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Writing Book Reports
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TIP Sheet WRITING BOOK REPORTS
It's likely that, whatever your educational goals, you will eventually write a book report. Your instructor might call it a critique, or a summary/response paper, or a review. The two components these assignments have in common are summary and evaluation.
Other TIP Sheets on related topics that might prove helpful in developing a book report, depending on the type of book and the specifics of your assignment, include the following:
- How to Write a Summary
- Writing About Non-Fiction Books
- Writing About Literature
Summary AND evaluation Typically, a book report begins with a paragraph to a page of simple information-author, title, genre (for example, science fiction, historical fiction, biography), summary of the central problem and solution, and description of the main character(s) and what they learned or how they changed.
The following example summarizes in two sentences the plot of Jurassic Park :
Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park describes how millionaire tycoon John Hammond indulges his desire to create an island amusement park full of living dinosaurs. In spite of elaborate precautions to make the park safe, his animals run wild, killing and maiming his employees, endangering the lives of his two visiting grandchildren, and finally escaping to mainland Costa Rica.
On the other hand, a thesis statement for a book report reflects your evaluation of the work; "I really, really liked it" is inadequate. Students sometimes hesitate to make judgments about literature, because they are uncertain what standards apply. It's not so difficult to evaluate a book in terms of story elements: character, setting, problem/solution, even organization. (See TIP Sheet Writing About Literature for ideas on how to handle these standard story elements.) Nevertheless, a good thesis statement should include your reflection on the ideas, purpose, and attitudes of the author as well.
To develop an informed judgment about the work, start by asking yourself lots of questions (for more ideas, see "Evaluation" on the TIP Sheet Writing About Literature). Then choose your most promising area, the one about which you have something clear to say and can easily find evidence from the book to illustrate. Develop this into a thesis statement.
For example, here is what one thesis statement might look like for Jurassic Park (notice how this thesis statement differs from the simple summary above):
In Jurassic Park , Crichton seems to warn us chillingly that, in bioengineering as in chaos theory, the moment we most appear to be in control of events is the exact moment control is already irredeemably lost to us.
To develop an informed judgment and a corresponding thesis statement about a book, brainstorm by answering questions such as the following:
- For what purpose did the author write this, and did he fulfill that purpose?
- What did the main character learn? Does this lesson reflect reality as you know it?
- Were the characters complex and believable? What do they reveal of the author? of human nature?
- How well did the setting contribute to the mood? How did setting affect character and plot development?
The invisible author One common mistake students make is failing to step back far enough from the story to evaluate it as a piece of work produced by someone . Evaluation–you may be surprised to learn it!–is as much about the author as about the story itself. It is about making informed guesses about the author's purpose, ideas, and attitudes based on his use of language, organization, plot, and character development.
Usually the author does not figure prominently in the story unless the book is autobiographical. More often he is the invisible persona–invisible, yet not absent. The author leaves traces of himself throughout. Paradoxically, your understanding of the author depends on your deliberate detachment from the story itself to discover those traces.
Imagine standing very, very close to a large painting–inches away. Your focus is on blobs of color, but you are unable to identify the object represented. When you move back a few steps and alter your focus, the blobs take on a recognizable form. In the same way, you have to draw back from the story to discern the purpose, ideas , and attitudes of the author.
Author's purpose No one goes to the trouble to write something without purpose. Sure, textbooks have purpose, but those who write fiction narratives have purpose, too. Even fantasy writers have purpose. A book report should include your evaluation of whether the author succeeded in his purpose.
The following writer has made a statement about the author's purpose:
Crichton seems not so much to be warning us of the evils of scientific inquiry as begging us, in a very convincing way, to exercise collective moral restraint on scientific research.
This writer would then go on to use quotations, examples, and evidence from the book to show why she believes this is Crichton's purpose.
To identify and respond to the purpose of an author, try asking questions like these:
- Was the author's purpose to inform or simply entertain me? Did I learn something? Was I entertained? Did I lose interest? If I lost interest, was this author, perhaps, writing to a different audience?
