Proofreading Your Thesis: How to Know Your Argument Works

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Your thesis statement is the most important part of your paper. Think about the above sentence for a moment. If it were your thesis statement, would it hold up? The answer is no. While the sentence may be true, it’s presented only as an opinion, with no evidence to support the claim. Had the sentence stated, ”Your thesis statement is the most important part of your paper because it will state your main idea and purpose to the reader,” you would have been on the right track.

This process of analyzing and questioning your writing is critical to forming an effective thesis. Michelle Lekkerkerk, Lead Technology Writing Consultant at Ashford University, suggests starting with these six steps:

    1. Name your specific topic
    2. Ask a question about your focused topic (make sure it’s not obvious!)
    3. Revise the question into a declarative statement
    4. Add a group of words summarizing your key ideas
    5. Recognize the opposition or counterargument
    6. Edit and put it all together

Remember, when making your statement you’ll want to remain focused and avoid stating the obvious. You’re exploring a complex issue, with evidence to back up your arguments, so you want to challenge the reader to think and not dismiss your paper as something he/she already knows.

“In the end, you may have spent a good deal of time writing your thesis and still not know if it is a good one,” Lekkerkerk says, adding that students should ask the following questions when reviewing their papers:

    1. Is the point being made one that would generate discussion or debate?
    2. Is my thesis too vague or too general? Should I focus on some more specific aspect of my topic?
    3. Does my thesis indicate the direction of my argument? Does it suggest a structure for my paper?
    4. Does my introductory paragraph define terms important to my thesis? If I am writing a research paper, does my introduction "place" my thesis within the larger, ongoing scholarly discussion about my topic?
    5. Is the language in my thesis vivid and clear? In short, is this thesis the very best that it can be?

For additional writing resources and help with thesis statements, visit the Ashford University Writing Center and read “4 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills” on Forward Thinking.

Written by Jason R. Latham and Michelle Lekkerkerk.

Jason R. Latham is the Content Manager for Bridgepoint Education, and Michelle Lekkerkerk is the Lead Technology Writing Consultant for Ashford University’s Writing Center.

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