Instead of providing you with lots of jargon or big words that sound very sophisticated, I rather explain the thesis statement in the simplest but clearest way possible. Communication is the ultimate goal. Is it not? So, if you want to communicate with your reader, then avoid disguising and decorating your words and ideas. Make your point by being direct, concise and specific, especially when it comes to writing college essays. If, however, you intend to dazzle your creative writing teacher, then that requires a whole set of rules, or should I say...no rules and, I suggest you skip this post altogether.
When writing a thesis statement, avoid
- announcements I don't need you to tell me that you are going to tell me something. Of course you are going to tell me something, so just tell me. When we speak, we tend to use these announcements, so when we write, I guess we are drawn to have the same kind of conversation with the reader. However, in formal college writing, this announcement becomes redundant and unnecessary.
- very general statements Broad thesis statements require more than just a few paragraphs to explain and support your main idea. Therefore, if you can write a book or an encyclopedia to support your thesis statement, then you know it falls under this category and so it does not work. Pay close attention to words like many, society or world. These words are clear indicators that you might just need to include several million people or hundreds of places in your essay in order to fully argue and support your point.
- very narrow statements Very narrow thesis statements lead to what I call "I went blank" syndrome. Trust me... you did not go blank and your mind did not just stop working. Midway through your essay you discovered you had nothing more to say and if you did have more, it looked pretty much like a variation of the same things you had already written. Why does this occur? You simply allowed yourself little or no room to expand or elaborate because you wrote a thesis statement that looked more like detail or an example than anything else.
So then, what do you do? I have a few suggestions.
- Establish a clear "who" or "what" in your thesis statement.
- Identify a key word, focus word, main idea word.
- Borrow words from the topic and use them as a springboard for your thesis.
- Avoid being too general, too narrow or announcing.
- As you plan the thesis, keep the body paragraphs(supporting paragraphs) in mind.
- If you have trouble outlining two or three main points that support the thesis, then your thesis statement is too narrow, inadequate and needs revision.
- If you discover that you have a gazillion main points that support the thesis, then your thesis statement is too general. Remember unless you are writing a book or an encyclopedia, these general statements will not work.
- Read sample essays and evaluate how the writer presents his or her main idea. Do not copy any one's essay to learn how to become a better writer. Learn by example and develop your own style and techniques.
- Keep in mind that you can start with a very short and simple sentence that contains all the needed pieces and later on "spice it up." Make your point; then add your creative touch.
- Finally, if all else fails, I suggest you just write a simple sentence that communicates to your reader "exactly" what you wish to say and prove. I have found that many times, "things" are not as complicated or as difficult as they appear. We make them difficult and in doing so create much heartache for ourselves.
I will post sample thesis statements and attention getters next week.