ement in Response to AnEssay TopicFor the mid-term essay, you have been given a list of topics to write aboutin relation to either Great Expectations or Jane Eyre. In university essays(unlike Leaving Cert essays, which are more like summaries or checklists ofeverything you know about a text or subject), you are expected to toformulate an argument in response to your chosen topic which isarticulated in a thesis statement in your introductory paragraph.
Furthermore, you are expected to analyze both the “content” and the “form”of the text and base your argument on evidence (citation and analysis) fromthe primary text and from secondary sources of scholarly criticism. Complete the exercise on pages 3-5 (section II of this handout) and bringit to your Workshop in Week 5. This exercise is designed to help youdevelop a thesis statement which expresses the argument you will make aboutyour chosen topic and which includes of analysis of both the “content” andthe “form” of the text. Note: you may decide to change your thesisstatement, topic, or chosen text after this workshop. The exercise isdesigned to help start you thinking what you might write about, which mightchange as you work through it. Be prepared to peer-review your thesis statement in class.
After theexercise is a list of peer-review questions (section III), followed by anappendix of materials (section IV) that can give you further guidance indeveloping a thesis statement. I What is a Thesis Statement?If your assignment asks you to take a position ordevelop a claim about a subject, you need to convey that position or claimin a thesis statement near the beginning of your draft. When an assignment asks you to analyze, to interpret, to compare andcontrast, to demonstrate cause and effect, or to take a stand on an issue,it is likely that you are being asked to develop a thesis and to support itpersuasively. A thesis statement. . .
. Tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion. . Is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
. Directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is an interpretation of a topic or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be 19th-century gender roles or Alice in Wonderland; a thesis must then offer a way to understand gender roles or the novel. . Makes a claim-an argument- that others might dispute.
. Is usually a single sentence near the end of your first paragraph that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation. The conclusion usually reiterates the thesis statement and summarizes how you have demonstrated its truth.
Some Caveats and Examples:. An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no. ” A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. “Reasons for the fall of communism” is a topic.
“Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe” is a fact known by educated people. “The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe” is an opinion. (Superlatives like “the best” almost always lead to trouble. It’s impossible to weigh every “thing” that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn’t that be “the best thing”?).
A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should “telegraph” how you plan to argue-that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. . A thesis is never a question.
Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question (“Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?”) is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water. . A thesis is never a list. “For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe” does a good job of “telegraphing” the reader what to expect in the essay-a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons.
However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn’t advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important. . A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational. An ineffective thesis would be, “Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil.
” This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading. . An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim. “While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline” is an effective thesis sentence that “telegraphs,” so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies.
This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, “Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim. “. A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible. Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions.
For example, “Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite’s inability to address the economic concerns of the people” is more powerful than “Communism collapsed due to societal discontent. “. Anticipate the counter-arguments. Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it.
This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you’ll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counter-argument. If yours doesn’t, then it’s not an argument-it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument. )|Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 presidential election||because he failed to campaign vigorously after the ||Democratic National Convention. |.
This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counter- arguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a “soft-on-crime” image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counter-argument, you’ll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below. |While Dukakis’ “soft-on-crime” image hurt his||chances in the 1988 election, his failure to ||campaign vigorously after the Democratic National ||Convention bore a greater responsibility for his||defeat.
|II WORKSHOP EXERCISE: UNDERSTANDING THE TOPIC AND DEVELOPING A THESISSTATEMENTWrite down your chosen topic and any questions you may have about it: Analyze the role, reliability, and impact of first person narration in the text. Write down a) which text you plan to use b) and loosely, how you mightrelate it to the topic:a) Jane Eyre b)Firstly, because it’s a first person narration (obviously)and secondly because it was published as an actual biography edited byBronte (hidden behind her pseudonym). Research: What other knowledge (context, formal analysis, secondarycriticism etc. ) will you need to strengthen your argument? What sort ofscholarly criticism on what themes or areas or texts do you need to lookfor?Consulting Hazarding Confidences by Lisa Stornlieb and/or any other textconcerning narrative (and first persona narration) criticism could be agood source. Analyzing the text and critically evaluating what Jane saysshould be helpful too.
