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FOCUS:Locating a purpose for writing (Thesis Formation)

FOCUS:Locating a purpose for writing (Thesis Formation)

Author: Kat Robinson

Establish and refine a topic or thesis that addresses the specific task and audience.

This packet is part of the FOCUS group.
The packet explores aspects of writing a thesis statement.

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Locating a purpose for writing: Thesis Formation




A thesis statement is more than a sentence that describes a topic. It is a bold sentence that presents a point of view, an opinion, or an idea that is arguable. Because it is arguable, a thesis statement goes beyond making an observation—it makes a case for or against something.

Thesis Statements: An Overview


No sentence in your paper will vex you as much as the thesis sentence. And with good reason: the thesis sentence is typically that ONE sentence in the paper that asserts, controls, and structures the entire argument. Without a strong persuasive, thoughtful thesis, a paper might seem unfocused, weak, and not worth the reader's time.

Complicating the matter further is that different disciplines have different notions of what constitutes a good thesis sentence. Your English professor might frown on a thesis sentence that says, "This paper will argue X by asserting A, B, and C." Such a thesis would likely be seen as too formulaic. In a Social Science course, on the other hand, a good thesis might be crafted in just that way.


First, you will need to list the topic that you are exploring for the writing exercise.

The topic is the area that you are focusing on exploring in the paper that you are planning to write.

Second, you will want to list how you are viewing the topic.  You will want to think about this area as being the verb of your work.  A good tip for selecting a verb or action to capture your purpose is to use words from Bloom's taxonomy.  Looking at the chart below, think about what your purpose for writing the paper is.  For example, if you want to demonstrate knowledge, your purpose could be to describe or to identify.

Count, Define, Describe, Draw, Find, Identify, Label, List, Match, Name, Quote, Recall, Recite, Sequence, Tell, Write
Conclude, Demonstrate, Discuss, Explain, Generalize, Identify, Illustrate, Interpret, Paraphrase, Predict, Report, Restate, Review, Summarize, Tell
Apply, Change, Choose, Compute, Dramatize, Interview, Prepare, Produce, Role-play, Select, Show, Transfer, Use
Analyze, Characterize, Classify, Compare, Contrast, Debate, Deduce, Diagram, Differentiate, Discriminate, Distinguish, Examine, Outline, Relate, Research, Separate,
Compose, Construct, Create, Design, Develop, Integrate, Invent, Make, Organize, Perform, Plan, Produce, Propose, Rewrite
Appraise, Argue, Assess, Choose, Conclude, Critic, Decide, Evaluate, Judge, Justify, Predict, Prioritize, Prove, Rank, Rate, Select,

Third, you will want to think about three to five areas or aspects of the topic that you want to explore from the perspective of your purpose.  For instance, if your purpose is to describe and identify, then you will want to list three to five areas that you want to describe and identify in relation to your topic.

Sample: Crafting a Thesis Statement

Let's use the topic, purpose, and aspects method to construct a thesis statement:


Focus Exploration: Revising for focus

Topic:  What is the main subject of your text?

 The main subject of my text is writing

Purpose: (select at least two of the following which you feel appear in your text) :Define, List, Label, Relates, Contrast, Compare, Demonstrate, interpret, explains, illustrates, summarize, classify, applies, constructs, develops, organizes, plans, identifies, analyzes, categorizes, examines, distinguishes, composes, formulates, predicts, proposes, solves, discusses, theorizes, changes, criticizes, justifies, measures, recommends, prioritizes, supports, assesses, perceives, values, estimates, deducts


The main reason for my text on writing is to: compare and contrast

Aspects: Examine your text and locate the areas where you (insert purpose) your topic.  For example, if you found compare, contrast, and classify in the section above, you would list the aspect that you compared, list the aspect you contrasted, and list the aspect you classified.

Compare my writing process with others.

Contrast my writing process with others.

After you have completed your topic, purposes, and aspects examination of the text, look at the completed handout in reference to your text.  What is the ultimate topic, purpose, and aspects for your text?  What areas of the text reflect areas of the topic, purpose and aspects?  What areas of the text do not reflect the areas of the topic, purpose and aspects?  What areas do you see that appear to be unaligned with other areas of the text?  Briefly list the areas here.  After you have completed this examination, create a one to two paragraph overview of your discoveries.  This is your focus revision plan.  Make sure that in this overview your list your strengths and your weaknesses in regard to your focus development. 









So my working thesis statement could be:

My writing process and others' writing processes can be explored by comparing and contrasting.


Comparing and contrasting writing styles demonstrate the differences occurring in the writing process.


Writing styles can be compared and contrasted.

Notes to Remember


If you are sorting through your material and don’t know in which direction you’re going, it might be best to develop only a tentative thesis until you understand your topic more completely. Later, when your understanding is more complete, a strong and focused thesis statement can help you produce a coherent draft of your essay. Clear thesis statements can give you an added boost as you launch into the writing process.

Alignment with Competencies

By reviewing this module, you have explored material related to the following competencies: 

1. Capella Writing Feedback Tool-Focus

2. McCann Writing Standard 1-Establish and refine a topic or thesis that addresses the specific task and audience.