home‎ > ‎Writing‎ > ‎



An interesting opening line to your essay that draws the reader in and grabs their interest immediately
  • "Everyone has a defining moment in their life where it is necessary to make a difficult decision."
  • opening with a general overview of the essay topic without getting too specific.
  • "Imagine attempting to survive for weeks in a small lifeboat, accompanied by a man-eating Bengalese tiger."
  • "Two equally disturbing scenarios: a small boy trapped on a lifeboat with a man-eating tiger, or that same boy forced to survive while witnessing atrocious acts from the humans aboard his raft."
  • "Billy Pilgrim: time traveler or mentally-unstable war veteran? This is the question in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five."

Thesis statements

  • the final sentence in your introduction
  • states what your paper will show/prove
  • should be a statement, rather than a question
    • DOESN'T WORK: "The question is, 'should Atticus have taken Tom Robinson's case?'" (This gives the general topic, not the stance you will take)
    • WORKS WELL: "Atticus Finch makes the right decision by taking Tom Robinson's case because he can live with himself at the end of the day." (This is a statement and clearly shows what you will argue in your essay.)
  • should be something that is debatable - it can be argued more than one way
    • "Though Amir is initially a bad friend to Hassan because of his lack of courage, Amir's actions as an adult make up for his mistakes as a child." (This is a debatable topic - some people will disagree)
  • should not state something that we know is true from the novel - The purpose of writing an essay is to argue a debatable point from the text.
    • "Atticus Finch stands up for Tom Robinson." (We know this is true - it's a fact from the book)
  • Should be specific - avoid basic overviews of the book
    • "Ralph, Jack, and Piggy would all make effective candidates for chief of the island." (too general - a stronger paper would focus on one of the boys and give a detailed overview of why that one boy would be the best candidate.)

Understanding Thesis Statements - Practice
If you feel the thesis statement is effective, leave it blank. If you feel it needs work, revise it so it is effective.

1. Atticus Finch is a talented lawyer in Maycomb, Alabama who stands up for those without a voice.
2. Ralph is the best candidate for chief of the island, due to his logical thinking and commitment to rescue.
3. George has a difficult decision to make when he must shoot his best friend in order to save him from the angry mob.
4. Friar Lawrence, the two lovers, and the parents are all responsible for the deaths of the title characters in Romeo and Juliet.
5. Amir is sometimes a good friend to Hassan and sometimes a bad friend.
6, Billy Pilgrim is mentally unstable, which makes him an unreliable narrator in Slaughterhouse Five.
7. Pi Patel uses aspects of all his religions in order to survive on the raft, showing the power of faith in the face of adversity.
8. Rahim Khan is a minor character in The Kite Runner.
9. George Milton is a good friend to Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men.
10. The conch shell symbolizes order and a connection to civilization.