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Words of Wisdom

Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment.

— Ira Gassen




Writing Center Consultation

Narration: Howdy Ags, and welcome to “Write Right,” the student podcast of the Texas A&M Writing Center. I’m your host, Megan Dortch, taking you inside one of our writing consultations. Today you’ll hear Joe’s tips on thesis writing as he and Lauren form a thesis for her paper.

Joe: Hi, welcome to the Writing Center; I’m Joe. What are you working on today?

Lauren: Nice to meet you; I’m Lauren. My assignment is to write a paper on a topic that I feel very strongly about.  And well, I’ve had several friends who have flunked out of college.  So I wanted to write a paper on the reasons students flunk out of college and how to prevent that from happening in the future.

Joe: Yeah, that’s a good idea; sometimes brainstorming a thesis statement is the best place to start. Have you thought about that?

Lauren: Well I actually don’t know that much about writing thesis statements so I thought you could help me.

Joe: Ok, well what do you know?

Lauren: Well in high school I was taught all the rules: that it should be one sentence long, it must come at the end of your first paragraph, that it must have three main points, and that you have to write your thesis before the rest of your paper.

Joe: Well, those are some common myths about thesis writing, even though they can be a good place to start if you are new to writing them.  Actually, you  can use multiple sentences in your thesis if you need to, it can come anywhere in the introduction of your paper, and you don’t have to have a specific number of points. Just make sure you preview all you’ll be talking about. And there’s no rule saying you have to write your thesis perfectly before you write the rest of your paper. Many times, it’s good to have a rough thesis to start out with that you can go back and revise later. You’ll usually find that the direction of your paper changes as you write.

Lauren: That makes sense, but I’m still not sure how to get started.

Joe: Okay, well let’s start with what do you want to know.

Lauren: Why do students flunk of college?

Joe: That’s good, but it’s just a question. To make it a thesis statement you must have an argument and show readers the position you’ll be taking in your paper.

Lauren: Well I could go with what my parents think: students flunk out of college because they’re irresponsible and stupid.

Joe: Ok, well that may be true, but it’s confrontational and may offend readers. You want to be tactful, and you also want to make sure that the arguments you are making are credible. I’m sure your parents are trustworthy people, but their statement that students flunk because they’re irresponsible and stupid is just their opinion. This is where your research for this paper will come in. What reasons do your sources give?

Lauren: Yeah, I’ve got some articles here… they seem to list the main reasons as excessive partying, absence from classes, not completing assignments, and failure to prepare for exams.

Joe: Great. Sounds good, but now I want to know so what? Why should people care? You mentioned earlier that you also wanted to focus your paper on how to prevent students from flunking out. That sounds like it’s going to be the major argument you build to in your paper, so you’ll definitely want to include it in your thesis.

Lauren: Like, I… preview the main reasons, then show how that information leads to some of my own ideas – my argument – of how we can help keep students from flunking?

Joe: Exactly.

Lauren: Ok, let me think…… Factors such as excessive partying, being absent from class, and not completing assignments or studying for exams are main reasons that students today flunk out of college. Yet university-sponsored programs that make students aware of these reasons and the consequences of not completing their education will help prevent future drop-outs.

Joe: That sounds great! Now you have some great reasons and your own argument – student awareness programs – to build on in the rest of your paper.  And remember that as you write, you’ll probably want to go back and modify your thesis. But as for now, you’re ready to get started writing!

Lauren: Alright. That helped a lot, and I feel a lot better about getting started. Thanks for your help!

Narration: So now we know that thesis statements clearly state your key argument, or position, as well as preview main points you’ll discuss in your paper. It doesn’t have to be a single sentence, or come at the end of your introduction. Just make sure your thesis tells your reader what your paper’s point is, why you’re making it, and how you’re going to make it.

For more information on thesis writing, and to see examples of sample thesis statements, visit our website, at writingcenter.tamu.edu. Thanks for tuning in to this exciting episode of “Write Right.”



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