Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

The Hired Girl

Laura Amy Schlitz

Thesis Statements: Make your essay irresistible

Thesis Statements: Make your essay irresistible

note-1aA perfect thesis statement is like chocolate.

Or it should be. Yes, like chocolate: Irresistible. Something that leaves people wanting more. Something they can't put down until they've finished it off.

Something that leaves your English teacher unable to resist the urge to give you an A+.

Are your thesis statements irresistible? You'll know how to write an irresistible thesis by the time you've finished with these five steps to essay bliss.

Step 1: Understand the purpose of a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is like a map for your reader. It tells him or her where your essay is going and sets out the ideas you’ll be developing and explaining.

You might also think of the thesis as a spoiler: Your thesis statement gives away your main point right at the beginning of your essay. That’s OK, though, because you still have to prove that point with some worthwhile examples.

note-2-vidStep 2: Decide what your thesis statement will prove.

To put it another way: Decide what you want your essay to be about.

For example:

If your your essay assignment is open-ended—in other words, if  the only direction you have is to write a four-page essay on Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck—then your thesis statement can be about anything. Keep in mind these two general rules when choosing your point of focus:

 Got a minute? Check out 60second Recap's video guide to The Thesis Statement 

General Rule #1

Pick a topic that you’re interested in or passionate about.

Remember: You’re going to have to spend four pages on this. It might as well be something that keeps your interest, and that you might even have fun writing about.

General Rule #2

note-2AAPick something that you can support with examples from the book.

For example, you wouldn’t want to write a paper that argues that Lennie from Of Mice and Men is a vampire, because you’d have a hard time finding passages from the story that will help you prove that point. Think of this step as making it easy on yourself. If you can’t readily find supporting examples, you might want to think about choosing another topic.

If your essay assignment is specific—in other words, if your teacher has told you that she wants you to write about Steinbeck’s representation of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men, then your thesis statement should address this topic in some way.

General Rule #1 and General Rule #2 still apply. So answer the teacher’s question with a thesis statement that you’re interested in proving. And then make sure you can actually prove that thesis statement with relevant examples.

notE-3AStep 3: Keep it simple, keep it focused.

Your thesis statement is about one point, and one point only. You are not trying to make three arguments. You are not trying to prove everything there is to prove about your topic. You are trying to prove one thing, and one thing only. Your job: To make your (one!) point, and to make it well.

No, not "Of Mouse and Man"...

No, that would be "Of Mouse and Man"...

Let’s look at an example.

Say you’re writing about Steinbeck’s representation of the American Dream in Of Mice and Men. Here’s a perfectly valid thesis statement:

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck makes the case that the American Dream is for fools.

Yes, it’s simple. But you still have to prove your point. And every paragraph that comes after this thesis statement needs to do just that. It needs to show how Steinbeck makes you believe that the American Dream is for fools by using relevant examples. And it should start with your smallest or most tepid example and build to your most explosive. The point is, by the time your reader gets to the end of the paper, he or she should be unable to deny that: In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck makes the case that the American Dream is for fools.

notE-4aStep 4: Keep it simple, keep it focused, but be specific.

To reiterate: Your thesis statement is about one point, and one point only. But it’s OK to bring specificity to it with a few details.

For example: Same topic, same thesis statement, except:

In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses the characters of Crooks, Lennie, and George to make the case that the American Dream is for fools.

Again, since the thesis statement is a map or spoiler for your reader, specificity can be helpful. With this thesis statement, your reader not only knows what you’re going to prove in your paper, but how you’re going to prove it.

note-5aStep 5: Re-write your thesis statement if necessary.

Really. When you get to the end of your paper, ask yourself if you’ve actually proved what you said you were going to prove in your thesis statement. If you have: great! You’re done! If you haven’t, you need to do one of two things:

1. You need to revise your examples to make sure you are proving your thesis statement. Or,
2. You need to rewrite your thesis statement to reflect what you ended up proving, and therefore, what your paper is actually about.

wrapperThere is no shame in rewriting a thesis statement. Sometimes, you discover something in the writing process that helps sharpen your initial idea—and even improve it.

So go ahead. Indulge. Rewrite that thesis statement to reflect the new focus of your paper. It'll make your thesis statement irresistible. We can already picture your teacher going weak in the knees.

Check out 60second Recap's eight-video mini-series, "Write the greatest essay ever! (Or just an essay that won't put your teacher to sleep)" in our Recap Resource section

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