Constructing thesis statements


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This presentation introduces students to college level thesis statement writing, with a little bit of help from Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein.

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Constructing thesis statements

  1. 1. CONSTRUCTINGTHESIS STATEMENTSGuidelines for Critical Reading andWriting Prepared by Christina Neckles
  2. 2. What is a thesis statement?• A statement of one or two sentences that indicates the argument and position of a paper.• A college level thesis statement will have three parts.• I call those parts: • The CONVERSATION • The INTERVENTION • The ASSESSMENT
  3. 3. CONVERSATION• The conversation is a topic about which there could be disagreement.• If there can’t be disagreement about the topic you have chosen, you can’t make an argument about it. • Why would that be? • Conversations are often expressed in the form of a question before you answer those questions in your thesis statement.
  4. 4. Intervention• The intervention is the part of the thesis statement that tells the reader what position you are going to take on the topic.• How are you intervening in the conversation?• What do you add to the discussion?
  5. 5. Assessment• The assessment explains how your intervention in a conversation should change the reader’s perspective on the topic.• It explains why your argument matters.• The assessment is often the hardest part to write, and writers often revise their assessments throughout the writing process.
  6. 6. Developing a thesis statement from a generaltopic:• Sample Assignment: Write a paper about a reality competition program.• Sample Show Chosen: American Idol.• In order to make an argument about a topic, you have to find a question about the topic that could be asked, but not answered with a fact.• What kind of questions could you ask about American Idol?
  7. 7. From question to thesis:• Question: • What does American Idol have to say about the nature of talent? • Reframe in the form of a statement to make this the conversation of your thesis. • Often, the conversation part of a thesis will summarize the background given in the rest of a paper’s introduction. • EXERCISE: • Take FIVE minutes to answer the question above, Try to determine both what your answer is and how your answer might change your readers’ perspectives about the TV show.
  8. 8. This is one example of a thesis statement aboutcelebrity and American Idol:• The television show American Idol trades on the idea that stars are born and not made, as each season the producers and judges search for a hidden, undiscovered talent. But, what each episode of the show reveals is that idols are in fact manufactured and, worse, tragically subject to the whims of the masses and the profit margins of the music industry.• 1. Conversation: What does American Idol say about talent?• 2. Intervention: The show claims that it’s a search for talent, but it’s more a lesson in “How to Make a Star.”• 3. Assessment: The show reveals that “talent” is a relative term, dependent on fashion and fortune.
  9. 9. The thesis is only a beginning.• A thesis should also pave the way for a wider conclusion (perhaps something relevant but beyond the scope of your essay).• Here’s a possible piece of a conclusion paragraph that may come out of this thesis statement:• By understanding Idol less as a talent search and more as a peek into the workings of an industry that flourishes by manufacturing public tastes, viewers can begin to step back, listen, and learn to make their own choices both in their AI text votes and in their encounters with Top 40 hits
  10. 10. Now, try your hand at thesis statements.• Exercise:• Take 10 minutes to review the thesis statement draft you bought to class.• Can you identify the conversation, intervention, and assessment?• If not, which piece is missing.• Write down possibilities to “fill in the blank.”• After ten minutes, we’ll take volunteers to share.
  11. 11. How about a little help?• Thesis statements can be difficult to structure.• Try the following templates to help organize your ideas for writing an analysis of a single piece of writing:• In [title of selection], X suggests _____, which is emphasized through _____. Ultimately, readers come to understand __________.• While X focuses [title of selection] on the issue of ________, the _______ also reveals __________.• Despite X’s suggestion that ________, the _______ exposes _______.
  12. 12. How about some more help?:• Writing about one text is a little bit different than a controversial topic (as you will for your research papers and Paper 3):• Here are some more templates to help you structure your thoughts:• “In discussions of X, one controversial issue has been ________. On the one hand, _______ argues __________. On the other hand, ________ contends ________.” I argue ________ (Graff and Birkenstein 26).• “When it comes to the topic of __________, most of us will readily agree that ________. Where this argument usually ends, however, is on the question of ______,” which fails to consider _______ (Graff and Birkenstein 26-27).
  13. 13. Works CitedGraff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say/ I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. 2nd Ed. New York: W.W. Norton 2010. Print.