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Thesis Pieces. Laying the Foundation for an Effective Argumentative Thesis Stacy Allen Webster, Stephen F. Austin High School. Ugh. I have to write an essay. Where do I start?. Huzzah! We get to write ESSAYS?!? Where do I start?.

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thesis pieces

Thesis Pieces

Laying the Foundation for an Effective Argumentative Thesis

Stacy Allen Webster, Stephen F. Austin High School

ugh i have to write an essay where do i start
Ugh. I have to write an essay.Where do I start?

Huzzah! We get to write ESSAYS?!?

Where do I start?

Start with a small seed of an idea, then water it, nurture it, talk to it, and watch it grow!

topic  thesis  well-argued analysis

back to the basics what do you already know about the thesis statement
Back to the Basics…What do you already know about the thesis statement?
  • A thesis is a complete sentence.
  • It expresses an opinion.
  • It should be arguable.
  • It provides a roadmap for the reader.
  • It’s the main argument, boiled down to a sentence or two.
elements of argumentation
Elements of Argumentation
  • Claim
  • Concession
  • Counterargument
  • Qualifiers
  • Rebuttal
  • Call to Action
elements of argumentation1
Elements of Argumentation
  • Claim: the thesis or assertion about the topic
  • Concession: acknowledging opposing viewpoints
  • Counterargument: refuting the opposition’s evidence
  • Qualifiers: words and phrases that limit the claim, such as usually, sometimes, in many cases
  • Rebuttal: showing the opposing argument to be weak or wrong
  • Call to Action: signifying action the writer wants the reader to take
thesis pieces1
Thesis Pieces
  • SUBJECT or TOPIC (limited, specific, contextual)
  • CLAIM (precise opinion, assertion, an arguable point, the writer’s position or stance)
  • BLUEPRINT OF REASONS (a roadmap of evidence)

Sometimes, the thesis may include:


horror movies

  • This is not a complete sentence.
  • This does not express an opinion – what about horror movies?
  • This is not arguable because it’s not an opinion in the first place.
  • This is a TOPIC

violence in horror movies

  • This is a more specific topic, but it’s still not a sentence.
  • This does not express an arguable opinion.
  • We have no roadmap…where is the author going with this essay?

Suggestion to the writer: take a position!


Horror movies desensitize

viewers to violence.

  • It is a complete sentence!
  • It expresses an opinion that we could argue against. (Millions of people view horror movies each year; very few of them act out violently.)
  • We have a better idea of what this writer will try to prove in this essay.
  • Suggestions to the writer:
  • get more specific
  • answer the “How so?” and “So what? questions

Since modern cinematic techniques have allowed filmmakers to more realistically portray gore and murder on screen, young viewers have become increasingly desensitized to violence.

  • It is a complete sentence!
  • It expresses an opinion that

we could argue against.

  • We know where this writer

will lead us.

  • It is a more specific and focused argument.
qualifyers concessions
  • QUALIFY when you need to narrow or clarify the thesis.
  • Include a CONCESSION to show your balanced perspective (catch more flies with honey than vinegar).
toulmin s method of argumentation
Toulmin’s Method of Argumentation:

In The Uses of Argument, 1958, Toulmin purported:

The use of qualifiers makes the argument more convincing and reasonable.

Absolutism has limited practical uses.

Arguments that stand up to criticism earn a favorable verdict.

  • Few
  • It is possible
  • Rarely
  • It seems
  • Some
  • It may be
  • Sometimes
  • More or less
  • Many
  • In the main
  • Routinely
  • Most
  • One might argue
  • Often
  • Perhaps
  • Possibly
  • If it were so
  • In some cases
  • Under these conditions
  • For the most part
concession rebuttal patterns
  • While it is true that, ...
  • Admittedly, …
  • Some may claim that…
  • Certainly,…
  • But ...
  • Nevertheless,…
  • However,…
  • On the other hand,…

While it is true that many teenagers view horror movies without turning to violence, themselves, the realistic and gory scenes of modern film-making contribute to today’s youth being increasingly desensitized to violence in the real world.

let s practice writing claims with qualifications
Let’s Practice Writing CLAIMS with QUALIFICATIONS:
  • Step 1: Figure out what the prompt is asking. Turn the prompt into a question.

American essayist and social critic H. L. Mencken (1880–1956) wrote, “The average man does not want to be free. He simply

wants to be safe.” Examine the extent to which Mencken’s observation applies to contemporary society, supporting your position with appropriate evidence.

Is safety more important than freedom?

In modern society, does the average person really care about being free?