- Is the author trying to persuade me to think or act in a particular way? About what issue? What point of view would he or she have me adopt? Was I convinced?
Author's ideas The author's ideas may be stated by the author himself in a foreword, or they may show up in the words of a narrator or a principal character. The character Ian Malcolm, for example, is a primary spokesman for Crichton's criticism of post-modern science. Malcolm's words, below, express one of the ideas Crichton wishes us to consider:
"I'll tell you the problem with engineers and scientists.... They are focused on whether they can do something. They never stop to ask if they should do something."
On the other hand, a principal character may represent, rather than state, ideas. Hammond's visiting grandchildren, for example, might represent the oblivious, yet threatened, human populations of the mainland and the planet itself. When ideas are implied rather than stated, they are called themes.
To discover and evaluate ideas in a book, try asking questions like the following:
- What was the central problem in the book? Was it a personal, social, or moral problem? Does it relate to life as you know it?
- What ideas(s) about life and society does the author seem to hold?
- What did the principal character(s) learn? How did they change? What does this seem to say about people? About society? About morality?
Author's attitudes Once you have identified what ideas an author is trying to examine, you must still determine what the author's attitude is toward those ideas. An author's attitudes are revealed in part by the tone, or overall mood, of the work. In writing, as in conversation, tone is not so much stated as implied. In reading we depend solely on the emotional overtones of the words to infer the attitudes of the author.
For example, suppose you have determined that Crichton wishes to explore the idea of how private industry exploits scientific research. You must then determine, as well, what Crichton's attitude is toward this situation. Does he think this is a positive development, or a negative one, or a little of both? Does he think it is inevitable, or preventable? One way to figure out Crichton's attitude about this is to identify the tone he uses to tell the story. We describe the tone of a book with adjectives, and more than one if necessary: straightforward, complex, ironic, creepy, pathetic, bitter, comic, tragic.
For example, here is a statement using three different adjectives to describe Crichton's attitude toward one of the central problems in Jurassic Park :
Crichton strikes an ominous tone in Jurassic Park. Even though this is a cautionary tale, the author nevertheless is optimistic that the mainstream scientific community, represented in this story by Alan Grant, can learn restraint and respect for nature.
(When identifying the tone of a book, make the effort to distinguish an individual character's attitude from the author's overall attitude-they may differ.)
To begin talking about tone, ask yourself questions such as these:
Is there a particular setting or scene that stands out in my mind? What was the mood of that scene? Is this mood indicative of the entire book? Is the author an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist? How does he show it? Does a principal character experience one persistent state of mind or emotion? What would I call it? Is it indicative of the work overall? Did the mood of the work help or hinder my understanding of the author's ideas?
"In conclusion..." Clearly it is important to be able to make intelligent inferences about the author, because a book evaluation evaluates how well the author has done her job, not just how much you liked the story. After you have asked and answered that question, then you may add, "I really, really liked it."
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How to Start a Book Report
- M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
- B.A., History, Armstrong State University
No matter what you're writing, be it the next great novel, an essay for school, or a book report , you have to capture your audience's attention with a great introduction. Most students will introduce the title of the book and its author, but there's so much more you can do. A strong introduction will help you engage your readers, hold their attention and explain what is coming up in the rest of your report.
Giving your audience something to look forward to, and perhaps even creating a little mystery and excitement, can be great ways to make sure your readers stay engaged with your report. How do you do this? Check out these three simple steps:
1. Hook the Audience's Attention
Think about what you experience in your daily life that captures your attention. The news and radio shows "promo" upcoming stories with a little teaser, often called a hook (because it "hooks" your attention). Corporations use snappy subject lines in emails and enticing headlines in social media to get you to open their messages; these are often called "clickbait" as they get the reader to click on the content. So how can you grab your reader's attention? Start by writing a great introductory sentence .
