SAT Test Prep
WRITING A GREAT ESSAY
Lesson 5: Write a Strong and Creative Thesis
The Importance of a Good Thesis
After a few minutes of brainstorming, write “THESIS: ” on your scratch paper, and then write the strongest, most creative one-sentence thesis that you can support. The thesis should capture the essence of the essay in one well-crafted sentence. This sentence should be concise, interesting, specific, and informative.
Good short essays revolve around a good thesis. If your thesis is weak or dull, your essay will be weak or dull. Once you have brainstormed about the topic and examples, focus on a strong, creative thesis.
Below are some examples of weak theses and strong theses. The weak theses may be true, but they show little insight into the topic and are run-of-the-mill observations. The strong theses are more thoughtful and creative and have a wider scope.
Play “Devil’s Advocate”
Every good thesis must argue against something as well as argue for something. A good thesis should acknowledge the common objections to it and address them thoughtfully. As you compose your thesis, play “devil’s advocate.”
Don’t worry—playing “devil’s advocate” doesn’t mean selling your soul to the devil for a good essay grade. It simply means addressing objections to your argument to strengthen it. If you want to persuade a good reader, you must address common objections to your thesis. For instance, if your thesis is “Competition for grades creates a bad learning environment,” a reader might object: “But competition motivates students to do their best, much as it motivates athletes.” Your argument will not be complete until you address this objection. So you might address it this way in your essay:
Although many will say that competition motivates students to do their best, much as it motivates athletes, such objections misrepresent real learning. A decent artist is not motivated to create great art by the mere thought of “defeating” other artists, but to express a capacity that makes her more in tune with nature and with her own humanity. Similarly, some children do not learn merely to get better grades than other kids (if they did, then how would they learn to speak, to walk, to tell jokes, and the myriad other things they learn outside of school?), but to make themselves more competent and happier human beings.
Practice 5: Write a Strong and Creative Thesis
Strong and Creative Thesis Practice
Look again at the questions from Practice 3. Now that you have brainstormed about these questions, and understand the difference between a weak thesis and a strong thesis, write a strong thesis, in one sentence, to answer the two questions.
1. Should safety always be first?
2. Is the pen always mightier than the sword?
Devil’s Advocate Practice
To play devil’s advocate and write a strong thesis, you must be able to look at opposing sides of an issue. After each of the following questions, write two thesis statements, one for the “pro” position and one for the “con” position.
3. Should criminal trials be televised?
4. Is jealousy ever a good thing?
5. Does wealth make people happier?
Discuss your answers with your teacher or tutor, focusing on whether your responses are creative and forceful.