Tips and Tricks for writing great Thesis statements


Tips and Tricks for writing great Thesis statements
Tips and Tricks for writing great Thesis statements

Date

A
thesis statement can be the thing that makes or breaks your research paper.
This lesson will give you some examples of good thesis statements as well as an
explanation of how they work in the context of a paper. 

What is a thesis
statement?

Every paper you write should have a main point, a main idea, or central message. The argument(s) you make in your paper should reflect this main idea. The sentence that captures your position on this main idea is what we call a thesis statement.

How long does it need
to be?

A
thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should
present the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in
relation to the topic. Your thesis statement should tell your reader what the
paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument
focused. 

Questions to Ask When
Formulating Your Thesis

Where is your thesis
statement?

You
should provide a thesis early in your essay — in the introduction, or in
longer essays in the second paragraph — in order to establish your position
and give your reader a sense of direction.

Tip: In order to write a
successful thesis statement:

  • Avoid burying a great thesis statement in the middle of a
    paragraph or late in the paper.
  • Be as clear and as specific as possible; avoid vague words.
  • Indicate the point of your paper but avoid sentence structures
    like, “The point of my paper is…” 
  •  

Is your thesis
statement specific?

Your thesis
statement should be as clear and specific as possible. Normally you will
continue to refine your thesis as you revise your argument(s), so your thesis
will evolve and gain definition as you obtain a better sense of where your
argument is taking you.

Tip: Check your thesis:

  • Are there two large statements connected loosely by a coordinating
    conjunction (i.e. “and,” “but,” “or,”
    “for,” “nor,” “so,” “yet”)?
  • Would a subordinating conjunction help (i.e. “through,”
    “although,” “because,” “since”) to signal a
    relationship between the two sentences?
  • Or do the two statements imply a fuzzy unfocused thesis?
  • If so, settle on one single focus and then proceed with further
    development.
  •  

Is your thesis
statement too general?

Your
thesis should be limited to what can be accomplished in the specified number of
pages. Shape your topic so that you can get straight to the “meat” of
it. Being specific in your paper will be much more successful than writing
about general things that do not say much. Don’t settle for three pages of just
skimming the surface.

The
opposite of a focused, narrow, crisp thesis is a broad, sprawling, superficial
thesis. Compare this original thesis (too general) with three possible
revisions (more focused, each presenting a different approach to the same
topic):

  • Original thesis:
    • There are serious objections to today’s horror movies.
  • Revised theses:
    • Because modern cinematic techniques have allowed filmmakers to get
      more graphic, horror flicks have desensitized young American viewers to violence.
    • The pornographic violence in “bloodbath” slasher movies
      degrades both men and women.
    • Today’s slasher movies fail to deliver the emotional catharsis
      that 1930s horror films did.

Is your thesis
statement clear?

Your
thesis statement is no exception to your writing: it needs to be as clear as
possible. By being as clear as possible in your thesis statement, you will make
sure that your reader understands exactly what you mean.

Tip: In order to be as clear
as possible in your writing:

  • Unless you’re writing a technical report, avoid technical
    language. Always avoid jargon, unless you are confident your audience will be
    familiar with it.
  • Avoid vague words such as “interesting,”
    “negative,” “exciting,” “unusual,” and
    “difficult.”
  • Avoid abstract words such as “society,” “values,” or
    “culture.”

These
words tell the reader next to nothing if you do not carefully explain what you
mean by them. Never assume that the meaning of a sentence is obvious. Check to
see if you need to define your terms (”socialism,” “conventional,”
“commercialism,” “society”), and then decide on the most
appropriate place to do so. Do not assume, for example, that you have the same
understanding of what “society” means as your reader. To avoid misunderstandings,
be as specific as possible.

Compare
the original thesis (not specific and clear enough) with the revised version
(much more specific and clear):

  • Original thesis: Although the timber wolf
    is a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated. [if it’s
    so timid and gentle — why is it being exterminated?]
  • Revised thesis: Although the timber wolf
    is actually a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated
    because people wrongfully believe it to be a fierce and cold-blooded killer.

