Module3FindingandSupportingaThesis.pdf CHAPTER 3 Findin

Module3FindingandSupportingaThesis.pdf

CHAPTER 3

Finding and Supporting
aThesis

In this chapter you will
To be sure that you have the kind of
central idea that will lead to an interest
ing and unified paper, you must state a
thesis, and you must consider how to
present appropriate and logical support
for it.

midentify the elements of a good thesis

develop a thesis foryour own papers

evaluate strong and weak thesis
statements

use supporting details to back up a thesis A thesis is the position a writer

takes on an arguable point-one on
which more than one opinion is pos-
sible. It is the main idea the paper will

support. The writer must convince the

reader that this position or idea is valid.
Remember that your topic is not

your thesis. Instead, your thesis is what

you have to say about your topic. It is
an opinion about, or an attitude toward, the topic, which you will attempt to

support in your essay. It is a one-sentence summary of the idea the writer will

defend. Here are two examples:

manalyze student writings for their use of
details to support a thesis

analyze professional writings for their use of
details to support a thesis

Topic Thesis

Technical programs should require
students to take some courses in the

Graduation requirements

humanities.

A few simple changes would improve the

registration procedure on our campus.
Registration

With few exceptions, the papers your instructors will ask you to write in

college will benefit enormously from a thesis. A professor of American liter-

ature, for example, won’t ask you to summarize Huckleberry Finn. She wants

to know what conclusions you reached after reading the novel: Mark Twain’s

Huckleberry Finn is an indictment of slavery, let’s say; or Mark Twain, in

Huckleberry Finn, criticizes the violence of the pre-Civil War South. Until you can

47

48 CHAPTER 3 Findingand Supporting a Thesis

make that kind of statement, you aren’t ready to write effectively because you
don’t have clearly in mind the point you will make. And if you aren’t certain of

what your idea is, you stand little chance of convincing a reader of its validity.
It’s important, therefore, to spend time thinking your idea through before you
start writing. This will save time and grief in the long run.

Identifying the Elements of a Good Thesis
There are several characteristics of a good thesis. When you are writing, you

these tips to evaluateyour thesis statements.

TIPS for Evaluating a Thesis
You usually can state a good thesis in one complete sentence.
though you may find that you want to devote a paragraph or more to pre-
senting the idea of your paper, until you can state your main idea in one
sentence, you may not have it under control.

Even

A good thesis almost always appears in the first (or sometimes second)
paragraph of a college essay. Like all good “rules,” there are exceptions,
and the recommendation that you write your thesis in the first paragraph of
your essay is not carved in stone. Some writers won’t state a thesis directly,
expecting the reader to infer it. Some writers like to build slowly to a thesis
and will take more than a couple of paragraphs to get to their main point.
But for your own success in writing the many papers you’ll have to produce

college, it’s a very good idea to state your thesis in a single sentence in the
first paragraph. Aim to build an introductory paragraph whose final sen-
tence is your thesis statement.

A good thesis gives an opinion or attitude about the facts. Tosay that Brutus
stabbed Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar on the Ides of March is to state a fact. A the-
sis, a statement about the fact, might read, Brutus succeeded in killing Caesar on tie

Tdes of March because Caesar had grown too arrogant and proud to protect himself.
A good thesis avoids stating the obvious. If you’re writing about the

dangers of driving while texting, which of these sentences serves as the bet-
ter thesis, do you think?

1. People who text and drive are dangerous.
2. People who text and drive should have their licenses revoked after the

first offense.

Sentence 2 makes the better thesis. It states a topic and offers an opin-ion about it-anda challengeable one at that. You could argue that sentence

ldentifying the Elements of a Good Thesis 49

1 states topic and opinion-except that the point is so obvious that a reader

could casily turn away in frustration. Sure, people who text and drive are

dangerous, and (although many violators exist, to be sure) everyone knows

this as a fact. Your thesis always should avoid stating the obvious.

A good thesis is limited. The idea stated must be one that can be clearly

explained, supported, and illustrated in the space called for. A long maga-

zine article might have this as its thesis:

Although, as a result of a controversial and aggressive promotional campaign,
women professional golfers now make more money and receive greater rec-

ognition than they did ten years ago, they still do not make as much money,

receive as much media coverage, or command as much respect as men protes-

sional golfers.