You may choose to begin by asking your reader a question to hook his or her interest. Or you may opt for a title that hints at the topic of your report with a dash of drama. Regardless of the way you choose to start a book report, the four strategies outlined here can help you write an engaging essay.
Starting your book report with a question is a good way to grab your reader's interest because you're addressing them directly. Consider the following sentences:
- Do you believe in happy endings?
- Have you ever felt like a total outsider?
- Do you love a good mystery?
- What would you do if you discovered a secret that changed everything?
Most people have a ready answer for questions like these because they speak to common experiences we share. It's a means of creating empathy between the person reading your book report and the book itself. For example, consider this opening to a book report about "The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton:
Have you ever been judged by your appearance? In "The Outsiders," S.E. Hinton gives readers a glimpse inside the tough exterior of a social outcast.
Not everyone's teenage years are as dramatic as those in Hinton's coming-of-age novel. But everyone was once an adolescent, and odds are everyone had moments when they felt misunderstood or alone.
Another idea to hook someone's attention is, if you're discussing a book by a well-known or popular author, you might start with an interesting fact about the era when the author was alive and how it influenced his or her writing. For example:
As a young child, Charles Dickens was forced to work in a shoe polish factory. In his novel, "Hard Times," Dickens taps into his childhood experience to explore the evils of social injustice and hypocrisy.
Not everyone has read Dickens, but many people have heard his name. By starting your book report with a fact, you're appealing to your reader's curiosity. Similarly, you may choose an experience from the author’s life that had an impact on his or her work.
2. Summarize the Content and Provide Details
A book report is meant to discuss the contents of the book at hand, and your introductory paragraph should give a little overview. This isn't the place to delve into details, but draw off your hook to share a little more information that is crucial to the storyline.
For example, sometimes, a novel's setting is what makes it so powerful. "To Kill a Mockingbird," the award-winning book by Harper Lee, takes place in a small town in Alabama during the Great Depression. The author draws on her own experiences in recalling a time when a small Southern town's sleepy exterior hid a vague sense of impending change. In this example, the reviewer might include a reference to the book's setting and plot in that first paragraph:
Set in the sleepy town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Depression, we learn about Scout Finch and her father, a prominent lawyer, as he desperately works to prove the innocence of a black man wrongly accused of rape. The controversial trial leads to some unexpected interactions and some terrifying situations for the Finch Family.
Authors make a deliberate choice when selecting the setting of a book. After all, the location and setting can set a very distinct mood.
3. Make a Thesis Statement (if applicable)
When writing a book report, you might also include your own interpretations of the subject matter. Ask your teacher how much personal interpretation he or she wants first, but assuming that some personal opinion is warranted, your introduction should include a thesis statement. This is where you present the reader with your own argument about the work. To write a strong thesis statement, which should be about one sentence, you might reflect on what the author was trying to achieve. Consider the theme and see if the book was written in such a way where you were able to determine it easily and if it made sense. As yourself a few questions:
- Was the book meant to be entertaining or informative? Did it accomplish that goal?
- Did the moral at the end make sense? Did you learn something?
- Did the book make you think about the topic at hand and assess your beliefs?
Once you've asked yourself these questions, and any other questions you may think of, see if these responses lead you to a thesis statement in which you assess the success of the novel. Sometimes, a thesis statement is widely shared, while others may be more controversial. In the example below, the thesis statement is one that few would dispute, and uses dialogue from the text to help illustrate the point. Authors choose dialogue carefully, and a single phrase from a character can often represent both a major theme and your thesis. A well-chosen quote included in your book report's introduction can help you create a thesis statement that has a powerful impact on your readers, as in this example:
At its heart, the novel "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a plea for tolerance in an atmosphere of intolerance, and is a statement on social justice. As the character Atticus Finch tells his daughter, 'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'"
Quoting Finch is effective because his words sum up the novel's theme concisely and also appeal to the reader's own sense of tolerance.
