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Building A Strong Thesis

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Isaiah Hemmen

on 7 November 2016

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Transcript of Building A Strong Thesis

BUILDING
A STRONG
THESIS

TEXT
YOUR THESIS STATEMENT HELPS YOU... AND YOUR READER
FINAL CHECKLIST - A
TEXT
CREATE A UNIQUE
DESIGN LAYOUT
FINAL CHECKLIST - B
Does your thesis
deal directly with the topic at hand
?
Does it
attempt to answer/ explore a challenging question about that topic
?
Does it
make a clear & specific assertion, citing reasons
?
Is that assertion
debatable
? Would it
generate discussion and argument
?
Does it
indicate the direction of your argument and nothing more
?
Is it
one sentence
, and have you placed it
at the end of your first paragraph
?
Have you structured it so that
the important information is in the main clause
?

TEMPLATES: A thesis may take many forms, but
templates
can help in the drafting process.

TEMPLATE #1
Start with the argument, then provide reasons
and supporting examples:
"_______ because ______ which is illustrated in______"
MISCONCEPTIONS

Don’t announce what you’re going to say – just say it!

Examples of unnecessary and wordy thesis beginnings :

"This paper will argue X"
“I’m going to write about X”
“The subject of this theme is X”
“In my opinion, X”
TEXT

ORDERING ELEMENTS

The order in which you place elements in your thesis affects how emphatic it is. For the sake of emphasis…
Separated elements:
GOALS

Definition
:
what a thesis statement is

Origin story
:
where thesis statements come from

Proving ground
:
let’s test some sentences
A thesis is a just an idea!

...“the controlling idea, the main point,
the conclusion you have drawn
about the evidence you have accumulated”
(Fowler, Aaron, and Okoomian 30).
WHAT IS A THESIS STATEMENT?
More specifically...

A thesis performs these essential functions:
A THESIS MAKES AN
ASSERTION
Question:
“Is America violent?”

While provocative, such questions do not make an assertion or offer a sense of the argument's structure. They permit the writer to pursue all ideas without committing to any. An assertion, on the other hand, makes a commitment.
Simple Observation:

“America is violent”

Although this statement answers the question, it is still not specific enough to qualify as an assertion. An assertion would provide specific reasons.
A THESIS IS
DEBATABLE

If you can make a plausible case against your thesis, your thesis is debatable.
A THESIS IS
SPECIFIC

Expressing a single, specific claim will keep your paper to a manageable topic.
A THESIS
CONVEYS YOUR REASONS FOR WRITING

It determines what you
will
discuss...
A THESIS
SHOWS THE ORDER OF IDEAS

In other words, it should suggest the actual structure or shape of your argument to readers. As such, it should serve as both your blueprint for writing and readers' blueprint for reading.
Speaking of which...

Think of the thesis as a
hook
on which you can
hang
your topic sentences.

Example Thesis:

"Americans are violent because of the proliferation of guns, the disintegration of family values, and the glorification of violence by the media."

Topic Sentence 1:
the proliferation of guns

Topic Sentence 2:
the disintegration of family values

Topic Sentence 3:
the glorification of violence by the media

In short, each different reason used in support of one's assertion becomes a topic sentence.
Does your introductory paragraph
define terms important to your thesis
?
Does your thesis
suggest a structure
for your paper?
Does your paper
appropriate that structure by explaining your reasons in the same order as they appear in your thesis
?
Does your paper go on to
support your thesis with adequate evidence
?
Does your conclusion
restate your thesis in different words
?
ORDERING ELEMENTS - EXAMPLES

Let's say
you're arguing that war is more evil than it is necessary
. In this case, you need to "subordinate" the counterargument to your argument.

Correct:

"Although war is necessary,

it is evil"
This is the most emphatic formulation because your argument not only comes last (most emphatic position in the sentence), but because it is a complete thought (most emphatic grammatical construction in the sentence).
It is your reader’s
blueprint
for reading:

Serves as a "map" to follow
through your paper.
Keeps the reader focused
on your argument.
Signals your main points
to the reader.
Engages the reader in
your argument.
It is your
blueprint
for writing:

Helps you determine your focus
and clarify your ideas.
Provides a "hook" on which to
"hang" your topic sentences.
Can (and should) be revised
as you refine your evidence and
arguments.
Gives your paper a unified structure.
TEMPLATE #2
Start with an opposing view (counterargument), then provide your position and your reasons for it:
"(
Subordinator*
) counterargument + argument + reasons."

Although

I

concede
that ________
I still maintain
that _________ because ____________.

Although

I

admit
that __________
the fact remains
that
_________ because ____________.

Although

I

grant
that ___________
I would argue
that _________ because ____________.