But this won’t do for a two-or three-page paper; the writer could not develop
the thesis fully in so short a space. A better thesis for a short paper might
read, The promotional campaign for the Women’s Professional Golf Association has

attracted money and attention for professional fermale golfers. An even better thesis
would be, The promotional campaign for the Women’s Professional Golf Association
will offend members and fans who oppose commercialism in women’s athletics.

A good thesis is appropriately focused. Consider this thesis: The reports
in Huffington Post are entertaining and informative, but Huffington Post slants
its reports to suit its political bias, and the vocabulary used by Huffington Post
requires constant trips to the dictionary. This thesis says three things about
Huffington Post: the magazine’s reports are entertaining and informative; the
reports are slanted; the vocabulary of Huffington Post requires constant use
of the dictionary. A writer who begins with such a thesis runs the risk of
writing a three-part paper that has no central focus. The point of emphasis
is not clear. To emphasize that the magazine’s reports are entertaining and
informative, the writer must subordinate the other points to that idea:

Although the vocabulary used in Huffington Post requires constant trips to the
dictionary and the reports are often slanted to suit a political bias, the reports
are entertaining and informative.

To emphasize the shortcomings of the magazine, the writer should subordi-
nate the entertaining and informative nature of the reports:

Although the reports in Huffington Post are entertaining and intormative, their
vocabulary makes them hard to read, and the material is often slanted to suit
a political bias.

A good thesis is precise. It lets the reader and the writer know exactly
what the paper will contain. Words such as god, interesting, impressive,

CHAPTER 3 Finding and Supporting a Thesis
50

and many are too vague to do the job. They say nothing about the subject.What is interesting or good to one person may appear dull or offensive to another. Don’t say, “Agatha Christie’s detective stories are good.” Say, in- stead, “Agatha Christie’s detective stories appeal to those who enjoy solvinepuzzles.” Don’t say, “My history class is interesting.” Say, “My professor makes history easy to understand.”

Developing Your Thesis
Rules for a good thesis are one thing; applying them is another. These tips will help you arrive at that perfectly stated thesis.

TIPSfor Developing a Thesis
Answer a question. Sometimes, especially in essay examinations, the the- sis statement is suggested by the question. Often, all you have to do is thinkof a one-sentence answer to the question, and you have your thesis statement.

What is job enrichment? Is job enrichment an attempt by management to exploit workers?

Example question:

Sample thesis statement:
Job enrichment, an effort to motivate workers by making their jobs more attractive, is an attempt by management to exploit laborers by inspiring them to work harder.

In this thesis statement, the writer has both defined job enrichment and stated
an opinion about the practice. The rest of the essay will give the reasons job
enrichment, in this writer’s opinion, is an attempt to exploit laborers. Think about your subject. Frequently, you have te
scale subject. As you know, it is up to you to limit the subject and decide
what point you want to make about it (see Chapter 2). On some subjects
subsidizing college athletics, for example-you may already have a strong
opinion. f you have information to back up that opinion, you have no prob-
lem. Just state your opinion and then begin thinking about how you can back
it up. On other subjects, though, you may at first think you have no opinion.
Yet you might, for example, remember from history class that Japan in years
past outdistanced the United States in the production of everything from
television sets to automobiles. Go to the library and the Internet and read up

Frequently, you have to work with a large

Developing Your Thesis 51

on the subject. You may then form the opinion that one reason Japan became
a major industrial power is that the economy had not, since the end of World

War 11, had to support a military machine. Now you have a thesis.
Review your prewriting activities. A valuable way to produce a thesis is

to review your prewriting activitiesfree association, brainstorming, lists,

and subject maps (see Chapter 2)-with an eye toward a central issue that

may be brewing somewhere in your early, unedited thinking on a topic.

