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Developing Effective Thesis Statements

Briefly stated, a thesis statement constitutes both your papers main claim(s) and the reasons why the claim is
true. Additionally, you should establish to your reader why your thesis is significant and/or important enough to
warrant discussion.

What should a thesis statement be:

It should explain how and why the claim you are making about the passage relates to the work as a
whole. (By doing X, the author..., or Ginsbergs sense of [madness, for example] is x because y).

Tailor the scope of your argument so that it can be effectively wrought-out (and backed up) within the
assigned length.

Your thesis should be original and debatable. This means that your claim should be, new, unique, (not
from your professor, classmate, tutor, or secondary source) and an argument that someone could
potentially disagree with (vs. a statement of the obvious).

Your thesis should make a concrete claim about the text itself and should not include outside research
(though you will use this to support your claim in your paper).

Your thesis statement should be at least one sentence. If you need more sentences to explain your main
claim and/or reasons, feel free to use them

Your thesis statement should be readily identifiable by your readers.

Good theses will be revised throughout the writing process. In the early stages of developing your paper,
you should start by coming up with a provisional or working thesis that will help you guide your
inquiry. As your paper develops, you may notice some details or other elements from the text that dont
fit within or contradict your main claims, and you should revise your thesis accordingly. Often, you may
find it useful to rewrite your introductory paragraph and thesis at the very end of the writing process.

Examples of Bad thesis statements:


Howl expresses a mans frustration with modern society (Who would argue with that?).

Kate Chopins use of language reveals her frustration about womanhood. (So what? Which specific
word choices are we talking about? What assumptions about womanhood is Chopin trying to
undermine?)

Better thesis statements:


By using images that are both holy and grotesque at the same time, Allen Ginsberg suggests that the
horrors of modern society will not stop the search for religious belonging.

By showing how Doctor Mandelet gives Edna and Victor different advice about their family troubles,
Kate Chopins narrator shows that hypocrisy is interwoven within the very fabric of Ednas society.

An example and formula from The Blues Eye is:

One Formula (can rearrange order) Authors Name / verb / preposition / literary elements / preposition / Text
Title / / a theme or message.
Example Toni Morrisons use of soil, seed, and eye as metaphors for Pecola and Claudias childhood
experiences of beauty in The Bluest Eye the way in which beauty is socially constructed to
privilege whiteness and denigrating blackness.