Writing a THESIS and Developing an Outline:


  1. The THESIS
    1. What is it?  A one sentence statement of the main point of your essay.

                                                              i.      Requirements:

1.      ONE sentence, not two or three.

2.      It states the course reading(s) you focus on.

3.      It MAKES A POINT with clear reference to the assigned topic you are writing on.

    1. Resource:  Consult the Scott-Foresman Handbook (ENG 105 book), chap. 3a, especially p. 28 checklist.  à Does your proposed thesis sentence satisfy those requirements?
    2. Thesis DON’T’s:  No “laundry list” sentences, such as “In this essay I will X, Y, and Z.” Such sentences usually serve to string together unconnected or undigested ideas.
    3. Thesis DO’s: BE SPECIFIC!  Aim for a clear, punchy, even aggressive statement in concise words. 




      1.  Lousy thesis sentence: “In this essay I will explain how Aristophanes uses 


à A “laundry list” basically.  No clear point or claim is asserted.  No mention of 

     a core text that centers the essay.

  1. OK but basically mediocre (C level or below) thesis sentence:  “Obscenity in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata can be divided into X, Y, and Z.”

à Another “laundry list,” although more sophisticated in that is suggests classification as the basic pattern of the essay.  Good in that it does suggest a clear division of the discussion.  Good in that it names a text to serve as the basis of discussion. Not so good in that it does not promise to MAKE A POINT about why or how “obscenity” is used.

  1. Good thesis sentence:  “In Lysistrata, Aristophanes uses various kinds of obscenity to undermine the official reasons for the war.”

à Good in that it states a text.  Good in that it PROMISES a classification (“various kinds”) but doesn’t X, Y, Z it.  Good in that it suggests that detailed analysis is yoked to a PURPOSE, namely, HOW obscenity undermines “official reasons for the war.”


Tests of a good thesis:


1.      Does it satisfy requirements in the SF Handbook chapter cited above?  If you don’t have this book, borrow it.

2.      Can you read your proposed thesis SENTENCE and imagine what kinds of questions a reader would want answers to?

a.      A good thesis ought to be regarded as a promise to the reader.  It helps if you imagine the reader as not ME, but as somebody else in the class.  In other words, if you think that you are trying to explain your topic to somebody LIKE YOURSELF, that may help you imagine QUESTIONS somebody like yourself might ask.  So . . . if you pitch your thinking to somebody in the class, chances are you will write an essay that makes this old fart (me!) happy too. IN ALL STAGES OF THE WRITING PROCESS, THINK OF THE READER.