A fantastic thesis statement from JG

Assignment: The characters in fables, folktales, and/or fairy tales are “true to life.” Agree or disagree. (SIMPLE ARGUMENT)

Although characters in folktales and fairytales have familiar human traits and settings, they are not true to life in that the characters and settings are fanciful inventions designed by the author to entertain us, something that an ordinary human character or setting cannot do.

A possible X-1-2-3 set:

X Although characters in folktales and fairytales have familiar human traits and settings, they are not true to life in that the characters and settings are fanciful inventions designed by the author to entertain us, something that an ordinary human character or setting cannot do.
1 Characters in folktales and fairytales have familiar human traits and settings.
2 The characters are not true to life in that the characters and settings are fanciful inventions.
3  The characters are designed by the author to entertain us, something that an ordinary human character or setting cannot do.

S.R.’s excellent question

Today in class, S.R. asked the question that lies at the heart of nearly all college writing:

How is a thesis statement an “argument”? If your thesis statement is supposed to be true, then it’s not just your opinion.

In asking this question, S.R. honed in on the essential difference between college writing and “opinion” or “personal” writing. (Yay!)

In college we write argument (in most subjects) — but “argument” in the academic sense does not mean “personal opinion.”

“Argument” means something more like “informed opinion,” “educated opinion,”assertion,” or “claim.”

“Argument” means:

  • You believe that your thesis statement is true.*
  • You know that an intelligent person could disagree.
  • You don’t just believe that your thesis is true; you can present evidence and logic to show that it is true, and that is what you do in a college paper.

In short, an argument is a claim or assertion you can support with logic and evidence.

* In an English paper, you might say that your thesis is a “good interpretation” (or avalid interpretation”) as opposed to “true.” The word “true” tends to imply that there is only one ‘right answer,’ which isn’t the case when you are analyzing literary works.

Wendy Ward on the topic sentence and the thesis statement

Below is a terrifically succinct statement, written by a professor at Miami-Dade Community College, of the approach English 109 takes to topic sentences and thesis statements:

The Topic Sentence and the Thesis Statement

Both involve main ideas.

A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph.

A thesis statement contains the main idea of an essay.

In this class, your thesis statement will be the last sentence in your introductory paragraph (your first paragraph). It will contain a plan of development, the two* points you want to advance in the body/supporting paragraphs. These points will be mentioned in the same order that you will mention them in the body paragraphs and will have a structure that follows parallelism.

Each body/supporting paragraph will contain a topic sentence, which will be the first sentence in each paragraph.

____________

*In your English classes at Mercy, you will need 3 points, not 2.

The Topic Sentence and the Thesis Statement
Wendy Ward

Speaking as a writer, I can tell you there is a reason so many beginning composition courses teach this form.

The reason: this very simple, highly structured form works for your reader.

When you place a 3-part thesis statement at the end of your first paragraph, and a topic sentence at the beginning of each “body paragraph,” you help your reader (me!) stay with you.

The 5-paragraph essay may be especially useful for beginners, who have yet to master the skill of writing clear essays on complex topics. However, I love the form myself, and I am no beginner. I  wish someone had taught me how to write a 5-paragraph essay when I was young.


Today, I think of a paper’s thesis and topic-sentence set as its X-1-2-3, after William J. Kerrigan’s terrific book Writing to the Point.

My friend Robyne and I used an X-1-2-3 structure in this article for the River Journal.

The 5-paragraph X-1-2-3 form is infinitely malleable. You can expand it, contract it, stand it on its head or make it do somersaults if you like. Master it, and it will not fail you.


By the way, Professor Ward makes excellent use of parallelism and word repetition to get her point across:

A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph.

A thesis statement contains the main idea of an essay.

AND SEE:
One-to-one help with all reading and writing assignments in all classes
……..at the Writing Center
(914-674-7402)

A terrific 3-part thesis statement

Here is the introductory paragraph in a 5-paragraph English paper by Illinois Valley Community College student Jamie Fast:

In the short story “Miss Brill,” penned by Katherine Mansfield in 1922, a Sunday afternoon is spent with an elderly woman during her weekly ritual of visiting a seaside park. The woman, Miss Brill, enjoys her habitual outing to hear the band play and soak in the atmosphere, but most of all she relishes the chance to sit in on the lives of others by listening and watching. Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” illustrates the old woman’s attempt to alleviate loneliness by creating an alternate reality for herself, yet she is ultimately forced to face the self-deception for what it truly is.

THE THREE PARTS OF HER THESIS STATEMENT:

1. Mansfield’s “Miss Brill” illustrates the old woman’s attempt to alleviate loneliness   2. by creating an alternate reality for herself,   3. yet she is ultimately forced to face the self-deception for what it truly is.

AND AGAIN:

  1.  “Miss Brill” is trying to feel less lonely…
  2.  …by creating an alternate reality for herself,
  3. yet she is ultimately forced to face the self-deception…

The topic sentences used by this student:

  1. Miss Brill’s ritual of visiting the park every Sunday helps her to cope with loneliness.
  2. Miss Brill alters her perception of reality to avoid facing unpleasant aspects of her life.
  3. A series of events leads to Miss Brill’s illusion being shattered and forces her to realize the self-deception.

This student’s paper, along with her instructor’s comments, have been posted here by Randy Rambo, an instructor at Illinois Valley Community College.

This is the most useful exemplar I’ve come across thus far. Wonderful.

Well worth your time to read the story, the paper, and the comments. (To see the comments, click on numbers 1 – 12 inside the text.)

Where does the thesis statement go, part 2

More from Maxine Rodburg:

Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction. A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.
Copyright 1999, Maxine Rodburg and The Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University

Introductions in English papers

From W.W. Norton & Company’s LitWeb:

Your essay’s beginning, or introduction, should draw readers in and prepare them for what’s to come by:

  • articulating the thesis;
  • providing whatever basic information—about the text, the author, and/or the topic—readers will need to follow the argument; and
  • creating interest in the thesis by demonstrating that there is a problem or question that it resolves or answers.

This final task involves showing readers why your thesis isn’t dull or obvious, establishing a specific motive for the essay and its readers. There are numerous possible motives, but writing expert Gordon Harvey has identified three especially common ones:

  1. The truth isn’t what one would expect or what it might appear to be on a first reading.
  2. There’s an interesting wrinkle in the text—a paradox, a contradiction, a tension.
  3. A seemingly tangential or insignificant matter is actually important or interesting.

Beginning: The Introduction

What is a thesis statement?

From Indiana University’s Writing Tutorial Services:

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.

Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?

  • to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
  • to better organize and develop your argument
  • to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument

In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.

How to Write a Thesis Statement