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7.1: Thesis Statements - simple and complex

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    • Rachel Bell, Jim Bowsher, Eric Brenner, Serena Chu-Mraz, Liza Erpelo, Kathleen Feinblum, Nina Floro, Gwen Fuller, Chris Gibson, Katharine Harer, Cheryl Hertig, Lucia Lachmayr, Eve Lerman, Nancy Kaplan-Beigel, Nathan Jones, Garry Nicol, Janice Sapigao, Leigh Anne Shaw, Paula Silva, Jessica Silver-Sharp, Mine Suer, Mike Urquidez, Rob Williams, Karen Wong, Susan Zoughbie, Leigh Anne Shaw, Paula Silva, Jessica Silver-Sharp, Mine Suer, Mike Urquidez, Rob Williams, Karen Wong, and Susan Zoughbie
    • Skyline College

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    TOPIC VERSUS THESIS?

    The subject you are writing about is the topic. Add your opinion to a topic to create a thesis.

    Topic + opinion = thesis

    Add the significance to make a more complex thesis:

    Topic + opinion + so what? = thesis

    Thesis Acronym

    WHAT IS A THESIS?

    The thesis is the main point of an essay, a focused, arguable statement which allows the reader to make predictions about the reading.

    WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF AN EFFECTIVE THESIS?

    • The language is clear, straight-forward and can’t be misunderstood.
    • It is contestable and arguable. Ask yourself: Could someone disagree? The answer should be yes.
    • It is concentrated on a focused point: not too broad and not too narrow, but the right size for the assignment.
    • It is complex and delves into the larger significance or impact.
    • It is compelling and draws in your readers’ interest and makes them want to read more to see how you prove your claim.
    • It is directly connected to the prompt/question/assignment for the essay.

    The 6 C's of a Good Thesis

    A THESIS IS NOT:

    • A fact
    • A quote
    • A question

    WHY USE A THESIS?

    • It allows the reader to make predictions about the reading.
    • It guides the writer to stay focused on the main idea of the essay.
    • It generates thought, evidence and analysis.
    • It provides a purpose for the essay and answers questions like these:
      • What am I trying to accomplish in this essay?
      • What do I want to convince my reader of?

    HOW DO I KNOW IT'S A THESIS?

    TOPIC + OPINION = THESIS

    A thesis is TOPIC + OPINION so you need to make sure that opinion in present or else it is not a thesis statement. The opinion is what makes a thesis arguable and it provides the purpose and focus for the paper: to convince your reader of that opinion.

    Locating the Opinion in a Thesis: When you look for the opinion in a thesis, ask yourself: What is the writer’s attitude towards the topic? For example, in the sentence “Backpacking in the mountains last year was an exciting experience,” the topic is “backpacking” and the opinion is that this trip was “exciting.” Another person on the same trip might have had a different attitude and may have found the trip boring or exhausting. “Exciting” reveals the writer’s attitude and also indicates what the essay with this thesis statement will be focused on: demonstrating why it was “exciting.” This thesis statement limits the writer’s focus and clearly tells the reader what the essay will be about.

    Practice: Topic and Opinion of a thesis

    Mark the TOPIC and the OPINION words below. If there are no opinion words, it is not a thesis:

    1. The subject of unwarranted fears, most bats are harmless and highly beneficial.
    2. Vigorous exercise is a good way to reduce the effects of stress on the body.
    3. Buffalo and Toronto differ in four major ways.
    4. Developing color film is more complicated than developing black and white.
    5. In this essay I will discuss abortion.
    6. Television is destroying the unity of the modern family.
    7. In her essay, Erlich shows that there is a balance of community and isolation in her hometown.
    Answer
    TOPIC + OPINION = THESIS
    TOPIC + OPINION = THESIS

    The TOPIC is in bold and the OPINION words are in bold italics:

    1. The subject of unwarranted fears, most bats are harmless and highly beneficial.
    2. Vigorous exercise is a good way to reduce the effects of stress on the body.
    3. Buffalo and Toronto differ in four major ways.
    4. Developing color film is more complicated than developing black and white.
    5. In this essay I will discuss abortion (no opinion words—not a thesis)
    6. Television is destroying the unity of the modern family.
    7. In her essay, Erlich shows that there is a balance of community and isolation in her hometown.

    HOW DO I KNOW IT'S A COMPLEX THESIS?

    TOPIC + OPINION + SO WHAT? = COMPLEX THESIS

    A complex thesis is TOPIC + OPINION + SO WHAT? To form an arguable thesis, add opinion to a topic, and to make a more complex thesis, add “so what?” So what is the larger significance, the implications, and/or the outcomes of what you are arguing?

