Thesis Statements

A thesis statement MUST:

  • narrow your topic to one central idea
  • make an assertion or explanatory statement about some subject matter


A thesis statement USUALLY:

  • shows how the supporting information will be arranged
  • appears at the end of the introduction



Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved demonstrates the terrible effects of slavery on the human psyche through the main character, Sethe.



While Luke Skywalker is considered a hero in Star Wars, he was actually a criminal since he was responsible for the deaths of many thousands on the Death Star.



Hobbes correctly argues that government’s primary responsibility is the safety of its people, which is necessary on social, economic, and religious grounds.



Colonialism was almost always brutal, but it created a set of political, military, and economic institutions that prepared newly formed states for the globalized world.



Special interest groups are often criticized, but these groups of citizens represent diverse interests in society and are essential for democracy to flourish.



Based on evidence from the fields of cell biology, biochemistry, and paleontology, Lynn Margulis made significant contributions to evolutionary biology by proposing that several fundamental transitions in evolution occurred, not through competition and speciation, but through cooperation, when distinct cell lineages joined together to become a single organism.  


Common Problems

Draft: The first polygraph was developed by Dr. John A. Larson in 1921.

Problem: The thesis is too factual.  A reader cannot disagree with it or debate it, so no further development of this idea is needed.

Strategy: Enter a debate by posing a question to yourself about your topic that has more than one possible answer.  For example: Should the polygraph be used by private employers? Your thesis should be your answer to that question.

Thesis: Because the polygraph has not been proved reliable, even under controlled conditions, its use by employers should be banned.


Draft: Would John F. Kennedy have continued to escalate the war in Vietnam if he had lived?

Problem: The thesis is a question, not an answer to a question.

Strategy: Take a position on your topic by answering the question you asked.

Thesis: Although John F. Kennedy sent the first American troops to Vietnam before he died, an analysis of his foreign policy suggests that he would not have escalated the war had he lived.


Draft: Mapping the human genome has many implications for health and science.

Problem: The thesis is too broad.  Even in a very long research paper, you would not be able to discuss all the implications of mapping the human genome.

Strategy: Consider subtopics of your original topic. Once you have chosen a subtopic, take a position in an ongoing debate and pose a question that has more than one answer.

Thesis: Although scientists can now detect genetic predisposition for specific diseases, policymakers should establish guidelines about whom to test and under what circumstances.



This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this
license, visit

Effective Paragraphs

Topic Sentences: a topic sentence provides direction by stating the [main idea] of a paragraph and answering the reader’s unspoken question, “What is your point?”


[Carrying a homemade lunch instead of eating out] has had unexpected benefits.


[Knowing how to research using a computer] is an essential skill in college.


There are many creative ways to hide [thinning hair.]


Supporting Sentences: these sentences are specific, giving details and examples.  They provide the proof or explanation of your topic sentence.


[Adopting a pet from the animal shelter] can help both animal and owner.

Shelter animals are killed if they are not adopted, so adopting a pet from the shelter saves a life. Shelter puppies and kittens are usually spayed or neutered before adoption, saving the owner veterinary fees.


[Failure to take care of small details of car maintenance] can make driving dangerous.

Tires that do not have enough air can be dangerous to both driver and passengers.  These tires can cause a car to lose its grip on the road and flip.


Unity: unity means that you will write about the topic you mention in the topic sentence and the point you want to make about that topic and nothing else.


[One way that I try to keep in shape] is by eating good food.

✘  I get plenty of exercise.

✔ I eat very few sweets or candy.

✔ I stay away from too much fat.


[My neighbor’s yard] is ugly.

✔In his front yard, he has an old, rusty car.

✘ At the side of his house is a beautiful old oak tree.

✔ Because he never mows his lawn, tall grass and weeds surround his house.


Coherence: this means that the ideas in the paragraph are logically connected and easy to follow. The most common coherence tools are transitional expressions/words and repetition.


My neighbor’s yard is ugly.  Because he never mows his lawn, tall grass and weeds surround his house.  Even worse, in his front yard, he has an old, rusty car.


Sample Introduction Paragraph

The pentagon has twice as many bathrooms as are necessary. The famous government building was constructed in the 1940s, when segregation laws required that separate bathrooms be installed for people of African descent. This building isn’t the only American icon that harkens back to this embarrassing and hurtful time in our history. Across the United States there are many examples of leftover laws and customs that reflect the racism that once permeated American society.


Sample Literary Paragraph

Susan Sanders did not like the rain. Whenever it rained, dark clouds would cover the sky and block out the sun, making the entire day seem dreary and gray. If it rained on a chilly day, then the day seemed even colder and more miserable than before. Moreover, regardless of the temperature, rain meant that Susan’s hair would get frizzy and messed up no matter how much time she spent on it. Even a few raindrops were enough to undo an entire morning’s worth of styling. As far as Susan was concerned, rain was certainly not her friend.


Sample Transition Paragraph

The propensity to ravage the sea is by no means unique to New England.  The northern cod fishery in Canada is closed indefinitely. In Newfoundland, more than 20,000 fishermen and fish processors were abruptly put out of work in 1992 when the government shut down the Grand Banks.


Sample Rebuttal Paragraph

The benefits of social networking websites have the potential to outweigh the dangers of such websites. While social networking does curb real-life interaction with one’s peers, it also provides shy, introverted, or socially awkward youth with a new avenue of communication that often makes it easier to connect and form relationships. Additionally, while unmonitored teens and young adults may post photographs and information that could damage their futures and make them less desirable to potential employers, responsible and well-guided youth have the chance to build working relationships and create a stronger presence in the working world. When the tool is used correctly and the youth are instructed on correct usage, it offers considerable positives.


