The Thesis Statement:
Your thesis is the most important part of your essay. A strong essay
is nearly impossible with a weak thesis. Here's what makes a thesis effective:
- The issue matters- Make sure that there are stakes riding on your
argument. While it may be easy to claim that cookies are delicious, or Florida
is sunny, these are not intellectually-demanding opinions.
- Your position can be substantiated- That means you can support it
with facts, quotes, statistics, and other types of hard information. Opinions,
on their own, tend to be "fuzzy." With facts, they can stand securely.
- The statement is thoughtfully placed- Your thesis is the jewel of
your paper! Don't hide it, or pretend it's not as important as it is. Assure
your thesis gets the attention it deserves by placing it at the end of your
introduction and using assertive, declarative words.
- It's the soul of your paper- Your essay is all about your argument.
The thesis should be self-evident in every paragraph.
- Discuss the thesis with your friends and classmates. Understanding how
other people feel about a topic makes a stronger, more informed essay.
Plus, exercising your powers of persuasion out loud will prepare you for doing
it on paper.
- Make sure you have a solid idea of what your thesis is before you write.
When you write with a direction in mind, it shows in your paper.
- Although the thesis should be hammered out early in the process, be flexible.
The more you research, the more you'll want to fine-tune your argument.
Position your paper and draw up excitement with an intro that's informative
and entertaining. Even if the body of an essay is very good, a bad intro can
turn a reading experience prematurely sour. Here's what makes a strong introduction:
- The Hook- Would you want to read a paper that starts: "This
paper is about…" No way! Start your paper with an exciting sentence that
says "Hey! Read me!"
- The Crescendo- Now that you've hooked the reader's attention, turn
up the volume with some sentences that develop and deepen the topic. If you
posed a question in the hook, answer it here.
- The Climax- This is the all-important thesis sentence. Here, pull
out all the stops. In your most elegant, muscular writing, clearly identify
your opinion and the ways in which you will support it.
- Save your introduction for last. Isn't it easier to introduce a friend
than it is a stranger?
- As you are writing your paper and the strengths of your argument are starting
to show, jot them down so you know what to highlight in your intro.
- Avoid guiding the reader through the paper. For example, don't start with,
“In this paper I will discuss . . . ,” or “After you have read this essay,
you will agree that . . .” The paper should speak for itself without your
- After the hook, don't leave your reader in suspense. Plant your feet in
the essay early and firmly.
- Cliché: over-used and ineffective phrasing; i.e.: starting your essay with
a dictionary definition.
Suggestions for Effective Intros:
- Tell the story of how you first became interested in the topic.
- Raise one or more provocative questions, then answer them or indicate that
you will answer them in your essay.
- Describe the impact your topic has on your reader's life.
- Present a surprising statistic or fact about your topic.
- Illuminate how your topic is misunderstood because of prejudice, lack of
study, or confusion.
- Describe a scene that reveals the importance of your topic through dialogue
- Forecast the consequences if your position is unheeded.
A closing thought, a goodbye bow, a forward-looking statement beyond the boundaries
of your paper. The conclusion is an essential ingredient in determining how
the reader digests your essay's argument. Here's what makes a strong conclusion:
- A sense of completion- This is the time to tie all your loose ends.
Treat your essay like a meal. Transition into your closing thoughts and leave
the reader full and satisfied.
- A winding-down- Let your reader rest and reflect on what you have
written. Don't introduce anything ground-breaking or alarming here.
- A polished sheen- An intro gets the pieces together, the body assembles
them, and the conclusion polishes the whole product. Sum up your essay so
that it radiates.
- Read through your rough draft at least twice before starting on your conclusion.
- Begin your conclusion by restating your thesis statement, using one or
two of the key words but otherwise creating an entirely new sentence.
- Move from the specific to the broad. Start with the terrain of your argument,
then expand into wider ramifications.
- Don't let up your narrative force. Run strong past the finish line.
Suggestions for Effective Conclusions:
- Predict what will happen if present conditions don't change.
- Describe what you'll do next.
- Create a "ripple effect" by moving from local to global outcomes.
- Deliver a call for action.