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Do your students have “the moves” to write a strong thesis statement?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 9, 2013 6:00:00 AM

thesis statementIn our daily quest for teaching resources we can pass along to you, we came across a website called Thesis Builder. Essentially it allows users to plug in a topic, an opinion on the topic, two supporting arguments and a counter argument. From this, Thesis Builder will generate a sketchy, but nonetheless discussion-worthy thesis statement. You’ll also find three additional tools on the site:

  • Topic-o-rama, an ideal pool of 50 prompts to help students brainstorm topics
  • Causinator, a cause-and-effect essay builder
  • Tube Prompter, a video player that allows you to embed YouTube videos and view them without web clutter

Here’s what we plugged into the thesis statement builder:

thesis statement2


And here’s the thesis we got back:

thesis statement3

Alright, it’s not the best thesis statement we’ve ever seen, but it does quickly reveal deficiencies in an argument—which could be a useful way to spark questions like:

  • Did I use vague or general language?
  • Where should I have been more specific?
  • Did I make any generalizations?
  • Is the topic too broad?
  • So what? Why should anyone care about this topic?

Something else we like about the web application is that it exposes students to what Gerald Graff has called “the key intellectual moves” experienced writers take for granted. When we say “moves,” we simply mean the conventions of academic writing that seasoned writers have either been deliberately taught or learned through years of reading, writing and mimicking.

Experienced writers already know how to execute these conventions, but the fact of the matter is that many students will never truly develop the “moves” we take for granted—unless, that is, we truly break them down and make them digestible. 

To help you do this, we highly recommend Gerald Graff’s book, They Say, I Say. In it, Graff  shows that writing well means mastering some key rhetorical moves, the most important of which involves summarizing what others have said ("they say") to set up one’s own argument ("I say").

In addition to explaining the basic moves, his book provides writing templates that show students explicitly how to make these moves in their own writing. You can download a PDF of the first 63 pages here.


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Tags: writing strategies, Writing, writing fluency, writing skills, writing a thesis statement

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