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John Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology

Thesis Statement

How does a student go about writing a thesis statement?

If [students] would generate a bunch of titles and then fix on one, I'm convinced...and, by the way, I, in titles, generally I try to encourage them to do a title with a subtitle. So, part of what's going on here, besides brainstorming, is your reader should want to read this when [he or she] reads the title. You can most effectively do that, it seems to me, by a title and a subtitle. because a subtitle specifies, then, how the more general title works. That's partly why I play around with titles so much: to figure out, by way of brainstorming, what I'm doing. And then from that, I try to articulate what is implied as an argument in this title, because I think if you... It's a second way to go at getting a thesis statement. If you just say to students, "Here's the topic: it's Exploitation in Jamaica." Students are saying, "Boy, you know, I don't even know what to do with a thesis statement here," but play around with a bunch of titles for a while and you're going to find that you're making a kind of argument about that. Then, see if you can articulate that as a single statement. I don't want a question; I just want a single statement. "Exploitation in Jamaica because" or "that" or something like that, but I want it in a single declaratory statement, and typically I tell them to put it at the end of the first paragraph. So, when you think about your first paragraph, and I've forgot this author's name now... He's written a lot of these composition books over the years and is commonly used here. Anyway, it's a funnel structure and down here at the bottom of the funnel is your...(thesis statement)...yeah, is your thesis statement. I found that very effective, and it tips the reader off [to] exactly where the thing's going, but it also tells the reader why this is an important topic to pay attention to. Here's the part of it that I'm going to examine with this kind of conclusion. I found that really effective.