Thesis statement

Key words: academic argument, instruction words, point of view, thesis statement, author’s position, opposing position

In almost every subject you study, you will be required to develop arguments and engage in discussions. Writing arguments in essay form can be difficult if you don’t sort out your thesis statement (the position you intend to take about the topic) before you begin to write.

About academic argument

Most university essay and assignment tasks require you to take a stance and argue for that viewpoint. Essay questions use instruction words (e.g. ‘analyse’, ‘critically evaluate’, ‘discuss’, ‘to what extent’) to alert you that you are expected to develop an argument. At other times, an argument is implied by the wording of the question (e.g. Assignment tasks are the best assessment strategy for student learning).

In everyday life, the term ‘argument’ can mean an unpleasant disagreement. In a university setting, it means that you take a stance on a topic and seek, by logic and weight of evidence, to convince your reader to your reasoned point of view. You must take a rational approach and present convincing evidence to support your stance. You may also examine opposing points of view and expose their flaws.

Before you begin to write your essay, you will need to research and read widely on your topic to assist you to take a well-reasoned stance.

For example, if we take the topic Assignment tasks are the best assessment strategy for student learning you may have your own thoughts about this, but what does the research say? The research shows that:

Evidence for

  • develops reading and research skills in a subject
  • develops writing skills in a subject
  • gives the lecturer a chance to give students feedback before the end of the program so they can improve
  • fairer to students; gives students a chance to show knowledge and skills without exam pressure; get a better picture of individual student achievement and progress.

Evidence against

  • time consuming for students to research and write
  • university reliance on assignment assessment instead of a balance of assessment strategies so students get overloaded across subjects
  • time consuming to mark and costly to employ markers (exams quicker and easier)
  • can be open to plagiarism and other cheating practices
 

On the balance, evidence for outweighs evidence against.

You can sort out your stance by gathering sound evidence from your research and reading. Then, you can work on your thesis statement (stating your position) BEFORE you attempt to start writing your essay.

The thesis statement is an argument summary of the position you will take about the essay topic. It states the main supporting topics and may reject or modify an opposing position.
 Exercise: Writing a thesis statement

Click on the thesis statement that would BEST suit the position taken on evidence (see above) from the question topic:
 Assignment tasks are the best assessment strategy for student leaning.

Assignment writing is good for students.

Try again! This statement doesn’t announce your position in terms of evidence that you intend to use to develop your essay. It doesn’t tell the reader what your main supporting points are, and it doesn’t state that you will also consider an opposing point of view.

While there are some disadvantages with using assignment essays as an assessment tool, there are sound educational purposes underpinning this practice.

Correct! This statement does announce your position in terms of evidence that you intend to use to develop your essay. It does tell the reader what your main supporting points are and it does state that you will also consider an opposing point of view.

Assignment writing assists students to learn and is a fair assessment practice.

Try again! This statement only partly announces your position in terms of evidence that you intend to use to develop your essay. It does tell the reader what your main supporting points are but it doesn’t state that you will also consider an opposing point of view.

There are arguments for both sides here but all of the arguments about assignment writing causing students and lecturers difficulties can't override the benefits.

Try again! This statement announces the writer’s position but the language is too informal.

 

 

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