    Practice: List the thesis topic and opinion

    Below are student-created thesis statements about non-fiction texts. For each thesis, list the TOPIC, the OPINION and the “SO WHAT?”

    THESIS STATEMENTS ON NON-FICTION TEXTS:

    1. In Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert seeks to use the evidence she has collected across her years of worldwide travel to show how we should best address climate change. Kolbert uses the island of Samsø to support her case for the mass implementation of alternative energy sources, but she does not point out the many cons that come with the use of alternative energy sources that are wind, biofuels, and solar which is reason enough to refrain from attempts at a greater implementation of them until problems of space, waste, and cost are addressed.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    1. In her book Field Notes from a Catastrophe, Elizabeth Kolbert argues that everybody needs to work on ending humans’ carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change on our planet. However, at this point, catastrophic climate change in inevitable, so instead we need to focus our efforts on researching ways to make the new climates survivable.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    1. T.V Reed in his book The Art of Protest, argues that environmentalism has been coded as a “white issue.” If those raising the awareness are perceived as largely white and well-off preaching to and within the same demographic, the probability of those most impacted, namely the poor communities of color who disproportionately suffer environmental hazards and toxic dumps, having a voice is dismal, so meaningful change will not occur.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    1. In The Art of Protest, T.V. Reed in his chapter “Singing Civil Rights,” says that music during the time of the Civil Rights Movement soulfully spoke about the oppressions of racism against blacks in America. Nowadays, Hip-Hop is one of the main driving forces keeping the conversation going about the continued inequalities that blacks suffer, and this is particularly important in an age of rising police brutality targeted at black men.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    1. In I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai shows how education can be used to combat terrorism in Pakistan because when people become more educated, they can more confidently self-advocate and are less susceptible to being falsely seduced by empty propaganda, so if the country follows Malala’s lead, it can rid itself of the Taliban influence.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    1. Malala Yousafzai’s story, as told in her book I am Malala, is powerful and her cause is admirable but her idea that education combats terrorism is simplistic and glosses over the importance of the geopolitical situation Pakistan finds itself in. Education in this environment is no guarantee of deradicalization and may even work to galvanize their cause. In a political context of postcolonial exploitation where foreign governments actively try to destabilize the country and fund extremist groups, education will just make more effective terrorists.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    1. In Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead, we see a military culture of toxic masculinity—where relationships with women are transactional, showing emotional sensitivity is weakness, and violence is the preferred method of conflict resolution. This phenomenon is systemic in all branches of the military and is the catalyst for the extensive number of sexual harassment cases, rape, and high rates of suicide for service members.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    1. In Jarhead, Anthony Swofford described how the soldier’s first amendment rights are suspended once they sign the military contract. This silencing ensures that the Marines continue to follow orders from the “top” without any objections, and this control ensures that the interests of the rich and powerful are protected while the rights of the soldiers as U.S. citizens are violated, and this enables war for profit to continue.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    Answer
    1. Topic: greater implementation of alternative energy sources;
      • Opinion: problems with alternative energy are not satisfactorily solved;
      • So What? wider implementation of alternative energy could worsen current problems of space, waste and cost
    2. Topic: catastrophic climate change
      • Opinion: catastrophic climate change is inevitable
      • So What? need to refocus efforts from reducing carbon emissions to adaptation and survival
    3. Topic: only whites leading environment movement
      • Opinion: non-whites most impacted but no voice
      • So What? no change
    4. Topic: music conveying black oppression
      • Opinion: today hip-hop conveys on-going black oppression
      • So What? importantly exposes rise in police brutality targeting black men
    5. Topic: education to combat terrorism in Pakistan
      • Opinion: more education leads to people self-advocating and not being tricked by propaganda
      • So What? Pakistan can rid itself of Taliban
    6. Topic: education to combat terrorism in Pakistan
      • Opinion: foreign countries are actively trying to destabilize Pakistan and are funding extremists
      • So What? education will make more effective terrorists
    7. Topic: military culture of toxic masculinity
      • Opinion: toxic masculinity is systemic in all branches of military
      • So What? leads to sexual harassment, rape and suicide
    8. Topic: freedom of speech of soldiers suspended
      • Opinion: silence allows the rich and powerful to use soldiers as they like
      • So What? allows war for profit to continue
    Practice: List the "topic", "opinion" and "so what"?

    TOPIC + OPINION + SO WHAT? = COMPLEX THESIS

    A complex thesis is TOPIC + OPINION + SO WHAT? To form an arguable thesis, add opinion to a topic, and to make a more complex thesis, add “so what?” So what is the larger significance, the implications, and/or the outcomes of what you are arguing?

