Almost all of us even if we don't do it consciously look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.
There are several different types of papers students are required to write in higher education. Some essays and papers are meant to provide an overview of a topic (like a research paper), while others make an argument – the persuasive essay – to demonstrate to their professors or academic instructors, they have a solid comprehension of a subject, textbook, etc., and that they can thoroughly analyze its content and are developing both their writing and critical-thinking skills.
All persuasive essays of this sort – that is, those that argue a point – must contain a thesis statement. They are first declared in a persuasive essay’s introduction paragraph when the students directly state their point of view on a subject. In just one sentence, the thesis statement is the student’s pithy summary of the argument they are going to make in the rest of the paper; in many ways, it’s the main thought, theme, or angle of the essay.
(As a side note, whenever a student is to write a persuasive essay, which should include a thesis statement, they should be cognizant that they must defend their argument – therefore, their paper’s thesis statement – with evidence in the subsequent paragraphs. Also, even though thesis statements are declared early in the essay, in the introductory paragraph, one does not result from a student’s initial response to a subject or reading assignment; instead they a result of taking an attitude toward a specific, narrowed subject, then finding evidence – articles, both journalistic and academic, previously published essays, encyclopedias and online sources – to support this argument.)
In essence, the thesis statement identifies the topic of a text along, or an issue, subject, along with the claim the student is making about it.
To better convey the power and purpose of the thesis statement, it may serve the student best to apply the following scenario to an academic setting.
If students wanted to convince their parents it would be best if their parents bought them a new computer or cell phone to use at college, that students would want to put up a pretty solid argument for doing so, correct?
The student with this motivation would first make their claim (in essence a thesis statement, which they would articulate early on in their argument), and then provide reasons why this argument is valid and should be accepted and followed – because they really want that cell phone or computer.
If the student were writing an essay to persuade their parents of this claim, their thesis statement may be: It is important for me to have a computer/cell phone to use at college.
Essentially, this is a thesis statement; however, it is NOT an academic argument (unless a professor allows the student to demonstrate their knowledge of how to write a basic persuasive essay by choosing a general, non-academic topic).
For example, an appropriate academic thesis statement might be: “Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ is told by an unreliable narrator, which then forces the reader to make their own conclusion about the story’s narrative rather than believing the character telling the story – which is usually the case in fiction”.
Once again, the thesis statement asserts the main point of the paper and clarifies the scope of the topic that it will address. A thesis statement is most effective when expressed or declared in the introductory paragraph in a confident, assertive tone and stance; one should leave out qualifiers like “I think” or “might” which will certainly dilute its effectiveness, thereby weakening the entire paper, offering a weaker argument – all while probably earning the student a lower score or grade on the assignment.
The student will most likely be assigned a persuasive essay – not usually having the option of writing a different kind of essay – and will be forced to follow the standard format accepted in higher education.
And, more often than not, the student will be assigned a certain text, series of texts, or type of text to analyze and write about. It could be a novel, play, chapter in a text, in a literature class, a speech by a famous politician in a history or government class, or a piece of art in an anthropology class.
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