TESTING YOUR THESIS -
AN EXAMPLE
Mock Topic: Discuss the significance of one of the main characters in The Simpsons.

Attempted Thesis #1:
Marge Simpson is important to the plot of
The Simpsons.

Assessment:


Attempted Thesis #2:
Marge Simpson is important to
The Simpsons
because she fulfills a significant family role as a mother and housewife.

Assessment:

Attempted Thesis #3:
Marge Simpson is important to
The Simpsons
because she fulfills a significant family role as a teacher and caregiver to her husband and children.

Assessment:

Attempted Thesis #4:
While Marge Simpson may be a model caregiver for her family, she is a different sort of model for her audience.

Assessment:

Attempted Thesis #5:
Despite her role as a seemingly submissive housewife and mother, Marge Simpson functions for the audience of
The Simpsons
as a subversive feminist force against “middle class” values.

Assessment
This statement is vague and obvious. It’s apparent to anyone who has watched
The Simpsons
that each character is vital to the show, so no one would argue
with
this statement of fact.
This statement is more precise than No.1 in that it tells how Marge is important to the Simpson family, but it merely
restates a basic premise of the show – what Marge’s role is – and therefore is not an argument
. Additionally, it adds little or no information that the informed reader of your paper did not know from just watching a few episodes.
This statement is again more precise in that it qualifies how Marge fulfills her role as mother: it says that she provides care and instruction to other family members. But it still
does not go beyond the realm of fact.
This statement introduces a new idea that begins to treat The Simpsons as a “text.” And it is the first statement that is
arguable to some extent.
This position is
controversial
; that is, you can make a case against it. Notice that the words “important” and “significant” have been dropped. Such words are hard to define specifically and make for flimsy arguments because they are not precise. Nonetheless, the statement is once again
a bit vague
: exactly what sort of model is Marge? How does she model for her audience?
This argument is better than No. 4 because it is
more precise
about how Marge affects her audience and what that effect is. Indeed,
you may not agree with the statement, which is a good sign for its argumentative nature
(some people, for instance, see the show as demeaning to women). Terms like “middle class values” and “feminist” will need to be defined precisely in the introduction or shortly after the thesis is stated. Additionally, this statement will require you to provide specific interpretations of The Simpsons to prove your case.
AT WHAT STAGE IN THE WRITING
PROCESS SHOULD I DEVELOP
MY THESIS STATEMENT?
1.
Some writers develop their thesis statement at the start,
in order to help themselves focus on their argument right away.

2.
Some writers develop their thesis statement at the end, after they have figured out what they really want to say - which often means figuring out what they have said.
3.
Ideally, try to do both – by starting with a
“working thesis”
in order to help yourself stay focused, but then revising that thesis as you go, in order to accommodate new ideas and shifts in your perspective.
PLACEMENT: WHERE DOES THE THESIS GO?

Place your thesis at the end of your introduction...
You are the best (and only!) advocate for your thesis.

Your thesis is defenseless without you to prove that its argument holds up under scrutiny.

The jury (i.e., your reader) will expect you to provide evidence to prove your thesis. So, make sure the examples you select from your available evidence address your thesis.

EVIDENCE
THESIS GENERATION

Generate a thesis using the following steps:

Brainstorm a topic
Narrow the topic - by asking a question about it
Take a position on the topic - by answering that question
Provide reasons for your position - by answering "why"
Provide an illustration of those reasons - by answering "how" - (optional)
Consider a counterclaim/ concession
Revise "working thesis" into finished thesis (as you refine your argument)

THESIS GENERATION - EXAMPLE #1

Brainstorm a topic:
THESIS GENERATION - EXAMPLE #1 - continued...

Provide reasons for your position - by answering "why":
The Seahawks should win the Super Bowl because...
THESIS GENERATION - EXAMPLE #1 - continued...

Put that together (for your "Working Thesis"):
"Although I concede that... I still insist that... because..."
TRANSLATION OF THESIS INTO TOPIC SENTENCES

Reasons for Claim (3 "whys" = 3 topic sentences):
1.
they play like a team
2.
they are uncannily able to come through in the clutch
3.
they have the support of the 12th fan

Lazy Topic Sentences:
Are the Seahawks going to win the Super Bowl?
Take a position on the topic - by answering that question:
The Seahawks should win the Super Bowl.

