Finding and Developing a Thesis Study Guide
Finding and Developing a Thesis
Say all you have to say in the fewest possible words, or your reader will be sure to skip them, and in the plainest possible words or he will certainly misunderstand them. - JOHN RUSKIN (1819–1900) ENGLISH POET AND ESSAYIST
This lesson takes you to the next step in the planning process: deciding on a thesis statement for your essay. Knowing in advance what you're going to say about your topic is essential to good writing.
In this lesson, you'll learn how to develop and refine your essay's thesis. The distinction between a topic and a thesis is extremely important. Make sure you understand how they differ:
topic: the subject matter, the data or situation that you are writing about, in your magazine article, essay, book, or whatever thesis: the position you are taking about the topic
A thesis statement presents the idea or argument that you intend to support in your essay.
The last lesson introduced the question Who is doing the most to promote recycling? Had that been a real essay assignment, and had you done research and thinking about the topic, you would have been ready to develop a thesis statement for your essay. Here are some possible thesis statements for this topic:
|1. Nonprofit community activist groups in the city are doing the most to promote recycling.|
|2. The city government is leading the drive to promote recycling.|
|3. The city government, the city schools, and local church groups are equally active in promoting recycling.|
|4. The recycling activity in the city is practically invisible—nobody is doing very much to promote this important activity.|
Note that each of these sentences states in very few words the idea you will be exploring in the proposed essay. Be sure to distill your thesis statement into as few words as possible so that you can keep clearly in your mind (and in the mind of the reader) the most basic point that you are trying to make in your essay.
How To Develop a Thesis
As you are well aware, one of the trickiest part about writing is deciding what to write. And within the general area of planning, probably the toughest part of all is pinpointing your thesis. You may have done lots of reading, thinking, and researching, and still not know exactly what it is you want to say in your essay. Here are some guidelines to help you distill your thinking and identify a thesis for your essay.
Step 1: Make Your Thesis Interesting
Make sure your thesis is interesting, both to you and to your potential readers. If you're not interested by the thesis you are considering, it will show in your writing, and you can be pretty sure your readers won't be interested either.
A good way to ensure that your thesis has interest value is to give it a little twist or controversy or shock. Look at the four sample thesis statements from the recycling example. Which one is most interesting? Which essay do you think you'd want to read? Probably you'll say number 4, because it has a bit of spice and surprise. It makes the reader wonder how the writer will prove this statement to be true about the city.
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