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16.8 Techniques for Writing: Writing Thesis Statements for Essays

An essay is a group of paragraphs that support a main point, or thesis. Often the reader will understand the ideas in the paragraphs best if the essay's main point is stated directly in the first paragraph. A thesis statement does for an essay what a topic sentence does for a paragraph; it helps the reader to understand the main point. A thesis statement can tell the reader how a large idea will be broken down into smaller ones, set the scene for a story, or take a stand on a controversial issue. It always expresses a firm statement in a complete sentence. For example, the thesis statement for Raquel Cruz's essay on doors is A door was one of my first symbols.

Exercise A: Identify the thesis statement for the following essays:

1. Click on the "Go" button below and John Carey's essay on making money will appear in the frame below. Highlight and COPY the sentence that you consider to be the essay's thesis statement. PASTE that sentence into the blank text area below before clicking on the "answer" button to compare your answer to the computer's.
Carey's Essay

      

2. Click on the "go" button below and the essay on the therapeutic value of laughter will appear the bottom frame. Highlight and COPY the sentence that you consider to be the essay's thesis statement. PASTE that sentence into the blank text area below before clicking on the "answer" button to compare your answer to the computer's.
Laughter as Therapy Essay


      

Just as a topic sentence often uses more general language than the other sentences in its paragraph, a thesis statement may use more general language than the topic sentences paragraphs. For example, notice the use of the general term, business and entertainment activities in this outline for an essay, in contrast with the more specific language of the topic sentences.

Thesis Statement: Nowadays, people stay at home for many of their business and entertainment activities.


If you were going to develop this three-paragraph essay, you would then write even more specific sentences to support each topic sentence.


Exercise B: Below are topic sentences for the paragraphs in three different essays. Write a thesis statement that expresses a suitable main point for each essay.

1.Thesis statement:
Topic sentence #1: Sylvia carried good luck charms in each of her pockets.
Topic sentence #2: I remember one Friday the 13th, she refused to get out of bed.
Topic sentence #3: Sylvia used to read the clouds for instructions about how she should spend each day.

      
2. Thesis statement:
Topic sentence #1: Testing employees for drugs enables an employer to avoid problems with new hires and to treat the drug problems of veteran workers.
Topic sentence #2: A company that tests employees for drug use is protecting its clients and the public.
Topic sentence #3: Drug testing at the workplace deters drug use elsewhere.

      
3. Thesis statement:
Topic sentence #1: When you are under water, what you see and hear is strange and wonderful.
Topic sentence #2: A sport diver can expand his scuba diving ability by taking specialty courses.
Topic sentence #3: Ice diving is the type of diving I want to get into next.
      


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