Writing a good thesis is simple: pick a position, then defend it like crazy.
Your English teacher likes to talk about writing a thesis. You've learned about this every year, it seems, and yet somehow, when you get your paper back, your teacher has always marked all over it, and said that your thesis is "not an argument" or "not specific enough" or "not provable." What's the big deal? This is one of the biggest problems I encounter as a homework tutor for middle schoolers in NYC, so today, we'll go over the basics.
One thesis. Two theses (pronounced thee-sees; why do plurals have to sound so weird sometimes? Thank Latin, one of the many parent languages of English). This is the argument of your essay. The point of every essay is to persuade someone of your point of view. If it's a formal essay for school, you won't use "I" or "you," but your thesis is still telling your opinion. The thesis statement is usually just one sentence, but it is also THE MOST IMPORTANT SENTENCE in your essay. Every other sentence is supporting this one. That means everything in your essay should relate to this sentence in some way, either introducing the ideas or helping prove this idea.
Thesis vs. Topic
A topic is what your essay is about. Maybe "the death penalty" or "the role of fate in Romeo and Juliet." That is not your thesis. Everyone in your class could have the same topic, but write completely different theses. A thesis must be debatable. "The death penalty is when the government kills people who committed crimes" is a definition or fact. It cannot be debated. "The death penalty reduces crime" or "The death penalty should be abolished" are two different theses, taking opposing sides on the death penalty. You can debate either one.
Not every topic has a pro/con side. In an analytical essay, your thesis might look more like, "In Romeo and Juliet, fate is responsible for the lovers’ deaths." Your thesis must be provable, with evidence you will take from the book, and it must still be debatable (someone else could say, "No! Fate is not the deciding factor! It's Romeo and Juliet's own stupid decisions, which is not fate!").
Thesis vs. Topic Sentence
The thesis is the last sentence of your introduction. You spend your introduction setting up the context, and then the thesis goes at the end.
Each paragraph after that should have a topic sentence. The topic sentence is like a mini-thesis for each paragraph. Everything in the following paragraph should be evidence to help prove the topic sentence of that paragraph. But each topic sentence should be directly related to the thesis of the whole essay. It's like a puzzle: the body paragraphs should fit together to show the whole picture - which could be summarized by the thesis.
The topic sentence of your concluding paragraph should be restating your thesis in different words. The main idea of your conclusion is to wrap up all of your great ideas and remind the reader why you are correct.
How to build a thesis? You need to have done some good thinking about your topic. Probably your teacher will help you brainstorm. The thesis can be the hardest part of writing - but if you think of a really good thesis, the rest of your writing should come easily.
Some teachers have a very specific model for your thesis. If your teacher doesn't tell you otherwise, here is one model:
[Occasion], [claim] because/by/through/etc [support 1], [support 2], and [support 3].
- An occasion sets the stage. It starts with words like despite/if/while/though/in/when.
- The claim is the centerpiece: the opinion or argument.
- The supports back up the claim, and each one will become the focus point of one paragraph.
Even though she is supposed to be the heroine of The Little Mermaid, Ariel is portrayed as incompetent and foolish because she is consistently late, daydreaming, and clumsy.
Here's a model:
Topic: Taylor Swift
Thesis: Though not everyone likes her music, Taylor Swift is the most successful singer of her generation because of her singing voice, her songwriting genius, and her magnetic stage presence.
Topic Sentence 1: Taylor Swift's singing is sweet and perfectly tuned to the time.
Topic Sentence 2: Though TayTay's singing is how we hear her, it is her songwriting skills, especially with lyrics, that make her listeners connect to her music.
Topic Sentence 3: Taylor shows skill not only in her original composition, but in the composition of her performance as a whole, from costuming to set arrangement to performance style.
Concluding Topic Sentence: Taylor's stage presence hooks live audience members, while those listening to recordings can also connect to her singing voice and the lyrics and tunes she writes.
Just flesh each of those topics out fully with 3-5 more sentences proving your points, and bam! You’ve got yourself a thesis. Happy writing!
For more relevant reading, check out these other blog posts, written by our Middle School homework tutors in NYC: How Middle Schoolers Can Manage Their Time, Getting the Most Out of an Academic Tutor, How to Survive Geography Tests.
You could also buy yourself a Hug-a-World, like the one Rory Gilmore had.
You’re in middle school. You seem to have more homework every week (especially now that it’s “second semester” after winter break). Your teachers seem to delight in quizzes and tests. Maybe you’re used to math quizzes, but what is with all of these tests in Social Studies? How are you supposed to study when you’re just given some maps? Our crew of middle school homework tutors in New York City and Boston are dedicated to helping bewildered students navigate the academic flurry. Let’s get started:
Tags: middle school
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” Although many of us feel we lack the time we need to get everything done – that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day – Thoreau reminds us of the importance of living at our own pace and learning to use time to our advantage.
As a homework tutor, time management is among the most common concerns voiced by parents and students. Students these days are perhaps busier than ever before: between academics and a barrage of extracurricular commitments, how can your child expect to keep up the juggling act and manage to get enough rest?
This is especially true at the middle school level, which is fraught with new expectations; for many students, this is their first experience with moving between classes, subject-specific teachers, and such a significant workload. At this age, students have to learn how to learn most efficiently. While there are plenty of homework tutors for middle school kids in NYC, Boston, and online ready to help, there are certainly things you can do as a parent to be proactive.
In this post, I outline strategies for developing a proactive approach to time management and study skills. The transition to middle school can be intimidating, but by developing a concrete study schedule, your child will gain greater control over his time and work more confidently through new material. Here’s how to get started:Read More
Irony being that anyone who actually watched Boy Meets World hasn't been in middle school for a long timeRead More
There’s no more denying it – summer is just about up. And within the next few weeks, everyone will be headed back to school, from middle school students to all of us doctoral candidates. But no matter what grade or class you’re prepping for, whether it’s AP US History or Algebra II, this is the time to get a jump on the year ahead and make sure that you’re as ready as can be.
One of the thorniest problems middle schoolers face every summer is learning loss: while away from the school environment, children risk losing academic skills and rolling back growth achieved during the year. By introducing fun educational activities into your child’s summer schedule, you can help them maintain or even improve their academic level in preparation for the next school year.
Among the many camps to choose from in NYC this summer, our colleagues over at Art Kids have put together a fantastic week-long program that exposes students aged 4-16 to the theatre world in NY and cultivates their acting and production skills.
The Middle School Maze is back with a 2013 summer reading list!
With July and August just ahead of us, the summer is rife with opportunity to read. While you’re not in school, reading can take on a life of it’s own. Books become openings to new worlds, not the sign of dreaded after-school tasks.