Thesis Statements, Topic Sentences, Transition Sentences, and Body Paragraphs The Ultimate Guide
Thesis Statements A thesis statement is the single, specific claim that your essay supports. A good thesis statement is not simply an observation, a question, or a promise. It includes • The exact topic the paper is about • A defendable claim • And supportive valid reasoning
Thesis Examples Black Elk Speaks accurately represents Indian lifestyle through its attention to cultural detail, its use of Indian words, and its direct quotes from Black Elk. • Topic: The representation of Indian lifestyle in the book Black Elk Speaks • Defendable Claim: the book is accurate • Supportive Reasoning Blueprint: the book pays attention to cultural detail, it uses Indian words, and it uses direct quotations from Black Elk. The rest of the paper will establish the truth of teach of these supporting points, and then explain why they add up to support the truth of thesis statement.
Thesis Examples Is Black Elks Speaks an accurate representation of Indian lifestyle? This sentence is a question, not a statement. Therefore this is not a good thesis sentence. You can start with a question if that helps you get your ideas flowing onto the page, but before you start actually writing the paper, you should have a clear idea of what answer you're trying to support in your paper.
Thesis Examples This paper will look at the book's attention to cultural detail, its use of Indian words, and its direct quotations from Black Elk, in order to determine whether Black Elk Speaks accurately represents Indian lifestyle. The above sample is slightly better because it offers more detail, but thesis sentence still does not say whether the author plans to argue for or against the book's accuracy.
Thesis Examples Because the events in the story emphasize Black Elk's role as a Sioux Warrior, and do not describe Black Elk's eventual conversion to Catholicism and membership in the Society of St. Joseph, Black Elk Speaks presents a skewed and simplified view of the complex history of Native Americans. Note that the above sample contains • A topic (the accuracy of Black Elk Speaks), • A defendable Claim (the view is skewed and simplified) • Supportable Reasoning (the book only tells part of the story).
Formulae for Thesis Statements If you're not sure whether you have a good thesis statement, see whether you can fit your ideas into one of these basic patterns. • [Something] [does something] because [reason(s)]. • Because [reason(s)], [something] [does something]. • Although [opposing evidence], [reasons] show [Something] [does something].
Thesis Statements Do’s • Make a claim that you believe in and can support with facts and evidence. • Provide at least three exact supporting topics you wish to cover in your paper. • Make sure thesis sentence is clear and precise.
Thesis Statement Don'ts • Do not argue both sides of the claim. • Do not make a weak or faulty claim. • Do not use preparatory wording: – In this paper, I will discuss – I will talk about – In my argument Instead, get right to the point and say what it is you want to say.
Thesis Statements The three supporting reasons in your thesis statement will equate to at least one body paragraph each. See the example in the next slide.
Thesis Example: Black Elk Speaks accurately represents Indian lifestyle through its attention to cultural detail, its use of Indian words, and its direct quotes from Black Elk. • Body Paragraph 1 will discuss its attention to cultural detail • Body Paragraph 2 will discuss its use of Indian words • Body Paragraph 3 will discuss its direct quotes from Black Elk
Topic Sentences If you have a great thesis statement, then you can easily create relevant and cohesive topic sentences from each of the three supporting reasons. Each topic sentence should have some form of tie-in and repetition of words to create flow in the text. See the next slide for an example.
Topic Sentences Examples Thesis Statement: • Restoring old houses is rewarding because I find the activity is exciting, relaxing, and satisfying. Topic Sentence #1 with tie-ins from thesis statement: • Part of the reward in restoring old houses lies in the excitement of discovering the original interior. Topic Sentence #2 with tie-ins from thesis statement: • Not only does restoring old houses excites me, but working with my hands is relaxing. Topic Sentence #3 with tie-ins from thesis statement: • However excited and relaxed I may be when I have finished restoring my house, nothing beats the satisfaction found in viewing the completed project.
Topic Sentences Examples Thesis Statement: • Becoming a ski patroller turned out to be harder than I thought because of the studying, the skiing, and the time demands. Topic Sentence #1 with tie-ins from thesis statement : • The first hurdle to becoming a ski patroller was the amount of studying required to learn the medical terms, symptoms, signs, and treatments. Topic Sentence #2 with tie-ins from thesis statement : • A ski patroller is more than passing the first aid and CPR exams; a ski patroller also has to train for and demonstrate skiing proficiency and toboggan handling on the slope. Topic Sentence #3 with tie-ins from thesis statement : • Studying and ski training are both very time consuming, yet, even after ski patrollers pass all the exams, they still must commit themselves to skiing many hours regardless of the weather or snow conditions.
Transition Sentences The most convincing ideas in the world, expressed in the most beautiful sentences, will move no one unless those ideas are properly connected. Unless readers can move easily from one thought to another in your paper, they will surely find something else to read. Some important reasons to use quality transition sentences. • Transition sentences lead your reader logically through your argument. • Transition sentences create a textual flow to your writing. • Transition sentences create logical and easily understandable stepping stones to your next topic. • Transition sentences can make or brake a good argument. Note: You must never assume that your readers know what you know. Lead them to your conclusion with transition sentences.