For years corporations have sponsored high school sports. Their ads are found on the outfield fence at baseball parks or on the walls of the gymnasium, the football stadium, or even the locker room. Corporate logos are even found on players' uniforms. But some schools have moved beyond corporate sponsorship of sports to allowing "corporate partners" to place their names and ads on all kinds of school facilities--libraries, music rooms, cafeterias. Some schools accept money to require students to watch Channel One, a news program that includes advertising. And schools often negotiate exclusive contracts with soft drink or clothing companies.

Some people argue that corporate partnerships are a necessity for cash-strapped schools. Others argue that schools should provide an environment free from ads and corporate influence. Using appropriate evidence, write an essay in which you evaluate the pros and cons of corporate sponsorship for schools and indicate why you find one position more persuasive than the other.

should schools allow corporate partnerships
Should Schools Allow Corporate Partnerships?
  • Step 2: List the pros and cons.

Step 3: Create a complex sentence that answers the question. Begin with a subordinate clause that includes your weaker point (this becomes a concession). Include your main argument in the independent clause.

subordinate (dependent) clause

Although it is true that increased funding may help schools do a better job, corporate sponsorships create a consumer atmosphere that is not appropriate to an educational environment.

Independent clause

method and meaning
Method and Meaning
  • How: methods the author uses, such as imagery, diction, allegory, irony, magical realism
  • Why: the meaning (message, moral, theme!) the author is trying to convey
  • What: Lame. This writer just explains what happened in the book, without actually analyzing the HOW or the WHY.
what s the big idea meaning theme
What’s the big idea?Meaning=Theme

Have you determined a theme? Novels often have multiple themes – you only need to write about one.

What universal truth is conveyed to the reader?

The author wants the reader to see that…

(fill in the blank)

thesis formula very basic very dry very formulaic but an okay place to start
Thesis Formula(very basic, very dry, very formulaic…but an okay place to start)
  • In(title of poem/novel/play), (author's name)uses(1st literary device), (2nd literary device), and(3rd literary device)to(show/criticize/explain/etc.)(some aspect of human nature).
feel like you re halfway there
Feel like you’re halfway there?
  • If you have an idea about the meaning, it’s time to jump into the book to see HOW the meaning was conveyed.
  • If you don’t know the theme of the book, it’s time to collect some of the most significant moments to see if you can identify devices and determine WHY they are being used.
thesis formula very basic very dry very formulaic but an okay place to start1
Thesis Formula(very basic, very dry, very formulaic…but an okay place to start)
  • In(title of poem/novel/play), (author's name)uses(1st literary device), (2nd literary device), and(3rd literary device)to(show/criticize/explain/etc.)(some aspect of human nature).

In "If you Were Coming in the Fall," Emily Dickinson uses simile, diction, and syntax to describe how people wait, hoping to fall in love.

Note: If all you do in one body paragraph is give a few examples of diction from the text and simply identify them as diction, then you haven't analyzed anything. The analysis part involves explaining how those examples are effective diction andhow they help to communicate the theme of the passage.

still feeling stuck brainstorm
Still feeling stuck?Brainstorm!

Ask yourself some questions (look back at your lit. circle work or annotations to get a jumpstart). Then FREE WRITE or BUBBLE CHART to discover your ideas.

  • What is the role of prophecy or clairvoyance in the novel? How does that contrast or connect to fate?
  • What do the (fill in the blank: wings, statues, labyrinths, tatoos, coins, recipes) symbolize? When you find the abstract word, decide what you think the author is trying to say about that concept.
  • How does (fill in the blank) gain power as the story progresses?
  • Do authors “hide” touchy subjects by including the fantastic elements of magical realism?
even more questions to consider
Even more questions to consider:
  • Why is there a female narrator AND a male narrator in

House of the Spirits?

  • Why does Laura Esquivel include so much about food and cooking in Like Water For Chocolate?
  • What does the title One Hundred Years of Solitude mean? What kinds of solitude does the author explore?
  • What role does Catholicism play in The War of the Saints?
  • How do reality and imagination collide in the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez?
building the foundation thesis check
Building the Foundation:Thesis Check
  • Have you written a

complete sentence?

  • Does it convey an opinion that someone could argue against?
  • Does it provide a roadmap of the essay for the reader?
  • Does it mention METHOD (the how of a writer’s craft) and MEANING (the why of writing… writer’s message?)
  • Have you included the author’s name and title of the book in the thesis?
“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”  ~Vladimir Nabakov
practice practice practice
Practice, practice, practice!
  • Here are broad topics that may apply to The Tempest as well as your Latin American novel.
  • Power struggle
  • “calibanesque”
  • Colonization
  • Magic / Magical Realism
  • Family dynamics