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Developing a Working Thesis

Finding an Angle Assignment Internet Resources

A thesis is the controlling idea of a paper. For an informative essay, the thesis identifies your focus.

For example, if you research identity theft, you will find information on many aspects of the topic:

In a 3–5 page paper, you cannot begin to cover all angles on your topic. Your thesis identifies the angle you will cover. This helps you focus your research, as the example below shows. A thesis also lets readers know what to expect; if your focus is on the emotional impact of identity theft, readers cannot complain that you don't cover ways to avoid becoming a victim.

Identity Theft


What is identity theft?

How can people protect themselves against identity theft?
Thesis Identity theft is a fast-growing crime committed by thieves who use stolen personal information to commit various types of fraud, including theft of credit, driver's license information, and medical identity. To protect themselves against identity theft, consumers should understand how identity thieves work, guard their personal information, and learn how to fight back.
Content covered

Three common types of identity theft are

• credit identity theft

• driver's license identity theft

• medical identity theft

Three ways consumers can protect themselves include

• knowing how identity thieves work

• guarding their personal information

• learning how to fight back


How do I develop a working thesis?

To generate a working thesis, follow these steps:

  1. Read your sources and take brief notes on them.
  2. Brainstorm interesting ideas from the articles, using techniques such as freewriting, questioning, and graphic organizers.
  3. Generate a research question by completing this sentence: I want to know why/how/what....
  4. Generate a thesis, which is the answer to your research question.
  5. Be sure that your thesis is not a question (Is identity theft a problem?), but a statement (Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes.)

For a more detailed explanation of how to generate a thesis, see The KU Handbook for Writers, pp. 41-44.

Why is my first thesis called a working thesis?
Your ideas about your topic may change as you continue to work on your essay. You might discover a new angle that is more interesting than the one you first chose. Your first thesis may boring, so you may have to look for an approach that will give readers new information. You may even learn something that causes you to change your thinking about a topic. As your thinking changes, your thesis may also change.

How will having three main points help me write my paper? As you do your research, you can concentrate on sources that give you statistics, examples, reasons, and opinions to support each point. You can ignore material that is not related to your main points. (See The KU Handbook for Writers, pp. 60-64.) As you write your draft, you can expand each of the bullet points in the Content section into a full paragraph. (See The KU Handbook for Writers, pp. 107-110, for a more detailed explanation.)

Three main points can also be expanded into a book. For example, in Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters, Peter Langman analyzes three types of shooters: psychopathic, psychotic, and traumatized.

What are the requirements for the CM102 Unit 3 assignment?

  • Follow rubric for Unit 3 Project (on KU-ACE) if you are comfortable using 1-2-3 order.
  • If you prefer to organize by making associations or writing about your topic, discuss alternatives like concept-mapping, a progress report, or an exploratory essay with your instructor.
  • Your purpose is to identify the focus of your paper and the main points you plan to develop.

Why should I take time to make a plan?

Researchers have found that those who make a plan before writing generally produce higher quality work. In fact, experienced writers in the workplace might use up to 40% of their time on a writing project to plan.

If you prefer to just start writing, you can still use that method. Go ahead and start writing as usual. Then, when your ideas start to gel, pause long enough to identify your main point and the ideas that support it. Then you can jump back into your writing.

Internet Resources for Developing a Thesis Statement

Getting Ideas

Prewriting Techniques (Kaplan Writing Lab 1.1.C)
Getting Ideas (Webster CC)
Developing a Research Question (Empire State)
The Question Is the Answer (McKenzie)
How to Create a Concept Map (Utah State)
Using a Topic to Generate Questions (UWashington)


Developing an Informative Thesis

From Topic to Research Question to Thesis (Kaplan Writing Lab 1.1.B)
Writing a Thesis Statement (Kaplan Writing Lab 2.1)
Thesis Statement (LEO)
Criteria for a Strong Thesis (Toronto District School Board)
Thesis Statement (U Richmond Writing Center)
Thesis Statement: Tip Sheet 13 (CLRS)
Re-evaluating Your Topic and Research Strategy (OhioLINK)

Organizing an Essay

Essay Structure diagram (JCU Study Skills Online)
Alternatives to Outlining (JCU Study Skills Online)
Wizard: Create-a-Paper template (Maricopa)
Outline for Five-Paragraph Essay
Basic 5-paragraph essay with plan of development and outline (.html)
Basic 5-paragraph essay with parts labeled (.html)
Developing an Outline (Purdue OWL)
Beyond the 5-paragraph Essay (Dartmouth Writing Center)
Find the organization that's best for your topic: Thinking Strategies and Writing Patterns (U Maryland)







Copyright in these materials belongs to C. Munzenmaier © 2010.
Teachers are free to reproduce or modify them for nonprofit educational use.

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