Section 33: Getting Your Argument off the Ground

Skills Focus: Purpose Crafting a well-focused thesis statement
Skills Focus: Purpose Strategies for concluding an essay

Writing HW: Draft an Introduction Draft a provisional introduction for your interpretive argument. Here are some suggestions:
  1. In a sentence or two, briefly summarize the film, short story, or TV episode you’re discussing so that readers unfamiliar with it can follow your argument
  2. Establish a clear focus for your essay
    • Describe the particular aspect of the movie or TV episode your essay will address. Identify a pattern of details, perplexing element, or ambiguity—a feature whose meaning is open to interpretation. The element you focus on should be one that seems significant for understanding the work as a whole
    • Present this interpretive issue in the form of an open-ended (vs. yes-no) question—a question to which your thesis will be a plausible answer.
  3. Establish a motive for your essay by evoking the intellectual conversation you’re joining and by indicating the starting point your essay responds to (e.g. the preliminary understanding, counterargument, or expectation)
    • For instance, you might present a “preliminary understanding”— a plausible but superficial interpretation of the aspect of the movie, short story, or TV episode you’re addressing.
    • Another possibility would be to note the genre to which the film, tv episode, or short story belongs and explain the expectations that go along with that genre (expectations the work doesn’t entirely conform to)

  4. Explain your dissatisfaction with the view you’re responding to
    • For instance, explain what the preliminary understanding overlooks or misconstrues, or how your own idea improves on that starting interpretation
    • Or note how the work you’re analyzing departs from the expectations associated with the genre it appears to belong to

  5. End your introduction by stating your thesis, presenting it as a deeper understanding or clarification of the issue.
    • Phrase your thesis as a claim about the TV show, short story, or film you’re analyzing—a claim about what the work conveys (its meaning)
  6. Email me your thesis statement and post your introduction to the student writing section of the course website.