Sample Conclusion Paragraph

The prevailing ignorance of basic auto mechanics on America’s part is indeed appalling. However, in spite of the current situation, there is hope on the horizon. The number of people showing interest in car maintenance has been increasing at a steady rate over the past few years. Having grown tired and frustrated by the excessive amount of money they have had to spend on shops and auto mechanics, Americans have come to realize that car maintenance is much more essential than they had thought. If this trend continues in America, we can hopefully predict the coming of an age where dependence upon others for “car smarts” will finally become obsolete.


Michael| 2018

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit

Resumes and Cover Letters


Chronological Format: List most recent work experience, going backward to your oldest.

✔ Showcases a progression of increasingly responsible positions

✔ Demonstrates that you are qualified to take the next step in your career

✔ Highlights impressive employers who will add weight to your credentials

✔ Answers the employer’s question of whether your work history has been stable

Gaps in employment, lack of strong career progression, and other negatives can be easily seen


Functional Format: Use categorical, skills-based sections to demonstrate qualifications

✔ De-emphasizes company information or job titles

✔ Highlights the connections between employer’s job descriptions and your qualifications

✔ Tailors your experience to a specific job or industry

✔  Excellent for employees who are changing careers or whose path is more tangential

➲  Few employers will be familiar with this format, so clear presentation is essential


Resume Tips:

  • Plan well!  Choose categories that will best showcase your experiences and skill set.
  • Offer employers several options for contacting you, including phone and a professionally appropriate email.  If you do not have a professional-sounding email, create one!
  • Format your heading to maximize space.  Use left, center, and right margins.
  • Use an Objective or Qualifications Summary that captures you and focuses on the employer’s needs.
  • An Education category should be included if you possess degrees or training relevant to the position.  
  • Never include personal or demographic information (birthdate, marital status, parental status, height and weight, etc.).  It is illegal for employers to ask for this information!
  • Try to keep the resume to one or two pages, although resumes for academic jobs might be longer.



Cover Letters

Objectives of a Cover Letter:

  • Introduce yourself and clearly define who you are
  • Highlight your most notable qualifications, experiences, credentials, skills, and achievements, especially as they relate to the position description
  • Identify the value you can bring to the organization
  • Capture your reader’s interest in your, your resume, and your availability
  • Motivate the reader to call and offer you the opportunity for an interview


Cover Letter Tips:

  • Include information you know about the company or the position for which you are applying.  Check out the company’s website, especially any “About Us” pages or “Mission, Vision, Values” information.  Try to discover something about the company culture and about their current endeavors.
  • Explain why you want to work for this company in particular.  Tell them what they’re doing right that caught your attention.  Was it the company reputation, financial standing, products, services, personnel, location, or market potential?  Why them?
  • Be sure that your cover letters are neat, clean, and well presented.  Remember that these are business documents.  They should be attractive and relatively conservative, not overly flashy.  The cover letter demonstrates your level of professionalism.
  • Follow standard Business Letter format. Block paragraphs are often appropriate, especially if you will be submitting your cover letter digitally.
  • Keep your cover letter to one page. These are not essays!  
  • Be sure to ask for the interview and provide contact information.  Securing an interview is your #1 objective.  Make it easy for them to offer you one!

Kayla| 2016

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit

The Paramedic Method

Sentences that are clear and easy to read are more persuasive and more user-centered. The Paramedic Method, developed by Richard Lanham, is one of the best strategies for clarifying your sentences.  It helps:

  1. Reduce your word count by eliminating unnecessary words
  2. Activate your sentences by eliminating passive voice and redundancies
  3. Improve the overall readability of your sentences

Seven Simple Steps

  1. Circle the prepositions
  2. Draw a box around any “to be” verbs
  3. Ask, “Where’s the action?”  Underline it.
  4. Change the action into a simple verb
  5. Move the “doer” into the subject position
  6. Eliminate any unnecessary slow wind-ups
  7. Eliminate any redundancies

The Paramedic Method in Action

Consider this sample sentence:

In this paragraph is a demonstration of the use of good style in the writing of a report.

 There’s nothing inherently ungrammatical about this sentence, but it certainly is hard to follow! This is the kind of sentence that benefit from the Paramedic Method. You can see how steps 1-4 would look below:

Sentence Using Paramedic Method

In step 5, we can identify that the “doer” of the action is the “paragraph.”

In step 6, we can see that “of the use of” is unnecessary.

In step 7, we can see that some of these prepositional phrases could be transformed into adjectives.

Based on these changes, we come up with the following sentence:

This paragraph demonstrates good style in report writing.

This new sentence is much simpler and much clearer. Remember, the goal in academic writing is to use the simplest expression that still conveys the entire idea. If you are discussing a very complex idea, a complex sentence is fine … even then, it doesn’t need to be unnecessarily complex for the sake of complexity.


Here’s another sentence that could use some more clarity:

The point that I wish to make is that the employees working at this company are in need of a much better manager of their money.

Again, the grammar here is fine. The issue is that this sentence is taking far too long to convey such a simple idea. Let’s apply the Paramedic Method!

Sentence Using Paramedic Method

In step 5, we can identify that the “doers” of the action are the “employees.”

In step 6, we can see that “the point that I wish to make” is unnecessary.

In step 7, we can see that some of these prepositional phrases could be transformed into adjectives.

Based on these changes, we come up with the following sentence:

This company’s employees need a much better money manager.

This sentence is significantly clearer than the original. Most importantly, it helps the reader focus on who is being discussed in the sentence — the company’s employees — as opposed to who is speaking — you. In academic writing, you are always assumed to be the speaker, so you do not typically need to hedge your claims with phrases like “the point that I wish to make is.”


Want to practice this technique? Make an appointment to work with a Writing Center tutor! 


Vanessa Flora-Nakoski | This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit

To download this page as a PDF, click here: The Paramedic Method_PDF