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What is the Purpose of a Thesis?

(From the Case Western

Reserve University Student Affairs in Education Website:
A thesis performs five main functions in a paper:
1. It begins to put forth your ideas.
2. It foreshadows your arguments.
3. It attracts a reader's attention.
4. It is a combination of fact plus opinion
5. It is an arguable statement (i.e. In the play The Tragedy of Hamlet by
William Shakespeare, madness is a recurring theme shown primarily in both Hamlet and
Ophelia. In Act I, Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus that he will put on an antic
disposition, and later, he tells his mother that he is mad in craft. But in his distraction,
Hamlet forces others into action where he wont act and in putting on an antic
disposition, Hamlet has actually crossed the line between sanity and madness, creating
havoc and bringing down the throne of Denmark in the process.)

Plot Summary/Supporting Detail/Commentary

Do not use first person plural: We Our We as a
Do not use second person at all You Your
First person is still controversial. It is not forbidden, but
writing I think, I believe, or in my opinion is
discouraged entirely.


Be specific. Lots of people think that Old Yeller was a

good book, but good is not very specific about why
people liked the story. Use precise language in your
thesis (and in all your writing). You will not only write
a better thesis, but you may also have an easier time
with the rest of your argument.

Note that better is, itself, an unspecific word as used here. How
is the thesis better? What words would describe the
improvement to the thesis more precisely? How would using
that word change the impact of the sentence?
2. Use interesting language. One of the benefits of precise
language is that it is often interesting language. Good is a
common, dull word. Heart-wrenching, while a bit over the top,
is a much more interesting, expressive word. Such language
can capture a reader's attention. Just don't overdo it.
3. Use action verbs. Action is more interesting than mere
existence. But students often have trouble making something
happen in a thesis, since a thesis typically states a truth
instead of describing an action. Fortunately, you can apply
several strategies to rewrite your thesis in active voice.
Consider, for example, this draft thesis:
This book is an example of tragic literature.
The revised thesis below tells us not what the book is, but what
it does:
The book conveys the sensation of grief through its tragic
With the action verb conveys, the revision indicates how the
tragedy affects the audience. As a result, it is a richer, more
compelling thesis than the original. Moreover, a paper that
begins with such a thesis is likely to have a compelling
conclusion as well.

4. Keep it simple. A complex sentence can bury your thoughts in

a shroud of clauses. In contrast, a short, strong sentence can
be quite powerful.