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Starting with a Strong Foundation

Starting with a Strong Foundation

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Starting with a Strong Foundation

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  1. Starting with a Strong Foundation Writing Strong Thesis Statements

  2. Part 1 What is a thesis statement

  3. What is a Thesis statement? A statement (usually placed at the end of your introduction) that reveals the writer’s claim or opinion on the assigned topic. If an essay were a building project, a thesis would be like both the foundation of the building and the mortar holding the bricks together.

  4. Types of Thesis statements • Reveal central claim or idea of the essay • Forecast (state) the main supporting points that the writer will use to illustrate or prove the claim. • Good for neutral audiences • This approach gives sign posts to readers and aids them in remembering the important points of the essay. • State the writer’s claim or central idea • Do not reveal any of the support the writer plans to share. • Work well with hostile audiences and on topics that are controversial • Writers who choose this approach choose not to “reveal all the cards in their hands.” Open Thesis Statements Closed (Forecasting) Thesis Statements

  5. Mixed Thesis statements In addition to being open or closed, thesis statements can be mixed or un-mixed. An unmixed thesis statement simply states your central idea. In contrast, a mixed thesis statement acknowledges counter-arguments and/or other points of view.

  6. Examples Although Michael Vic is a talented quarterback, the NFL should not have let him return because Vic’s crimes reflect badly on the integrity of the NFL. The NFL should not have let Michael Vic return because his crimes reflect badly on the integrity of the NFL. Mixed Thesis Statement Non-Mixed Thesis Statement

  7. Advantages of Mixed Thesis statement • Demonstrates your knowledge of the issue • Can reveal your objectivity • Demonstrates that you are sensitive to your audience’s beliefs and knowledge

  8. Part 2 Recognizing a Strong Thesis Statement

  9. Characteristics of strong Thesis Statements • Address the assignment description • Debatable (some people will disagree with it) • Focused • Concise • Grammatically and mechanically correct • Sensitive to needs of audience

  10. Is this thesis statement Strong or Weak? For people living in the city, cats make good pets because they are affectionate, unobtrusive, and do not require a lot of maintenance. Strong: This statement fulfills all the characteristics of a strong Thesis statement.

  11. Is this thesis statement strong or weak? There are advantages and disadvantages to off-shore drilling. Weak This statement, like the previous statement, is not debatable. Of course, with any controversial issue there are both benefits and drawbacks. This tension is what creates the controversy. This writer needs to stake a clear position concerning off-shore drilling. Otherwise, the paper will be what some teachers refer to as a “so what” paper.

  12. Is this thesis tatement strong or weak? Should the United States invade Iran? Weak Like the previous statement about off-shore oil drilling, this sentence is not debatable. In fact, this “thesis statement” is not even a statement; it is a question. This question would be a good place to start your research, but as a thesis statement, this type of question is simply too broad and undefined.

  13. Is this thesis statement strong or weak? In this essay, I am going to state my opinion as to why the United States should invade Iran. Weak This thesis statement is wordy. You do not need to use phrases like “In this essay, I am going to state my opinion . . .” or “It is my opinion that . . .” The reader already knows that your writing expresses your opinions. Simply state your thesis without all the excess baggage. You will keep your reader much more engaged and satisfied with your writing.

  14. Is this Thesis statement Strong or weak? The benefits of wind farming. Weak This “thesis statement” is not even a complete sentence. Your thesis must be at least a complete thought.

  15. Is this thesis statement strong or weak? Although purchasing a Mercedes may seem too expensive for the average middle-class buyer, this purchase is a often a much “better buy” than a cheaper automobile. Strong

  16. Is this thesis statement good, bad, or ugly? Romeo is a sniveling, fickle idiot kid who does not really love Juliet. Why? Although this thesis statement does state a clear opinion, it needs more focus. The writer also betrays an overly emotional tone and uses a vocabulary that is too casual.

  17. Part 3 Writing strong thesis statements

  18. Steps to Writing a Thesis Statement • Determine your purpose • Examine your audience • Focus your topic • Form a research question • Conduct your research • Draft your thesis statement • Revise your statement

  19. Step ONE: determine your purpose Argumentative Analytical Expository

  20. Expository Essays An expository (explanatory) paper “explains something to the audience” (OWL at Purdue).

  21. Analytical Essays An analytical paper “breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience”(OWL at Purdue).

  22. Argumentative Essays An argumentative paper “makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation” (OWL at Purdue).

