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Writing an Essay Ch. 2. From Opinion to Thesis

Part of a series of prezis adapted from Lucille Vaughan Payne's book The Lively Art of Writing.
by

Peter Flynn

on 25 June 2013

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Transcript of Writing an Essay Ch. 2. From Opinion to Thesis

Writing an Essay: 2. From opinion to thesis
The thesis of your essay is your opinion boiled down to one arguable statement.
Everything else in your essay depends on the thesis.
The purpose of your essay is to:
explain
clarify
defend
illustrate
your thesis.
This is the one major point you want to make.

Like we talked about in Part one, you are going to start with a broad topic and close in on a specific opinion.
"Closing in on Your Thesis"
There are a few general principles that will help you learn how to choose a specific thesis.
Pretend that you have been assigned to write an essay on one of the following topics:
movies sports
books television
internet art
You probably don't know as much about art as you do about the other topics. If you can come up with a good thesis about a topic you don't know, you should be able to do so for a topic you know.
The Five Step Process
1. Take inventory

The first thing you need to do is figure out what you know about the subject. What do we know about art?
2. Ask questions

At this point, ask yourself as many questions as it takes to get to start to narrow in on an interesting topic.
A. Who was the most prolific artist ever?
B. How prevalent are forgeries of masterpieces?
C. How does the environment in which an artist lives influence his or her art?

Question A can be answered with facts. Same with Question B, but it could also lead us to an interesting idea if we kept digging. For now, let's stick with Question C.
3. Look for relationships

How does the environment in which an artist grows up influence his or her art? How much influence does that have? A lot? Do you think there is something more influential? Is it something that can be easily seen, or can it sometimes be hard to notice? Are artistic movements based on the situations of its artists? Is art reactionary or an agent of change itself?
What connections can we make here?
Art is influential, therefore artists can influence culture
But culture has to influence the artist, people do not exist in a vaccum.
Chicken and egg question? Which comes first? Which is more important?
It seems like through this process we have arrived at a much more interesting question, one open to more debate than our previous topic.
4. Ask the yes-or-no question

Thesis A: An artist influences his culture more than his culture influences him.
Thesis B: An artist does not influence his culture more than his culture influences him.
Step 5. Qualify

In this case, our thesis is not an either-or statement (Fighting in hockey is always fine vs. Fighting in hockey is never fine.) For us, this step will not be as long as it can be.
Qualifying is taking a statement that could
be too inflexible and finding ways to make it more workable. Here, we would just make Thesis B positive rather than negative.
Thesis A: An artist influences his environment more than his environment influences him.
Thesis B: An artist is influenced by his environment more than he influences it.
At this point, we know what are are going to explain and defend. So we need to think of the arguments that support each thesis.
Other artists copy off of successful artists.
Artists inspire the viewers of their art to create their own art, causing a ripple effect.
A work of art makes its creator "immortal," as the impact of the art continues long after its maker's death.
The art that inspires a new artist to create is part of the environment in which they grow up in.
Nearly all artists have a mentor that greatly influences their work.
Art is often born of a reaction to an event or movement.
AFTER CONSIDERING BOTH SIDES you will decide which opinion you think is best. If you simply go with the first thing you think of, your essay will likely be much weaker than it could be.
The more accurate your thesis, the better your essay.
sUMMARY:
Every essay is an opinion, but not every opinion is a good essay topic.
It must be able to be boiled down to one arguable statement
You arrive at this statement (your thesis) by a five-step process.
Take inventory, ask questions, relate it to what you know, ask the yes-or-no question, and qualify your answer to the question.
At the risk of belaboring this point, you get out of this process what you put into it. Cut corners and you can abandon any hope of writing a great essay.
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