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7.4: Creating and Revising a Thesis Statement

  • Page ID
    235760
    • 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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    HOW CAN I CREATE A THESIS?

    TOPIC + OPINION + SO WHAT? = THESIS

    Step 1: Brainstorm Topics

    Here are some questions that could help you:

    • What in the text inspired, confused, angered, excited, annoyed, and/or surprised you?
    • What in the text was important for you to understand or you feel others should be aware of?
    • What does the prompt/assignment ask you to focus on and explore?

    Brainstorm the issues, ideas, and themes raised in the reading (create at least 15 for a range of options):

    Brainstorm blank




    Step 2: Select a topic

    Choose one of the topics that most interest you and you want to explore further:


    Step 3: Create complex questions about your topic

    Create complex questions to be answered with opinion, not facts or yes/no answers.
    Here are some question formats that could help you:
    How is (topic) connected to (outside issue)? How do the flaws in the author’s arguments on (topic) result in (outcome)? What angles on (topic) have been overlooked? How can we apply the information about (topic)? How did/will (effect) occur because/if (cause) happened or will happen? How can (problem) be addressed or changed for (topic)?


    Step 4: Answer your best question with your opinion.

    This creates a rough thesis statement.


    Step 5: Ask yourself “so what?” So what is the impact, importance, outcomes, or larger implications?

    This strengthens and deepens your thesis statement.



    Step 6: Using your answer with its significance, write a 1-2 sentence thesis statement.

    This refines and focuses your thesis statement.




    Step 7: Test the thesis by seeing if you can gather good evidence to support it.

    Go through the main text(s) you are writing on and list all the passages (using page numbers) that directly prove and/or illustrate your argument:






    List potential outside evidence, such as research, outside sources, real-life examples, personal knowledge, personal examples that could possibly further prove and/or illustrate your argument:









    If you cannot find strong or sufficient evidence, then rethink your thesis statement.

    Example

    Step 1: Brainstorm Topics

    Here are some questions that could help you:

    • What in the text inspired, confused, angered, excited, annoyed, and/or surprised you?
    • What in the text was important for you to understand or you feel others should be aware of?
    • What does the prompt/assignment ask you to focus on and explore?

    Brainstorm the issues, ideas, and themes raised in the reading (create at least 15 for a range of options):

    Brainstorm example
    forbidden to read and write impressive determination
    humans treated as beasts bread for knowledge--both feeding
    depravity of slave owners Christian country?
    abuse of power rights to freedom
    slavery turning good people bad emancipation—liberation
    reading and writing as dangerous slavery as indefensible
    education and slavery incompatible reading a curse or blessing?
    fear of rebellion wretched condition--no remedy
    dehumanization ignorance is bliss?
    used white boys as teachers building consciousness

    Step 2: Select a topic

    Choose one of the topics that most interest you and you want to explore further:

    Reading and writing as dangerous


    Step 3: Create complex questions about your topic

    Create complex questions to be answered with opinion, not facts or yes/no answers.
    Here are some question formats that could help you:
    How is (topic) connected to (outside issue)? How do the flaws in the author’s arguments on (topic) result in (outcome)? What angles on (topic) have been overlooked? How can we apply the information about (topic)? How did/will (effect) occur because/if (cause) happened or will happen? How can (problem) be addressed or changed for (topic)?

    How is control of human beings connected to writing and reading?

    Why were the slaveholders so fearful of slaves learning to read and write?

    When has reading lead to violence and uprising?

    What about becoming educated leads to Douglass’s despair?

    Step 4: Answer your best question with your opinion.

    This creates a rough thesis statement.

    How is control of human beings connected to writing and reading?

    Slaves were controlled by not being able to read and write because they could not learn by reading the arguments and experiences of others and from history what is fair, just and reasonable and what is not.

    Step 5: Ask yourself “so what?” So what is the impact, importance, outcomes, or larger implications?

    This strengthens and deepens your thesis statement.

    So what? We should be concerned because in certain parts of the world today, what the public can read and write is controlled and as a result the rights of the people are violated and they are powerless or ignorant of this.

    Step 6: Using your answer with its significance, write a 1-2 sentence thesis statement.

    This refines and focuses your thesis statement.

    The control and limitations over reading and writing during slavery sought to make slaves like Douglass ignorant, powerless, and more easily controlled, and this control over literacy and education is still happening in the world today.

