††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Professor M. Egnal







††††††††††† A good essay has a main idea, called a thesis, and a solid organization to support that argument. These guidelines will help you craft your thesis and structure.




Formulating the thesis

††††††††††† The thesis is the organizing idea for your paper. As you research the assigned topic, you will set forth a number of tentative ideas about your subject. At first, these assertions may seem random and unconnected. But eventually they will point toward a larger conclusion. This broad, encompassing idea is your compositionís central argument. It links up all the smaller ideas and unifies the essay. All paragraphs, sentences, and words in your paper must help advance this message.


††††††††††† A well-constructed thesis should satisfy the four criteria listed below. This check list will help you formulate and test your organizing statement.


<>††††††† The thesis should be a single sentence. If your message consists of two or more sentences, then your essay will be fragmented. Your arguments will point in several different directions.


<>††††††† The words in your thesis should be clear and precise. Ambiguous language will make your argument hard to follow. Be certain that every word in your thesis is needed.


<>††††††† The thesis should be grammatical. Grammar is the architecture of a sentence. It shows the reader how the different parts relate to each other. Errors in sentence structure will make your message confusing.


<>††††††† The thesis should be on topic. Double-check the assignment. Make sure that your argument is properly focused and answers the question posed by your instructor.


Placing the thesis

††††††††††† Your argument will appear twice in the essay. Place it at the end of the first paragraph and at the beginning of the last paragraph.


††††††††††† If you examine scholarly writing, you will see that most authors follow these guidelines in a general way. They place their message near the end of the "opening" -- which might consist of several paragraphs. Then they restate it at the beginning of the "conclusion" -- which also might be longer than a paragraph.


††††††††††† Clearly, these rules are not etched in stone. But placing your message at the end of the first paragraph and the beginning of the last will serve you well in most university papers.





Main division statements

††††††††††† Your essay should also have a structure, organized around main division statements. These are the sentences that serve as the "thesis statements" for the separate units of your paper. In most instances, your essay will be divided into two, three, or four blocks. More divisions than four will fragment your ideas.


††††††††††† The first main division statement appears immediately after the thesis. The next main division begins the group of paragraphs that forms the next unit in your paper.


††††††††††† The best way to draft your structural statements is by creating an outline -- using sentences, not just points. An outline allows you to align the parts of the essay before you begin writing.


Topic sentences

††††††††††† In addition to main division statements, every paragraph should have its own message, called a "topic sentence." This is normally the first sentence in a paragraph -- except when the paragraph opens with a main division statement.


††††††††††† When writing a paragraph you should continue to think structurally. Keep in mind that every paragraph is a miniature composition.


††††††††††† In sum, make sure every essay you write has a clear message and structure. Follow these guidelines, and youíll be pleased by the improvement in your writing.