Transition Sentences You have four basic mechanical considerations in providing transitions between ideas: • Using transitional expressions • Repeating key words and phrases • Using pronoun reference • Using parallel form.
Using Transitional Expressions Transitional expressions range from the conjunctions: • And, but, nor, for, yet, or, (and sometimes) so To such expressions as: • However, moreover, nevertheless, on the other hand Note: Avoid overusing these in your paper as this is a sure sign of poor writing.
Examples of Transitional Devices To add two ideas together, you can use such words as: • Again • Also • And then • Besides • Equally important • Second • Still • Too • • • Finally First Furthermore In addition In the first place Last Moreover Next
Examples of Transitional Devices To compare two ideas, use such words as: • Also • In the same way • Likewise • Similarly
Examples of Transitional Devices To contrast two ideas and add flow, you can use such words as: • Although • And yet • At the same time • But at the same time • Despite that • Even so • Even though • For all that • However • In contrast • • • In spite of Instead Nevertheless Notwithstanding On the contrary On the other hand Otherwise Regardless Still Though Yet
Using Repetition of Key Words and Phrases • The ability to connect ideas by means of repetition of key words and phrases sometimes meets a natural resistance based on the fear of being repetitive. • We've been trained to loathe redundancy. • Now we must learn that catching a word or phrase that's important to a reader's comprehension of a piece and replaying that word or phrase creates a musical motif in that reader's head. • Unless it is overworked and obtrusive, repetition lends itself to a sense of coherence and flow.
Repetition Examples • We do not fight for the want of freedom, but for the need of freedom. We do not use freedom as a tool for patriotism, but we must use our patriotism as a standard for all our freedoms. Let your courage as an American patriot be your will to guard against the downfall of your freedoms. (John F. Kennedy) • MSN brings the most useful Web experience ever: MSN 8 Internet Service. Sign up for MSN 8 now and get your first two months free — and automatically receive an MSN 8 upgrade CD when it becomes available this fall. The most exciting online event this year: the unveiling of the new MSN® 8 Internet Service. MSN 8 is the new Internet service and software was designed to make the Web more useful than ever. MSN 8 sets a new standard for Internet service.
Using Pronoun References • Pronouns quite naturally connect ideas because pronouns almost always refer the reader to something earlier in the text. • I cannot say "This is true because. . . " without causing the reader to consider what "this" could mean. • Thus, the pronoun causes the reader to sum up, quickly and subconsciously, what was said before (what this is) before going on to the because part of my reasoning. • Your pronouns must always be perfectly clear what the pronoun refers to. • If a reader cannot instantly know what this is, then my sentence is ambiguous and misleading. • Do not rely on unclear pronoun references to avoid responsibility or agency: "They say that. . . " If it is unclear who They are, then you have created a straw character, which is a argumentative fallacy.
Using Parallelism Music in writing is often the result of parallelism, the deliberate repetition of larger structures of phrases, even clauses and whole sentences. This principle, that of parallel construction, requires that expressions of similar content and function should be outwardly similar. The likeness of form enables the reader to recognize more readily the likeness of content and function.
Examples of Parallelism • Faulty Parallelism • Corrected Version Formerly, science was taught by the textbook method, while now the method; now it is laboratory method is taught by the employed. laboratory method. The left-hand version gives the impression that the writer is undecided or timid; he seems unable or afraid to choose one form of expression and hold to it. The right-hand version shows that the writer has at least made his choice and abided by it.
Transitions Example Below is a paragraph revised for coherence, transitions, and flow. Italics indicates pronouns and repeated/restated key words, bold indicates transitional tag-words, and underlining indicates parallel structures. The ancient Egyptians were masters of preserving dead people's bodies by making mummies of them. In short, mummification consisted of removing the internal organs, applying natural preservatives inside and out, and then wrapping the body in layers of bandages. And the process was remarkably effective. Indeed, mummies several thousand years old have been discovered nearly intact. Their skin, hair, teeth, fingernails and toenails, and facial features are still evident. Their diseases in life, such as smallpox, arthritis, and nutritional deficiencies, are still diagnosable. Even their fatal afflictions are still apparent: a middle-aged king died from a blow on the head; a child king died from polio.
Body Paragraphs Body paragraphs are where you elaborate on your supporting reasons for your argument that you stated in your these sentence. Use your topic sentences to set the purpose for the paragraph; then use the rest of the paragraph to explain what you mean.
Body Paragraph Do’s • Always start the paragraph with a claim. • Always tie in the topic sentence with thesis statement. • Always use tie-ins within the paragraph to ensure flow and cohesiveness. • Always end with a transition to the next body paragraph and idea in the next body paragraph. • Every element in each of the body paragraphs should support the overall argument.
First Body Paragraph The first paragraph of the body should contain the: • Strongest argument • Most significant example • Cleverest illustration • Or an obvious beginning point. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first sentence. This topic should relate to thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second body paragraph.
Second Body Paragraph The second paragraph of the body should contain the • Second strongest argument • Second most significant example • Second cleverest illustration • Or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first sentence. This topic should relate to thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third body paragraph.
Third Body Paragraph The third paragraph of the body should contain the • Weakest argument, • Weakest example, • Weakest illustration, • Or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first sentence. This topic should relate to thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.