Identify the two parts of the thesis:1) What do you plan to argue about the text:Is Jane a reliable narrator or is she omitting something/ altering thetruth? Was this done on purpose or did Bronte realize she put too much ofher own personality into the character?2) Telegraph how you will argue that in the essay (what evidence, whichchapters etc. will you look at? How will you organize the order ofevidence: represent this in your statement) How does the subject relate tothe form of the novel in what you are arguing?-The essay will analyze the way Jane tells the story of her life to thereader , carefully looking at particular sentences and phrases in chapters1, 14, 38, etc. . .
-First of all it will question the reliability of Jane as a narrator, thenit will analyse the relationship between Bronte and her character. -This critical analysis is due to the form the novel was written. Anticipate Counter-Arguments:1) What sort of counter-arguments could be raised to your thesisstatement?-The fact Jane is a fictional character, therefore she’s unlikely to hidefact from the reader-The fact Jane Eyre is not Bronte’s autobiography2) How you can rewrite the thesis to make it more complex and anticipatethese counter-arguments?-Jane directly addresses to the reader so she expects someone to actuallyread her autobiography-It’s not Bronte’s official biography, but she shares many life featureswith Jane Eyre. Revise for Eloquence and Specificity. Rewrite your final thesis statementhere, making sure you have revised to eliminate generalizations,superlatives, opinions, mere facts, or passive voice and to make it asspecific as possible:This essay will focus on Jane Eyre’s peculiar narration, question thereliability of the protagonist herself and evaluate the impact it has onthe reader. It will provide information and at the same time challengemodern criticism regarding such topic, and finally resolve the conflictbetween Jane Eyre as a fictional novel or a partly autobiographic piece ofwork.
III Peer Review Thesis Workshop in ClassView each other’s exercises and give constructive feedback on each other’sthesis statements, covering the following questions: 1) Do you understand the peer’s argument? Can you repeat it back in yourown words? 2) Is it properly an argument (and not a opinion, fact, or question)? Ifnot, how could you work together to make it more complex? 3) Does it give a clear sense of not just what will be argued but how theargument will proceed? 4) Does it seem to make sense in light of the text? Does it successfullyanticipate and stand up to counter-arguments? 5) Is it specific enough? Is it forceful enough? Do you need to eliminateweak words (superlatives or words like “interesting” or “important” orpassive verbs instead of strong ones like “argue” or “demonstrate”)How could it be made more specific and more eloquent? 6) What further knowledge (of form, aesthetics, literary or historicalcontext etc. ) might strengthen and support the argument? What researchmight be useful?IV APPENDIX:A EVIDENCE OF CRITICAL THINKING(FROM THE TCD STUDENT LEARNING DEVELOPMENT ESSAY WRITING KIT) . It is important to show evidence of critical thinking and a depth ofunderstanding of the key issues when writing an essay or assignment. . It helps to ask questions about a particular topic to understand themain points and develop the direction of your arguments and line ofreasoning.
Examples of prompt questions to help you to think critically about a topicAND DEVELOP A THESIS:WHO?Who is my audience for this essay (e. g. lecturer, fellow students etc)?Who wrote this book or evidence that I am using to support my arguments andcould there be any bias in their evidence or findings?Who else cites this source?WHAT?What am I aiming for (e. g.
the outcome I would like from writing thisessay?)What are the key issues and points in relation to this issue?What is the context for this discussion or issue?WHERE?Where are the strengths within this argument?Where are the flaws within this argument?Where am I going with my own arguments/opinions? Have I addressed counter-arguments effectively?WHEN?When was the primary text published?When was the secondary criticism published?(e. g. is it current or relevanttoday?)When does the author draw a conclusion?When do I get to my main arguments/evidence in the essay?WHY?Why is this topic important?Why does this theory draw these conclusions?Why does the researcher use this approach?HOW?How does this article differ from other articles on this subject?How did the researcher/writer come to their conclusions?How can I apply this information to my topic?B CONSTRUCTING THE THESIS: A WRITER’S CLINIC FOR BEGINNERSBy Karen Gocsik,the DARTMOUTH WRITING PROGRAM:http://www. dartmouth.
edu/~writing/materials/student/ac_paper/develop. shtml)”Constructing a good thesis sentence is no easy matter. In creating athesis, the writer struggles with her own confusion. She seeks to createsome order out of the morass of observations she has about a text.
If youare willing to endure a little confusion, we’ll show you here how it isthat a thesis sentence is constructed. As the thesis will pass throughseveral incarnations before it reaches its final form, we advise you toread this section completely from beginning to end. When structuring your thesis sentence, it’s helpful to start byconsidering how it was that you came to your argument in the first place. You arrived at your point of view by way of certain observations and aparticular logic. You will expect your reader to arrive at the sameconclusion, via the same observations and logic that you yourself used. Let’s imagine that you have been assigned a novel for your class.
