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3.1: Thesis Statements

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    15238
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    The thesis statement should be a single, concise sentence. An effective thesis statement has two parts: (1) the topic and (2) your claim about the topic. [Image: Edu Lauton | Unsplash]

     

    Definition to Remember:

    • Thesis = Topic + Claim

    Rules to Remember:

    1. A thesis statement is the main idea or subject of your paper, while a topic sentence is the main idea of a single paragraph. Sometimes the thesis may develop in your mind early in the writing process, and sometimes it will become more clear or shift as you work through the writing process.
    2. The thesis statement should be a single, concise sentence. An effective thesis statement has two parts: (1) the topic and (2) your claim about the topic.
    3. Your thesis is a contract that you establish with your readers. The voice, tone, assurances, and promises of your thesis must continue throughout the essay.
    4. An effective thesis statement should be as specific as possible and be limited enough to make it manageable. Keep your thesis statement specific enough to be adequately discussed within the length of your paper. If a thesis statement is too general or vague, it can be difficult to decide what to write about.
    5. Be wary of absolute words like all, none, everyone, no one, always, never in your thesis statement. If a reader can think of an exception to your absolute statement, he or she may set your entire argument aside. Be careful, too, to avoid claims that are too over-arching and, therefore, suspect.
    6. Your thesis should serve as an umbrella for the essay that follows. Every topic sentence for each of the body paragraphs must fit neatly beneath the umbrella, just as every item of evidence also must fit. If anything does not fit under the umbrella of your thesis, revise accordingly to either broaden or narrow your umbrella until the simple math works.
    7. To compose an effective thesis statement, follow these three steps:
      • Restate your topic as a question. If, for example, your topic is about the health and care of domestic cats, you might restate your topic as follows: Should domestic cats be permitted to roam freely in residential neighborhoods? Do you see how this restatement begins to give both your research and your writing better purpose?
      • Answer your question with a single-sentence claim. An effective thesis statement (1) announces a topic and (2) states a claim. What assertion will you make about your topic and why? To answer our domestic cat question, we might assert the following: Domestic cats should only be permitted to roam freely in residential neighborhoods if they meet specific county-designated standards.
      • Focus your thesis. Remember that the more specific you are, the easier it will be to effectively discuss and prove your thesis: Domestic cats should only be permitted to roam freely in residential neighborhoods if they have a chip inserted that identifies their home, homeowner, and vaccination record.  “Write succinctly. There is a better chance people will read and appreciate your thoughts.” Dr. Aimee Stone Cooper, Pastor

    Common Errors:

    • Assuming that the implied focus of an introduction is enough. Every essay must have a clear, concise thesis statement; never assume that your readers understand your intentions.
    • Including a thesis that does not make a claim. With the advent of the internet, gone are the days when informational papers were a necessary exercise. Because most information is available at the touch of an app, your focus must be on the claim you intend to make about the topic you have chosen.
    • Presenting a thesis that is too broad or too narrow. While the line between the two can be tenuous and difficult to locate, it is worth the effort. When a thesis is too broad, it is difficult to argue adequately without leaving notable holes in your rationale; when a thesis is too narrow, it can be challenging to find much at all to say to one another.
    • Neglecting to revise the thesis umbrella as the project unfolds. The more flexible you are, the more successful your end result will be.

    Exercises:

    Exercise 10.1

    Find three thesis statements from papers you have written in the past and list them here. If you walk each through the three-step process on item 6 above, how would each one fare? What changes would you make, and why?

    1.

    2.

    3.

    Exercise 10.2

    Select one thesis from 10.1. Draw or download an umbrella image, and write your thesis on or above the umbrella. Next, write one topic sentence from each paragraph of your essay vertically beneath the umbrella. Keep all information beneath the shape of the umbrella. As you consider your ideas, what revisions do you need to make? Do you need to broaden your thesis in order to encompass all that falls beneath? Or do you need to focus your thesis better, so your readers are able to immediately see the logic of the ideas that come under the umbrella? Are there topics under the umbrella that could be saved for another essay? Do you need additional evidence under the umbrella to strengthen your overall claim?

    Exercise 10.3

    Consider an essay or writing assignment you will need to complete in the next week, whether for school, work, or home. What is the topic? What is your claim about the topic? What specific evidence will you include? What will your thesis statement be? Use the progression below to aid your thinking:

    Topic   →   Claim      Evidence      Thesis

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