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The Argumentative Thesis Statement: A Brief Guide

28 Feb 2017Writing Tips

Let’s face it: thesis writing is hard.

Theses come in all different permutations. Even with the most focused of topics, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to approach any given subject. While some students opt for a more analytical approach to their papers, papers geared towards persuasion should have a strong argumentative thesis statement.

One way to write a good thesis statement for a persuasive essay is to break it into three parts: cause, effect, and opposition. Take this example of a good thesis statement:

“Despite the perceived risk of disease and infection, many conscientious parents choose not to vaccinate their young children for health or religious reasons.”

Cause is the very crux of the thesis. In our above example, it is “many conscientious parents choose not to vaccinate their young children.” This is what the paper is about. The paper that should follow should focus on the argument that parents should not vaccinate their children.

Effect is the reason and consequence (or consequences) of the cause. The argumentative thesis statement requires an effect in order to give a road map of what issues the paper will cover, in addition to demonstrating how they will relate to the topic itself. In our example, it is  simply “for health or religious reasons,” and we can assume that the paper will cover why health and religious concerns are valid reasons not to vaccinate one’s child.

The most important part of a persuasive essay is the opposition. While your own case is important, without properly refuting evidence to the contrary and discrediting other opinions, your paper cannot effectively convince the reason that your point is valid.Including the opposition in your thesis statement allows you to acknowledge it early. In our example, “Despite the perceived risk of disease and infection” presents the primary opposition to our argument, subtly indicating that it is not as important as health concerns like autism or religious motivation, as in the case of Christian scientists. Ignoring the other voices in the discussion of your topic does nothing but make your argument appear shallow. An argumentative thesis statement should only reinforce the strength of what it is you have to say.

Let’s look at another example of a thesis statement:

“While some may argue that he was dead to the literary community long before his death, having produced only one notable work, the astute observer will soon realize that J.D Salinger’s magnum opus, Catcher in the Rye, remains today one of the most influential commentaries on the human condition, cementing Salinger’s place in history.”

This thesis is a little more complex. It includes the opposition (that J.D. Salinger was “dead to the literary world,” and, more implicitly, that he was irrelevant outside the context of Catcher in the Rye), the cause or crux (that J.D. Salinger is actually incredibly important), and the effect or reason (he created a piece of literature that is still culturally relevant today.)

Each of these pieces work well together, and lead the way for a solid paper that examines two things:  how Catcher in the Rye was so influential and why this justifies J.D. Salinger as a great writer.

Using templates like this helps to create a solid introduction to a persuasive paper. Remember to include all voices when crafting your argumentative thesis statement, and you’ll be able to formulate a strong case on any topic you want.

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