Session 7 (10/29/14): Recap and Assignment


1. We briefly reviewed the plan for paper completion

2. We reviewed what a thesis statement is. Takeaway:  A thesis statement is the main claim that serves as the foundation of most academic papers. A strong thesis statement must be both debatable and narrow. For a detailed overview of how to develop a debatable, narrow thesis, refer to this Purdue OWL Online Writing Lab post.

3. We engaged in a step-by-step process  designed to help us move from a broad topic to a tentative thesis statement.

First, we discussed what a tentative thesis statement is. The tentative thesis statement is an initial claim that serves as your guide for further research. During the course of further brainstorming, analyzing, and researching, you will come across new information, your opinion will evolve, and your thesis statement will evolve accordingly. For more on the phases of thesis statement development, refer to Hunter College Writing Center’s helpful explanation: Stages of the Thesis Statement.

For our class exercise, we looked at an example of a progression from general topic to strong thesis statement (see below – click to enlarge).

Above, I provided an example based on the very first TED Talk we watched, “The Danger of a Single Story” (Adichie, 2009). Based o my synthesis notes, I decided on the topic of “the single story as a tool of oppression.”

  • STEP 1: I turned my topic into a question: “Throughout history, how has the single story been used to perpetuate oppression of minority populations?”
  • STEP 2: I shared with the class that I would be writing a five to six page research paper in response to my question. The class felt that I would not be able to adequately answer this question in five to six pages, so I needed to narrow the scope of my question. Rather than try to write about all “minority populations,” I chose one group: Japanese-Americans. Rather than try to write about Japanese-Americans throughout history, I chose to focus on point in time: World War II.
  • STEP 3: I revised my question by substituting the specific concepts for the general ones. So my question became: How was the single story used to perpetuate oppression of Japanese-Americans during World War II?
  • STEP 4: Before doing further research, I turned my narrowed question into a tentative thesis statement: During World War II, the single story was used to turn the American majority against Japanese-Americans.
  • STEP 5: Guided by my tentative thesis statement, I made an initial outline and conducted research.
  • STEP 6: Based on my research and further brainstorming, I was able to refine my thesis statement, which became: “During World War II, the U.S. government used propaganda to promote a single story of Japanese-Americans, which in turn played a central role in the American majority’s acceptance of Japanese-American Internment.

We then went through the same process with one student’s research question. We found, however, that we didn’t know enough about the topic to formulate a tentative thesis statement. For this student, the process may have looked more like this:

Developing a Thesis Statement_blank_two steps

When you don’t know enough about a topic to form a tentative thesis statement, start with your revised question, conduct initial research, and formulate a tentative thesis when you know a bit more about the topic.

4. We discussed this week’s assignment. (See below.) 


  • Write your working thesis statement. (Refer to the “Developing a Thesis Statement” process above if helpful.)
  • “Sketch” your paper, using the Dartmouth resource as a guide. (See the section “Sketching Your Argument.”)
  • Develop a rough outline of your paper. (See example below.) This outline should include:
    • Your thesis statement.
    • Essay page length.
    • Major sections. (Think of these as “buckets” into which you will be putting the information you gather.)
    • Page length of each major section.
  • Continue conducting research, as needed, to gather support for your thesis.
  • Bring your essay sketch and rough outline to class next week.


Sample Rough Outline:

Thesis: During WWII, the U.S. government used propaganda to promote a single story of Japanese-Americans, which in turn played a central role in the American majority’s acceptance of Japanese-American Internment.

Total length: 6 pages

I. Introduction (.5 pages)

II. Historical Context (1 page)

III. Propaganda & Impact on American Attitudes toward Japanese-Americans (2 pages)

IV. American Reactions to Japanese-American Internment (1.5 pages)

V. Conclusion (1 page)


Questions? Email Sarah at


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