How would one come up with a thesis statement if asked to write an essay? What would be the correct train of thought?Well, I'm taking a course on analysing literature, but seem to have some trouble...

How would one come up with a thesis statement if asked to write an essay? What would be the correct train of thought?

Well, I'm taking a course on analysing literature, but seem to have some trouble coming up with thesis statements to start off my essays. Hope the users here would be able to give me suggestions on how I can obtain the correct train of thought to come up with these statements when I need to.

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As you develop your writing skills, there are some formulaic approaches you can use to develop a thesis statement. 

In a literary analysis, your first step should be to think about your purpose in writing the paper.  What is it that you want to have accomplished as the reader finishes reading what you have written? Generally, you want the reader to understand an idea you have about the literary text.

When we write about a literary text, we are doing so through a literary lens.  That means that your idea about the text will be rooted in a critical theory or will examine the literary elements or devices in the text.  For example, your idea about the text might be from a feminist perspective.  Or, your idea might be that the author's use of symbolism or character development explicates the theme of the book. 

Once you have hit upon the idea that you want to share with your reader, you need to know what kind of support you are going to offer for your idea.  For example, if I were writing a literary analysis about Huckleberry Finn, my idea might be that the Mississippi River is a symbol of freedom.  How might I support that idea?  Huck and Jim are both looking for freedom, and the river is their means of achieving that freedom. 

Now you will have an idea and some means of supporting that idea.  A good formula for writing the thesis statement is to state the idea and provide a preview of how you will support the idea. Getting back to Huckleberry Finn, I might say something like, "In Huckleberry Finn, the Mississippi River is a symbol of freedom, which Twain uses as the literal means by which Huck and Jim try to attain two different kinds of freedom, freedom from being civilized and freedom from slavery." Now my reader knows what my idea is and how I plan to support that idea. 

I have found that it is not always possible to write a complete thesis statement until I have finished the body of a paper.  I certainly need the idea I am going to support, but often, as I write, I find new ways to support my idea, so once I am done with the body of the paper, I go back and write the complete thesis statement.  Writing is a recursive process, and so the order in which you write is not necessarily all that important as you are working on a draft. 

If you want to share the name of the text you are expected to analyze, we can offer more specific help.  Good luck to you.

epollock | Student

Form opinions about what you read, and then try to find evidence to support your opinions. If you do this enough, you should be able to see very clear themes that the author is suggesting.

A thesis statement is your opinion. It is your plan and your organization for your paper.

There are two kinds of theses statements: explicit, and implicit. An explicit thesis statement lists the controlling ideas that support your thesis statement. For example look at the following explicit thesis statement:

His moral and spiritual reconciliation in Siberia serve to break his isolation from society (a), brings him together with Sonia (b), and renew him as a person who can function in society(c).

Your opinion is that in the novel Crime and Punishment, the protagonist undergoes a spiritual and moral reconciliation. That is your opinion. You will prove it by providing evidence in the form of a, b, c, and then analyze why a,b,c support your thesis statement. 

An implicit thesis staement will be:

His moral and spiritual reconciliation in Siberia are brought about through his actions in Siberia. You see how for an implict thesis statement, you actually don't list a.b, c. You will prove a,b,c in your paper, but you do not state them in an implicit thesis statement.

Practice coming up with a few of your own and you should be in a good position to write them in the future.