.A strong thesis statement is specific. A strong thesis shows your reader exactly what your paper will be about. Making your thesis specific will also help you restrict your paper to a manageable subject.
Assignment: Write a paper on world hunger. “World hunger has many causes and effects.” (weak: topic cannot be discussed in 7-10 pages + “many causes and effects” is vague) “Hunger persists in Appalachia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.” (strong: narrows subject to a more specific and manageable topic; also identifies specific causes for the existence of hunger)
Develop your thesis Suppose you start with a tentative thesis on the theme of “The Lottery”: In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson reveals the theme.
But... But... This statement is too vague, so you decide to rewrite it to be more precise: In “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, the theme is tradition.
Better... Better, but the statement of the theme is not yet clear or precise. What does Jackson imply about tradition? In “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, one of the major themes is that outmoded traditions can be harmful.
Still... You used the qualifier one of to indicate that this theme is not the only one in the story, but the rest of the thesis is vague. What does outmoded mean? How are traditions harmful? In Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” one of the major themes is that traditions that have lost their meaning can cause otherwise normal people to act abnormally without thinking.
Can you go beyond? This is a better thesis, but it may change as you start writing the analysis. You might decide to go beyond interpretation of Jackson’s ideas to an evaluation of what she says: In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson reveals the tragic theme that traditions that have lost their meaning can cause otherwise normal people to act abnormally without thinking.
Or... In the previous thesis, the word tragic indicates your evaluation of Jackson’s observation of the human condition. Or you might say this: In “The Lottery,” Shirley Jackson effectively uses symbolism and irony to reveal the theme that traditions that have lost their meaning can cause otherwise normal people to act abnormally without thinking.
To review... A thesis states a claim that will be supported in the body of a paper. A thesis tells readers what to expect as they read on. An effective thesis cannot be a fact. (“So... ?”) A thesis must always be a generalization demanding proof or further development.