What is a Thesis?

By the time we become college students, we have learned the basic tenets of how to construct a thesis. Although we have learned what it means to develop a thesis, there are conflicting views about what a thesis really is. A thesis is an argument. An argument is a thesis. A thesis is a claim, what you believe. A thesis is the subject of your essay. A thesis is an unproved statement, a statement that needs to be proved within the body paragraphs of an essay. A thesis should be this.  A thesis should be that. When students ask questions, they get some of the following responses from their teachers:

“You know what it is.  Everyone knows what a thesis is.”

“This is the way my professor did it.  This is the way you will do it.”

“It’s tradition.”

These responses have served teachers well. As a result, teachers have undoubtedly left their students more confused than when they first entered the classroom.  Our main point is teachers today don’t teach. Instead, they present. They use these responses as excuses for not learning how to teach analysis.

In essence, many teachers can teach you how to summarize, but only a few can teach you how to analyze. For example, think about the structure of the essay. There is an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. This is the basic structure. We learned the famous five-paragraph structure in secondary school. Below is a brief view of this structure.

Introduction Paragraph: In the introduction paragraph you introduce the material you will discuss in the body paragraphs. You introduce your thesis. You introduce the method by which you will use to accomplish your task. You mainly summarize.

Body Paragraphs: In the body paragraphs, you develop topic sentences. You support these topic sentences with supporting data, evidence, statistics, and appropriate quotes.  You offer explanations mainly in the form of summaries. You summarize.

Conclusion:  In the conclusion paragraph you conclude the material that you have discussed in the body paragraphs. Sometimes you may add a “further implications” section, but mainly you summarize.

Notice that in each of the sections of your essay, you mainly summarize. You are only supposed to summarize in the introduction and the conclusion paragraphs. However, you are responsible for analyzing in the body paragraphs.

In other words, it is your obligation, not your instructor’s to provide an analysis of the author’s work within the body paragraphs of your essay. The thesis you have developed places this kind of obligation on you. Your thesis is one provision of your contract with the reader.

With this in mind, as you journey through the tasks and case studies that fall under the “Analysis” comment, remember your preconceived ideas about writing and developing an analysis. Begin to challenge them so you can receive a new understanding about these concepts.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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