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Qualifying Essay Thesis

Writing a Thesis Driven Paper

Linking Evidence and Claims:

10 on 1 Versus 1 on 10

This handout is taken from Rosenwasser and Stephen, Writing Analytically, Heinle, 2003)

A thesis and a claim are synonyms.“By way of definition, a claim is an assertion that you make about your evidence—an idea that you believe the evidence supports.The primary claim in a paper is the thesis.In analytical writing, the thesis is a theory that explains what some feature of features of a subject mean.The subject itself, the pool of primary material (data) being analyzed, is know as evidence” (75).

“The All-Purpose Organizational Scheme”

  • An analytical writer approaches evidence to refine and sharpen his or her thesis, not just to support it,
  • A productive thesis changes (evolves0 as it encounters evidence,
  • The paper itself should reenact in more polished form for the reader the chains of thought that led the reader to his or her conclusions.

1.Write an introduction.

Begin analytical papers by defining some issue, question, problem or phenomenon that the paper will address.An introduction is not a conclusion.It lays out something that you have noticed that you think needs to be better understood.Use the introduction to get your readers to see why they should be more curious about the thing you have noticed.Aim for half a page.

2.State a working thesis

Early in the paper, often at the end of the first paragraph or the beginning of the second, make a tentative claim about whatever it is you have laid out as being in need of exploration.The initial version of your thesis, know as the working thesis, should offer a tentative explanation, answer, or solution that the body of your paper will go on to apply and develop (clarify, extend, substantiate, qualify, and so on).

3.Begin querying your thesis.

Start developing your working thesis and other opening observations with the question “So what?”This question is shorthand for questions like “what does this observation mean?” and “Where does this thesis get me in my attempts to explain my subject?”

4.Muster supporting evidence for your working thesis.

Test its adequacy by seeing how much of the available evidence it can honestly account for.That is, try to prove that your thesis is correct. But also expect to come across evidence that does not fit your initial formulation of the thesis.

5.Seek complicating evidence.

Find evidence that does not readily support your thesis.Then explore—and explain—how and why it doesn’t fit.

6.Reformulate your thesis.

Use the complicating evidence to produce new wording in your working thesis (additions, qualifications, and so forth).This is how a thesis evolves, by assimilating obstacles and refining terms.

7.Repeat steps 3 to 6.

Query, support, complicate, and reformulate your thesis until you are satisfied with its accuracy.

8.State a conclusion.

Reflect on and reformulate your paper’s opening position in light of the thinking your analysis of evidence has caused you to do.Culminate rather than merely restate your paper’s main idea in the concluding paragraph.Do this by getting your conclusion to again answer the question “So what?’In the conclusion, this question is short-hand for “where does it get us to view the subject in this way? Or “What are the possible implications or consequences of the position the paper has arrived at?”Usually the reformulated (evolved) thesis comes near the beginning of the concluding paragraph.The remainder of the paragraph gradually moves the reader out of your piece, preferably feeling good about what you have accomplished for him or her.

Linking Evidence and Claims

Unsubstantiated Claims

Problem:Making claims that lack supporting evidence.

Solution:Learn to recognize and support unsubstantiated assertions.

Pointless Evidence

Problem:Presenting a mass of evidence without explaining how it relates to the claims.

Solution:Make details speak.Explain how evidence confirms and qualifies the claim.

Analyzing Evidence in Depth: “10 on 1”

How do you move from making details speak and explaining how evidence confirms and qualifies the claim to actually composing a paper?

Phrased as a general rule 10 on 1 holds that it is better to make ten observations or points about a single representative issue or example than to make the same basic point about ten related issues or examples.

Representative

Example

 

Representative

Example

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In sum, you can use 10 on 1 to accomplish various ends:(1) to locate the range of possible meanings your evidence suggests, (2) to make you less inclined to cling to your first claim inflexibly and open the way for you to discover a way of representing more fully the complexity of your subject, and (3) to slow down the rush to generalization and thus help to ensure that when you arrive t a working thesis, it will be more specific and better able to account for your evidence.

First find 10 examples, do a 1 on 10 as a preliminary step—locating 10 examples that share a trait—and then focus on one of these for in-depth analysis.Proceeding in this way would guarantee that your example was representative.It is essential that your example be representative because in doing 10 on 1 you will take one part of the whole, put it under a microscope, and then generalize about the whole on the basis of your analysis.

The thesis is the point of your essay, the argument you wish to explain and defend. You may be able to express your thesis as a single (albeit long) sentence. This is okay because a thesis statement is a single idea—a complex idea, but a single idea. There are many ways to write a good thesis statement but usually a thesis has three parts:

   1)  a qualification                although...

   2)  a compelling reason      however...

   3)  a claim                           therefore...

Step 1: The Qualification

To make absolute statements causes your essay’s thesis to seem foolishly simplistic.  Nothing is true 100% of the time. Plus, by admitting up front that there is another side to the issue or opposing points of view, it demonstrates your interest in accuracy and builds your credibility as an author.

Answer these questions about your position:

  • Is what I say always true? 
  • When are there exceptions? 
  • How might a reasonable person object to my position?
  • Are there good reasons why my position may have a downside?

Example:  Although dozens of large K-12 public schools have been successful in the United States…

Step 2: The Compelling Reason

Despite the qualification, why do you still believe your position to be correct? What facts, data, or reasons supports your position in spite of the qualification? What is the reason for your position? Your thinking process? Keep in mind that this is a general statement. Your specific reasons will be explored in the body of your essay.

Example:  However, schools with small populations and class sizes have consistently shown higher rates of student success compared to schools with over 1000 students.

Step 3: The Claim

Based on the reasons provided in step two, what is the claim you want to make? What conclusions or inferences have you made based upon the evidence? What is your position on the issue? Depending on the context of the essay, the claim may be a deduction based on empirical observation and research (what is), or an opinion supported by evidence (what should be).

Example:  Therefore, placing limits upon school and classroom size will lead to more effective teaching, higher student test scores, and increased graduation rates.

Step 4: Put them all together

To write your thesis statement, combine the qualification, compelling reason, and claim in one or two sentences.

Sample thesis for a bibliographic essay (expository thesis):

While economists have always admitted that free trade has both positive and negative consequences, during the 1990s many argued that negative effects ultimately led to positive consequences and used the term “creative destruction” to describe this process. However, after the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession, the use of the term creative destruction has declined in academic journals, therefore the scholarly conversation about free trade, outsourcing, and globalization prior to the Great Recession was significantly different than the conversation after the Great Recession.

Sample thesis supported by evidence but requiring a value judgment:

Although some large K-12 schools have been successful in the United States, schools with small populations and class sizes have consistently shown high rates of student success, therefore limits should be placed limits upon school and classroom size, which will lead to more effective teaching, higher student test scores, and increased graduation rates.

Sample thesis arguing for scientific conclusion deduced from empirical observation:

Although all the red-footed tortoises were observed to follow one another’s gazes and lines of sight, which suggests a level of social awareness, no tortoises yawned immediately following the yawn of another tortoise, the empathic phenomena of “contagious yawning” observed in many species of mammals and birds. Therefore, red-footed tortoises, and perhaps all reptiles, lack the capacity for empathy. 


Download the info above as a worksheet that can be distributed and used in class.

Note: this worksheet was inspired by and developed from a similar handout created by one of my grad school colleagues for the FYC program at USF, which itself was inspired by a handout created for middle & high school students that is freely available on the web.

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