Drake English 207
Developing and Refining Analytical Essays
The simplest way to develop, organize and
refine any essay is to think in terms of a thesis and organize in terms of
1) The essay makes a single, clear claim (thesis) and then supports
it; say something is true and then prove it.
2) The first sentence of every paragraph --
the topic sentence -- supports the thesis; the rest of that paragraph
supports the topic sentence.
will become much easier, and you'll work much faster, once you begin
"seeing" this structure.
Qualities of a strong thesis:
a) A strong thesis
addresses the assigned or central question or questions, is “on topic”.
b) A thesis must
have tension; it must be arguable or debatable.
Not a thesis:
“The Jerry Springer Show hopes to have high ratings and appeal to
“The specific events and characters on The Jerry Springer Show are used
to market specific products advertised during the commercial breaks.”
c) A strong thesis
addresses the “so what?” question: it says something interesting or valuable, or
~ Reveal hidden purpose/reveal ulterior motives
~ Identify how something complex works/reveal structure
~ Reveal the
social significance of something commonly taken for granted
~ Describe something familiar in an unfamiliar way.
But none of these will be interesting to the
reader if he or she can’t answer the question “Ya, so what? Who cares? Why does
this matter?” The thesis must be meaningful -- at least to you, the
author, but, generally, we write to tell people things they didn't and should
Qualities of a complete thesis:
A thesis is not just the main idea; it is a roadmap, synopsis,
abstract or preview of the entire essay, so it should also briefly outline the entire
argument put forward in the paper, in the order
presented in the paper, including:
a) the main point (the claim)
b) the supporting
points, and (the explicit reasons)
c) the conclusion
Example of complete thesis: “In this essay I hope
to show that he specific events and characters on The Jerry Springer Show
are used to market specific products advertised during the commercial breaks.
Specifically I want to argue that the show encourages its audience, middle-class
viewers, to fear an unrealistic threat to their social values from the
Springer Show’s so called “guests”. These fears are reinforced by the
middle-class studio audience, which takes pleasure from separating itself from
the actions and social class of the ‘guests’ etc etc. Logically, the show
reinforces the values presented in most of the advertisements. Finally I would like to
show how the Springer Show advances its commercial purpose, to sell
products, in an unethical and potentially damaging way.”
many ways, each paragraph is a mini essay: a claim followed by supporting
Writing Fully Developed, Topic-Sentence
Driven Paragraphs: Work from general concepts to
specific examples and make explicit connections between
concept/topic sentence: “The Jerry Springer Show
carefully controls its use of strong emotional appeals to effectively
persuade its audience to adopt the producers' values.” (note this is a
"mini-thesis" or premise supporting the central, main thesis)
“Characters are either cheered or “booed” by the studio audience when they walk
on stage. For viewers at home, this audience reaction seems spontaneous or
‘natural’, but of course the audience is in fact reacting to cue cards, scripted
by the producers.”
example: “In the segment we watched, when Crishon
walks out on stage he is instantly ‘booed’, effectively setting him up as ‘the
bad guy’ before he has even spoken his piece. Later the audience cheers
enthusiastically as they watch him physically attacked by Taiwana. These
audience reactions signal to viewers who is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as well as what
values are acceptable or unacceptable. Later we find these acceptable and
unacceptable values will be mirrored in the specific advertisements. For
example, in the Western Union ad, the Black man is, like Crishon, the bad guy,
as they are in the Cops preview. ...etc.”
Thesis? Thesis, where's my thesis?
Often when I grade student papers and mark the paper as lacking a thesis, I
can flip to the back page, and there, in the very last paragraph, at the very
end of the paper, is the complete and accurate thesis. What's it doing
there? Well, the student probably didn't actually reach his or her full
conclusion about the topic until the paper is complete; that is a good thing!
That's the way good minds work: you don't come to a conclusion until you have
completed your analysis and evaluation.
But although that's good thinking, it's
unclear writing, so copy or paraphrase or just cut/paste that conclusion
and stick it in the beginning of your paper, in a clear, complete thesis
reason, I recommend students write the body of the paper before writing the
introduction, and then make sure you review your thesis after you've written
the rest of the essay. Writing the outlines will also tend to help you
avoid this problem.