constructing a thesis

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Constructing a thesis

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Figure 3. The first key difference is the thesis. Rather than simply positing a number of reasons to think that something is true, it puts forward an arguable statement: one with which a reasonable person might disagree. An arguable thesis gives the paper purpose. It surprises readers and draws them in. Why would they come to that conclusion? The body paragraphs, then, build on one another to carry out this ambitious argument. In the classic five-paragraph theme Figure 3.

In the more organic structure Figure 3. The last key difference is seen in the conclusion. What do you, author, make of it? Why does it matter? The substantial time you spent mastering the five-paragraph form in Figure 3.

Your professors will not be impressed by obvious theses, loosely related body paragraphs, and repetitive conclusions. They want you to undertake an ambitious independent analysis, one that will yield a thesis that is somewhat surprising and challenging to explain. You have no doubt been drilled on the need for a thesis statement and its proper location at the end of the introduction. And you also know that all of the key points of the paper should clearly support the central driving thesis.

Indeed, the whole model of the five-paragraph theme hinges on a clearly stated and consistent thesis. However, some students are surprised—and dismayed—when some of their early college papers are criticized for not having a good thesis. So, what makes a good thesis in college? Putting your claims in their broader context makes them more interesting to your reader and more impressive to your professors who, after all, assign topics that they think have enduring significance.

Finding that significance for yourself makes the most of both your paper and your learning. How do you produce a good, strong thesis? Many instructors and writers find useful a metaphor based on this passage by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. One-story theses state inarguable facts. Two-story theses bring in an arguable interpretive or analytical point.

Three-story theses nest that point within its larger, compelling implications. The biggest benefit of the three-story metaphor is that it describes a process for building a thesis. To build the first story, you first have to get familiar with the complex, relevant facts surrounding the problem or question. You have to be able to describe the situation thoroughly and accurately. Then, with that first story built, you can layer on the second story by formulating the insightful, arguable point that animates the analysis.

With that specified, you can frame up the third story by articulating why the point you make matters beyond its particular topic or case. In fact, I look forward to being asked on a paper to create a thesis. For example, imagine you have been assigned a paper about the impact of online learning in higher education.

You would first construct an account of the origins and multiple forms of online learning and assess research findings about its use and effectiveness. To outline this example:. A two-story thesis is usually considered competent, though some two-story theses are more intriguing and ambitious than others.

A thoughtfully crafted and well informed three-story thesis puts the author on a smooth path toward an excellent paper. The concept of a three-story thesis framework was the most helpful piece of information I gained from the writing component of DCC You can expect similar results if you dig deeper to form three-story theses. More importantly, doing so will make the actual writing of your paper more straightforward as well. Arguing something specific makes the structure of your paper much easier to design.

The three-story thesis is a beautiful thing. For one, it gives a paper authentic momentum. The body paragraphs build on one another, moving through each step of the logical chain. Each paragraph leads inevitably to the next, making the transitions from paragraph to paragraph feel wholly natural. The conclusion, instead of being a mirror-image paraphrase of the introduction, builds out the third story by explaining the broader implications of the argument.

It offers new insight without departing from the flow of the analysis. I should note here that a paper with this kind of momentum often reads like it was knocked out in one inspired sitting. But in reality, just like accomplished athletes and artists, masterful writers make the difficult thing look easy. They write in order to figure out what they want to say. Experienced writers develop theses in dialog with the body of the essay. An initial characterization of the problem leads to a tentative thesis, and then drafting the body of the paper reveals thorny contradictions or critical areas of ambiguity, prompting the writer to revisit or expand the body of evidence and then refine the thesis based on that fresh look.

The revised thesis may require that body paragraphs be reordered and reshaped to fit the emerging three-story thesis. Throughout the process, the thesis serves as an anchor point while the author wades through the morass of facts and ideas. The dialogue between thesis and body continues until the author is satisfied or the due date arrives, whatever comes first. Novice writers, in contrast, usually oversimplify the writing process. They formulate some first-impression thesis, produce a reasonably organized outline, and then flesh it out with text, never taking the time to reflect or truly revise their work.

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. Steps in Constructing a Thesis.

First, analyze your primary sources. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis.

Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis. Once you have a working thesis, write it down. There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration.

And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely. You probably will not be able to write out a final-draft version of your thesis the first time you try, but you'll get yourself on the right track by writing down what you have. 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 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. Anticipate the counterarguments. 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 counterargument.

If yours doesn't, then it's not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument. This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. 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 counterargument, you'll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.

Some Caveats and Some Examples. A thesis is never a question.

Think of yourself as a member of a jury, listening to a lawyer who is presenting an opening argument.

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