Looking More Closely at Your Thesis Statements
Writing Better Essays - A Rhetorical Guide to Writing and Revision (Second International Edition) - David L. Rogers
David L. Rogers [+]
Kingston University, London
Chapter 7 begins with this paradox - the easier an element of any essay looks to execute, the harder it often proves to be – as it relates to thesis statements, for, as the chapter explains in detail, a good thesis is hard to write. It should be succinctly phrased in a declarative sentence or two, and it has to express the main argument of an essay so that it represents a writer’s interpretative slant on the topic in question as debatable or demonstrative, never as an uncontested fact or truism. Having set out both the qualities that characterize effective thesis statements and those that never do, the chapter clarifies the difference between a “theme” and a “thesis” and reminds students to avoid making their thesis claims too general, phrasing them as questions, or leaving them as statements of intention if, for instance, they have begun their draft initially with a mapping paragraph. It then offers innovative and proactive strategies to help students as they refine their draft thesis statements at various stages as they revise. These strategies involve scrutinizing their draft thesis by asking a series of questions designed to expose potential specific ideas informing an overly general claim; adding a provisional “because clause” at the end of their draft thesis which they can refine once they have articulated the specific reason behind their initial claim; or ensuring their thesis will more likely dictate an argumentative approach for their essay rather than a descriptive one by replacing any time they have used “how” in the statement with “that.” The chapter then includes an exercise in which students evaluate sample thesis statements and try to improve ineffective ones. It ends with advice for refining what should be brief conclusions, ensuring that they not only reiterate their final thesis statements accurately but also serve as an abiding, convincing, and impactful reminder of the main argument of the essay.