Published on February 15, 2014
Thesis Statements • What is a thesis statement? ▫ A summary of your argument in 1-3 sentences ▫ The main idea that you will explore in-depth within the body of your essay ▫ Your debatable opinion
Placement • Your thesis statement should come early in your paper, so the reader immediately knows the direction and purpose of your essay ▫ Ideally at the end of your introductory paragraph ▫ Note: When reading longer texts, particularly book-length works, the thesis can come after several introductory paragraphs
Tone • Write in third person ▫ Eliminate statements such as “I think,” “In my opinion,” “In this essay, I will show…” ▫ It is already understood that the essay is your opinion, so there is no need to state it ▫ Writing in third person will give your essay a stronger factual voice, making it more emphatic
Thesis Statements • What makes a good thesis statement? ▫ Focused, specific, clear, debatable • Avoid writing a thesis that is: ▫ Too general ▫ Too broad to be covered in the space/time provided ▫ Simply a compare and contrast
Example #1 • “Language is important to humanity” ▫ This thesis statement is too general and too broad to be covered in 5pgs. ▫ It is also not very debatable. Few would disagree and say that language is unimportant. ▫ If your thesis is already a generally accepted opinion, then there is no need to write an argumentative paper defending the claim.
Example #2 • “Chinese is spoken by the largest number of people, while English is spoken by the world’s leading superpower, so both languages are important.” ▫ A mediocre thesis statement that is mostly compare & contrast, largely observational, and vague in terms of what is ‘important’
Be specific • Refine your thesis by asking yourself “So what?” “Language is important to humanity.” That’s great, but so what? How is it important to humanity? What has it allowed us to achieve? What do you mean by ‘language’? • A better thesis statement: “Written communication was essential in allowing humans to evolve into a technologically advanced species.” Much more specific, narrow, and focused Improved diction and vocabulary
Be clear • Remember your reader ▫ Don’t assume that your reader will automatically know what you mean when you use general terms (like ‘language’) ▫ Clarify, demonstrate, define With your thesis statement, as well as throughout the body of your essay
The Importance of Language • In this video, biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. ▫ Mark Pagel: How Language Transformed Humanity:
Activity • Write a thesis statement of about 1-3 sentences in response to Mark Pagel’s presentation. ▫ Consider the following questions: Do you think his theory is correct? How likely do you think his theory is? What parts did you agree or disagree with? What evidence would you use to support your thesis?
Thesis Statements • Group discussions ▫ In groups of 4-5 people, discuss each other’s thesis statements: Do you agree or disagree with the thesis? Is the thesis statement debatable? How can the thesis statement be improved? ▫ Have one person from your group share the results of your discussion with the class: What did you discuss? Were there any particularly good thesis statements?
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