Suppose that you’re considering a paper on the subject of children’s toys. It’s
near holiday time, you’re a parent, and you’ve been giving lots of thought to

toys lately. You’ve used free association to jot down anything that comes to
mind on the topic. Your list might look like this:

Topic: Toys
1. Expense of toys
2. Shoddy construction: plastic parts don’t fit together
3. Focus on violence: guns, destructive images
4. Too many batteries required
5. Sexist toys

6. Difficulty in putting together the parts of toys
7. Unclear, misleading assembly instructions

Considering your list, you note that three items (6, 7, and part of 2) relate to vour frustrations with toy assembly. Putting together that kiddie gym really irritated
you, didn’t it? The more you think about that experience and others like it, the
more you realize that item 7 on your list is the heart of the matter. The reason as sembling toys is so difficult is that the instructions are unclear and misleading. There’s your thesis: nstructions accompanying disassenbled toys are misleadin

Here is the important message: You nust have a thesis clearly in mind as you plan the rest of the paper.

Notice that the thesis is different from the topic. A topic is simply the subjectof your paper, wherea
topic toys, you saw how the writer developed the thesis. Having a topic in mind helps you produce a thesis. However, merely placing a title at the top of your page to reflect your topic does not mean you have provided a thesis.

a thesis makes an assertion about the subject. For the

52 CHAPTER 3 Finding and Supporting a Thesis

Evaluating Thesis Statements: Strong
or Weak?
The various topics listed stimulated the thesis statements in the table below

In cach case the weak thesis lacks focus and direction and is usually too broad
The successful theses all provide a strong main idea for the writer to pursue in
an essay requirement.

Topic Weak Thesis Strong Thesis Explanation
B. Local colleges have

developed successful
serious problem. programs that help col-

lege freshmen learn to
drink responsibly.

Teenage
drinking

A. Teenage

drinking is a
A is too broad; who would
disagree? The point is too obvious
as stated. B prods the reader’sinter
est: a college-supported program

responsible teenage drinking?
Really?

Beauty A. Different B. Beauty is not physical, Again, A is unchallengeable; why
should a reader continue reading

The most accurate defini- what she already knows is true?
B, on the other hand, takes an un-

encouragement when a conventional view of beauty, and
person is in deep trouble. readers will want to know why the

writer chooses this word to connect

people have
different views

internal, or structural.

on the meaning tion of beauty is giving8
of beauty.

to encouragement.

College A. College costs
are rising all
over the country lege students can help
and straining

family budgets.

B. Tuition costs may be

fixed, but attentive col-
The reader of thesis B will read on
to learn what these cost-cutting
steps will be. Thesis A states the
obvious and is much too broad to

COsts

strapped families cut
other costs in at least six serve in an essay for class. All over

the country? Too much! ways.
Describea A. The school B. At lunch time in the “Interesting” is not interesting for
place you cafeteria is an

interesting
place.

school cafeteria the noise a reader. In B, the writer’s focus
and nonstop activity are

enough to give anyone a
headache.

know noise and action-is clear, and his

opinion about it is provocative
enough to entice readers to continue

reading.
A. Men and Compare

the roles of
B. Despite obvious dif-

women had dif- ferences in their general
A tries to narrow the topic (nine-
teenth-century Western society in

roles and responsibilities, the United States), but the rest of
the thesis statement is too obvious.

women and ferent roles and

responsibilities
in nineteenth-

men in a when it comes to fam-

society ily relations and dealing
century Western with children, men and
society in the
United States.

B turns the obvious on its head
similar responsibilities in Chinese

women in urban Chinese families?-and wins the reader’s
families have remarkably attention. B admits the obvious but
similar roles. will not deal with it in the essay.

Evaluating Thesis Statements: Strong or Weak? 53

EXERCISE Look at the thesis sentences below. What is the topic of each? What is the
Writer’s main point-what does the writer want to say about the topic? How
do you think each writer will go about supporting the thesis?

1 The costs of prescription drugs have skyrocketed, which creates prob-
lems for consumers of all ages.

2. People use the label terrorist indiscriminately and therefore make unfair
judgments based on race, color, or religion.

3. Some parents will do, say, or pay anything to get their children into the

“right” nursery school.
4. Innovation in American automobile manufacturers has finally chal-

lenged advances by foreign competitors.
5. Through a variety of creative programs and police vigilance, it is pos-

sible to cut down dramatically on drunk driving among teens.

EXERCISE Consider the topics indicated below and for each write a thesis that the writer
could develop successfully into an essay.

