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Developing a thesis statement

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Alexandra Gouirand

on 21 April 2014

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Transcript of Developing a thesis statement

Developing a thesis statement
First, What is a thesis statement, and why do you need one?
From the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina:
A thesis statement:

1. tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
In other words, you must
clearly state your position
in a thesis statement.
2. includes a road map for the paper; in other words,
it tells the reader what to expect
from the rest of the paper.

Example:
Cloth diapers are a more sustainable choice than disposable diapers because
they are manufactured with fewer harmful chemicals
,
take up less landfill space
, and a
re less harmful to babies
.
3. directly answers the question asked of you.
A thesis is an interpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself
. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel.

Make sure your thesis statement is a complete sentence and that it takes a position.
4. makes a claim that others might dispute.

For this, make sure your thesis statement is
defensible
(it's possible to agree with it) and
debatable
(it's possible to disagree with it).

A non-defensible thesis might look like this:
The penalty for jaywalking should be summary execution.

A non-debatable thesis might look like this:
Whales are large mammals.
5. is usually a single sentence somewhere in your first paragraph that presents your argument to the reader.
So... how do you develop a strong thesis?
1. Don't expect to have a perfect thesis from the beginning. A thesis takes time and thought to develop. In fact, that's why it's called a
working thesis
until you've finalized it.
2. Start with brainstorming ideas. If you think you want to write about knitting, a brainstorm might look like this:

knitting knitting knitting: takes two sticks, crochet only takes one. has been around for a long time (need to look up dates). It's fun; make lots of stuff. appealing to younger people, but still mostly a "girl" thing (how come?) Yarn is expensive. Love the Stitch n' Bitch books. Part of the DYI revolution of the '00s. Homesteading? Does it appeal to certain types of people? Lots of skill involved--lace knitting is hard.
knitting knitting knitting: takes two sticks, crochet only takes one.
has been around for a long time (need to look up dates)
. It's fun; make lots of stuff. appealing to younger people, but still
mostly a "girl" thing
(how come?) Yarn is expensive. Love the Stitch n' Bitch books. Part of the
DYI revolution of the '00s
.
Homesteading? Does it appeal to certain types of people
? Lots of skill involved--lace knitting is hard.
Different possible topics:
- The history of knitting: origins, what it is today
- Knitting as homesteading for feminists
- What is homesteading? Why is it popular?
- Technical aspects of knitting
3. Develop a working thesis. Remember: it's one sentence long, it takes a position, and it provides an outline of the contents of your paper.

Example of a working thesis:
The emerging homesteading movement is the outgrowth of a disgust with consumerist culture, a distrust of government, and a yearning for quality products.

Note that I started out this process thinking that I would be writing about knitting, but the brainstorming process led me in an unexpected (but not unwelcome) direction
.
The emerging homesteading movement is the outgrowth of a disgust with consumerist culture, a distrust of government, and a yearning for quality products.

4. At this point you'll need to do a little more brainstorming and thinking about your thesis. For example, I might still change this: I might focus on who homesteaders are (my guess: white, college-educated urbanites), and that might inform my paper. I will probably narrow the thesis down further.
Remember:
A thesis statement needs to answer the questions "how?" and "why?"
Example:
Cloth diapers are a more sustainable choice than disposable diapers because
they are manufactured with fewer harmful chemicals
,
take up less landfill space
, and a
re less harmful to babies
.
Counter-example:
Witchcraft is considered a cult by some and a religion by others, what is it really?
Practice
What's wrong with this thesis statement?

Knowledge is Power and Ignorance is Bliss: Those who do not challenge what they know are the happiest, and most ignorant.
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