Discovering Ideas

English Composition Spring 2009 Palomar College

Thesis Statements: Some Examples

Keep in mind that your trial thesis statement is just that: a trial, an experiment.  Please do not expect to produce a finished thesis statement the first time or you are bound to be disappointed.  If you read DIH 1.4 carefully, you know that you should expect to revise your thesis statement many times in the course of writing and revising your essay.  If you end up with the same thesis statement for your finished essay that you started with before writing your first draft you are almost certainly doing something wrong.  At this point, all of your thesis statements need revision.  The whole point right now is to try to improve these theses, and hence to improve your essays.  Concentrate on revising it.

Of course, the basic advice for revising your thesis statement is to use the Checklist for Revising Thesis Statements.  So what I do for most of the statements below is to lead you back to the checklist.  

The following are some thesis statements with suggestions for revision.  

Automotive manufacturers purposely causing death for research and  development.

TS 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10.  It's not a sentence, hence not a statement.  And it leaves out most of what will be in the essay.  It expresses a topic, but not the point the writer wants to make.  Is it defensible?  Can the writer support with good evidence that auto manufacturers are purposely causing people to die?  If that were provable, wouldn't they be in court?  "For research and development" is very unclear.  Mainly, we can't tell much about it until it's a sentence.

Space allows us to turn theories into fact (or truth) by breaking the limits that the surface of the Earth imposes.

TS 3, 4, 8.  What limits?  How does space allow us to break them?  This one is in the active voice.  But it would probably be better if the people were the subject rather than the large, general noun "space."  Space doesn't really allow this--space isn't a person.  But if people do such-and-such in space, perhaps that can turn theories into fact.  All theories?  Which ones?  How?

Knowledge as we know it can be a very devastating thing and we should really consider how our actions will change based on this knowledge. If our actions would not change what is the purpose of this knowledge. 

TS 1, 3, 4, 6, 8.  Two sentences, not one.  What knowledge is this about?  "Knowledge as we know it" doesn't help much.  That seems to cover everything we know.  (If we didn't know it, it wouldn't be knowledge, would it?)  How can it be devastating?  

"Can be" is a linking verb.  Never use them in a thesis statement.  As a general rule, avoid using an abstract noun, like "knowledge," as a the subject of your thesis statement.  To make the subject the doer of the action (i.e., to use the active voice), try to make the subject a person, group of people, or agency.  This thesis would be much more manageable if we knew who the writer had in mind.  Be careful about trying to write about everybody, even if your claim is true of everybody.  It will make your task easier if you focus on a single group as an example.

This one is so general and fuzzy, the best way to revise it would be to think of a specific example and try to write a thesis statement about the example.  You need to narrow it way down right away.

Witchcraft is considered a cult by some and a religion by others, what is it really?

TS 1, 6, 8.  This is a question, not a statement.  Is this about thinking or knowing?  Maybe, but it's hard to tell because it's so general.  What's the difference between a cult and a religion?  If the writer has a very clear meaning for both, the terms might work.  But it has to be a very clear idea.

Why is this important?  Another question that you can ask of your thesis, not mentioned in the handbook, is "so what?"  Try to bring to the surface why you believe your topic is important.  We can't tell from this why the writer thinks this is important.  Once we know that, we might be able to suggest more specific ways of revising.

Children of teenage parents deserve the opportunity to be brought up right; therefore parenting classes (i.e., child development) should be made mandatory in the upperclassmen years at the high school level.

TS 3, 4, 6 (the second clause is in the passive voice), 8.

Fairly specific, which is very good.  But it doesn't yet say everything that the writer will need to say in the essay, does it?  How is the "right" way to be brought up?  We see the general point, and I'm sure everyone agrees with it, but stated so generally, it doesn't really make clear what needs to be done for these children.  What will a parenting class do?  How will it lead teenage parents to bring their children up right?

Knowledge is Power and Ignorance is Bliss: Those who do not challenge what they know are the happiest, and most ignorant.

TS 3, 4, 6, 8, 10.  It's a fairly nice sentence.  But it leaves out a lot, doesn't it?  Again, try to avoid using an abstract noun as your subject.  Also avoid cliches (which this one uses) and metaphors (which this one does not use) in your thesis statement.  Try to say exactly what you mean is clear, neutral language.  Using an abstract noun as the subject (knowledge, ignorance) will lead you to use a linking verb, as here, and it will leave a lot out.  It will also invite you to make vast generalizations that may sound good but don't give you any guidance as to what will be in the essay.  Do we have any clear idea  from this what the body of the essay will be about?  Not much.

The first clause, "knowledge is power," doesn't seem to have anything to do with the rest.  As to those who don't challenge what they know being happiest, how could we possibly know this, even if it were true?  You just don't have space in a short essay to support a generalization this vast, even if good evidence for it were available.  Needs to be narrowed way, way down.

While trying to rid homes of bacteria and germs, the use of detergents, cleaning agents and anti-bacterial soaps has increased occurrences of Asthma and weakened the immune system of children.

TS 3, 4.  Lots of good things here.  Notice how specific it is.  It's fairly clear what the essay will be saying.  But there are problems.  The first phrase is really a dangling modifier.  The use isn't trying to rid homes of germs, the people who use the detergents are.  So it would be clearer and more direct if the subject referred to the people who are doing it rather than the action they are taking.  

The big question, I think, is How?  How have detergents and soaps increased asthma?  This will definitely be in the essay, so it ought to be in the thesis.

The Socratic Method provides a means for getting from thinking to knowing.

TS 3, 4.  So what is the means?  How?  We might also wonder what is the Socratic method.  If the writer has a very clear understanding of a term like that, and will define it clearly in the essay, it may be unimportant that it isn't defined in the thesis. But probably it would be a better thesis if the writer spelled out what an individual would do using the method, so that a person was the subject and not the abstract noun "method."

Is this all the writer will claim?  Not that it works better than other means, just that it's there?

On-line Discovering Ideas Table of Contents
On-line Syllabus

On-Campus Discovering Ideas Table of Contents
On-Campus Syllabus

Discovering Ideas
Palomar College
This page was last edited: 01/05/09