1. Steps to take in improving vocabulary
2. Adding years to a person’s life through proper exercise and nutrition
3. The pleasures and pains of rearing a child
4. The value of work-study programs in high school

5. Why texting has become a central activity in teenage life

EXERCISE Look at the topics in the exercise on page 36 in Chapter 2. What thesis could
you develop about each of them?

EXERCISE Determine which of the following items are thesis statements and which
are not. Also determine which thesis statements are too general or too
lacking in unity to make a good paper. How does each statement meet the
specifications for a thesis, as explained earlier in this chapter? Revise the
unacceptable thesis statements accordingly.

1. In a weak economy, employers do not hire quality workers.
2. Teenage drivers are a menace!

Americans are saving less and less money each year.
4. Curtailing drug use begins with education.
5. Readers now can download from their home computers many complete

texts, including short stories, novels, and works of nonfiction.

3.

EXERCISE Return to the exercise on page 34 in Chapter 2. For any five topics you limited
there, develop thesis statements that could be used successfully in a paper.

MooreENGL101Module3GradedLearningActivity1.docx


Part 1:

· Read

“Finding and Supporting a Thesis” on pp. 47-53

in your

Student’s Book of College English

· Complete the exercise at the top of page 53 (only complete questions 1, 3, and 5).

· What is the topic of each sentence?

· What is the writer’s main point?

· What does the writer want to say about the topic?

· How do you think each writer will go about supporting the thesis?

· Complete the exercise near the bottom of page 53.

Choose only 2 of the 5 statements given

.

· Determine which items are thesis statements and which are not.

· Determine which thesis statements are too general or too lacking in unity to make a good paper.

· How does each statement meet the specifications for a thesis, as explained earlier in your reading?

· Revise the unacceptable thesis statements accordingly.

· Your answers must use correct SPELLING, GRAMMAR, and PUNCTUATION!

Module3FindingandSupportingaThesis.pdf

CHAPTER 3

Finding and Supporting
aThesis

In this chapter you will
To be sure that you have the kind of
central idea that will lead to an interest
ing and unified paper, you must state a
thesis, and you must consider how to
present appropriate and logical support
for it.

midentify the elements of a good thesis

develop a thesis foryour own papers

evaluate strong and weak thesis
statements

use supporting details to back up a thesis A thesis is the position a writer

takes on an arguable point-one on
which more than one opinion is pos-
sible. It is the main idea the paper will

support. The writer must convince the

reader that this position or idea is valid.
Remember that your topic is not

your thesis. Instead, your thesis is what

you have to say about your topic. It is
an opinion about, or an attitude toward, the topic, which you will attempt to

support in your essay. It is a one-sentence summary of the idea the writer will

defend. Here are two examples:

manalyze student writings for their use of
details to support a thesis

analyze professional writings for their use of
details to support a thesis

Topic Thesis

Technical programs should require
students to take some courses in the

Graduation requirements

humanities.

A few simple changes would improve the

registration procedure on our campus.
Registration

With few exceptions, the papers your instructors will ask you to write in

college will benefit enormously from a thesis. A professor of American liter-

ature, for example, won’t ask you to summarize Huckleberry Finn. She wants

to know what conclusions you reached after reading the novel: Mark Twain’s

Huckleberry Finn is an indictment of slavery, let’s say; or Mark Twain, in

Huckleberry Finn, criticizes the violence of the pre-Civil War South. Until you can

47

48 CHAPTER 3 Findingand Supporting a Thesis

make that kind of statement, you aren’t ready to write effectively because you
don’t have clearly in mind the point you will make. And if you aren’t certain of

what your idea is, you stand little chance of convincing a reader of its validity.
It’s important, therefore, to spend time thinking your idea through before you
start writing. This will save time and grief in the long run.

Identifying the Elements of a Good Thesis
There are several characteristics of a good thesis. When you are writing, you

these tips to evaluateyour thesis statements.

TIPS for Evaluating a Thesis
You usually can state a good thesis in one complete sentence.
though you may find that you want to devote a paragraph or more to pre-
senting the idea of your paper, until you can state your main idea in one
sentence, you may not have it under control.

