Supporting the Thesis Statement Study Guide

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Updated on Oct 1, 2011

Supporting the Thesis Statement

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? - GEORGE ORWELL (1903–1950) BRITISH NOVELIST AND ESSAYIST

No thesis statement can stand alone; every one of them needs support. In this lesson, you will learn how to create six types of building blocks to support your main idea and strengthen your writing.

Once you've written your first paragraph, and you're confident it introduces your thesis statement with strength and clarity, you can begin drafting the remainder of your essay. The care you took in drafting the first paragraph should be repeated in all subsequent paragraphs. Their role is to support your thesis statement, engage your reader for the remainder of the essay, and ultimately convince the reader to agree with your conclusion.

As you learned in the previous lesson, good paragraphs are built with logic, smooth flow, and detail. You should assume that your reader is willing to be convinced by your essay, but that you will need to provide support to guarantee that agreement in the end. Your goal as a writer is to provide your reader with sound logic and carefully chosen supporting details that strengthen the foundation of your thesis statement and provide lively and compelling reasons to keep reading.

Six Types of Support For Your Thesis

1. Provide Details and Examples

You will help your reader understand (and agree with) your thesis statement if you provide specific examples that illustrate your thinking. Examples can serve many purposes: you might use them to explain, to describe, to respond to assumed challenges from your reader, or simply to provide elaboration of one of your ideas.

In the paragraph from the King Kong essay that was introduced in step 3 in Lesson 19, a few specific details of Kong's life on Skull Island provided support for the thesis statement that he is "the saddest monster in movie history." Sensory details (such as taste, smell, sound, touch) are often effective supports to make your writing more vivid and convincing. For example, in writing about Kong's terror in captivity, the writer might mention Kong's bellowing. Imagining the sound of Kong's fear would help the reader imagine his sadness. Can you think of other details the writer might add to provide more support in subsequent paragraphs?

2. Provide Facts for Support

People tend to believe in facts, which seem to be objective and unchangeable. Because facts are not subjective, they are more easily agreed upon universally. The use of facts in any argument is likely to strengthen the writer's position. (Always remember that every thesis statement is basically an argument asking the reader to agree to the writer's point of view about some subject.)

Facts come in many forms; they can be statistics, definitions, logical conclusions, or carefully constructed observations. For example, to support the argument that Kong has a place in movie history, the writer might provide some facts about the movie's influence in movie history; how many times the movie has been remade; and how many other movie monsters have been patterned on Kong.

It is essential that you include facts or statistics with a purpose. Too many writers make the mistake of including facts without providing a context for them, or without explaining their relevance to the thesis statement. For example, the Kong writer might include facts about the film's length or the kind of film that was used to shoot it, or the date on which the film opened, but these facts are unlikely to be supportive of the essay's thesis. A good rule to follow: Make it relevant, or leave it out.

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