Thesis Statements: Four Steps to a Great Essay | 60second Recap®


Writing a thesis statement is all about figuring
out the main idea for your paper, and then explaining that main idea to your reader.
But where to begin? Begin with the question—the question you’re
answering with your essay. We’ll use “The Scarlet Letter” as an example. Let’s say your teacher gave you the following
question as your essay topic: What role does the scarlet letter “A” play
in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important? Step 1: Assuming you’ve read the book (and
really, you can’t write a paper without having read the book) answer the question
off the top of your head. Question: What role does the scarlet letter
“A” play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important? Preliminary thesis: In “The Scarlet Letter,”
the letter “A” is a symbol. That’s a good start, but you haven’t answered
the whole question. Remember that the second part of the question is: and why is the “A”
important? Step 2: So now you need to refine your answer.
At this point, you’ll probably need to look back at your notes about the book to figure
out why the “A” is important. After you do, revise your thesis statement. Question: What role does the scarlet letter
“A” play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important? Revised thesis: In “The Scarlet Letter,” the
letter “A” is more than a symbol; it actually helps define Hester’s identity. That’s not a bad thesis, but remember that
your thesis sends the reader off into your essay not just knowing what you’re going
to write about, but how you’re going to make your case. In other words, you want to
give your reader a little bit more direction. This is where examples come in. Step 3: Before you finish refining your thesis,
you need to know which examples from the book are going to help you make your case. For this question, we might look at the way
the meaning of the scarlet letter “A” changes over the course of the novel. First it defines
Hester as an adulteress. Later, it shows how “able” Hester is. And finally, it comes
to stand for “angel” as Hester takes control of her own identity. So, with these examples in mind, let’s revise
that thesis statement one more time. Question: What role does the scarlet letter
“A” play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important? Finalized thesis, version 1: In “The Scarlet
Letter,” the letter “A” is more than a symbol; it actually helps define Hester’s identity,
transforming her from an “adulteress,” to a woman who’s “able,” and finally,
into an “angel.” That’s a great thesis (if I do say so myself),
but I want to point out something that happened as I wrote that thesis. Sometimes, when you
start working with examples, an even deeper, more nuanced response to the question emerges.
So here’s an optional final step. Step 4: Ask yourself: Am I really saying all
I could be saying with my thesis? Am I really saying it in the clearest possible way? Or
are my examples leading me to tweak my thesis and say something a little different, a little
deeper? If your answer to any of these questions is
yes, revise again. Question: What role does the scarlet letter
“A” play in Hawthorne’s novel, and why is it important? Finalized thesis, version 2: In “The Scarlet
Letter,” the letter “A” isn’t just a symbol of Hester’s downfall; as Hester moves from
“adulteress,” to a woman who’s “able,” and finally, to an “angel,” the “A” becomes
a symbol of Hester’s “agency” in defining her own identity. Let’s look at those steps one last time.
To write your thesis statement: 1. Answer the question.
2. Refine your answer, making sure you’ve answered all parts of the question.
3. Refine your answer into a more focused thesis statement by including a reference
to the examples you plan to use. 4. Refine your thesis so that it answers the
question not just in a focused way, but also in a creative, thoughtful, even profound way. There you have it: An awesome thesis statement,
and a solid foundation for an A+ essay.

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