Students Shouldn’t Fear the Thesis Statement When Writing an Essay

The importance of writing a strong, well-developed essay for an English class assignment cannot be understated. Most teachers use essays as a gauge for how well a student has absorbed the class material presented during the semester and how well the student’s writing skills have developed. How to develop a good thesis is not as problematic as most students may think. In order to understand the thesis statement, it would be important to know exactly what an essay is all about.

An essay is a written piece of work that advances an idea, theory or practice that is written for the uninitiated. It promises to persuade, convince or inform a reader of a subject that the reader may be unfamiliar with. It is therefore the task of the writer to detail the intricacies of the subject in a short, concise manner to the reader so that the reader will have a rudimentary understanding of the subject after reading the essay.

Understanding Essay Structure

The basic component parts of an essay include the introduction paragraph, at least three body paragraphs and a conclusion with each one of these components having its own infrastructure. The introduction should include a brief summary of the assignment and how one plans to approach the assignment. Writers should introduce any text or reading material that the essay is based on and the author(s) of the work, a general overview of the assignment and of course, the thesis statement. Many writers like to include what is called a hook, which is the opening sentence that is meant to entice a reader who is casually glancing through the work to read the piece. Think of the hook as a good newspaper headline that catches the eye of a potential reader.

Strong Thesis Statement

The body paragraphs should be structured on the basis of their importance and relevance to the subject. In other words, the first paragraph should be the best argument addressing the assignment, the second paragraph, the second best argument and the third, the third best. Each of these paragraphs should have a strong topic sentence that introduces the topic of the paragraph, along with quotes and references that support the argument. Finally, each body paragraph should end with a clearly-stated transitional sentence leading to the next paragraph. The most important sections of these paragraphs are the topic sentences, which will become part of the thesis statement basis.

The conclusion paragraph is normally based on the assignment prompt. Some instructors require a simple summary of the work, while others require a more comprehensive conclusion. In any event, a conclusion should begin with a restatement of the thesis. This is a restatement of the thesis, not a cut and paste, verbatim repetition of the thesis.

Developing the Thesis Statement

Now that the body paragraphs have been established and, along with that, the topic sentences, the writer is now ready to tackle the thesis. This reverse method to develop a thesis is just one way to approach this assignment; it is not necessarily the best way to develop a good thesis statement, as there are several methods, but some writers prefer it because the essay objective is clear. By developing topic sentences and paragraphs first, the thesis becomes much less problematic. Many students start out by wanting to write a great thesis statement before giving much thought to the body of the work. They may have an idea of how they want to approach the essay, but by establishing the body first, there is no doubt of which direction the piece will take, making the thesis statement easier to develop.

Now it is just a matter of beginning writing the thesis statement with an introductory sentence and the topic of the first body paragraph. The second sentence will include the topic sentences for the second and third body paragraphs. Again, do not copy and paste the topic sentences onto the thesis statement, but rather, reword them in an easy to read manner.

For instance, if the assignment is to write about the illegal immigration issue and whether or not it adds or detracts from the economy, the very first thing a writer must do is to take a position. For the sake of this example, assume that the writer has decided to take the position that illegal immigration benefits the economy. The next step is to develop three reasons to support this position. These three reasons become the subjects of the three body paragraphs. If the strongest argument to support this position is that illegal immigrants add to the economy because they take low-paying, unskilled- labor jobs that Americans are unwilling to take, then this becomes the subject of the first paragraph.

The second strongest argument might be that by utilizing illegal immigrant labor in the agriculture industry, as 92 percent of all seasonal agriculture workers are foreign born, it keeps produce prices low, then this becomes the subject of body paragraph number two. The third best argument might be that many illegal immigrants pay taxes, but are reluctant to use public services for fear that they may be exposed as being illegal and facing the possibility of deportation. Of course it is the obligation of the writer to substantiate these claims with hard evidence. Here is an example:

The notion that illegal immigration harms the U.S. economy is unfounded for various reasons as this demographic has proven to benefit the economy in different economical areas primarily because illegal immigrants take low-paying, unskilled-labor jobs that Americans do not want.

In the farming industry, for example, the employment of illegal immigrants provides a boost to the economy by keeping produce prices low and although many Americans feel that this demographic puts a strain on public services, many of these workers do not utilize these services out of fear of deportation.

This can be a serviceable thesis statement that encompasses the direction of the argument and the three arguments that will be detailed in the body paragraphs. Many essay writers make the mistake of assuming a thesis statement must be one sentence, but a thesis statement can be two, three or more sentences depending on the amount of detail in the body paragraphs and the complexity of the assignment.

Helpful Hints to Keep Stay on Track

Keep in mind that good topic sentences lead to a strong thesis statement. A reader does not need to read a paragraph that has a strong topic sentence because a well-written, precise topic sentence will tell the reader about the paragraph. All the paragraph does is support the topic sentence with references, quotes and details. Conversely, a precise thesis statement should also eliminate the need to read the essay since the heart of the essay is within the thesis statement itself. Of course readers will read the paragraphs and essays more readily because of the strong topic sentences and thesis statement, but the importance of these component parts cannot be understated.

The last thing to keep in mind is that a thesis statement and any part of the essay is not etched in stone until it’s turned in. A great portion of the writing process is re-writing, so don’t be afraid to make adjustments or any other amendments to the piece in order to refine the final product.

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