Don't worry if your first attempt at writing an introductory paragraph is less than perfect. Writing is an act of fine-tuning, and you may need several revisions. The idea is to start your book report by identifying your general theme so that you can move on to the body of your essay. After you've written the entire book report, you can (and should) return to the introduction to refine it. Creating an outline can help you best identify what you need in your introduction.
Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski
- How to Write a Great Book Report
- Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
- The Introductory Paragraph: Start Your Paper Off Right
- Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
- 10 Steps to Writing a Successful Book Report
- How to Design a Book Cover
- The Ultimate Guide to the 5-Paragraph Essay
- How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
- How to Structure an Essay
- How to Write a Response Paper
- How to Find the Theme of a Book or Short Story
- How To Write an Essay
- What an Essay Is and How to Write One
- Understanding Organization in Composition and Speech
- 6 Steps to Writing the Perfect Personal Essay
- What Is Expository Writing?
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How to write a book report
A book report is one of the first types of essays you probably learned to write in elementary school. But no matter how many book reports you turn in over the course of your student life, they can still inspire some anxiety and some confusion about the best way to write a book report, especially as you reach the high school and college level.
The good news is that the basics you learned in the early grades will serve you in good stead, since the book report format remains mostly the same. The very same structure and tools you used to dissect Charlotte’s Web and Superfudge will work just as well for Animal Farm and The Handmaid’s Tale . What changes is the depth and breadth of your analysis as a high school and college student.
So, If you are wondering how to start a book report for a college class assignment, here are some of the key pieces of information you need to know.
What is a book report?
Let’s start off with some definitions. In the most general terms, a book report is a summary of a written text, often a fiction novel, but can also include other genres such as memoir and creative non-fiction. It includes an analysis of the different elements and authorial choices that comprise the work, such as tone, theme, perspective, diction, dialogue, etc.
While the analysis should be reasoned and objective, it should also include your opinion and assessment of the impact and overall success of the author’s choices on the final work.
Book reports usually fall into one of the following types:
This type of book report isn’t just a re-telling of the story, it’s a comment on your overall impression of the plot — whether you thought it was engaging or maudlin or vapid, for example — backed up by direct quotes from the text to support your opinion.
Example of a plot summary thesis statement: The plot of Herman Melville’s short story, “Bartleby the Scrivener,” offers a poignant portrait of how depression robs a person of all motivation and momentum in life.
A character analysis zeroes in on a particular character (their characterization and actions) and their impact on the unfolding of the plot and its eventual outcome.
Example of a character analysis thesis statement: In J.D. Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye , the character of Phoebe, Holden’s bright and precocious younger sister, is a catalyst for rekindling his hope in humanity and reconsidering the choices he’s made in his life.
A theme analysis looks at the overarching concepts, or themes, that run through a book and that give the text meaning and direction. Themes tend to be broad in nature, such as love, the importance of family, the impact of childhood, etc.
Example of a theme analysis thesis statement: Banana Yoshimoto’s novella, Kitchen , explores the theme of death and how everyone sooner or later has to come to terms with the mortality of the people they love as well as their own.
How to start a book report
The very first step in writing a stellar book report that earns a top grade is actually reading the book. This may seem obvious, but many students make the assignment much harder on themselves by not putting in the time up front to do a thorough and complete reading of the book they’re going to be writing their report on. So resist the urge to skim the text or to rely on the Cliff’s notes version. A nuanced analysis requires a deep grasp of the text, and there is no substitute for focused, firsthand reading.
It’s a lot easier to stick with a book that you enjoy reading! If you have the chance to choose the book you’ll be writing a report on, take some time to select a book that appeals to you, considering the genre, time period, writing style, and plot.
It can be helpful to start thinking about your book report while you are still making your way through your initial reading of the text. Mark down passages that provide key turning points in the action, descriptive passages that establish time and place, and any other passages that stand out to you in terms of their word choice and use of language. This makes it much easier to go back later and start collecting the evidence you’ll need to support your argument and analysis.