You’ve noticed when reading the book that the author seems to linger on therelatively insignificant action of women putting on their lipstick. You’vealso noticed that lipstick stains abound in the novel, leaving their markon glasses, sheets, and so on. Finally, you’ve noticed that the womencharacters use lipstick in different ways: Character A puts lipstick onalone in the bathroom, in front of a mirror; Character B puts lipstick onin front of others, but only when they seem on the verge of rejecting her;Character C delights in seeing her incriminating lipstick smears on theshirts and sheets of her lover; Character D wears lipstick only when shegoes to have lunch with her ex-lover, as a way of exaggerating the grimaceof her pain. From these observations, you see a pattern at work. Characters A and Buse lipstick to mask themselves and their feelings; Characters C and D uselipstick to unmask themselves (or others).
Moreover, you notice that theauthor seems to admire Characters C and D for their insistence thatemotions be revealed. You think that you have a good idea for a thesissentence, and so you give it a go: “In X’s novel , the characters’seemingly insignificant use of lipstick in fact points to one of thenovel’s larger themes: the masking and unmasking of the self. “This sentence does mirror for the reader your own process ofdiscovery: it begins with an observation that a seemingly insignificantevent has meaning(s) in the novel, and then it classifies those meaningsinto two categories. In other words, some of your logic is indeed presentin the thesis as you’ve written it. You’ll notice that I’ve said “some ofyour logic.
” It’s important to take a second look at this thesis to seewhat it is that’s been left out. Put yourself in the place of the reader. What does this thesissentence tell you about the structure of the argument to come? Well, as apotential reader I would expect that first, the writer will provideevidence that lipstick is indeed an important symbol in this novel. Second,I would expect the writer to argue that lipstick signifies a character’sdesire to mask herself (a common observation). Finally, I would expect thewriter to show me how, exactly, lipstick is used to reveal the self.
Now ask yourself what this thesis doesn’t tell the reader about theargument to come. We understand as readers that this paper is going to beabout the masking and unmasking of the self. We understand (because it iscommon knowledge) that lipstick can be used to create a mask. But how,precisely, does lipstick unmask the self? Here you seem to be pointing tosome uncommon use of lipstick, but you haven’t even hinted at what that”uncommon use” is, or why it’s important. Look closely at your thesis andask yourself this hard question: Does my thesis give my reader a sense ofthe real argument to come?In this case, it doesn’t. However, this doesn’t mean that the thesissentence is useless.
In fact, even though this thesis doesn’t provide thereader with a very good “map” of the essay, it does help you, the writer,to see the overall structure of your argument. In other words, it’s agood working thesis sentence for your paper. WHAT IS A WORKING THESIS SENTENCE?Let’s take a minute to define this term. A thesis sentence, as we’ve said,is a kind of contract between you and your reader.
It asserts, controls,and structures your argument for your reader’s ease. A working thesissentence, on the other hand, is a sentence that you compose in order tomake the work of writing easier. It’s a sentence that asserts, controls,and structures the argument for you. The working thesis need not be eloquent. In fact, it can be quiteclunky, declaring your argument and then clumsily listing your supportingpoints.
Not to worry: you’ll be revising your thesis, and often more thanonce. Remember that, as you write, you are bound to come up with new ideasand observations that you’d like to incorporate into your paper. Every timeyou make a new discovery, your thesis sentence will have to be revised. Sometimes you’ll find that you’re stuck in your writing.
You may need toreturn to your thesis. Perhaps you haven’t clearly defined an importantterm or condition in your thesis? Maybe that’s why you find yourself unableto progress beyond a certain point in your argument?Revising your working thesis at this juncture could help you toclarify for yourself the direction of your argument. Don’t be afraid torevise! In fact, the most important quality of a working thesis sentence isits flexibility. A working thesis needs to keep up with your thinking. Itneeds to accommodate what you learn as you go along. Revising the Working ThesisLet’s return now to our in-progress thesis: “In X’s novel, the characters’seemingly insignificant use of lipstick in fact points to one of thenovel’s larger themes: the masking and unmasking of the self.
