More Information on Analyzing the Thesis

There are other ways to analyze the thesis to determine the type and/or order of the support needed in the essay:

  1. Find the general question that the thesis implies.
  2. Determine the specific type of thought in the thesis: process, division and classification, cause and effect, comparison and contrast, definition.

Finding the General Question that the Thesis Implies

Children enjoy professional wrestling for many reasons implies a "why?" question: Why do they enjoy professional wrestling?

Although many people consider vocational education (such as computer training) more immediately beneficial than liberal education (such as a history course), liberal education benefits learners by teaching them to apply, analyze, and evaluate information.

This thesis implies a "what?" question: What are the ways in which liberal education teaches learners to apply, analyze, and evaluate information?

Many communities have found other uses for shopping malls built during the merchandising expansion of the early 1980s and deserted during downsizing of the late 1990s. Malls have been turned into town offices, senior centers, multiplex movie theaters, and even rollerskating rinks. This experience points out, in miniature, two general characteristics of U.S. society, the quick embracing of something new and the ability to reinvent itself.

This thesis implies a "what?" question: What things has U.S. society done to show that it embraces the new and reinvents itself?

Adult students returning to college will succeed at writing research papers if they follow a clear research writing process.

This thesis implies a "how?" question: How does this process or sequence proceed?

An implied "why?" question embedded in a thesis indicates that the support will explain different reasons why something happened. An implied "what?" question embedded in a thesis indicates that the support will explain the different characteristics of something. And an implied "how?" question embedded in a thesis indicates that the support will explain how something happened. It may be useful to you to find the implied question in the thesis as a means of checking and unifying the type of support that you need in the essay to logically support the thesis.

Determining the Specific Type of Thought in the Thesis Some thesis sentences use basic, specific thought types such as process, division and classification, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, or definition, and some thesis sentences combine two or more of these types. It may be beneficial to understand what each type of thoughtS implies in terms of type and order of information, so you'll have a "head start" on developing your support if your thesis reflects one of these categories of thought. Also see key words for an explanation of many of these thought types.

Process Thought

Process thought identifies steps in doing something; it's a more particular type of "how?" thought. For example, if you wanted to write about how a misunderstanding escalated into a fight, your thesis might reflect process thought: Misunderstandings develop into fights according to their own special sequence of events. This thesis indicates that you have a special series of events in mind that occur again and again when misunderstandings develop into fights --a process. Key words that indicate process thought in a thesis are: process, sequence, phases, stages, series, steps, etc.

If you have a thesis with process thought, your audience will probably expect you to explain all of the major steps in the process in your support. A process is a series of steps that recur and lead to a certain result; the nature of a process explanation, then, requires you to explain the steps in chronological order. To generate support for a thesis with process thought, ask and answer these questions:

  • What are the major steps in the process?
  • What details and specifics can I use to explain each step so that the audience will understand?
Division and Classification Thought

Division and classification thought identifies parts, types, kinds, or groups; it's a more specific type of "what?" thought. For example, if you wanted to write about different reactions to a particular situation, your thesis might reflect division and classification thought: People react to standing in line differently according to their personalities, yet the vocal complainers, the impatient silent twitchers, and the weaslers all seem to overpower the normal, patient waiter. This thesis indicates that you have specific types of reactions in mind. Key words that indicate division and classification thought in a thesis are: parts, types, kinds, groups, etc.

If you have a thesis with division and classification thought, your audience will probably expect you to explain all of the major types or kinds in your support, as division and classification explains a whole by examining its parts--and the audience won't be able to understand the whole if some of the major parts are missing. (For example, if you were going to explain high school students' characteristics on the basis of their year in school, you would need to include freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior; you couldn't leave one out.)

To generate support for a thesis with division and classification thought, ask and answer these questions:

  • What are the major parts, types, kinds, or groups according to the way I have divided or classified the information?
  • What details and specifics can I use to explain each type so that the audience will understand?
Comparison and Contrast Thought

Comparison and contrast thought parallels two items, places, or ideas that you're measuring against one another; it's a more specific type of "what?" thought. For example, if you wanted to write about personality types, your thesis might reflect contrast thought: Type A and Type B personalities differ in personal beliefs, work habits, play habits, family involvement and, most of all, health. This thesis indicates that you have specific points of contrast in mind. Key words that indicate comparison and contrast thought in a thesis are: like, unlike, similar, different, compare, contrast, etc.

If you have a thesis with comparison and/or contrast thought, your audience will expect you to offer a very balanced explanation that presents each side in terms of the same points. You can offer that explanation by dealing with the same points in the same order for each side (e.g., Type A personal beliefs, work habits, play habits, family involvement, health; Type B personal beliefs, work habits, etc.). Or you can offer that explanation by dealing with each point in its turn (e.g., personal beliefs for Type A and Type B, work habits for Type A and Type B, etc.). The point here is that the comparison or contrast needs to be balanced and equal for each side.

To generate support for a thesis with comparison and/or contrast thought, ask and answer these questions:

  • Have I chosen things of the same type (e.g., two people, two ideas, two items) that can be measured against one another?
  • What are the major points of comparison and/or contrast?
  • What details and specifics can I use to explain each point of comparison or contrast for each of the two things so that the audience will understand?
Cause and Effect Thought

Cause and effect thought identifies reasons and results; it's a more specific type of "why?" (reasons) "what?" (results) thought. For example, if you wanted to write about the need for community planning, your thesis might reflect cause thought: Communities should institute planning committees because they need to correlate economic development with environmental carefulness. This thesis indicates that you have specific reasons or causes in mind. Key words that indicate cause and effect thought in a thesis are: reason, result, because, for, outcome, cause, effect, etc. If you have a thesis with cause and effect thought, your audience will probably expect you to explain all of the major reasons or results in your support, as cause and effect explains possible reasons why something happened and probable effects of occurrences. To generate support for a thesis with cause and effect thought, ask and answer these questions:

  • What are all possible reasons and/or probable effects?
  • What details and specifics can I use to explain each reason or effect fully so that the audience will understand?
Definition Thought

Definition thought identifies what something is, what it is not, what something does, how something compares with other items, and/or what other things exist in its class. For example, if you wanted to write about what an eccentric was, your thesis might reflect definition thought: An eccentric is a nonconformist who will not even classify him- or herself in that group. Or, An eccentric is like a bottle of aged brandy: virtually rare, seemingly harmless, but actually intoxicating. These theses indicate that you will explain the concept of an "eccentric" in various ways. Key words that indicate definition thought in a thesis are: define, explain, illustrate, etc.

If you have a thesis with definition thought, your audience will probably expect you to explain the concept or term in many ways. To generate support for a thesis with definition thought, ask and answer these questions:

  • Can I compare the new term to something concrete, within the realm of my audience's experience?
  • Can I show similarities and differences between the new thing and others within my audience's experience?
  • Can I identify specific examples of this concept?

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