Fixing a Weak Thesis
The most important part of your essay, if you’re writing about literature, is your thesis. This is your central statement or theory—this is what your article is trying to prove. The entirety of your essay should flow from this initial statement—it informs the rest of your writing and tells the reader what you’re trying to prove.
This, of course, means that it’s important to have a strong thesis. You’re trying to interpret the text as it relates not only to other things you have read, but to your own experience. You want to make a strong claim, but not one that you can’t back up. You’re trying to convince your reader that your interpretation is correct. You don’t want an overly simple thesis that’s obvious, or a far too complex one you can’t support. Picking the proper thesis is key to writing a solid essay.
What does a weak thesis look like? Maybe it makes no claim whatsoever!
- This essay will examine the pros and cons of Darth Vader’s attempt to draw Luke Skywalker into the Dark Side.
You’re not actually making a claim here, and your essay will probably be meandering. Try picking a specific issue and talking about it. Maybe, in this example, you’d want to claim that Luke joining the Dark Side would have helped him gain power, or that it would have ruined everything he had worked for—it doesn’t matter which side you take, but if you straddle the fence, your essay isn’t going to go anywhere.
Maybe your thesis is too obvious!
- In Jurassic Park, cloning dinosaurs was a bad idea.
If your thesis is something that all your readers would immediately agree with, it needs to be stronger. Try to raise a question—or even to disagree with common wisdom. Maybe you could argue that the idea of cloning dinosaurs was a good one, if they only chose plant-eaters, for example.
Maybe your thesis just parrots conventional wisdom!
- There is too much violence in the movies.
If your thesis is so commonly stated that it’s essentially a cliché, that’s a problem. In this example, there’s still an argument about whether or not there’s too much violence in media, but it’s one that’s been argued hundreds of times to the point where one side is just the conventional knowledge. If you’re going to handle a common topic like this, you want to add in a fresh perspective or complication—maybe you want to argue that instead of violence, movie writers should use some other, specific thing to settle conflicts—maybe a dance-off! It doesn’t particularly matter what your solution is, so long as it’s a more original thought.
Maybe your thesis just argues your own personal experience and isn’t applicable to other people!
- Inside Out was the best movie of 2015 because it reminded me of the time I had to move.
While personal experience can provide a strong foundation for an essay—and, in fact, it’s extraordinarily difficult to write an essay without dealing with your own experience—you should try to remain dispassionate in your thesis—rational and impartial. In this example, you could talk about how Inside Out struck a chord with people because of its portrayal of someone moving to a new school, and use your own personal experience as an example of how it was effective, rather than just saying it’s effective because it worked for you.
Maybe your theory is just too broad!
- The movies can have both a positive and negative effect on people.
That’s so broad that it covers way too much ground—not only is the topic “the movies” far too large of a construct to really handle in anything short of a multiple-thousand page work, but the conclusion is so general that you can apply it to nearly anything; it doesn’t say anything in particular about the movies themselves.
Replace your generalities (“positive and negative effects”) with something specific. Rank and categorize. Try to imagine attempting to convince your best friend that your point is right—if they would go “oh, sure, whatever,” your thesis might not be specific enough.
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