Once you finish reading the book from cover to cover, you’ll likely find that your mind is swirling with thoughts, impressions, and burgeoning analyses. At this stage, trying to distill all of these half-formed thoughts into one cohesive report may seem like a daunting task. One way to make this task more approachable is to start by collecting and listing the objective facts about the book. The following list covers the basic elements that should be included in every book report you write, no matter what topic or specific type of book report you’re writing:
- The book’s title and author
- The historical context of the book (when it was written)
- The time(s) during which the story is set
- The location(s) where the story takes place
- A summary of the main characters and action of the story
- Quotes from the book that will function as evidence to support your analysis
With all of the basics in hand, you can start to write your book report in earnest. Just like most other essay types, a well-written book report follows a basic structure that makes it easy for your reader to follow your thoughts and make sense of your argument.
A typical book report will open with an introduction that briefly summarizes the book and culminates with a thesis statement that advances an opinion or viewpoint about it. This is followed by body paragraphs that provide detailed points to flesh out and support that opinion in greater detail, including direct quotes from the text as supporting evidence. The report finishes with a conclusion that summarizes the main points and leaves the reader with an understanding of the book, its aims, and whether or not you feel the book (and its author) was successful in doing what it set out to do. Ideally, the conclusion will also make a statement about how the book fits into the larger literary world.
A book report template you can use for any book report
If you find yourself stuck on how to start a book report, here’s a handy book report template you can use to get things off the ground. Simply use this structure and start filling it in with the specifics of the book you are writing your report on. Feel free to expand upon this book report template, adding more sections as appropriate.
Write three to five sentences introducing the book and author as well as important contextual information about the book, such as the publication year and the overall critical reception at the time. Finish the paragraph with your thesis statement.
Include at least three body paragraphs that offer detailed information and analysis to support your thesis statement. Each paragraph should contain one idea, backed up with direct quotes from the text alongside your critical analysis.
Write three to five sentences that restate your thesis and summarize the evidence you’ve presented in support of it. Relate your findings to a larger context about the book’s place within both the literary world and the world at large.
Frequently Asked Questions about book reports
A book report follows the format of most papers you write - it will have an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Depending on the type of book report, you will fill these parts with the required information.
These are the basic parts that should be included in every book report you write, no matter what topic or specific type of book report you’re writing:
- The historical context of the book and time(s) during which the story is set
The book report is, among other things, also a summary of the plot, main characters, and ideas and arguments of the author. Your book report should help readers decide whether they want to read the book or not.
How many pages a book report should have depends on your assignment. It can be a half page, but it can also have many pages. Make sure to carefully read through your assignment and ask your professor if you are unsure .
A book report is a summary of a written text. A good book report includes an analysis of the different elements and authorial choices that comprise the work, such as tone, theme, perspective, diction, dialogue, etc. A good book report helps the reader decide whether they want to read the book or not.
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How to write a book review and a book report
A book review is a descriptive and critical/evaluative account of a book. It provides a summary of the content, assesses the value of the book, and recommends it (or not) to other potential readers.
A book report is an objective summary of the main ideas and arguments that the book's author has presented. The purpose of the report is to give enough information to help decide whether the book will be of use or interest to any potential readers.
Common points that both book reviews and book reports share are presented below. The last point, Critical Comments, is intended only for those writing book reviews.
Give the author's name; full title of book including subtitle; editor, if any; place, publisher and date of publication; edition, if necessary; and the number of pages - all this in the appropriate bibliographical style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) under the title of the review or report.
Supply any information about the author which shows their credentials for writing in this field or which reveals any influences which may have affected the author's point of view. Note any interesting circumstances that led to the writing of the book.
The author's intention may be apparent by the way the subject of the book is treated. Is the material meant for specialists, students, or the general public? Is it focused on a specific subject or is it a general survey of a wider subject? Several areas may provide clues: appendices, bibliographies and general indexes usually accompany scholarly works; prefaces and introductions often contain an author's explicit statement of intention; the content and style of expression will be a good indication of the intended audience.
