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Procon Essay Thesis Statement

Writers Workshop: Writer Resources

Writing Tips: Thesis Statements

Defining the Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement?

Every paper you write should have a main point, a main idea, or central message. The argument(s) you make in your paper should reflect this main idea. The sentence that captures your position on this main idea is what we call a thesis statement.

How long does it need to be?

A thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. It should present the topic of your paper and also make a comment about your position in relation to the topic. Your thesis statement should tell your reader what the paper is about and also help guide your writing and keep your argument focused.

Questions to Ask When Formulating Your Thesis

Where is your thesis statement?

You should provide a thesis early in your essay -- in the introduction, or in longer essays in the second paragraph -- in order to establish your position and give your reader a sense of direction.

Tip: In order to write a successful thesis statement:

  • Avoid burying a great thesis statement in the middle of a paragraph or late in the paper.
  • Be as clear and as specific as possible; avoid vague words.
  • Indicate the point of your paper but avoid sentence structures like, “The point of my paper is…”

Is your thesis statement specific?

Your thesis statement should be as clear and specific as possible. Normally you will continue to refine your thesis as you revise your argument(s), so your thesis will evolve and gain definition as you obtain a better sense of where your argument is taking you.

Tip: Check your thesis:

  • Are there two large statements connected loosely by a coordinating conjunction (i.e. "and," "but," "or," "for," "nor," "so," "yet")?
  • Would a subordinating conjunction help (i.e. "through," "although," "because," "since") to signal a relationship between the two sentences?
  • Or do the two statements imply a fuzzy unfocused thesis?
  • If so, settle on one single focus and then proceed with further development.

Is your thesis statement too general?

Your thesis should be limited to what can be accomplished in the specified number of pages. Shape your topic so that you can get straight to the "meat" of it. Being specific in your paper will be much more successful than writing about general things that do not say much. Don't settle for three pages of just skimming the surface.

The opposite of a focused, narrow, crisp thesis is a broad, sprawling, superficial thesis. Compare this original thesis (too general) with three possible revisions (more focused, each presenting a different approach to the same topic):

  • Original thesis:
    • There are serious objections to today's horror movies.
  • Revised theses:
    • Because modern cinematic techniques have allowed filmmakers to get more graphic, horror flicks have desensitized young American viewers to violence.
    • The pornographic violence in "bloodbath" slasher movies degrades both men and women.
    • Today's slasher movies fail to deliver the emotional catharsis that 1930s horror films did.

Is your thesis statement clear?

Your thesis statement is no exception to your writing: it needs to be as clear as possible. By being as clear as possible in your thesis statement, you will make sure that your reader understands exactly what you mean.

Tip: In order to be as clear as possible in your writing:

  • Unless you're writing a technical report, avoid technical language. Always avoid jargon, unless you are confident your audience will be familiar with it.
  • Avoid vague words such as "interesting,” "negative," "exciting,” "unusual," and "difficult."
  • Avoid abstract words such as "society," “values,” or “culture.”

These words tell the reader next to nothing if you do not carefully explain what you mean by them. Never assume that the meaning of a sentence is obvious. Check to see if you need to define your terms (”socialism," "conventional," "commercialism," "society"), and then decide on the most appropriate place to do so. Do not assume, for example, that you have the same understanding of what “society” means as your reader. To avoid misunderstandings, be as specific as possible.

Compare the original thesis (not specific and clear enough) with the revised version (much more specific and clear):

  • Original thesis: Although the timber wolf is a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated. [if it's so timid and gentle -- why is it being exterminated?]
  • Revised thesis: Although the timber wolf is actually a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated because people wrongfully believe it to be a fierce and cold-blooded killer.

Does your thesis include a comment about your position on the issue at hand?

The thesis statement should do more than merely announce the topic; it must reveal what position you will take in relation to that topic, how you plan to analyze/evaluate the subject or the issue. In short, instead of merely stating a general fact or resorting to a simplistic pro/con statement, you must decide what it is you have to say.


  • Avoid merely announcing the topic; your original and specific "angle" should be clear. In this way you will tell your reader why your take on the issue matters.
    • Original thesis: In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
    • Revised thesis: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.
  • Avoid making universal or pro/con judgments that oversimplify complex issues.
    • Original thesis: We must save the whales.
    • Revised thesis: Because our planet's health may depend upon biological diversity, we should save the whales.
  • When you make a (subjective) judgment call, specify and justify your reasoning. “Just because” is not a good reason for an argument.
    • Original thesis: Socialism is the best form of government for Kenya.
    • Revised thesis: If the government takes over industry in Kenya, the industry will become more efficient.
  • Avoid merely reporting a fact. Say more than what is already proven fact. Go further with your ideas. Otherwise… why would your point matter?
    • Original thesis: Hoover's administration was rocked by scandal.
    • Revised thesis: The many scandals of Hoover's administration revealed basic problems with the Republican Party's nominating process.

