Thursday, March 13, 2008

Developing a Thesis Idea

Today I have been helping a client whose two daughters need to write a major essay that combines research and opinion. The mom said the two girls had been having trouble narrowing down to a thesis idea, though both were interested in slavery in the U.S. and wanted to discuss the moral problems involved.

I asked them to fill in at least six of these sentences with at least thirty words or so for each one, and that is how we started. I wrote quite a bit in response, teasing out their thoughts, and then they were to submit a further refinement of their ideas. One of them has already gotten to the second stage and I’ve responded with encouragement, ideas for further thought, and warnings about how her topic could go astray.

See if these questions help your students narrow down broad subject areas to useful topics, and let me know how it goes! If you have some additional fill-in sentences to add, I’d appreciate your contributions.

By the way, I find myself calling these "questions," but I realize questions are more threatening--these fill-ins, at least some of them, lend themselves to natural thesis statement formation.

  • I think I want to do my paper on the subject area of ______
  • I thought it was interesting when I read/heard about how _______
  • I always thought _____ but now I realize _____
  • Most people think _____ but they should know _____
  • I don't want to end up writing about _____
  • The part of _____ that is most interesting to me is _____
  • I want to know more about _______
  • Somebody who disagreed with me would say ______ about _______

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