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Practice Exercises for Writing #2: Thesis Statements

Skill Practiced: Correct Thesis Formation
After dissecting your essay prompt, the next step is to formulate an effective thesis statement. First, we will practice identifying both correct and incorrect theses. Then, you will be asked to dissect an essay question and formulate a correct thesis statement.

The Thesis should:

  • Have a “hook” or method to gain the reader’s interest or give the historical background behind the essay topic.

  • Fully address the question asked.

  • Take a position with regard to the question asked.

  • Provide organizational categories that will be used in the essay (a blueprint).

  • Introduce analysis or “why” you think what you think.

Consider the following prompts and the examples of theses that follow. Does each thesis statement contain all the elements of a good thesis statement? Look at the criteria above for reference. Each question will introduce further skills in correctly formulating a thesis statement. You will need two highlighters for this assignment.

  1. In the margin, indicate whether or not the question is fully answered by the thesis statement. Be prepared to explain why or why not.

  2. Circle the “hook” in the thesis statement.

  3. Use a highlighter to mark the part of the thesis that takes a position on the question.

  4. Mark categories that will be used in the essay with a second highlighter.

  5. Underline examples of analysis in the thesis statement.

Question One: Was the United States justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima?
Thesis One: The United States was justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima for both military and moral reasons.

Thesis Two: The United States was not military or morally justified in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Thesis Three: The United States was justified morally but not militarily in dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Question Two: What were the major causes of the U.S. Civil War?
Thesis One: The question of whether to allow slavery in the Mexican Cession, the continuing abolitionist agitation, and the destruction of the Whig Party contributed to the outbreak of the American Civil War.
What makes this a superior thesis statement to the examples in Question #1?

Thesis Two: There were several causes to the Civil War.

Question Three: The reforms of the Progressive Era improved the quality of life for Americans. Assess the extent to which this statement is valid.
Thesis One: While Progressive Era reforms did succeed in improving conditions for most Americans, African Americans and Native Americans were often neglected and forced to fight for justice and opportunity on their own.
What makes this a superior thesis statement to the example in Question #2?

What kind of “hook” could be added to make this a perfect thesis statement?

Question Four: Although New England and the Chesapeake region were both settled largely by people of English origin, by 1700, the regions had evolved into two distinct societies. Why did this development occur?
Thesis One: Even today, our English roots are shown in the culture of our people. But thanks to cultural diffusion, they are mixed with a variety of other customs and traditions. The differences in development between New England and the Chesapeake can be accounted for primarily by the reasons for the settlement of the two regions. Each developed very distinctively because of the variance in the geographic conditions, their economic activities, and the social institutions each of the regions created.
Question Five: Compare the geography of Mesopotamia and Egypt. How were they similar and how were they different?
Thesis One: As part of the early river valley civilizations, regions such as Mesopotamia and Egypt became the cultural hearth of world civilizations. While Mesopotamia and Egypt were separated by different landscapes, both civilizations shared the importance of rivers. At the same time, Mesopotamia lacked the diversity that Egypt possessed due to its unique geographic location.

Question Six: Compare and contrast the formation of empires in any two Classical civilizations (a) the Mediterranean; (b) South Asia; and (c) East Asia.
Thesis One: The accomplishments of the early river valley civilizations helped lead to the development of more advanced classical empires. While both the Classical Roman and Han Empires centralized power and used their militaries to expand their empires, the Roman Empire did not utilize a political philosophy to structure and rule their empire while the Han used a blend a Legalism and Confucianism.

Now, using the all the elements, create a thesis statement for one of the essay questions below.

Question One: Explain why high school athletic programs should or should not be abolished in the Texas public school system.

Question Two: At Allen High School, students should have access to electronic forms of technology during school hours. Assess the degree to which you agree or disagree with this statement.

Question Three: Compare and contrast the growing impact of two leading Hollywood actors: Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner. You may substitute the names if desired.

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