Building A Thesis...From The Ground Up
[Condensed by Angela Jeng, (Student Learning Center, UC Berkeley, 2008)
from the handout "Building a Thesis...From the Ground Up," developed by the UC Berkeley Department of English]
Relates 2nd story thesis to the bigger picture, explains its significance—why it is important—and sets it in a new context. Open out to a wider view. It is the answer you get when you ask of a 2-story thesis, “So what?” A person reading such a thesis thinks, “I see why this argument matters.” However, be careful not to make a bigger claim than you are able to substantiate.
Interprets; gives point of view on; and/or adds controversy to the facts of the first story. It takes a position on the facts which is not obvious, a position that a reasonable person could disagree with. (Arguable) A person reading such a thesis thinks, “That’s an interesting point of view. Now prove it to me.” This does not mean the thesis has to be absurd; rather, it means to take one position out of a number of possible positions.
Describes the topic; gives the facts; makes an observation. Observations are non-controversial, i.e., no reasonable person would disagree with them. A person reading such a thesis thinks, “Yes, this is true.”
1st story: Conrad uses imagery of light and dark in Heart of Darkness.
2nd story: Conrad uses imagery of light and dark in Heart of Darkness to represent the contrast between civilization and savagery.
3rd story: Conrad uses imagery of light and dark in Heart of Darkness to represent the contrast between civilization and savagery, ultimately suggesting that civilization and savagery are less matters of the state of a culture than the state of an individual’s mind.
[Adapted by Angela Jeng, (Student Learning Center, UC Berkeley, 2008)
from the handout “Thesis Activity (Fairytale Thesis),” developed by Luisa Giulianetti,
Student Learning Center, UC Berkeley, 1998]
- Not a self-evident statement or well-known fact?
- Gives readers an idea of the general direction of my paper and the evidence I will provide?
- A complete sentence, not a fragment?
- Not worded as a question?
- Neither too broad nor too specific?
- Does not contain elements which are extraneous or irrelevant to my paper?
- Avoids phrases like I think and in my opinion, which weaken my argument?
- Gives me something to prove, back up, and develop?
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