Dialog of the comic strip between calvin and hobbs: Calvin: “I need some help with my homework, Hobbes.” Hobbs: “What’s the assignment?” Calvin: “I’m supposed to write a paper that presents both sides of an issue and then defend one of the arguments.” Hobbs: “What’s your issue?” Calvin: “That’s the problem. I can’t think of anything to argue.” Hobbs: “That’s hard to believe.” Calvin: “I’m always right and everybody else is always wrong! What’s to argue about?!”The entire objective of this page is to help students craft a thesis statement. In order to make the process a little easier, we are going to break the thesis down to developing an argument and finding the greater significance of said argument; these two components, when combined, will create the overarching claim of the research paper. Let's begin:

Developing a Claim

  • Find Something You Hate: A simple way to develop an argument is to find something you hate about a text or explain why you think the text is trash.
  • Headcanons: Character studies and alternate interpretations of a specific scene are completely valid literary research pursuits.
  • Something Interesting: Was there something that grabbed your attention when you first read/watched the text your paper is about? Explore whatever that interesting thing was.

Example:

Thesis for The RFK Tapes:

"Over the next 10 episodes, we’re going to plunge into the vaults of the Robert F Kennedy assassination. It’s a murder that changed the course of American history, and a case authorities have claimed for the last 50 years was open and shut."1 

Thesis Breakdown:

Subject: RFK assassination

Object: Controversy surrounding the conclusion of the case

Information from the Experts

  • "In a research report, you make a claim, back it with reasons, support them with evidence, acknowledge and respond to other views, and sometimes explain your principles of reasoning. There’s nothing arcane in any of that, because you do it in every conversation that inquires thoughtfully into an unsettled issue."2
  • The fundamental basis of a research paper is the presentation of a claim based on some reason backed up with evidence as indicated in the following illustration3:

Claim because of reason based on evidence

  • "So as you assemble the core of your argument, you must offer readers a plausible set of reasons, in a clear, logical order, based on evidence they will accept."4
  • "Careful readers will question every part of your argument, so you must anticipate as many of their questions as you can, and then acknowledge and respond to the most important ones."5

Finding the Significance

  •  So What?: The "So What?" of an argument is primarily about the audience. Why should the audience care about your argument? This is the space where you explore the larger implications of your paper's conclusions as well as try to persuade your audience to your way of thinking.
  • Contribution to Scholarship: Every piece of writing about a topic is supposed to be moving the conversation forward.

Example:

Significance of The RFK Tapes:

  • Police misconduct / Miscarriage of justice
  • Contribution to the distrust of the government and law enforcement
  • An unbiased accumulation of the facts surrounding the murder of RFK and the conspiracy theory surrounding the case's conclusion 

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  1. Zac Stuart-Pontier and Bill Klaber, "June 5, 1968," June 5, 2018, in The RFK Tapes, produced by Cadence 13, podcast, MP3 audio, 00:02:50-00:03:03, http://rfktapes.com/1-june-5-1968/.
  2. Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Crafting of Research, 3rd Edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008), 108.
  3. Ibid., 112.
  4. Ibid., 130.
  5. Ibid., 113.