how to write an arguable thesis
Just as there are two different types of thesis statements (informative and persuasive), there are two basic styles you can use.
The first style uses a list of two or more points . This style of thesis is perfect for a brief essay that contains only two or three body paragraphs. This basic five-paragraph essay is typical of middle and high school assignments.
An argumentative thesis must make a claim that is logical and possible. Claims that are outrageous or impossible are not argumentative theses.
Federal immigration law is a tough issue about which many people disagree is not an arguable thesis because it does not assert a position.
First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author’s argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis.)
An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim. “While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline” is an effective thesis sentence that “telegraphs,” so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, “Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim.”
Still, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to an argumentative thesis statement.
Instead you might write:
- Unspecific thesis: “Eleanor Roosevelt was a strong leader as First Lady.” This thesis lacks an argument. Why was Eleanor Roosevelt a strong leader?
- Specific thesis: “Eleanor Roosevelt recreated the role of the First Lady by her active political leadership in the Democratic Party, by lobbying for national legislation, and by fostering women’s leadership in the Democratic Party.” The second thesis has an argument: Eleanor Roosevelt “recreated” the position of First Lady, and a three-part structure with which to demonstrate just how she remade the job.
- Unspecific thesis: “At the end of the nineteenth century French women lawyers experienced difficulty when they attempted to enter the legal profession.” No historian could argue with this general statement and uninteresting thesis.
- Specific thesis: “At the end of the nineteenth century French women lawyers experienced misogynist attacks from male lawyers when they attempted to enter the legal profession because male lawyers wanted to keep women out of judgeships.” This thesis statement asserts that French male lawyers attacked French women lawyers because they feared women as judges, an intriguing and controversial point.
Idea 3. Spend time “mulling over” your topic. Make a list of the ideas you want to include in the essay, then think about how to group them under several different headings. Often, you will see an organizational plan emerge from the sorting process.