Writing A Thesis

The Nuts & Bolts Of Essay Writing

Writing A Thesis

Writing Letter

Writing A Thesis

The thesis is a single sentence that answers the prompt with a clearly stated, strong opinion. It is always be found in the last sentence of the first paragraph and should be an issue that is controversial enough that someone could argue the other position (so don’t say the sky is blue, because it’s not controversial enough). EVERY WORD of your paper should be centered around supporting this idea, so it has to be worded perfectly to include what you are trying to prove. For this reason, having a poor thesis causes a chain reaction that could lead to you failing the essay.

A good thesis makes the reader feel that you have thoroughly explored the evidence and discovered an answer that can be backed up with facts. So students should always carefully weigh the historical evidence and then craft a response that best articulates the argument that has the most persuasive evidence behind it.

It is important to remember to keep your thesis strong. A weak thesis or one that agrees with both sides is a kiss of death for a thesis. You MUST take a side and avoid this type of thesis at all costs.

The labor unions dealt with both positive and negative during the last decades of the 19th century

So How Do You Do This?

The Process

Once you have some idea of what the research says you need to come up with a thesis itself. Since the thesis is supposed to be thought out and well developed, it might take some time before you are ready to answer it. You should research all evidence on the topic first so that you can make sure you form an argument that is supportable with the facts.

What works is having an essay that shows some of the complexity of the argument, but in the end is quite specific about what you are trying to prove. Doing this opens the possibility of using counter arguments in the body paragraphs to disprove them (use this sparingly though and only within larger points). The best way to do this is to start the thesis with one of the following words: although, while, despite, or in spite of. So the following is the way these would be written.

Although [opposing evidence], [reasons] show [Something] [does something].

It is important to remember not to give a list of reasons here (like they teach you in middle school) but a general overview of what helps prove this. So instead of saying that something is bad because of A, B, and C, you would instead say something like “most academic studies show.”

Once the thesis is written, re-read it to make sure that it doesn’t include any vague words. Your argument must remain strong, so the removal of these words is a must. Then analyze the wording to make sure that it would include all of the facts that you want to use in the essay. Remember that nothing can be covered in the body of the essay that doesn’t directly prove the thesis (you will later analyze the body in the same way to make sure that everything aligns perfectly).

Finally you should ask yourself the following 3 questions in deciding whether your thesis works.

  1. Is it an opinion?
  2. Is it debatable?
  3. Is it specific?

Taking A Strong Stance

The first step is to work on the direct part of a thesis statement. This will be the strength of the final product. You will need to be specific, clear and strong in some fashion. So here are some examples of “direct” thesis statements.

Bad:

Good:

Weak:

Strong:

George Washington set many important precedents as president.

This is a fact not a position

The precedents that Washington set as America’s first president greatly benefited the American political system.

This is a clear position that can be supported or opposed.

The Revolutionary War brought about change in American society.

This is, technically, a position. But, it is vague and not really debatable.

The Revolutionary War ushered in a slew of wide-ranging and permanent social changes in American society.

This is a clear, strong, and debatable thesis.

Rules

  1. Your point MUST be extremely clear
  2. Thesis should ALWAYS be the last sentence of the 1st paragraph
  3. Do not just restate the question or ask a question that you answer
  4. Never, ever use 1st person pronouns
    1. Also be very careful of using 2nd person pronouns
  5. Do not give me a list of reasons why you think this. Leave this to your body paragraphs

Examples

Writing The Thesis

Sample Prompt:

Jacksonian Democrats viewed themselves as the guardians of the United States Constitution, political democracy, individual liberty, and equality of economic opportunity. In light of your knowledge of the following documents and your knowledge of the 1820’s and 1830’s, to what extent do you agree with the Jacksonians’ view of themselves?

Thesis statements in this course should focus on the “complex-direct” method of thesis statements. This couples the clarity of the direct approach, which just answers the question simply as seen in the below sample thesis.

To a remarkable degree Jacksonian democrats succeeded in implementing their vision of American society.

Once you have an argument in this format you add in the complexity. This acknowledges that contrary evidence exists, but in the end it tries to prove the opposite. Remember to add keywords such as “although” in this type of thesis. You would use the skeleton from example A to write Example B:

Skeleton:

Although [opposing evidence], [reasons] show [Something] [does something].

Example using Skeleton:

Although Jacksonian Democrats truly believed that they were the guardians of American ideals, their actions betrayed other priorities and rarely lived up to either their rhetoric or intentions.

Not Restating The Question

Sample Prompt:

How successful was organized labor in improving the position of workers in the period from 1875 to 1900? Analyze the factors that contributed to the level of success achieved.

Now make sure that some of the words and phrases used in the prompt are reworded so that it is not using the exact same phrasing. Rather than saying “the time period 1875 to 1900,” say “the last decades of the 19th century” or “the three decades following the Civil War.” Rather than saying “organized labor,” refer to labor unions.

Let’s assume that your knowledge of history tells you that this was NOT a period of labor success. Write a sentence that answers the prompt with your argument.

The last 30 years of the 1800’s nearly destroyed organized labor.

                                       Or

These years were a period of extreme struggle for organized labor

After knowing what you want the focus to be you write a thesis in the complex-direct method.

Possible Thesis:

Although the last decades of the 19th century were periods of intense labor organization, due to the heavy handed approach of some in the industry, they nearly destroyed the labor unions.

Double Checking Your Thesis For Faults

Sample Prompt:

How did African-American women fare after slavery ended?

Possible Thesis:

Although freedom made life better in general for the slaves, African-American women fared worse than African-American men under freedom, because society sought to impose sexist notions of gender roles on emancipated black families.

Then, considering the contents of your primary sources, ask these questions: Is my hypothesis really true? What evidence at my disposal makes it false? How can I modify my hypothesis to make it true? For instance, you may have some source information that suggests black women were beaten by their husbands when free, but you might also have some that suggests their husbands protected them from whites and kept them from working long hard hours in the fields. Perhaps it was only in the realm of relative equality within the family that women lost out in freedom.

Develop a new, more complex hypothesis by modifying the old one. There usually is no need to start from scratch; simply alter what you started with.

Possible Thesis:

Although freedom made life better in general for African-American women, freedwomen may have lost some of the power they had held in the family under slavery, because freedom subjected them to the patriarchal domination of a sexist society.

Copyright 2016 – Dunnings Class