1. An Essay Starts with a Good Thesis
What is a thesis statement?
–A thesis statement declares what you believe and what you intend to prove.
–A good thesis statement makes the difference between a thoughtful essay and a simple retelling of facts.
•What are the qualities of a good thesis?
•It should stand out as an indicator of the clear direction in which you will take your essay.
•It should be strongly worded, impossible to miss, and show up in the first paragraph (or introduction) of your paper.
•Most essays live or die by the strength of their thesis statements, and by their ability to keep focused on their thesis.
•It tackles a subject that could be adequately covered in the format of the project assigned.
•It is specific and focused.
•It clearly asserts your own conclusion based on evidence. Note: Be flexible. The evidence may lead you to a conclusion you didn't think you'd reach. It is perfectly okay to change your thesis!
•It avoids vague language.
•It avoids the first person. ("I believe," "In my opinion").
2. Compare and Contrast Essays
•Discuss what two things had or have in common.
•Discuss the differences between them.
•Make direct comparisons: compare “apples to apples.”
•Don’t show differences in facts in a thesis, compare concepts.
•Try to find a difference within a similarity.
–Ex. While Global History Honors classes and Global History 9 classes study the same core curriculum; the honors course provides greater depth and a more rigorous workload.
Example Question or Prompt:
•For several hundred years the Mongols ruled over both Russia and China. After casting off Mongol domination, both areas began a process of political and cultural recovery. Compare and contrast these processes in Russia and China.
The recovery of Russia and China after the Mongols had many similarities and differences.
•Why is this thesis bad?
•The above sentence is vague and wimpy.
•It is really just a restatement of an assumption in the prompt.
•It is a fluttering of loose ends needing to be nailed down onto concrete categories.
•It uses the words “similarities” and “differences.” (lose these!).
When Russia and China recovered from Mongol domination they had similar political goals but different cultural goals.
•This thesis is getting there.
•It at least declares in general categories how the paths of China and Russia were different and how they were similar after the Mongols.
•It has broken down (analyzed) these things into categories that lend themselves to a well defined essay. But it could be much better.
•LOSE THE TERMS “SIMILAR” AND “DIFFERENT!”
While both Russia and China built strong centralized governments after breaking free from the Mongols, Russia imitated the culture and technology of Europe while China became isolated and built upon its own foundations.
•Why is this even better?
•It directly addresses the comparison (tells what they had in common and where they were different).
•It contains the categories (political and cultural) on which the writer will hang relevant historical facts, and the terms (foreign influence and isolationism) on which the comparisons will be made. These categories will form the paragraphs of the essay.
•It makes and argument that must be proven.