    Step 7: Test the thesis by seeing if you can gather good evidence to support it.

    Go through the main text(s) you are writing on and list all the passages (using page numbers) that directly prove and/or illustrate your argument:

    • Douglass discovers that “…education and slavery were incompatible with each other.” (1)
    • On page 2 it describes how Douglass read in “The Columbian Orator” how a slave used logic and persuasive argument so well that his master freed him (shows education can lead to change).
    • Reading and education makes one intolerant of injustice: “The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers” (2).
    • Douglass says: “…that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity” (2) (But Douglass did not give up and later was instrumental in abolishing slavery)

    List potential outside evidence, such as research, outside sources, real-life examples, personal knowledge, personal examples that could possibly further prove and/or illustrate your argument:

    • Mukhtar Mai in her memoir In the Name of Honor, tells how as a woman in Pakistan, she was not allowed to learn to read and write. As a result, when she was publically gang raped in 2002 by members of a more powerful clan, she went to the police and they wrote down an incorrect statement of the account so after years of going through the court system, the men were acquitted. Since then she has learned to read and write, she has started schools to educate girls, and remains today an outspoken advocate for women’s rights.
    • In Alex S. Jones’s Losing the News: The Future of the News that Feeds Democracy he argues that in the United States we are losing funding and support for investigative journalism so Americans are getting sound bites of news and no real understanding of what is going on politically or financially so we don’t protest and don’t understand the sources for the larger societal problems like the recent financial collapse.
    • Jonathan Kozol in Savage Inequalities, looks at different cities and sees how many of the urban poor, most of whom are black and Latino, are not given an equal education because school funding is based on income and property tax. As a result, there is an enormous dropout rate and many of these kids can barely read and write.

    HOW CAN I REVISE AND STRENGTHEN A THESIS?

    CHANGING INEFFECTIVE THESIS STATEMENTS TO EFFECTIVE ONES:

    1. A strong thesis statement takes a stand: your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject.

    WEAK THESIS: Douglass makes the interesting point that there are some negative and positive aspects to reading.

    This is a weak thesis statement. It fails to take a stand and the words interesting and negative and positive aspects are vague.

    STRONGER THESIS:


    2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion: your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion.

    WEAK THESIS: Christians practiced slavery in the United States.

    This is a weak thesis statement because it merely states a fact, so your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement.

    STRONGER THESIS:




    3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea: Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper.

    WEAK THESIS: People should not follow unjust laws and showing strong determination is what helped Douglass to be successful.

    This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about unjust laws or strong determination. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become clearer.

    STRONGER THESIS:



    4. A strong thesis statement is specific: A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about and the argument should be narrow enough to be concretely proven.

    WEAK THESIS: Slavery in the United States damaged many lives.

    This is a weak thesis statement for two reasons. First, slavery can’t be discussed thoroughly in a short essay. Second, damaged is vague and many lives is very general. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects.

    STRONGER THESIS:



    Answer
    Answers for CHANGING INEFFECTIVE THESIS STATEMENTS TO EFFECTIVE ONES

    1. WEAK THESIS: Douglass makes the interesting point that there are some negative and positive aspects to reading.

    STRONGER THESIS: Douglass shows how becoming educated makes it intolerable to live in slavery revealing how lack of education can lead to submissiveness.

    This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.

    3. WEAK THESIS: People should not follow unjust laws and showing strong determination is what helped Douglass to be successful.

    STRONGER THESIS: Through Douglass’s own story of strong determination and perseverance, he leaves no room for doubt that one should break the law if it is unjust.

    This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because, since, so, although, through, unless, however.

    2. WEAK THESIS: Christians practiced slavery in the United States.

    STRONGER THESIS: Christians who practiced slavery or who continue to support any law that denies others equal rights, violate the basic tenets of the Bible and its teachings of humanity and kindness.

    This is a strong thesis because it is controversial. This is a good strategy for creating a strong thesis. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.

    4. WEAK THESIS: Slavery in the United States damaged many lives.

    STRONGER THESIS: Douglass’s narrative reveals how slavery in the U.S. not only damaged the psyche of the slaves but destroyed the humanity of the slave owners.

    This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to make it more specific and manageable, and it also names who was affected rather than the vague “damaged many lives.”