    Below are student-created thesis statements about fiction texts. For each thesis, list the TOPIC, the OPINION and the “SO WHAT?”

    THESIS STATEMENTS ON FICTION TEXTS: POETRY

    1. Before the abolition of slavery in 1865, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, fashioned her poem “Bury Me in a Free Land” to sharpen the glaring contradiction between the most cherished American value of freedom, and its antithesis expressed in the enslavement and brutalization of African Americans. Harper thereby forces her readers to come to terms with their own hypocrisy as Americans to hasten the demise of slavery.


    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________


    2. In the different stanzas in her poem “Bury Me in a Free Land,” Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, gives graphic snapshots depicting the horrors of slavery: blacks sold like animals on the auction block, escaped blacks being hunted down, blacks being whipped and beaten bloody, black babies being taken from mothers. Unfortunately, African-Americans living in the “land of the free” today still suffer many of these same forms of injustice as their labor continues to be exploited, as they suffer higher rates of profiling and murder, and as their families continue to be torn apart due to mass incarceration.

    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    THESIS STATEMENTS ON FICTION TEXTS: Short Stories

    3. In Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Sweat,” Sykes, a black man living in the Jim Crow South, constantly feels the need to assert his masculinity over Delia through acts of abuse and adultery in order to make up for insecurities resulting from his failure to fulfill the traditional male roles of provider and protector.

    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________


    4. In her short story “Sweat,” Zora Neale Hurston makes her reader feel empathy for the main character Delia, a hardworking woman who endures years of mental and physical abuse from her husband. Through helping her reader care about Delia, Hurston enables her reader to feel the triple burden of oppression of being black, female and poor in America.

    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    THESIS STATEMENTS ON FICTION TEXTS: Plays (Drama)

    5. Yusef’s wife, Anbara, writes revolutionary articles in the play Tennis in Nablus by Ismail Khalidi highlighting women’s empowerment and support as absolutely essential for the success of any movement or revolution that aspires toward real change. Khalidi uses symbolism and imagery to demonstrate that a primary reason for the failure of the Palestinian nation to escape the abuse of their British oppressors was because of their refusal to empower the most deeply oppressed members of their own society, their women.

    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________


    6. In his play Tennis in Nablus, Ismail Khalidi creates an emotional connection for his audience to the struggle of the Palestinians in their revolt against the British in the 1930s by describing a division within a family and using it as a metaphor for the divisive impact of colonization in Palestine then and afterwards.

    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    THESIS STATEMENTS ON FICTION TEXTS: Novels

    7. In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi demonstrates how literature is not only powerful enough to become a threat against oppressive regimes, but that it also emotionally liberates those who are covertly standing against the oppressive government. By studying Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita in their secret book club, Nafisi and her students were able to relate to Lolita’s struggle but also reject being passive victims, which inspires the students to silently resist their oppressive government.

    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________


    8. In Azar Nafisi's novel, Reading Lolita in Tehran, she incorporates the classic American novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald in conjunction with telling the history of and her experiences in the Islamic Republic of Tehran to demonstrate how reconstructing and living in the past only dooms the future.

    TOPIC: _________________________________________________________________________

    OPINION: _______________________________________________________________________

    SO WHAT? ______________________________________________________________________

    Answer

    1. Topic: American values of freedom versus slavery
    Opinion: American values of freedom contradict slavery
    So What? coming to terms with this hypocrisy hastens the end of slavery

    2. Topic: treatment of African-Americans during slavery versus now
    Opinion: the ways blacks suffered during slavery can still be seen today
    So What? African-Americans are still not truly free

    3. Topic: Sykes’ abuse of Delia
    Opinion: abuse results from need to assert masculinity
    So What? need to assert masculinity results from failure to be provider and protector.
    Implied: racism has emasculated, disempowered and embittered Sykes

    4. Topic: empathy for Delia
    Opinion: Hurston makes her reader feel empathy for Delia
    So What? empathy will lead to understanding the oppression resulting from race, gender,
    and class

    5. Topic: Palestinian revolt against the British
    Opinion: women are essential to revolution and real change
    So What? Palestinian revolt failed due to not empowering their own women

    6. Topic: Palestinian revolt against the British
    Opinion: emotional connection is made through divided family
    So What? divided family a metaphor for Palestine then and after

    7.Topic: Nafisi’s use of Lolita
    Opinion: Lolita helped the women to reject being passive victims
    So What? inspires silent resistance to government

    8. Topic: Nafisi’s use of The Great Gatsby
    Opinion: Nafisi uses The Great Gatsby to comment on the Islamic Republic
    So What? shows reconstructing and living in past dooms the future