Subject and thesis statement
What is the book about? Tell your reader not only the main concern of the book in its entirety (subject) but also what the author's particular point of view is on that subject (thesis statement). If you cannot find an adequate statement in the author's own words or if you feel that the stated thesis statement is not that which the book actually develops (make sure you check for yourself), then you will have to compose a thesis statement that does cover all the material. This statement must be brief (a sentence or a paragraph), accurate and comprehensive.
Summary of content
The summary is based on your reading notes, follows the author's order, and consists solely of the main ideas which advance the author's argument. It may be presented with the analysis of structure or discussed separately.
Critical comments (book reviews)
Critical comments should form the bulk of the book review. State whether or not you feel the author's treatment of the subject matter is appropriate for the intended audience. Ask yourself:
- Has the purpose of the book been achieved?
- What contribution does the book make to the field?
- Is the treatment of the subject matter objective?
- Are there facts and evidence that have been omitted?
- What kinds of data, if any, are used to support the author's thesis statement?
- Can the same data be interpreted to alternate ends?
- Is the writing style clear and effective?
- Does the book raise issues or topics for discussion?
Support your evaluation with evidence from the text. In conclusion, you may want to state whether you liked or disliked the book.
Sources on writing book reviews
Concordia Library sources:
- Buckley, J. (2013). Fit to print: the Canadian student's guide to essay writing . (see pages 180-185).
- Drewry, J. E. (1974). Writing book reviews .
Sources on writing book reports
- Northey, M. & McKibbin, J. (2010). Making sense: A student's guide to research and writing .
- Teitelbaum, H. (1982). How to write book reports .
- Purdue Online Writing Lab. (2011). Writing a Book Report
For more information, ask a librarian
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- Knowledge Base
- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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How to write a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.
Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.
Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?
- to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
- to better organize and develop your argument
- to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument
In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.
How Can You Write a Good Thesis Statement?
Here are some helpful hints to get you started. You can either scroll down or select a link to a specific topic.
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned
Almost all assignments, no matter how complicated, can be reduced to a single question. Your first step, then, is to distill the assignment into a specific question. For example, if your assignment is, “Write a report to the local school board explaining the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class,” turn the request into a question like, “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” After you’ve chosen the question your essay will answer, compose one or two complete sentences answering that question.
Q: “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are . . .”
A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve . . .”
The answer to the question is the thesis statement for the essay.
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How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned
Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about.
A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:
- take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
- deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment
- express one main idea
- assert your conclusions about a subject
Let’s see how to generate a thesis statement for a social policy paper.
Brainstorm the topic . Let’s say that your class focuses upon the problems posed by changes in the dietary habits of Americans. You find that you are interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume.
You start out with a thesis statement like this:
This fragment isn’t a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about sugar consumption.
Narrow the topic . Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy.
You change your thesis to look like this:
Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.
This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one segment of the population: elementary school children. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, because while most people might agree that children consume more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic.
Take a position on the topic. After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children consume.
You revise your thesis statement to look like this:
More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.
This statement asserts your position, but the terms more attention and food and beverage choices are vague.
Use specific language . You decide to explain what you mean about food and beverage choices , so you write:
Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.
This statement is specific, but it isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of making an assertion.
Make an assertion based on clearly stated support. You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this:
Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.
Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce sugar consumption by children, and who should do it?” When you started thinking about the paper, you may not have had a specific question in mind, but as you became more involved in the topic, your ideas became more specific. Your thesis changed to reflect your new insights.
How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One
1. a strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand..
Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper for a class on fitness, you might be asked to choose a popular weight-loss product to evaluate. Here are two thesis statements:
There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.
This is a weak thesis statement. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase negative and positive aspects is vague.
Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.
This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.
2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion.
Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:
My family is an extended family.
This is a weak thesis because it merely states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.
While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.
This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.
3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.
Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:
Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and Web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.
This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or Web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:
Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using Web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.
This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because , since , so , although , unless , and however .
