Writing Madness Consolation Post #3 – Thesis Statements!

The first round of our Writing Madness bracket has concluded, which left us with eight writing issues that won’t be participating in the next round of voting. The Learning Hub’s writing staff have picked four of these eight, and over the next week we will be presenting them along with specific resources to help you overcome your frustrations with them. This time? Thesis Statements!

by Nick

The thesis statement, or the main argument of your essay, is, undoubtedly, one of the trickiest components of an essay to craft.  Because it represents the overall argument of a writer’s essay in a narrow, concise manner, it can be quite difficult to create for a lot of beginning writers and first-semester (and sometimes, second-semester) composition students.  In a lot of cases, beginning writers will write thesis statements that are too vague, that contain too many ideas, have more than one sentence, that do not appear at the end of the introduction, and/or that do not even pose an argument.  Although these are common errors, they are, luckily, not too far out of reach to correct.

Typically, the thesis statement is one sentence and appears at the end of the introduction, and is divided into two parts: the claim and the qualifier.  The claim is simply your argumentative stance on a topic, and it should be narrow, specific, and concise.  Here is an example of a claim: Inmates should be allowed to donate organs in the United States.  In this claim, the writer is taking a stance on the issue: Inmates should; and it is specific in that it focuses on one idea while giving context.  Claims, at least in social justice issue essays, usually pose a should or should not argument, but they do not necessarily have to contain a should or should not.  An example of a claim that does not contain should or should not is: Nick is an awesome tutor.  This is a claim not only in that it is narrow and concise, but it is also debatable (aka argumentative).  Some people may not agree with this sentiment, while others might agree with it.

Qualifiers, on the other hand, usually back the claim up.  In other words, it is usually the because to your claim, and it, too, is specific (focuses on one main idea) and concise.  If we go back to the claim about how inmates should be allowed to donate organs in the United States, for instance, we need to add a qualifier, or a reason, as to why inmates in the United States should be allowed to donate organs.  Here is what that qualifier might look like: Because not allowing them to do so violates their basic human right to participate in the advancement of science.  Once you have crafted a qualifier, you combine the claim and qualifier together so that they make one main idea (your thesis statement): Inmates should be allowed to donate organs in the United States because not allowing them to do so violates their basic human right to participate in the advancement of science.  This is an example of a specific, concise, and argumentative thesis statement.  The same notion of qualifiers would apply to the other claim example: Nick is an awesome tutor.  If we wanted to qualify why Nick is an awesome tutor, we might say: Because he is able to describe how to write thesis statements to beginning writers.  If we combine that claim and qualifier, then our thesis statement would be: Nick is an awesome tutor because he is able to describe how to write thesis statements to beginning writers.

Some professors also like to see roadmaps, which basically preview the structure of your essay (typically the topic sentences of your body paragraphs), and they tend to tie in with your qualifier.  Here is an example: Nick is an awesome tutor because he discusses how thesis statements should be specific and focused,  he explains the claim and qualifier of a thesis statement, and he clarifies how to move from a subject to a thesis statement when describing how to write thesis statements to beginning writers.  Be sure to check with your professor to see if they would like you to include a roadmap, and always align with what the assignment instructions tell you to do!  If you would like to know more about writing thesis statements, then you can visit/contact The Learning Hub, check out our handout on thesis statements below, or visit this helpful link!

Subject to Thesis

Or, How to Take Your Initial Idea and Turn It into an Argument

by Sarah Collins

I always found that coming up with my thesis statement for my papers was hardest when I hadn’t first done three things: 1) chosen a broad subject area, 2) focused that subject down to a more manageable topic, and 3) done background research on that more specific topic to more clearly understand how I wanted to approach it.

It can be a painful process if you aren’t breaking things down into steps that are manageable and that give you the time to explore things in a way that helps you identify the best route for your paper.

This handout below walks you through the process of moving from a subject to a topic to a thesis statement, and then outlines strategies for creating a strong, cohesive, memorable thesis that will guide you as you then write your paper.

Continue reading “Subject to Thesis”