Writing English Thesis Statements

The Thesis Statement Dilemma

 On my way out the door, I noticed all the English teachers were busily grading essays. "Hey, Bob," I shouted as I stumbled into his

classroom, "Not done with those essays yet? I finished mine an hour ago."

"How'd you grade them so fast?" he asked.

"It's simple," I responded, "I didn't teach my students how to write a thesis statement, so grading their essays was easy. I just gave them all F's. While you guys waste your time teaching valuable lessons and then having to actually grade their essays, we watch movies."

"So, none of your students know anything about writing?"

"Nope."

"You're a disgrace!" Bob shouted. He moved toward me, stapler in hand.

Next thing I remember, I was surrounded by angry tax-payers. Angry tax-payer #1 shouted, "Get up you thief! Our tax dollars pay your salary and you're supposed to teach the children of this great state how to write! I suggest you start doing your job tomorrow morning, or you'll pay dearly!" The angry tax-payer clubbed me with a ruler and knocked me out again. When I awoke, I saw lesson ideas on my desk titled "Writing a Thesis Statement."

I now share these ideas with you.

Once you've read the story or novel closely, look back over your notes for patterns of questions or ideas that interest you. Have most of your questions been about the characters, how they develop or change?

For example:
If you are reading Conrad's The Secret Agent, do you seem to be most interested in what the author has to say about society? Choose a pattern of ideas and express it in the form of a question and an answer such as the following:

Question: What does Conrad seem to be suggesting about early twentieth-century London society in his novel The Secret Agent?
Answer: Conrad suggests that all classes of society are corrupt.

Pitfalls:
Choosing too many ideas.
Choosing an idea without any support.

Now that you're familiar with the story or novel and have developed a thesis statement, you're ready to choose the evidence you'll use to support your thesis. There are a lot of good ways to do this, but all of them depend on a strong thesis for their direction.

For example:
Here's a student's thesis about Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.

In his novel, The Secret Agent, Conrad uses beast and cannibal imagery to describe the characters and their relationships to each other. This pattern of images suggests that Conrad saw corruption in every level of early twentieth-century London society.

This thesis focuses on the idea of social corruption and the device of imagery. To support this thesis, you would need to find images of beasts and cannibalism within the text.

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