Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

Saturday School: Lesson #4 – The Thesis Statement


Lesson #4 – The Thesis Statement

  1. Complete the reading assignment
  2. Complete the writing exercise
  3. Post your assignment in the comments
  4. Share the lesson with a friend


As I explained last week, we will be focusing on the persuasive essay to start. This is because of what we have learned about writing: if it’s good, it will have a compelling message. Later, we will discuss how that applies to fiction, for example. For now, we want to conceptualize the fundamentals of our craft, because we will utilize these tools in all of our writing projects.


Also, last week I introduced you to four elements of contingency (variables): genre, subject, audience, purpose.

  • The genre is the kind of writing one is doing (personal letter, persuasive essay, etc.).
  • The subject is the particular discipline in which one is writing (history, science, humanities, business, etc.).
  • The audience is the person or persons to whom the compelling message is directed.
  • The purpose is the reason for the compelling message.

Today’s Lesson

In this lesson, I want to introduce you to the thesis statement. A thesis is a proposition that argues something about your topic. It is more than an opinion or impression about a topic. It is a statement that can be refuted or affirmed by the reader.

The thesis is your assertion. It is, typically, a single declarative sentence issued in the introduction of your paper (sometimes called the Exordium). The thesis is what sets the trajectory for your paper. In other words, it is the single statement that all other arguments in your paper are made to support. It is the anchor for each part of the whole.

According to Scott Crider, in his book The Office of Assertion, the thesis is the distilled essence of your entire paper. A well-written thesis will make its proposition in such a way as to ensure the scope of the assertion is properly limited to the size of your essay.

Crider suggests we think in terms of a map. A world map will do no good helping you navigate your school campus. And a map of the U.S. will not help one explore the continents of the world. A good thesis focuses on the writer’s assertion the same way a map will focus on the area being studied.

  • Bad thesis: I like the craft of writing.
  • Better thesis: Mastering the craft of writing is essential to a quality liberal arts education.
  • Good thesis: Students who hope to succeed in life and work must master the craft of writing before graduating high school so their college education is not compromised.
  • Bad thesis: Though the mountains and lakes are beautiful in the summer, fishing on vacation is boring.
  • Better thesis: Fishing is a favorite activity for many vacationers, but hiking is a better alternative.
  • Good thesis: Hiking is a sound alternative to fishing because hiking will keep vacationers in top physical shape during the summer.

Writing Exercise

With your topic and ideal audience in mind, write your best thesis statement by asserting a proposition about your topic. Write it in the comments to get feedback.

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he'll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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