Do not expect to come up with a fully formulated thesis statement before you have finished writing the paper. The thesis will inevitably change as you revise and develop your ideas—and that is ok! Start with a tentative thesis and revise as your paper develops.

Is your thesis statement original?

Avoid, avoid, avoid generic arguments and formula statements. They work well to get a rough draft started, but will easily bore a reader. Keep revising until the thesis reflects your real ideas.

Tip: The point you make in the paper should matter:

  • Be prepared to answer “So what?” about your thesis statement.
  • Be prepared to explain why the point you are making is worthy of a paper. Why should the reader read it?

Compare the following:

  • Original thesis:
    • There are advantages and disadvantages to using statistics. (a fill-in-the-blank formula)
  • Revised theses:
    • Careful manipulation of data allows a researcher to use statistics to support any claim she desires.
    • In order to ensure accurate reporting, journalists must understand the real significance of the statistics they report.
    • Because advertisers consciously and unconsciously manipulate data, every consumer should learn how to evaluate statistical claims.

Avoid formula and generic words. Search for concrete subjects and active verbs, revising as many "to be" verbs as possible. A few suggestions below show how specific word choice sharpens and clarifies your meaning.

  • Original: “Society is...” [who is this "society" and what exactly is it doing?]
  • Revised: "Men and women will learn how to...," "writers can generate...," "television addicts may chip away at...," "American educators must decide...," "taxpayers and legislators alike can help fix..."
  • Original: "the media"
  • Revised: "the new breed of television reporters," "advertisers," "hard-hitting print journalists," "horror flicks," "TV movies of the week," "sitcoms," "national public radio," "Top 40 bop-til-you-drop..."
  • Original: "is, are, was, to be" or "to do, to make"
  • Revised: any great action verb you can concoct: "to generate," "to demolish," "to batter," "to revolt," "to discover," "to flip," "to signify," "to endure..."

Use your own words in thesis statements; avoid quoting. Crafting an original, insightful, and memorable thesis makes a distinct impression on a reader. You will lose credibility as a writer if you become only a mouthpiece or a copyist; you will gain credibility by grabbing the reader with your own ideas and words.

A well-crafted thesis statement reflects well-crafted ideas. It signals a writer who has intelligence, commitment, and enthusiasm.

Presentation on theme: "ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY Thesis Statement, Introduction, and Pro-Con Chart."— Presentation transcript:

1 ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY Thesis Statement, Introduction, and Pro-Con Chart

2 The Argumentative Thesis Statement The thesis statement should define the scope of the argument (in other words, the issue under discussion should be obvious) and make an assertion that is open to debate.

3 Sample Argumentative Thesis Statements Something should be done on media bias. This is not an effective argumentative thesis statement because it is too vague; it does not clearly state the writer’s ideas. What is the “something”? Who should do it?

4 Sample Argumentative Thesis Statements CNN is the best TV channel. This is not an effective thesis statement. This sentence is not debatable as it involves personal choice or preference. You can’t argue with something that’s a personal preference…

5 Sample Argumentative Thesis Statements There are 3 types of media censorship. This is not an argumentative thesis statement as the writer aims at listing (in this case, the types of media censorship). Therefore, the writer’s purpose of writing this essay is not to persuade the reader but to give information. Also, the ways of media censorship are not open to debate, thus, not suitable for argumentation.

6 Sample Argumentative Thesis Statements Newspapers should not identify people by color, race, or religious faith in any way. This is a simple, yet an effective argumentative thesis statement. Firstly, the topic is open to discussion. There may be people who would oppose this argument claiming that this kind of restriction would damage the objectivity of the news. Therefore, the writer holds a clear stance. Above all, it is obvious that the writer’s aim is not simply to inform the readers but to convince them to take his / her side in the debate.

