Friday, December 9, 2016

Thesis Statements in College Writing

Jon Davis
Derek Boczkowski
English 1109

Stanley Fish, writer of the article "What Should Colleges Teach, Part 3," states that one of the most important thing to teach in college writing classes is how to write sentences.  While this is an important thing to know how to do, I believe that crafting good thesis statements is also good because they help writers organize their essays by suggesting logical order to the essay, helps readers understand what the writers explicit claim is, and helps readers prepare for how the author will defend that claim.

Is Fish saying Yoda is dumb?!
Fish describes why sentences are one of the most important part of college writing by describing sentences.  He says that sentences are 1) organization of items in the world and 2) a structure of logical relationships.  He teaches this with a few different exercises like writing out random lists of words and asking why they wrote what they did and turning three word sentences into one hundred word sentences without losing track of the purpose.

In my research, which included surveys, tutorial observations, interview of a tutor working at The Ohio State University Newark Campus Writers Studio, an interview with Ohio State University professor Shawna Green, among other things, I found that crafting good thesis statement was always one of the things that came up and was stressed about its importance.

Organization makes things easier!
The first important thing that a thesis statement does is organizes.  The thesis is good for keeping the essay on a steady path and pace.  I think of it as setting the stage for a paper.  The first point of the argument should be the first of your body paragraphs and so on and so forth.  It is also good because both the reader and the writer can check the thesis and see if the writer got off subject or where the essay is going.  Shawna Green, a professor at The Ohio State University, said "the thesis keeps the writer and reader organized."  Another thing to keep in mind is that the thesis should organize in a logical order, not just any order just like in sentences... Fish.

The second thing that the thesis can do is explain exactly what the argument is. I found that it is very important to make your arguments as clear as possible.  Jan Charles Haluska, writer of the article  "In Defense of the Formula Essay," states that “the roof is the thesis- what are you trying to prove, the columns are paragraphs giving explanation and evidence for your idea, and the floor is the conclusion that reaffirms your thesis.”  With a bad thesis, you could leave your audience guessing about what you're trying to argue which isn't good for attracting a reader.  With a good thesis, you should tell the reader exactly what your main thought is and what points you have to back up that claim.
There is nothing wrong with arguing!

Another thing that the thesis does is it prepares the reader for the points the writer has made to back themselves up.  This argument goes with the second point I made.  You need to let the reader know what the main argument is, along with the points, and you need to make them very clear.  One without the other just isn't a full thesis.  Maxine Rodburg, an employee at the writing center at Harvard University, had this to say about hooking a reader with a thesis, "A good thesis has two parts.  It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should telegraph how you plan to argue it."  It is good to give the reader a little teaser before they read the paper, just like a movie trailer.  Tell them what the main argument is and what points you have to back it up, but don't give details on your points.  That's where the body paragraphs come into play.

Although I believe thesis statements are important for college writing, I will also have to agree with Fish in certain regards.  Sentences are important to know how to do, I mean, a thesis is a sentence (or two).  However I do have to disagree with him because it can't be the only thing important to college level writing. Honestly these are only two of the many things that are important for college writing so to just focus on these two is almost a fin... I mean sin (sorry, I had to).

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