1. NOTES: THESIS STATEMENTS YOUNGBLOOD: ENGLISH: ALL
UPDATED: 9/22/2010 5:21 PM Page 1 of 4
I. What is a thesis statement?
A. It’s what the entire text is about
B. It’s what the entire essay is about
C. Is it a main idea or topic?
1. No. But there are main ideas that prove the thesis statement.
II. The Thesis Statement . . .
A. is a statement providing the controlling idea for the essay
B. is NOT a place (it is woven through the entire essay – NOT just at the beginning of a paragraph or
C. is written with strong, clear language in the introduction
D. does NOT start with “My thesis is…” “In this paper I will …” or anything similar in nature
III. Persuasive Essays
A. The thesis statement MUST take a stand
a) School vending machines are usually bad for the school, but sometimes good to have.
a) Without question, vending machines are damaging to the school and must be removed
Supporting Details – bull’s eye specific
details to support the main idea (aka
Main ideas (aka topic
sentences) prove the thesis
of the essay
Thesis Statement – what it’s all
about, it includes all the main
ideas and supporting details –
they all relate back to the
2. NOTES: THESIS STATEMENTS YOUNGBLOOD: ENGLISH: ALL
UPDATED: 9/22/2010 5:21 PM Page 2 of 4
IV. Persuasive Prompts
A. Persuasive prompts: the writer is usually presented with two sides of an argument (sometimes one
side) and asked to persuade the reader to take his point of view.
a) Your principal is considering whether or not candy and soda machines are a good idea
for your school. Think about whether or not candy and soda machines are a good idea
for your school. Now write to convince your principal whether or not candy and soda
machines are a good idea for your school.
2. Writer‘s response:
a) The second line asks me to decide whether or not vending machines are a good idea. The
last line asks me to convince the principal that this choice is best. My thesis statement is:
Vending machines are an essential part of Lincoln High School.
V. Expository Prompts
A. Expository prompts: the question is almost always stated. The writer most typically would be asked to
explain why, what or how.
a) Most people recognize the importance of personal qualities. Think about a quality that
you believe is important in a person. Now explain why that personal quality is
2. Writer‘s response:
a) The second line asks me to pick a particular quality I believe is important. The last line
asks me to explain why I‘ve made that choice. My thesis statement might be:
The quality most admirable in people over time is perseverance. Determined people
always give their best effort and they usually make life more interesting.
VI. The Secret:
A. KEEP IT SIMPLE!!
1. Simple thesis statements get higher points!
2. Instead of being wordy, keep it short and to the point.
a) Twilight is the best book I’ve ever read.
b) The school board shouldn’t make students wear uniforms.
c) Cities should create a curfew for high school students.
3. NOTES: THESIS STATEMENTS YOUNGBLOOD: ENGLISH: ALL
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Prompt: Compare and contrast the reasons why the North and South fought the Civil War.
Thesis 1: The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some
1. Weak Thesis:
a. It restates the question without providing any additional information. You will expand on this new
information in the body of the essay, but it is important that the reader know where you are heading.
b. The reader has questions:
i. "What reasons? How are they the same? How are they different?"
ii. Ask yourself these same questions and begin to compare Northern and Southern attitudes
(perhaps you first think, "The South believed slavery was right, and the North thought slavery
c. Doesn’t analyze - Push your comparison toward an interpretation—why did one side think slavery was
right and the other side think it was wrong?
d. Look again at the evidence, and decide that you are going to argue that the North believed slavery was
immoral while the South believed it upheld the Southern way of life. You write:
Thesis 2: While both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while
the South fought to preserve its own institutions.
2. Working Thesis:
a. Included in this working thesis is a reason for the war and some idea of how the two sides disagreed
over this reason.
b. As you write the essay, you will probably begin to characterize these differences more precisely, and
your working thesis may start to seem too vague. Maybe you decide that both sides fought for moral
reasons, and that they just focused on different moral issues.
c. You end up revising the working thesis into a final thesis that really captures the argument in your
Final Thesis: While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression,
Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government.
This final thesis presents a way of interpreting evidence that illuminates the significance of the question. Keep in
mind that this is one of many possible interpretations of the Civil War—it is not the one and only right answer to the
question. There isn't one right answer; there are only strong and weak thesis statements and strong and weak uses
4. NOTES: THESIS STATEMENTS YOUNGBLOOD: ENGLISH: ALL
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Prompt: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain's novel Huckleberry Finn.
Thesis 1: Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.
1. Weak Thesis:
a. Reader may expect a general, appreciative summary of Twain's novel. The question did not ask you to
summarize; it asked you to analyze.
b. Your teacher is probably not interested in your opinion of the novel; instead, she wants you to think
about why it's such a great novel—what do Huck's adventures tell us about life, about America, about
coming of age, about race relations, etc.?
c. You need to pick an aspect of the novel that you think is important to its structure or meaning—for
example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the
relationships between adults and children. Now you write:
Thesis 2: In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.
2. Working Thesis:
a. You have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation;
b. It's still not clear what your analysis will reveal. Your reader is intrigued, but is still thinking, "So what?
What's the point of this contrast? What does it signify?" Perhaps you are not sure yet, either. That's
fine—begin to work on comparing scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make
lists, jot down Huck's actions and reactions.
c. Eventually you should clarify for yourself, and then for the reader, why this contrast matters. After
examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:
Final Thesis: Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain's Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the
true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave "civilized" society and go back to nature.
This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of
course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the
reader of your interpretation.