Discussion forum 5.2: working thesis statements

The purpose of this forum is to help you develop a strong working thesis on which to base your research for this week’s Response Paper 3, which then helps you get a jump start on research for your Research Paper due in week 7. After carefully reviewing directions for Response Paper 3, and the “Analyzing Literature and Evaluating Sources” files in week 5’s online learning resources, it’s time to begin discussion. 

1. First, review the list of texts that you can choose from for this upcoming annotated bibliography assignment (remember, the ENG 102 reading list is visible in the course Syllabus, in the Course Schedule section, and the Research Paper Guidelines are in Course Resources above week 1). You can write on 1-2 works, and no more than 3, for the research paper. 

2. In your main post, begin by writing the sentences below and filling in the blanks:

  • The text(s) that we have read in this class that I will use for my paper is/are: _______________ (you can include up to three)
  • I will use the __________critical reading strategy to help me analyze the text. 
  • The claim I want to make about that work(s) is: _____________.

3. THEN, combine all of that information into a SINGLE sentence, which will also be posted in your main post.  This will be the working thesis for your Research Paper. It may look something like this:

Using the psychological strategy to analyze “Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingway demonstrates that his purpose in writing the text was to help other soldiers learn to cope with the effects of their time spent at war. 

Here’s another example where the strategy is not directly mentioned in the thesis–this is the more refined and advanced option: 

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the character of Jay Gatsby to show that obsession with material wealth and social elevation can ultimately lead to personal destruction. 

So, for this Gatsby thesis, the writer might use a Marxist lens to assist in analysis, since the focus is on money/class.

Note: for the incorporation of the critical reading strategy, try to think of it in terms of how you are using it, not how the author is using it (since most don’t, at least not on purpose).

***You may not use the sample Hemingway thesis/argument above for your paper. Meaning, do not submit a version of that argument/thesis.  

Come up with your own unique argument for analysis!

In your further discussions, provide the following responses to classmates’ posts:  

  • Comment on your classmates’ ideas- can you think of any suggestions to write their thesis in a way that makes it more focused, debatable, or appropriate for analysis?
  • Is there another reading from class that the student could add that you think might improve upon their original idea? Why or why not? 
  • Is there a different critical strategy that the student could use that would perhaps better address their idea? If so, what is it and why?  
  • Find and post a link for online resources that can provide classmates with help with crafting thesis statements.
  • If necessary, reply with a new working thesis statement if your original idea needed improvement. 

Finally, please be sure to check for my feedback in this forum, specifically to see if I ask you to revise your thesis statement. You would want to do this before moving forward with your Annotated Bib. 


I  want to take some to clarify some information about the items related to proposing your topic. Keep in mind that for this thread, you are not writing the whole paper now–you are only presenting the argument you will later base the paper on. 

So, let’s take a look at what to include:  First, you need to decide on the author/work you will analyze.  Per directions, choose at least one work we’ve read in class so far, or that we will read. This does NOT mean any story or work from the textbook–it means any text that we are specifically reading/have read/will read. Check the course schedule to see the full breakdown of our readings.  Review the different selections we’ve read/will read/are reading, and then, make your selection. Keep in mind that if you are only going to work with one text, you need to choose a work that we are actively engaging in and with.  That said, you can work with up to three texts by an author, if you choose (though I don’t encourage this option). If you go this route, you would still need to include at least one of the author’s texts that we’ve read in class. Also, if you choose this route, you need to be careful to avoid giving an author biography, or general summary of the works, as neither of those meet the requirement of the upcoming essay.  After you choose your author and the work you will focus on, you need to come up with an argument about the piece.  Your research paper should be an analytical (analysis) essay that makes a specific, unique claim about one of the course readings. The claim should be made by applying specific schools of literary criticism from the “Critical Strategies for Reading” section of our textbook. So, that means that the argument will be based on the use of one of those critical reading strategies.  Since this essay is literary analysis with research included, the argument itself needs to be about the work in question, not just about the topic you’re focusing on (war, love, etc.) or the author of the work (background on Faulkner, for instance). It must be about the piece/story itself, as analyzed with the specific strategy. When doing that sort of analysis, we should always aim to include specific components of the work, such as plot, character, or theme, which can help us prove our argument as grounded in the text.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the argument/thesis must be debatable–it cannot state something known or obvious, and it shouldn’t be vague:  “‘Soldier’s Home’ is a story about a young man named Krebs who comes home from War and is depressed” would not be an effective thesis. It only describes something that is known; it doesn’t present an argument about the text that someone might disagree with.  As a general note about thesis statements, we should recall from past classes that they are usually one sentence (sometimes two) in length–they are not paragraphs long.

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