An example thesis is one that is distributed so that students unfamiliar with scholarly projects can become comfortable with some of the conventions of a thesis. A thesis, which is also referred to as the critical assertion, is a sentence or group of sentences in which a writer asserts his or her main point or argument. In other words, a thesis states in very specific language what a composition is going to be about. The main argument is one of the most important aspects of any text; therefore, students must learn how to write them, and how to write them well. Studying example theses is one of the best ways to learn how to do this.
Example theses are often distributed by instructors so that students are aware of the type of project the instructor is seeking. Example theses are also frequently available from educational resource organizations and web sites. In addition to these types of examples, learners can also find a document in every academic text they read, as every academic composition will feature a main argument. Whatever the source, there are two specific elements of the example thesis that a student should look for.
First, the student should consider how understandable the main argument is. Is it clear what the author's main point or argument is? Is that main point or argument general or specific? A good argument is precise and direct. This means that rather than saying "Hamlet is a coward," which is a very general claim, the document should read, "In his soliloquies, Hamlet displays a fear of avenging his father's death that is based in a fear of divine retribution." This thesis explains specifically what the first thesis implied with the word "coward," and does so in a direct and precise way.
Second, the student should analyze the example thesis to determine if the point is interesting or compelling. A good argument will address an idea or issue that is complex and meaningful. Notice how an argument that asserts that "The world is suffering from too much pollution" is much less interesting than an argument that asserts that "The primary cause of planetary demise is global warming, a phenomenon that is directly related to human behaviors." The second thesis engages a reader by making the issue at hand (global warming) related to personal responsibility. Furthermore, by specifically identifying an issue (global warming) rather than pointing to a general concept (pollution), the writer indicates exactly what is going to be discussed. Specificity is always more engaging than generality.
When examining an argument, learners should determine how clear, precise, and compelling the example is, and attempt to write their own theses in a similar way. It may be helpful for students to write a detailed argument of their own based on a similar idea or structure as an example thesis in order to gain practice in how to write good theses. However, they should keep in mind that example theses are intended to be used as models, not templates. This means that the structure and style of an example thesis is not presenting the way to write theses, but one way. Theses must be clear, specific, and compelling, but there is not an exact model that a critical assertion must take. In order to gain true benefit from the study of example theses, students must therefore study a variety of them to see how different writers approach the thesis in different ways.
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