7 THE EXPOSITORY THESIS STATEMENT VS. THE ARGUMENTATIVE THESIS STATEMENT Both expository (informational) and argumentative thesis statements express an opinion about a topic. However, an expository thesis statement does not include a sharp opinion because it’s not on a debatable topic. It’s meant to inform, expand, list, show evidence of, etc., but it’s not to persuade on one side or another. For example: “Discuss the incidents of irony in a text.” You’re not going to spend that paper arguing that irony doesn’t exist… Your opinion is that it does and here’s why/how. An argumentative thesis statement, on the other hand, has a clear stance on a debatable topic, fiercely argues that the writer’s opinion is correct and reflects this subjectivity both in its style and tone.

8 More Examples to Show the Difference Corporations should not be able to own news networks. While not comprehensive, this thesis statement is acceptable as an argumentative thesis statement because the writer clearly takes a stand in the debate about whether the media should manipulate the news or not. Here, the writer intends to influence the mind of readers rather than to merely inform them.

9 More Examples to Show the Difference Media literacy is essential because it helps students formulate informed viewpoints. This thesis statement is an expository thesis statement although the sentence includes a strong word, “essential”. The use of this word does not make the thesis statement an argumentative one because the aim here is to inform the reader about how media literacy helps with informed viewpoints. The reader expects to read a list of the reasons without being forced to take a side because it’s not a question of if media literacy is helpful, it’s about how. In other words, it’s not a debatable topic.

10 More Examples to Show the Difference It is essential that media literacy be taught in schools so students are able to identify persuasive strategies, be informed consumers and learn to differentiate between information and entertainment. This is clearly an argumentative thesis statement. Firstly, the topic is debatable. Secondly, the writer is clear about where in the discussion he stands. Finally, the purpose of the writer is to affect the readers’ ideas on this issue.

11 Time to Practice! 1. ________ Censorship is the best way to control the minds of citizens. 2. ________ Newspapers should not identify victims of sexual assault without their consent. 3. ________ Parents often control their children’s TV viewing habits in three ways. 4. ________ In war journalism, it is never appropriate to show on the news how a country’s soldiers suffer in combat. 5. ________ The only way to receive high ratings for a TV series is to cast attractive actors or actresses. ARG. INF. ARG.

12 Time to Practice! 6. ________ There are common practices that advertisers use to sell products. 7. ________ Politicians use various strategies to influence the media during their election campaigns. 8. ________ There are two main ways of manipulation in print media; false balancing, which means focusing on only one side of an argument; and slighting of the content, which aims at giving more emphasis to style than the actual substance. INF.

13 On the Whole On the whole, while writing argumentative thesis statements, be sure to have a debatable topic, state your claim and stance as strongly as possible and make the reader understand that your aim is to persuade rather than only to inform.

14 Introduction Outline: -Choose a hook strategy to grab your reader’s attention: interesting fact, scenario, quote, definition, etc. Make sure you expand/explain. -Important background information, facts, expert testimony, etc. that establishes the context of your paper = the issue under discussion and the stance you’re going to take on it. -Thesis statement with a clear, powerful stance *Needs to be much more thorough/in-depth than typical intro *Using quotes/citing sources is encouraged

15 Sample Essay - Introduction ADVERTISING MANIPULATES VIEWERS In the simplest form, advertising is defined as a kind of message or message transmission that is designed to promote a product, service, or an idea. Today this basic marketing strategy has become a natural part of our daily life. Considering that the $ 20 billion spent on advertisements in 1979 had drastically risen to $120 billion in 1999 and that in the course of a lifetime, one will see about three years worth of advertisements on television and approximately 3,000 ads per day, a person may easily acknowledge the impact of advertising (DiChiara, 2008, para. 3). Nonetheless, as Giselle Touzard (2008) explains, advertising, which originally intended to be a source of information for people on the availability of products, “has developed into an industry that shapes people’s identity” (para. 2). Coming in various forms – in print, audio, or visual form – advertisements not only bombard audience with their messages, but they also sell the ideas of who we are and what we should do or be. Thus, advertising is harmful to society due to the manipulative strategies employed by business and the adverse impact advertisement images have on gender roles and self image. Thesis statement authority’s opinion definition facts

16 STAGE 2: GENERATING IDEAS After formulating your argumentative thesis statement, you need to brainstorm a variety of supporting ideas, counter arguments and ways to refute these opposing views. Enter = your Pro/Con Chart (see directions)

17 Pro-Con Chart Directions:  Neatly hand-written or typed, with two, clearly delineated columns.  Each side must have a title. Not just PRO or CON. Clearly articulate exactly what each side believes/wants/argues and write at the top of each column.  Generate min. 8 arguments/reasons for each side. Must be written in complete, detailed phrases.

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