Week 4 – The argumentative essay in perspective
- Thesis statements
o a sentence or two in length
o provides the reader with specific information about the focus of your essay
o tells the reader what your essay will be about
o makes a claim
o takes a stance
o similar to a road map
tells the reader what your essay is about
in conjunction with the introduction
implies how you intend to fulfill the development of your claim
- Strong thesis statement
o makes a claim that
(1) requires analysis to support and evolve it
(2) offers some point about the significance of your evidence that would
not have been immediately obvious to your readers
o A strong thesis statement is:
deals with issues which can be covered within the boundaries of
your word/page count
Poor: The world is in a terrible bind.
Better: The United Nations should be given more peace-keeping
deals with one major idea about its subject
a secondary idea may be dealt with if it is strictly subordinated to
the major one
breaks down the main focus of the essay
can also include the specific focus areas of the paper
o The simple versus the expanded thesis statement
Thesis statements can be presented in the simple or the expanded form.
Either is acceptable in an academic grade paper
the expanded form may help novice writers focus and organize their
Simple: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for
writers to deal with the unconscious.
Expanded: James Joyce’s Ulysses helped create a new way for
writers to deal with the unconscious by utilizing the findings of
Freudian psychology, and by introducing the techniques of a
literary stream of consciousness.
- Weak thesis statement
o A weak thesis statement either makes no claim “this paper will examine the pros and cons of…”
makes a claim that does not need proving: “Exercise is good for you.”
o Five types of weak thesis statements exist.
Weak thesis type #1: The thesis makes no claim.
does not advance an idea about the topic the paper will explore:
EX. This paper will address the characteristics of a good corporate
Solution to weak thesis type #1:
o Raise specific issues for the essay to explore:
o EX. The very trait that makes for an effective corporate
manager – the drive to succeed – can also make the
leader domineering and therefore ineffective.
Weak thesis #2: The thesis is obviously true or is a statement of fact:
A thesis needs to be an assertion with which it would be possible
for readers to disagree:
EX. The jeans industry targets its advertisements to appeal to
Remember: if few people would disagree with a claim that a thesis
makes, there is no point in writing an analytical paper on it.
Solution to weak thesis #2:
o Find some avenue of inquiry – a question about the facts
or an issue raised by them. Make an assertion with which it
would be possible for readers to disagree:
o EX. By inventing new terms, such as “loose fit” and
“relaxed fit,” the jeans industry has attempted to normalize,
even glorify, its product for an older and fatter generation.
Weak thesis type #3: The thesis restates conventional wisdom; hence, no
stance is presented that can be critically argued.
EX. An important part of one’s university education is learning to
better understand others’ points of view.
Solution to weak thesis statement #3:
o Seek to complicate – see more than one point of view on –
your subject. Avoid conventional wisdom unless you can
qualify it or introduce a fresh perspective on it:
o EX. While an important part of one’s university education is
learning to better understand other’s points of view, a
persistent danger is that the students will simply be
required to substitute the teacher’s answers for the ones
they grew up uncritically believing.
Weak thesis type #4: the thesis offers personal conviction as the basis for
A statement of one’s personal convictions or one’s likes or dislikes
does not alone supply sufficient grounds for a productive thesis: EX. “The situation in Africa does not warrant all of the attention it
has been getting from the press.”