4. A strong thesis statement is specific.
A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say:
World hunger has many causes and effects.
This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, world hunger can’t be discussed thoroughly in seven to ten pages. Second, many causes and effects is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. A revised thesis might look like this:
Hunger persists in Glandelinia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.
This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic, and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.
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A book review describes, analyzes, and evaluates a book by examining its purpose and its contribution.
A book review should address the following:
- What are the authors trying to accomplish? What is their argument?
- Who is the author trying to convince?
- What strategies and evidence did you see in the book?
- To what extent are you convinced by the book? To whom (if anyone) would you recommend this book?
Your professor may specify additional instructions or objectives for their book review assignment. Therefore, be sure to read the assignment instructions carefully.
In many ways, your book review can be structured like a typical essay, using an introduction, body, and conclusion.
Like other introductions, the book review introduction should move from broad (the topic of the book) to narrow (your specific argument or purpose statement).
Your reader will expect you to do the following in your introduction:
- Introduce the topic of the book (what is the issue at hand, and why should we care?)
- Introduce the title and author of the book
- State the purpose of the book (including the author’s thesis or major findings)
- State your thesis (or the purpose of your review)
The thesis of your book review may vary depending on the assignment.
- If you are given a specific task (e.g., to relate the book to course themes), that task will likely form the basis of your review.
- If you are asked to evaluate the book’s contribution to a specific field, that evaluation will be the backbone of your thesis.
Example thesis relating the book to course themes:
George Orwell’s 1984 provides insight into three course themes: critical thinking as a form of resistance, the role of misinformation in totalitarian societies, and the connection between privacy and personal freedom. The review that follows argues that the novel’s engagement with these themes can deepen our understanding of these themes in the course context by illustrating their interconnections.
Example thesis evaluating the book’s contribution to the field:
Sara Jaquette Ray’s The Ecological Other: Environmental Exclusion in American Culture is an important contribution to environmental justice scholarship because it offers a nuanced account of how environmental discourse has positioned people with disabilities, immigrants, and Native Americans as environmental outsiders. At the same time, it suggests how environmental activists can frame their arguments with greater inclusivity and care.
In your body paragraphs, you will describe, analyze, and evaluate the book. Your reader will expect you to do the following in the body of your review:
- Summarize the major points of the author’s argument
- Discuss the author’s engagement with larger themes
- Identify key strengths and weaknesses
- Evaluate the author’s contribution to the field
- Support your claims with evidence from the text
- Suggest how the book extends, complicates, or overturns arguments from other sources
In the body of your book review, you will support your thesis with reference to specific examples from the text. Although you may organize this material in a number of different ways, three common patterns of organization are thematic, chronological, and evaluative.
- If you are tasked with relating a book to course themes, use these themes to structure your review.
- You can devote each section of the body to one theme.
- Use topic sentences and transitions to show your reader when you are moving from one theme to the next.
- This structure can help you discuss the author’s engagement with a set of issues.
- The structure of your review can mirror the structure of the book itself.
- You can discuss topics in the same order as the author, providing an evaluation that moves from chapter to chapter or section to section.
- This structure can help you emphasize the thoroughness of your review.
- Many published academic reviews begin by highlighting the strengths of the book under discussion and then move toward a critique of the weaknesses.
- This structure can help you assert your own critical voice as a scholar.
Rather than summarizing the book or restating your thesis, use the conclusion to provide your final thoughts. Consider the following questions:
- What have you learned from reviewing the book?
- What is your overall assessment of the book’s importance?
- Who might benefit most from reading it?
- How can future researchers build on this book?
- Does the book make space for new kinds of research within its field?
The conclusion is your last chance to add analysis to your book review, so be sure to address the book’s overall significance.
Try using signal words like ‘ultimately’ or ‘overall’ instead of ‘in conclusion’ to help you frame your conclusion through an analytical lens while also telling the reader that they should pay special attention to what follows.
The assignment’s instructions may also provide clues for material that you could include in the conclusion.
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