  23. Some thesis Statement Examples • Expository: The life of the typical college student is characterized by time spent studying, attending class, and socializing with peers. • Analytical: An analysis of the college admission process reveals one challenge facing counselors: accepting students with high test scores or students with strong extracurricular backgrounds. • Argumentative: High school graduates should be required to take a year off to pursue community service projects before entering college in order to increase their maturity and global awareness. Note: The examples listed above are borrowed from the OWL at Purdue website.

  24. Step Two: Examine your Audience Aside from your purpose, your understanding and awareness of your audience is the most important element in creating an effective thesis statement.

  25. Questions to Consider about your audience • Who is your audience? • What is their education level? • What biases or preconceptions do they have about my topic? • What are their core values? • How old is your audience? • Is your audience composed of a particular ethnic or racial group? • In what region(s) does your audience live? • Is your audience gender-specific?

  26. The Impact of Audience Awareness Awareness of your audience will help you with determine • the tone of your writing. • the style and level of formality of your language • what kind of thesis statement you want to use. • the reasons and/or explanations used to develop your central idea.

  27. Audience Exercise Imagine you are writing an essay aimed at convincing one of the groups of people represented by the famous characters below to purchase a new sports car. How would your approach differ for each audience? Middle-Aged Men Housewives In contrast, targeting a housewife like June Cleaver might lead you to focus your thesis statement on the safety features of the car or portray the car as an escape from the doldrums of everyday life around the house. If you were writing a thesis statement targeting a middle-aged man like Al Bundy, you might want to focus your thesis on the “youthful” aspects of the car like style, image, and speed and/or the prestige of owning a sports car.

  28. Step Three: Focus your Topic Focusing your thesis on a specific topic helps your essay in the following ways: • Your paper’s development will be more thorough. • Your paper will be more interesting. • You will be able to organize your essay with greater ease.

  29. This topic needs more focus. People have written many books on this topic. focusing your Topic While this topic is better, it is still too broad for an essay. People have written books on this topic. Your topic should be narrow enough to write an essay (not a book). Consider each of the following topics. Is it narrow enough? • Vietnam veterans • Vietnam Veterans in film • Forrest Gump • The role of disability in Forrest Gump While this topic is narrower than the previous two, it is still too broad. Studying a film or work of literature requires that you focus on a specific aspect of the film. This topic is narrow enough to direct your research and lead you to a focused thesis statement.

  30. Step Four:Form a Research Question Once you have a narrow topic, form a question about that topic. This question will guide your research. Ideally your thesis statement will be an answer to your research question. Research Question Example: How does the presence of Dan’s and Forrest’s disabilities contribute to the central message of the film Forrest Gump?

  31. Step Five:Research Look for an answer to your research Question It is important to do some research before you draft your thesis statement. Since research allows you to form an educated answer to your research question. Creating a thesis statement before you really know anything about a topic can lead you to frustration as you try to write your paper later and find evidence to develop your essay.

  32. Step Six: From Research to Drafting Once you have completed some preliminary research, you can begin to draft a working thesis statement. Imagine you are researching the previously mentioned research question. From your examinations of the film and from the articles you read about the film, you feel that the film is using the characters’ disabilities to universalize the “American dream.” Your working thesis statement might look something like the following: Thesis: Disability in the film Forrest Gump, particularly the disabilities of Forrest himself, appear in the film to demonstrate that anyone can achieve the “American dream” of economic success.

  33. Step Seven: Revise your thesis statement After you have your initial draft of your thesis statement, you will probably need to revise it throughout the writing process. Don’t be surprised if your thesis statement changes radically as your paper evolves. Remember, you should never be so attached to your thesis statement that you will not change it.

  34. Part 4 Review

  35. A Thesis statement is A statement (usually placed at the end of your introduction) that reveals the writer’s claim or opinion on the assigned topic.

  36. A thesis statement may be • Closed or Open • Mixed or Un-mixed

  37. Characteristics of Strong Thesis statements • Addresses the assignment description • Debatable (some people will disagree with it) • Focused • Concise • Grammatically and mechanically correct • Sensitive to needs of audience

  38. Steps to writing a strong Thesis • Determine your purpose • Examine your audience • Focus your topic • Form a research question • Conduct your research • Draft your thesis statement • Revise your statement

  39. Questions? If you still have more questions about thesis statements or need help developing a thesis statement for an upcoming class, come speak with an SSC tutor. You can contact the SSC via email ( or in person at the library. Tutors are available during open lab hours and by appointment.