Does your thesis
include a comment about your position on the issue at hand?

The
thesis statement should do more than merely announce the topic; it must reveal
what position you will take in relation to that topic, how you plan to
analyze/evaluate the subject or the issue. In short, instead of merely stating
a general fact or resorting to a simplistic pro/con statement, you must decide
what it is you have to say.

Tips:

  • Avoid merely announcing the topic; your original and specific
    “angle” should be clear. In this way you will tell your reader why
    your take on the issue matters.

    • Original thesis: In this paper, I will
      discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
    • Revised thesis: Not just empty stories
      for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.
  • Avoid making universal or pro/con judgments that oversimplify
    complex issues.

    • Original thesis: We must save the whales.
    • Revised thesis: Because our planet’s
      health may depend upon biological diversity, we should save the whales.
  • When you make a (subjective) judgment call, specify and justify
    your reasoning. “Just because” is not a good reason for an argument.

    • Original thesis: Socialism is the best
      form of government for Kenya.
    • Revised thesis: If the government takes
      over industry in Kenya, the industry will become more efficient.
  • Avoid merely reporting a fact. Say more than what is already
    proven fact. Go further with your ideas. Otherwise… why would your point
    matter?

    • Original thesis: Hoover’s administration
      was rocked by scandal.
    • Revised thesis: The many scandals of
      Hoover’s administration revealed basic problems with the Republican Party’s
      nominating process.

Do not expect to come up with a fully formulated thesis statement before you have finished writing the paper. The thesis will inevitably change as you revise and develop your ideas—and that is ok! Start with a tentative thesis and revise as your paper develops.

Is your thesis
statement original?

Avoid,
avoid, and avoid generic arguments and formula statements. They work well to
get a rough draft started, but will easily bore a reader. Keep revising until
the thesis reflects your real ideas.

Tip: The point you make in the
paper should matter:

  • Be prepared to answer “So what?” about your thesis statement.
  • Be prepared to explain why the point you are making is worthy of a
    paper. Why should the reader read it?

Compare
the following:

  • Original thesis:
    • There are advantages and disadvantages to using statistics. (a
      fill-in-the-blank formula)
  • Revised theses:
    • Careful manipulation of data allows a researcher to use statistics
      to support any claim she desires.
    • In order to ensure accurate reporting, journalists must understand
      the real significance of the statistics they report.
    • Because advertisers consciously and unconsciously manipulate data,
      every consumer should learn how to evaluate statistical claims.

Avoid
formula and generic words. Search for concrete subjects and active verbs,
revising as many “to be” verbs as possible. A few suggestions below
show how specific word choice sharpens and clarifies your meaning.

  • Original: “Society is…” [Who is
    this “society” and what exactly is it doing?]
  • Revised: “Men and women will
    learn how to…,” “writers can generate…,” “television
    addicts may chip away at…,” “American educators must
    decide…,” “taxpayers and legislators alike can help fix…”
  • Original: “the media”
  • Revised: “the new breed of
    television reporters,” “advertisers,” “hard-hitting print
    journalists,” “horror flicks,” “TV movies of the
    week,” “sitcoms,” “national public radio,” “Top
    40 bop-til-you-drop…”
  • Original: “is, are, was, to
    be” or “to do, to make”
  • Revised: any great action verb you
    can concoct: “to generate,” “to demolish,” “to
    batter,” “to revolt,” “to discover,” “to
    flip,” “to signify,” “to endure…”

Use
your own words in thesis statements; avoid quoting. Crafting an original,
insightful, and memorable thesis makes a distinct impression on a reader. You
will lose credibility as a writer if you become only a mouthpiece or a copyist;
you will gain credibility by grabbing the reader with your own ideas and words.

A
well-crafted thesis statement reflects well-crafted ideas. It signals a writer
who has intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm.

Credits http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/tips/thesis/

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