Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Formula for Making a Thesis Statement

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook her frustrations of students writing their thesis statements incorrectly. I have seen students struggle with this in every English Composition class I've taught. Eventually, with the help of a really great Internet post (that I am no longer able to find) I was able to come up with what I call a "Mathematical Formula" for composing a thesis statement.

The definitions and examples are from the Internet sample that I found years ago. Basically, I am not able to cite my source on this since I am unable to provide the link. (I suppose this is a great example of Plagiarism!)

Here is how I break down the lesson:

There are 3 elements of a thesis statement

1. Qualification
2. Why your thesis is valid
3. Your exact position


1. Your Topic: What is the general category your essay is about. (For this example we will use School.)

2.  Your Position: What is the one thing about your topic that you believe to be TRUE? If you don't have a specific opinion yet, then map out your topic. (This example: Schools have too many people in them.)

3.  The Qualification: 
     A. Is what you say always true?
     B. Are there exceptions?
     C. Are there good reasons your position will have a downside?
     D. What reasons would your position have any problems and can you admit them up front?
     (Example: Although schools of over a thousand students have flourished in America......")

4.  The Reason: Why do you think your position is correct in spite of your qualification? What is the good to be gained by your position? (Example: Small school populations lend themselves to building a good community of learners.)

5.  Put them together:
     Use this order - Qualification + Reason + Position  
     3+4+2 = Thesis
     (Example - Although schools of over a thousand students have flourished in America, small school populations lend themselves to building a good community of learners, and therefore we should consider limiting school populations to a hundred.) 

I take my time with this assignment, using an entire class to explain it and work with examples from students.  I have students take turns at the board using ridiculous and funny examples. I hope this helps....and of course, if anyone finds the original link, I would love to give them the credit for this work!!!


  1. I LOVE this! I also love that you used the label "plagiarism" for this entry, because as we learned back at UA, if a student has to pre-write in stages inside and outside of class, s/he is less likely to rip off an entire paper from or

  2. An essay can do this in many different ways such as exploring a topic in depth, construct a clear and strong argument. A persuasive essay on the purpose and structure of essays will be written from scratch, so you do not have to worry about its originality.

    Thesis Help

  3. This sounds like it only works for a persuasive essay though. What if it was an informative essay that used personal opinions, and didn't have an opposing argument?

  4. Good share, you topic is very great and useful for us…thank you. I just like the approach you took with this subject. It isn’t every day that you discover something so concise and enlightening.