Through the thesis, you lay the foundation for the paper. The introduction merely informs the reader about the general nature of the subject matter; but the thesis helps the reader make the transition from general to specific.
It is not enough just to lay a foundation. In other words, to say that you will discuss a certain topic within your paper doesn’t outline your thesis, your view about the subject matter. The thesis is always a reflection of your position, where you stand. If you believe in pro-choice and are against pro-life, your thesis must reflect this.
Remember that constructing a thesis and constructing an argument are two different activities. When you construct a thesis, the reader knows immediately your position–your attitudes, beliefs, opinions, and views. However, when you construct an argument, you demonstrate to the reader that you know how to outline the different viewpoints concerning, let’s say, the abortion issue; and you demonstrate to the reader an ability “not” to take a position against one for the other. Instead, you create an argument by determining if one author’s argument is more credible than the other and vice versa. These are the differences between a thesis and an argument.
The thesis for an essay and the claim for an argument set the tone for each representation of critical thinking. However, without a firm foundation for your paper, the reader will not know where to go, what to really look for, and how to receive the information. In every context of writing, your goal should be to direct the reader.
Below is a sample excerpt where the student fails to define how she will use her thesis to usher the reader. Let’s read the excerpt.
Racism, by definition, is associated with discrimination based on race; it is the belief that some races are inherently superior to others. As is the case with Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.” De Quincey approaches the reader from a first-person point of view. He makes several racial and ethnic remarks about the Malay who knocks at his door. Some of the remarks are biased and some are based on De Quincey’s personal feelings of the Malay. Both views will be discussed.
The student writer doesn’t present a clear and definable thesis. In other words, the student doesn’t define her purpose for the essay she writes. In addition, the student applies contemporary ideals to a dated text.
1) How is “racism” associated with “race”?
2) Is not “racism” an extension of “race”?
3) What is your stance?
4) What exactly will you do?
5) By what method will you discuss De Quincey’s views?
6) Aren’t De Quincey’s remarks already biased and personal at the same time?
7) What else is there to discuss about De Quincey?
Always maintain the integrity of the text. Stay within the boundaries of the context. This will help you develop an appropriate thesis.
For an extended explanation, see also “Ambiguous (Thesis and Author’s Ideas).”
Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved