Chapter 1. Tutorial: Developing Your Thesis


Tutorial: Developing Your Thesis
Tutorial: Developing Your Thesis
You must read each slide, and complete any questions on the slide, in sequence.

Authors: Alfred Rosa & Paul Eschholz

Activity Objective: After you have selected a topic for your essay, it's time to write a thesis statement. This activity will guide you through the process of developing a thesis. To start, you need to look at the ideas and information you have generated about your topic and ask questions about them in order to understand the topic completely.

Click the forward and backward arrows to navigate through the slides. You may also click the above "Outline" button to see an overview of all the slides in this activity.

Step 1: Ask Questions

Let’s say that you chose or were assigned the topic of internships, the practice of employing relatively inexperienced people, often students, so that they become familiar with particular work environments and business practices. Through your reading you have learned that internships are often mutually beneficial. Interns can gain useful work-related experience and businesses get inexpensive temporary help (which sometimes leads to permanent positions).

Now you need to more deeply inform yourself about internships by asking questions about the information and ideas you have gathered. For example:

  • Why did internships develop as an educational and business practice? Where and when are they now used?
  • Are there internship programs at your school? If so, what informational materials are available to you?
  • Who can help you find an internship? Can you get an internship on your own?
  • Do any businesses in your area offer internships?
  • What are the negative aspects of an internship for both parties?
  • Do you have family or friends who have employed interns? Do you have family or friends who have had internships? What information have you been able to gain from those on both sides of the relationship?
  • Are interns usually paid? How are internships funded?

Once the questioning starts, one question will lead to another, and the answers to these questions — often found through more reading, interviews, and discussions — will inform you about the depth and breadth of your topic. If all this is done well, you will soon begin to think like an expert on your topic.

At this point, the likelihood of developing a thesis, or a number of them, will greatly increase. It is out of the facts and ideas that you have collected and the questions you ask of that material that a thesis will come to mind.

Before heading to the next step, take a moment to ask questions and think more deeply about your own topic.

Step 2: List Several Possible Thesis Statements

Once you have asked all the questions you think necessary and have supplied answers to those questions, you are ready to list possible thesis statements. Trying to develop not just one thesis but several of them can be a very helpful strategy in refining your ideas and coming up with the best possible thesis. Also, keep in mind that a thesis can be considered a working thesis until you are sure it conveys exactly what you want to say, or until you revise it into its final form. Here are some theses that might be developed as a result of a deeper investigation into the topic of internships:

  • All effective internship programs have five key elements.
  • Employers must have a clearly defined set of expectations for internship programs.
  • We need a federally funded internship program.

Now it's your turn! In the spaces below, write three possible thesis statements for your topic.


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Write three possible thesis statements for your topic.
Your response has been accepted.

Step 3: Choose Your Direction

The potential theses listed in Step 2 reflect different approaches to and aspects of the topic of internships. Let’s take a closer look at how each one may have been arrived at and where each might lead the writer:

All effective internship programs have five key elements.

This thesis is most likely the product of an examination of successful internship programs to learn their key elements. The supporting information might also serve to explain the establishment of an internship program or how to improve an existing one.

Employers must have a clearly defined set of expectations for internship programs.

This thesis suggests that successful internships are the result of clear expectations for the intern and well-defined pathways for achieving success.

We need a federally funded internship program.

This thesis suggests that internships are so worthwhile that they need to be made available nationally and be federally funded.

Now, think back to the three possible thesis statements that you generated in Step 2. Choose the thesis statement that interests you the most, and keep it in mind as we head into the next step.

Step 4: Write Your Thesis Statement

A thesis statement should be

  • the most important point you make about your topic,
  • more general than the ideas and facts you use to support it, and
  • focused enough to be covered in the space allotted for the essay.

A thesis statement is not a question, although it might be prompted by one or many, as we have seen with the topic of internships.

An effective method for developing a thesis statement is to begin by writing, “What I want to say is that . . .”

What I want to say is that unless employers offer paid internships, businesses will never recruit the most qualified interns, and interns will not be able to receive the full benefits of their internship.

Later, when you delete the formulaic opening and streamline the text, you will be left with a thesis statement:

Unless employers offer paid internships, businesses will never recruit the most qualified interns, and interns will not be able to receive the full benefits of their internship.


_feedback: Your response has been accepted.

Step 5: Revise Your Thesis Statement if Necessary

Remember that you are not unalterably committed to the wording of your original thesis, what writers call a working thesis. Just as you provide evidence to support the thesis statement, you are free to revise the statement to fit the evidence. For example, let’s suppose you decide to use the following thesis statement for an essay on internships:

We need a federally funded internship program.

You discover as you draft your essay that your evidence is largely financial. You learn that schools and businesses, especially in poorer parts of the country, refrain from establishing internships because there is little money for such efforts. You reason that if there were a federally funded program, students and businesses from any part of the country, regardless of local resources, would have an equal opportunity to participate. You then revise your working thesis to reflect this additional, more pertinent evidence:

We need a nationwide federally funded internship program that will provide equal opportunity for all students and businesses, regardless of their regional economic differences.

Models for Writers abounds in essays with excellent thesis statements, and we often ask you to identify them. Reading essays with strong thesis statements and locating the controlling idea in each is a great way to learn how to write your own strong thesis statements.


_feedback: Your response has been accepted. Congratulations! You have completed this activity and developed a strong thesis statement. As you read the essays throughout Models for Writers, be on the lookout for thesis statements that you find especially effective.