The Seahawks
Narrow the topic - by asking a question about it:
1.
they have superhero Russell Wilson at QB
2.
they have the support of the 12th fan
3.
they play like a team
4.
they are uncannily able to come through in the clutch
-Present reasons using parallel structure (parallelism)
Provide an illustration of those reasons - by answering "how" (optional):
As evidenced by / judging from...
1.
recent comeback victories
2.
their diehard determination and solidarity
Consider a counterclaim/ concession:
Although I concede that...
1.
The Patriots are on a roll
2.
Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck are clever and can't be underestimated
Although I concede that The Patriots are on a roll and Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck are clever and can't be underestimated, I still insist that The Seahawks should win the Super Bowl because they have superhero Russel Wilson at QB, they have the support of the 12th fan, they play like a team, and they are uncannily able to come through in the clutch, as evidenced by their diehard determination and solidarity in recent comeback victories.
Revise your "Working Thesis" (after refining your argument):
Simplify
,
specify,

reorder reasons by importance
Although I concede that
The Patriots are on a roll and can't be underestimated
, I still insist that The Seahawks should win
Super Bowl XLIX
because
they play like a team, are uncannily able to come through in the clutch, and have the support of the 12th fan.
THESIS IDENTIFICATION

Which of the following are strong argumentative thesis statements? If not, why not?

1.
Is writing an art?
REITERATION OF THESIS IN YOUR CONCLUSION

Thesis:

Although I concede that The Patriots are on a roll and can't be underestimated, I still insist that The Seahawks should win Super Bowl XLIX because they play like a team, are uncannily able to come through in the clutch, and have the support of the 12th fan.

Reiterate the Thesis in the Conclusion - Using Different Words



In sum, despite their momentum and clever trickery, The Patriots stand little chance in Super Bowl XLIX against The Seahawks, whose teamwork and clutch play, compounded by the always exuberant participation of their 12th fan, gives them an undeniably significant edge.
TRANSLATION OF THESIS INTO TOPIC SENTENCES - Continued...

Improved Topic Sentences:
1.
The Seahawks' teamwork and camaraderie is unparalleled in the National Football League, which gives them a distinct advantage.
2.
In addition, rather than be discouraged by being down to an opponent, the Seahawks always rise to the challenge.
3.
Thanks to the 12th fan, The Seahawks also have the extra support they need to carry them to another title.

Further Improved Topic Sentences:
1.
Firstly/ First of all, The Seahawks play like a team.
2.
Secondly/ Second of all, The Seahawks are uncannily able to come through in the clutch.
3.
Thirdly/ Third of all, The Seahawks have the support of the 12th man.
Don't simply restate your reasons word-for-word; rephrase them, connect them to your argument, and try to avoid using overly simplistic transition phrases.
1.
As evidenced by their diehard solidarity in clutch situations, the Seahawks play like a true team, which is absolutely crucial to winning, particularly in a high stakes game like the Super Bowl.
2.
Not only do the Seahawks play like a team, but they also have an uncanny ability to come from behind in the 4th quarter, especially in big games.
3.
Perhaps most important of all, it's thanks in part to the support of the 12th fan that The Seahawks might win their second Super Bowl in a row.
These topic sentences are more specific. They also incorporate transition phrases that establish context, relation, and importance.
THESIS GENERATION - EXAMPLE #2

Brainstorm a topic:
THESIS GENERATION - EXAMPLE #2 - continued...

Consider a counterclaim/ concession:
"Although/ Even though/ Despite/ Whereas/ While..."
Put that together (for your "Working Thesis):
Although I concede that Google is an exceptionally convenient and comprehensive way to find anything and everything, it is up to the user to parse their findings with the utmost awareness and tact; otherwise, such a search engine can be detrimental to one's patience, powers of discernment, and attention span.
Revise your "Working Thesis" (after refining your argument)
(simplify, specify, order reasons by importance)
Although I concede that Google is an exceptionally convenient and comprehensive research tool, a dependence on it can prove addictive and be detrimental to one's patience and powers of discernment.

This version is simpler, more specific, and more declarative
Google
Narrow the topic - by asking a question about it:
Is Google Rotting Our Brains?
Take a position on the topic - by answering that question:
Yes - Google Is Rotting Our Brains.
Provide reasons for your position - by answering "why" (and/or "how"):
Google is rotting our brains because...
1.
It’s addictive and distracting (as it is a one-stop-resource for everything)
2.
It makes us impatient (since we become accustomed to acquiring information immediately)
3.
It makes us undiscerning (as it’s difficult to ascertain what information is true/ valuable and what information is not)
THESIS GENERATION EXAMPLE #3 - Your Turn!