Even

A good thesis almost always appears in the first (or sometimes second)
paragraph of a college essay. Like all good “rules,” there are exceptions,
and the recommendation that you write your thesis in the first paragraph of
your essay is not carved in stone. Some writers won’t state a thesis directly,
expecting the reader to infer it. Some writers like to build slowly to a thesis
and will take more than a couple of paragraphs to get to their main point.
But for your own success in writing the many papers you’ll have to produce

college, it’s a very good idea to state your thesis in a single sentence in the
first paragraph. Aim to build an introductory paragraph whose final sen-
tence is your thesis statement.

A good thesis gives an opinion or attitude about the facts. Tosay that Brutus
stabbed Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar on the Ides of March is to state a fact. A the-
sis, a statement about the fact, might read, Brutus succeeded in killing Caesar on tie

Tdes of March because Caesar had grown too arrogant and proud to protect himself.
A good thesis avoids stating the obvious. If you’re writing about the

dangers of driving while texting, which of these sentences serves as the bet-
ter thesis, do you think?

1. People who text and drive are dangerous.
2. People who text and drive should have their licenses revoked after the

first offense.

Sentence 2 makes the better thesis. It states a topic and offers an opin-ion about it-anda challengeable one at that. You could argue that sentence

ldentifying the Elements of a Good Thesis 49

1 states topic and opinion-except that the point is so obvious that a reader

could casily turn away in frustration. Sure, people who text and drive are

dangerous, and (although many violators exist, to be sure) everyone knows

this as a fact. Your thesis always should avoid stating the obvious.

A good thesis is limited. The idea stated must be one that can be clearly

explained, supported, and illustrated in the space called for. A long maga-

zine article might have this as its thesis:

Although, as a result of a controversial and aggressive promotional campaign,
women professional golfers now make more money and receive greater rec-

ognition than they did ten years ago, they still do not make as much money,

receive as much media coverage, or command as much respect as men protes-

sional golfers.

But this won’t do for a two-or three-page paper; the writer could not develop
the thesis fully in so short a space. A better thesis for a short paper might
read, The promotional campaign for the Women’s Professional Golf Association has

attracted money and attention for professional fermale golfers. An even better thesis
would be, The promotional campaign for the Women’s Professional Golf Association
will offend members and fans who oppose commercialism in women’s athletics.

A good thesis is appropriately focused. Consider this thesis: The reports
in Huffington Post are entertaining and informative, but Huffington Post slants
its reports to suit its political bias, and the vocabulary used by Huffington Post
requires constant trips to the dictionary. This thesis says three things about
Huffington Post: the magazine’s reports are entertaining and informative; the
reports are slanted; the vocabulary of Huffington Post requires constant use
of the dictionary. A writer who begins with such a thesis runs the risk of
writing a three-part paper that has no central focus. The point of emphasis
is not clear. To emphasize that the magazine’s reports are entertaining and
informative, the writer must subordinate the other points to that idea:

Although the vocabulary used in Huffington Post requires constant trips to the
dictionary and the reports are often slanted to suit a political bias, the reports
are entertaining and informative.

To emphasize the shortcomings of the magazine, the writer should subordi-
nate the entertaining and informative nature of the reports:

Although the reports in Huffington Post are entertaining and intormative, their
vocabulary makes them hard to read, and the material is often slanted to suit
a political bias.

A good thesis is precise. It lets the reader and the writer know exactly
what the paper will contain. Words such as god, interesting, impressive,

CHAPTER 3 Finding and Supporting a Thesis
50

and many are too vague to do the job. They say nothing about the subject.What is interesting or good to one person may appear dull or offensive to another. Don’t say, “Agatha Christie’s detective stories are good.” Say, in- stead, “Agatha Christie’s detective stories appeal to those who enjoy solvinepuzzles.” Don’t say, “My history class is interesting.” Say, “My professor makes history easy to understand.”

Developing Your Thesis
Rules for a good thesis are one thing; applying them is another. These tips will help you arrive at that perfectly stated thesis.

TIPSfor Developing a Thesis
Answer a question. Sometimes, especially in essay examinations, the the- sis statement is suggested by the question. Often, all you have to do is thinkof a one-sentence answer to the question, and you have your thesis statement.

What is job enrichment? Is job enrichment an attempt by management to exploit workers?

Example question:

Sample thesis statement:
Job enrichment, an effort to motivate workers by making their jobs more a

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