” Perhaps thisthesis served you well as you were writing the first couple of pages ofyour paper, but now that you are into the meat of the matter, you arestuck. How, exactly, is the writer using lipstick and masks to revealcharacter? And what, precisely, is his point in doing so?It’s at this juncture that you’ll probably return to your thesis anddiscover a) what it doesn’t say, and b) what it needs to say. We’ve alreadydetermined that the sentence doesn’t really address the most arguable – andinteresting – aspect of this argument. Now it’s time to ask yourself whythis hasn’t been addressed. Perhaps you, the writer, haven’t yetarticulated this part of the argument for yourself? Is this why the thesis(and with it, the paper) seems to trail off?At this point you should stop drafting the paper and return to thetext. Read a bit.
Brainstorm a bit. Write another discovery draft. Read abit more. Here is something interesting. You’ve found a passage in whichthe writer talks about how the lipstick left behind on a lover’s shirt”drew a map for his wife into the dark lands of his infidelities.
” Andyou’ve found another passage in which the jilted lover’s bright orangelipstick was “like a road sign, guiding her betrayer to the heart of herpain. ” In these two passages you see the writer addressing another functionof lipstick: that women use it to draw a kind of map. You look for otherlipstick examples that might shed more light on the idea of mapping, andyou find them. Even better, you discover that all of these examples havesomething to do with betrayal, guilt, and shame.
In the end, you concludethat lipstick is not being used in this novel just to mask and unmask. Women also use lipstick to map. The two are in fact linked:1. Lipstick masks by concealing real feelings (most often feelings of betrayal, guilt, and shame). 2.
Lipstick masks, but in the process reveals or creates a new persona, one who overcomes the feelings of betrayal, guilt, and shame. 3. The author also uses the act of putting on lipstick as a metaphor for mapping. These maps might conceal – that is, they might serve to detour the observer from discovering (or arriving at) the woman’s feelings of betrayal, or4. They might reveal.
First, lipstick might draw a map to the truth about a betrayal, as they do for the betrayed wife in the novel. And second, lipstick might be seen as a tool with which a woman maps herself, drawing new borders, re-imagining her own inner landscapes, and re-routing her own destiny. This idea is very complicated. How do you make a thesis out of this?Your first try is bound to be clumsy.
You need to find a way of puttingtogether all of your important ideas – lipsticks, masks, maps, concealing,revealing, betrayal – into one sentence. Let’s try:While lipstick is used in X’s novel to conceal feelings of betrayal,it is also used to reveal the betrayal itself, in that lipstick bothmasks and maps betrayal, at first allowing women to hide themselves,but later providing them with the possibility to create new selves,and to re-route their lives. Does this sentence work?Revising Your Thesis For EloquenceClearly not. For one thing, it is simply too long. You are putting too muchinformation into one sentence. Sometimes writers fail to understand thattheir argument might best be expressed in a couple of sentences (with onesentence providing background information and the second serving as thethesis).
Note the difference such a change would make:While lipstick is used in X’s novel to conceal feelings of betrayal, it isalso used to reveal the betrayal itself. Accordingly, lipstick both masksand maps betrayal in this novel, initially allowing women to hidethemselves, but later providing them with the possibility to create newselves, and to re-route their lives. Better? Sure, but it could be better still. You will, of course, wantto play with your thesis sentence until it is strong enough to present yourcomplex argument, and clear enough to guide your reader through your paper.
But even more than this, you will want to write a thesis sentence thatevokes something in the reader. You will want to use language that has somepower; you will want to structure the sentence so that it has some “oomph. “Pay attention to diction, to syntax, to nuance, and to tone. Inshort, write a good sentence. Understand that you can revise the thesis sentence above in a number ofways. Ask yourself:.
Is my argument clear?. Does it present the logic and the structure of my paper?. Does it emphasize the points I want to emphasize? Perhaps in the end you decide that the previous sentence seems to makemasking and mapping of equal importance to this paper. You’ve decided thatmapping is the more original, stronger idea. So you revise once more, foremphasis.
Consider this, then, our final thesis sentence (note how thecomplete argument now relies on the interaction between two introductorysentences and the thesis statement itself): While at first it might appear that lipstick is being used merely to hide the characters’ feelings of betrayal, a closer look reveals that its most essential use is actually to map the path to the betrayal itself. By using lipstick as the signposts, betrayal can be discovered and navigated. As a result, characters are able to re-draw the borders of their relationships, and to re-route the course of their lives.”