Generate a thesis using the following steps:

Brainstorm a topic
Narrow the topic - by asking a question about it
Take a position on the topic - by answering that question
Provide reasons for your position - by answering "why"
Provide an illustration of those reasons - by answering "how" - (optional)
Consider a counterclaim/ concession
Revise your "working thesis" into finished thesis (as you refine your argument)
1.
Google is incredibly comprehensive
2.
Google is exceptionally convenient

"Although Google is exceptionally convenient and comprehensive..."
2.
Writing is an art.
3.
English composition is an art.
5.
English composition is an art. For instance, it involves artfully crafting a message to a specific audience for a specific purpose.
6.
English composition is an art because it involves artfully crafting a specific message to a specific audience for a specific purpose.
7.
Despite the contention that English composition concerns the study of grammar alone, it is undeniable that its primary emphasis - on communicating a specific message to a specific audience for a specific purpose - requires the utmost artistry.
4.

This paper will argue that English composition is an art.
Names the topic clearly
Asserts something specific, significant, and debatable about that topic
Conveys your reason for writing - i.e. your purpose
Shows the order of ideas in the essay
What is an
assertion
?
An
assertion

takes a stand. It is a statement supported
by reasons and evidence - i.e. by a
why

and a

what
.
Therefore,
a thesis
cannot
be a question

a thesis
cannot
be a simple observation
Example Thesis:

"Americans are violent because the entertainment industry is violent."
Counterargument:
Therefore,
a good test for an arguable thesis is to try to argue
against
it.

Assertion (Thesis):
“Americans are violent
because
they are fearful”

At last, we have an assertion, a perspective that not only asserts something about the subject, but one that provides reasons.
How could you make a commitment - an
assertion
- on this topic?
Answer the question!
In sum,
a thesis statement cannot be a question!
However,
a thesis can be an answer to that question!
"Americans are violent because of the disintegration of family and the proliferation of guns."
• Unmanageable (unspecific):
"Banana Herb Tea has some negative and positive aspects."
• Manageable (specific):
"Although Banana Herb Tea promotes rapid weight loss, this can result in the depletion of muscle and lean body mass, so it poses a potential danger to customers."
Every paragraph and point in your paper exists in order to support your thesis and its claim. In doing so, it serves as a road map for your paper and a guide for your readers.
It determines what you
won’t
discuss...
If one of your paragraphs seems irrelevant, you have 2 choices: (1) get rid of the paragraph or (2) rewrite your thesis so it that accounts for what you cover in this paragraph.
Example Thesis:

"Americans are violent because of the proliferation of guns, the disintegration of family values, and the glorification of violence by the media."
In this case, readers understand that not only are you going to have 3 important points to cover, but that they will appear in this order, and that the last point is likely the most important.
How to frame your topic sentences?
EXHIBIT A:

1:
First, Americans are violent because of
A

2:
Second, Americans are violent because of
B
3:
Third, Americans are violent because of
C
EXHIBIT B:

1:
Not surprisingly,
A
plays a crucial role in violence in America.
2:
Speaking of which, studies show that
B
is partially to blame for the interpersonal turmoil that so often leads to violence.
3:
Moreover,
C
has been undeniably instrumental in cultivating Americans' taste for such brutality and bloodshed.
Avoid being overly simplistic and formulaic in your wording (EXHIBIT A), or you risk being interpreted as amateurish in both your style and content. Vary your sentence structure (EXHIBIT B)!
...after you have laid the groundwork for it. More specifically, announce your topic broadly, provide any background material important to your argument, explain some of your argument’s points, define some of its terms, and then declare your particular take.
Save the punch for your thesis. Place that punch at the end of your intro, where it will set the tone for the rest of your paper.
The problem with these formulations is that they aren’t declarative but long-winded. The trick is to just come out and say it – make an assertion without preamble. As a result, the tone of your thesis will sound more forceful, confident, and persuasive.
Example:
"Dancing with the Stars should be canceled because it is repetitive, overwrought, and there is no longer an audience for it, as illustrated in negative reviews, lower numbers of voters, and reduced Nielsen ratings."
Example:
"
Even though
its detractors find it repetitive, overwrought, and less than engaging, the fact remains that
Dancing with the Stars
continues to attract Americans because..."

*
Subordinators that establish concession:
although, even though, whereas, while, despite.
Place your concession (counterargument) in a dependent clause and your claim in an independent clause. Since the dependent clause is grammatically incomplete and the independent clause is complete, the independent clause is the most emphatic.

Dependent clause (counterargument) + independent clause (argument)
Place your concession (counterargument) first and your claim last. Readers will better remember what comes last.

Concession (counterargument) + claim (argument)
Incorrect:

"War is evil
although it is necessary"
If you state your counterargument last, you're putting it in the most emphatic position in the sentence, which makes it sound more like an argument than counterargument.
Incorrect:

"Although

war is evil,

it is necessary"
If you mistakenly put your argument in the dependent clause, then you're actually not arguing it anymore. In this case, the claim is that war is more necessary than evil.
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