+ Writing Skills: Your Thesis Statement

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A great book for teachers of writing is Alfred Rosa’s and Paul Eschholz ‘sModels For Writers: Short Essays for Composition.” 

Chapter 1, “The Writing Process” discusses (among much else) “How to Write a Thesis Statement.”

The thesis of an essay is its main idea — the point you are trying to make.

The thesis statement shouldn’t be confused with your “purpose for writing.”  Your thesis statement will make an assertion about your topic; it will actually appear in your essay. 

But your “purpose” is what you are trying to do: to express, to explain, or to argue.  Don’t say, “I will compare and contrast transcripts of news shows…” 

 Just do it.

A thesis statement should be

  • The most important point you make about a topic
  • More general than the ideas and facts used to support it
  • Focused enough to be covered in the space allowed for the essay

How to Write Your Thesis Statement

In order to develop a thesis statement you might just begin by writing “What I want to say is that…”  (Later, you will delete that formula from the final stand alone sentence.)

A good way to determine whether your thesis is too general or too specific is to consider how easy it will be to present information and examples to support it.  Thesis statements that are too general will leave a writer overwhelmed by the number of issues to be address. 

A statement such as “Malls have ruined the fabric of American life,” say the authors, will require information about traffic patterns, urban decay, environmental damage, economic studies  — much too much to grapple with in an essay. 

But the statement “The Big City Mall should not have been built because it reduced retail sales at the existing Big City stores by 21.4 percent” doesn’t leave much more to be said.

Usually, the thesis statement is set forth near the beginning of an essay.  Sometimes a writer will begin with a few sentences to establish a context, and then position the thesis as the final sentence of the first paragraph.

A good thesis statement identifies the topic and makes an assertion about it.

One way to develop a working thesis is to consider the question you are trying to answer in your essay.  A one or two-sentence answer often produces a tentative thesis statement.  

Does Your Thesis “Hold Water?”

Once you have selected a possible thesis, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this thesis statement take a clear stance on the issue — and what is thiss stance?
  • Is my thesis too general?
  • Is my thesis too specific?
  • Does my thesis apply to a larger audience than me — and who is that audience?

Remember that everything you say must be logically related to your thesis.  The thesis statement controls and directs the choices you make about the content of your essay.

But this doesn’t mean the thesis statement is a straitjacket.  As you develop the essay you may discover yourself modifying your thesis statement to accommodate the direction you seem to be taking.

And to delve much deeper into the subject of  your “thesis,” you can turn to the Chapter 3 which is titled simply “Thesis.”

Models for Writers: Short Essays for Composition” (10th edition) by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz is published by Bedford/St. Martin’s.  ISBN-13:978-0-312-53113-3 (pbk).

You will find help with sentence grammar, advice about rhetorical organization, study materials and writing assignments, and helpful chapter introductions. 

Chapter 1: “The Writing Process; Chapter 2, From Reading to Writing; Chapter 3, Thesis; Chapter 4, Unity; Chapter 5, Organization; Chapter 6, Beginnings and Endings; Chapter 7, Paragraphs; Chapter, 8, Transitions; Chapter 9, Effective Sentences; Chapter 10, Writing with Sources; Chapter 11, Diction and Tone; Chapter 12, Figurative Language; Chapter 13, Illustration; Chapter 14, Narration; Chapter 15, Description; Chapter 16, Process Analysis; Chapter 17, Definition; Chapter 18, Division and Classification; Chapter 19, Comparison and Contrat; Chapter 20, Cause and Effect; Chapter 21, Argument.

Every chapter provides a wealth of essays, stories and  articles to read and analyze, as well as suggested writing tasks.

There is an appendix on writing a research paper, a glossary of useful terms, an alternate table of contens in “thematic clusters.”  An instructor’s manual is available.

And find a companion Web site at http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/models.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-5021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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