The thesis is one of the most important concepts in college expository writing. A thesis sentence focuses your ideas for the paper; it's your argument or insight or viewpoint crystallized into a sentence or two that gives the reader your main idea. It's not only useful for the reading audience to understand the purpose of the essay, it's also useful for you as a writer, as it indicates the type of support that will follow in the paper and it may indicate a logical structure or order for that support. So...you need to have a good grasp of the concept of thesis in order to proceed.
The thesis identifies two basics:
- what your ideas are about, and
- what your ideas are.
There are two parts to a thesis sentence that reflect these basics.
- The topic in the thesis tells what you are writing about.
- The angle in the thesis tells what your ideas are about the topic.
- All successful college students have certain basic characteristics. [The main topic is about college students, while the idea or angle about the topic is that successful students share certain characteristics. The thesis indicates the type of support needed--discussion of those characteristics that contribute to college success.]
- For most adult students returning to college, the problems that they face along the way are outweighed by their achievements. [The main topic is about adult college students, while the idea or angle about the topic is that problems are outweighed by achievements. The thesis indicates the type of support needed and the order of that support--an explanation of the problems first and then an explanation of achievements second.]
- Adult students returning to college make up a higher percentage of entering students than they did twenty years ago because of a number of statistical, economic, and social reasons. [The main topic is about adult students returning to college, while the idea or angle about the topic is that there are reasons for the higher percentage of adults returning to college. The thesis indicates the type of support needed and the order of that support--an explanation of the statistical reasons first, economic reasons second, and social reasons third.]
Do you understand the basic topic and angle concept? If so, then there are a few more things to consider about the thesis. (And if not, now's the time to start asking the tutor!) It's important to investigate additional thesis characteristics at this point to make sure that you'll be creating working thesis sentences that actually are workable and appropriate for college essays. So in addition to knowing what a thesis is, you need to know what a thesis is not. A thesis sentence's angle should NOT be:
- Too broad. For example, the following thesis really doesn't pinpoint a specific insight about the topic: Adult students returning to college have a hard time. In what ways do adult students have a hard time? You'd need to identify a more specific insight in this angle.
- Too narrow a statement of fact. For example, the following thesis really cannot be developed into a full essay because the angle doesn't contain the writer's own thoughts or insights about the subject: Adult students returning to college read an average of 7.5 books per term. A reader may respond by saying, "So what?" A narrow statement of fact does not contain your own personal analysis, argument, or interpretation of the topic, that all-important angle which a thesis must have.
- An announcement. For example, the following really is not a thesis at all because it lacks an angle that gives the writer's own insight into the topic: My topic is the adult student returning to college. Again, "So what?" What's the reader's idea here?
Once you create a working thesis, you should assess it to make sure that it fulfills thesis characteristics. Make sure it has a clear topic (indication of what the thesis is about) and angle (what your own ideas are about the topic). Make sure that the angle is not too broad, too narrow, a statement of fact, or an announcement. Work with the angle to make it indicate the order of your support, if you choose to do that for yourself or for your reading audience. And realize that the thesis is a working thesis until you finalize the essay (it's o.k. to revise the thesis as you go along just as long as you retain important thesis characteristics.)
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What is a Definition Essay?
A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. Some terms have definite, concrete meanings, such as glass, book, or tree. Terms such as honesty, honor, or love are abstract and depend more on a person's point of view.
Three Steps to Effective Definition
- Tell readers what term is being defined.
- Present clear and basic information.
- Use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand.
Choosing a Definition
Choosing a definition is a key step in writing a definition essay. You need to understand the term before you can define it for others. Read the dictionary, but don't just copy the definition. Explain the term briefly in your own words. Also, it's important to limit your term before you start defining it. For example, you could write forever on the term "love." To limit it, you would write about either "romantic love," "platonic love," or "first love."
Thesis Statement of a Definition Essay
The thesis statement usually identifies the term being defined and provides a brief, basic definition.
(term) (basic definition)
Ex: Assertiveness is standing up for your rights.
How To Write an Effective Definition
- Create a definition. There are several ways to define a term. Here are a few options.
- Define by function. Explain what something does or how something works.
- Define by structure. Tell how something is organized or put together.
Define by analysis. Compare the term to other members of its class and then illustrate the differences. These differences are special characteristics that make the term stand out. For example, compare a Siberian husky to other dogs, such as lap dogs, mutts, or sporting dogs.
(term) (precise definition)
Ex: A Siberian husky is a dog reputed for its ability to tolerate cold, its distinctive features, and its keen strength and stamina.
- Define by what the term does not mean. This distinction can sometimes clarify a definition and help a reader to better understand it.
- Use understandable facts, examples, or anecdotes. Select facts, examples, or anecdotes to fully explain your definition. Ask yourself, "Which examples will best help readers understand the term? What examples would most appeal to my readers? Will a brief story reveal the term's meaning?" Do not use any examples that will not support the definition.
Remember: A definition essay is writing that explains what a term means. When writing a definition essay, remember to tell readers what term is being defined, to present a clear and basic definition, and to use facts, examples, or anecdotes that readers will understand
Here are the examples of popular definition essay topics:
- Sense of Humor
Whatever essay topic you choose, you should be interested in the subject and familiar with it. It would be great if you had your personal experience in the matter you are going to define.