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Top Ten Thesis Sentence Problems Robert Wellman Campbell Black Hills State University September 2007 (Example: students in 2050 studying The Simpsons ). 1. Which is a better thesis sentence?

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Top Ten Thesis Sentence ProblemsRobert Wellman CampbellBlack Hills State UniversitySeptember 2007(Example: students in 2050 studying The Simpsons)


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1. Which is a better thesis sentence?

a. In the 1990s, America was affected by the end of the Cold War, the booming and globalizing economy, and the erosion of Americans' feeling of basic security; all were reflected in The Simpsons.

b. Though The Simpsons admired 1990s technologies, it ridiculed the corporations which invented them.


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Problem #1: The Big Mushy Thesis

(the "Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man" thesis)

Solution: Replace gigantic, mushy, uncontrollable thesis with a small, sharp one.

a. In the 1990s, America was affected by the end of the Cold War, the booming and globalizing economy, and the erosion of Americans' feeling of basic security-- all reflected in The Simpsons.

b. Though The Simpsons admired 1990s technologies, it ridiculed the corporations which invented them.


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2. Which is better?

a. The Simpsons made a severe criticism of American society.

b. The Simpsons criticized its viewers for putting individual well-being before family well-being.


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Problem #2: The Mystery Thesis

(or, "Uncle Robb I have something to tell you")

Solution: Tell your reader what it is, right up front. A thesis paper does not have suspense. What criticism? Tell us!

a. The Simpsons made a severe criticism of American society.

b. The Simpsons criticized its viewers for putting individual well-being before family well-being.


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3. Which is better?

a. Homer Simpson was a character who in his TV show could symbolize one kind of value that viewers should identify with, and in another episode would be shown as representing a completely different kind of value system seen in society today.

b. From episode to episode, Homer Simpson stood for contradictory values.


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Problem #3: The Wordy Thesis

(or, "blah blah blah blah blah blah blah")

Solution: Shorten and sharpen your thesis sentence.

a. Homer Simpson was a character who in his TV show could symbolize one kind of value that viewers should identify with, and in another episode would be shown as representing a completely different kind of value system in society today.

b. From episode to episode, Homer Simpson stood for contradictory values.


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4. Which is better?

a. Homer Simpson's main characteristic was his stupidity.

b. Though Homer was supposed to be the family dunce, Marge made more serious mistakes.


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Problem #4: The Obvious Thesis

(or, "Duh.")

Solution: Tell me something that requires some convincing.

a. Homer Simpson's main characteristic was his stupidity.

b. Though Homer was supposed to be the family dunce, Marge made more serious mistakes.


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5. What is wrong with this one?

Homer Simpson was a great character symbolizing the hopes, and dreams, and loves, and hates, of American society in the 1990s, and therefore is a great subject for historical study.


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Problem #5: The Thesis-less Thesis

(or, "I wrote this last night so I am getting a D minus.")

Solution: Have a thesis. A thesis is not just a sentence sitting atop a general summary.

Homer Simpson was a great character symbolizing the hopes, and dreams, and loves, and hates, of American society in the 1990s, and therefore is a great subject for historical study.


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6. Which is not a historical thesis?

a. The Simpsons was more popular than Bugs Bunny.

b. The Simpsons would have been popular in any decade.


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Problem #6: The Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda Thesis

Solution: Write about what did happen, not what didn't.

a. The Simpsons was more popular than Bugs Bunny.

b. The Simpsons would have been popular in any decade.


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7. Which is actually better?

a. The Simpsons was the most innovative cartoon ever.

b. Attacking The Simpsons actually helped George Bush's career.


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Problem #7: The "Most" Thesis

Solution: In two pages you can not possibly compare The Simpsons to Bugs Bunny, and Deputy Dawg, and Rocky and Bullwinkle, and The Superfriends, and Emergency +4, and Dangerdingle, and Strawberry Puffpuff, plus thousands of other cartoons. Don't claim what you can't actually support.

a. The Simpsons was the most innovative cartoon ever.

b. Attacking The Simpsons actually helped George Bush's career.


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8. Pick one.

  • The Simpsons became more liberal over time.

  • The Simpsons was a great contribution to American culture.


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Problem #8: The "Awesome" Thesis

Solution: These are usually obvious, just opinions, and just used as a pretext to summarizing. Don't use them.

  • The Simpsons became more liberal over time.

  • The Simpsons was a great contribution to American culture.


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You get the point-- don't be:

1. Mushy,

2. Mysterious,

3. Wordy,

4. Obvious,

5. Thesis-less,

6. Subjunctive,

7. Superlative, or

8. Celebratory.

And while you're at it, also avoid:

9. The Me-too thesis

In which you simply agree with some author

10. The Two-headed thesis

In which you can’t decide between two theses