Walking into class on the first day of Writing 100 this semester, I have to admit I didn’t feel happy with my choice to take the class. I felt like I was “too good” of a writer to be basically relearning how to re-write a paper. I felt as though I made the wrong decision to be in this class, that my writing was actually going to be way better than I had thought. I thought this because one of the first lessons we learned was that it’s feasible to stray away from the five-paragraph essay. In my essay that Michigan requires for all first-year students, I didn’t write in the traditional five-paragraph essay format, so hearing that we were going to learn how to write essays without the five-paragraph essay made me feel as if I was too advanced for this Writing 100 class.
Now though, at the end of the semester, I feel completely different. I am so thankful for my decision to take Writing 100, because the class truly is a transition from high school writing to college writing. If I had not taken this class, although I may still have not conformed to the five-paragraph essay format, I can’t say the same about writing an obvious three part thesis. I wouldn’t know what an “implication” of a thesis was. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how to analyze the implication, and there was no way I would have been able to convince someone that sometimes it is actually easier to write a thesis at the end of a paper.
Thankfully, I did take this class though, so I can tell you about a thesis, the implication of a thesis, and how I learned to analyze the implication. In the beginning of the semester I struggled a lot with writing the thesis of my paper. I thought that it needed to be a three point thesis, that all of the paragraphs in my papers needed to follow my thesis exactly, and that my conclusion would basically be a summary of my introduction and thesis.
After reading Hjortshoj’s essay, “Footstools and Furniture” my entire view of the writing process changed, and I realized that the point of an essay was to have it take the reader somewhere beyond where they started. I think this recognition of this idea not only presented me with my greatest accomplishment this semester, but also my greatest challenge. How was I supposed to make my essay “go somewhere”?
My thesis statement from my analysis essay and my analysis later in the essay really show my understanding now of how to develop a really complex argument. My thesis statement in my essay, which was about Hjorthshoj’s paper, is as follows.
In his eye-opening essay, Hjortshoj encompasses strong diction in order to enhance his ideas that while a five-paragraph essay is a simple, well-organized form of writing, it is also a hindrance to students hoping to forward their writing abilities to a college level standard, which Hjortshoj implies is due to the fact that in high school students are not taught to write in a “real” way. (1)
I begin with the simple part of my argument – that the five paragraph essay can be helpful. Then, the next part of my thesis is more complicated as I address that the five paragraph essay format isn’t always helpful, but that it can be something of a hindrance as well. Lastly, the implication part of my thesis is the most important — this will be the part of my essay where I talk about why it is important to note the difference between a helpful and a hindering five paragraph essay format. Before taking this class, I thought I needed to just have three supporting points of an argument, talk about each of those points, and then conclude my essay. As one can tell from my complex thesis presented above though, I have learned that it is important to be able to move beyond a three-point, listed thesis. From my thesis statement one can now see that I am planning to take my argument in a surprising direction, although it is not entirely clear from my thesis what the implication of my argument about Hjortshoj’s argument is.
Another example of a thesis statement I wrote for this class is in my final research paper that I wrote about diversity on the University of Michigan campus. At first, this was actually my thesis.
There are many ways to define diversity, and while some people believe that diversity only applies to race, the University of Michigan is diverse in numerous ways, although it is not exempt from racial tensions on campus. (1)
Later on, I actually changed my thesis to better relate to my argument. In the thesis above, I write “while some people believe that diversity only applies to race”, which is fairly limiting. Also, it’s not actually my argument that some people believe that diversity is defined by race, and some people believe it’s not. My argument evolved to be about the different ways to define diversity and how they can be connected. As a result, I had to change my thesis to be more reflective of my paper.
There are many ways to define diversity, and depending on how a person defines diversity, the University of Michigan can be considered to be an extremely diverse campus, although it is not exempt from racial tensions on campus, which means that Michigan still has some work to do in providing all students with a safe environment to conduct their studies.
As you may note, I took out the bit about diversity defined as race, but instead complicated my thesis by adding that whether Michigan is diverse of not “depends on how a person defines diversity”. In this example, I still have a more simple part of the statement: diversity can be defined in a variety of ways, a more complex part of my thesis: the diversity of Michigan’s campus depends on which definition of diversity one chooses to use, and the implication: Michigan is diverse, but racial tensions are still a problem. This implication was at first really hard for me to get to — I knew I needed to have the “why is this important” part of my essay somewhere, but until I actually wrote my essay I had no idea what my thesis was. Never before has the thesis been the last part of my paper to be written, but it was in this essay, and I think it actually made it easier for me to write my essay, without the restraints of conforming to my already written thesis.
Overall, I feel that I have learned a lot this semester, the biggest lesson being about the thesis of a paper. To me, I think that the thesis is the most important part of the paper because if you have a strong thesis then it is likely that you can make a strong argument, as long as you have the evidence and analysis to go with it.