Developing Strong Thesis Statements
These OWL resources will help you develop and refine the arguments in your writing.
Contributors: Stacy Weida, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2018-01-31 03:32:44
The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable
An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.
Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:
Pollution is bad for the environment.
This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution means that something is bad or negative in some way. Further, all studies agree that pollution is a problem; they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is good.
Example of a debatable thesis statement:
At least 25 percent of the federal budget should be spent on limiting pollution.
This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation's money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.
Another example of a debatable thesis statement:
America's anti-pollution efforts should focus on privately owned cars.
In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.
The thesis needs to be narrow
Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.
Example of a thesis that is too broad:
Drug use is detrimental to society.
There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category "drugs"? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by "society"? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.
Example of a narrow or focused thesis:
Illegal drug use is detrimental because it encourages gang violence.
In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.
We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:
Narrowed debatable thesis 1:
At least 25 percent of the federal budget should be spent on helping upgrade business to clean technologies, researching renewable energy sources, and planting more trees in order to control or eliminate pollution.
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.
Narrowed debatable thesis 2:
America's anti-pollution efforts should focus on privately owned cars because it would allow most citizens to contribute to national efforts and care about the outcome.
This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.
Qualifiers such as "typically," "generally," "usually," or "on average" also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.
Types of claims
Claims typically fall into one of four categories. Thinking about how you want to approach your topic, in other words what type of claim you want to make, is one way to focus your thesis on one particular aspect of your broader topic.
Claims of fact or definition: These claims argue about what the definition of something is or whether something is a settled fact. Example:
What some people refer to as global warming is actually nothing more than normal, long-term cycles of climate change.
Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur. Example:
The popularity of SUVs in America has caused pollution to increase.
Claims about value: These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something. Example:
Global warming is the most pressing challenge facing the world today.
Claims about solutions or policies: These are claims that argue for or against a certain solution or policy approach to a problem. Example:
Instead of drilling for oil in Alaska we should be focusing on ways to reduce oil consumption, such as researching renewable energy sources.
Which type of claim is right for your argument? Which type of thesis or claim you use for your argument will depend on your position and knowledge of the topic, your audience, and the context of your paper. You might want to think about where you imagine your audience to be on this topic and pinpoint where you think the biggest difference in viewpoints might be. Even if you start with one type of claim you probably will be using several within the paper. Regardless of the type of claim you choose to utilize it is key to identify the controversy or debate you are addressing and to define your position early on in the paper.
28 October 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the celebration of Filipino-American History Month and Archives Month, the Philippine Embassy hosted the Istorya-DC 2016 Symposium entitled “Philippine American Food Experiences in Washington, D.C. – Yesterday and Today,” at the Romulo Hall on 27 October 2016.
Ms. Amy Besa, a pioneer of gastro diplomacy in the United States and co-owner of Purple Yam restaurants in Brooklyn, New York and Malate, Philippines, delivered a video-recorded keynote speech. She emphasized the importance of knowing one’s own culture, history, environment, and ingredients that ultimately defines a nation’s cuisine.
“We are all very unified by showing our love for food. Food is very unifying, and it is a gesture of love especially when Filipinos cook it,” Ms. Besa concluded in her remarks.
“Cultural diplomacy or gastrodiplomacy has been a major thrust of the cultural and heritage promotion program of the Embassy this year,” said the Embassy’s Public Diplomacy Officer, Ms. Darell Artates in welcoming the guests to the symposium.
“The two panels in this year’s Istorya-DC aim to take a look back and a ‘look forward’ on this journey, so that we may be able to gain higher appreciation of what has been achieved so far and what remains to be done in terms of introducing our food and appealing to the different palates in the US,” Ms. Artates added.
This year’s symposium highlighted DC Philippine American Restaurants and DC Food Istoryas (stories) in two panel discussions that brought together Filipino restaurateurs and food enthusiasts in Metro DC as resource speakers.
The first panel was composed of Purple Patch owner Patrice Cleary, Bistro 7107 and Sweet City Desserts’ owner Manny Tagle, Timpla Supper Club co-founder Katrina Villavicencio, and moderated by University of Maryland’s Dr. Ricky Punzalan.
“When you talk about history and what makes our ingredients or our food tastes the way it does, it’s who we are and where we’ve been and how we’ve grown,” Ms. Cleary said on the role played by history in Philippine cuisine.
“We take these stories of our childhood. We take these dishes that we grew up eating in our supper club so that people can understand how we grew up and our personal history. Understanding our county’s roots and understanding the history of the Philippines and Philippine cuisine is very important on how we create food moving forward,” Ms. Villavicencio added.
The panel also sought to explain the increasing popularity of Philippine cuisine and why it is steadily evolving to be the “darling of diners” in the United States.
“The Filipino restaurants and Philippine cuisine have been here – California, New York, Chicago – except that they are not recognized by us, Filipinos. I think we, as a Filipino community, should start spreading them and be proud of our cuisine regardless of the region and who cooks it. It’s about time, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Mr. Tagle said in conclusion of the first panel discussion.
The second panel discussion focused on sharing DC Food stories, and was moderated by Mr. Gem Daus of the University of Maryland.
Nila Toribio-Straka of the Toribio family, recalled her childhood memories with her grandmother known as Manang, as she cooked and served Filipino food at the Manila House in the mid-20th century.
“Restaurants become recreated views of the home life transposed into the public market and adjusted to the American needs of time constraints and financial concerns,” analyst and playwright Amanda Tira Andrei O’Connor said, reading an excerpt of her 2010 thesis Nanay’s Kusina or Carinderia? The Perceived Lack of Filipino Resturants in American Dining.
“When they look for pansit, lumpia, sinigang, those are the flavors that they are identifying with our food. So what we need to do as Filipinos is to make the best one that we can,”said Luis Florendo, former owner of Sony’s Filipino restaurant, as he stressed the importance of having something definitive about a culture that will make a lasting impression on people’s minds.
Ms. Rita Cacas of the Rita M. Cacas Foundation, Inc. (RMCF), the main proponent of the Istorya-DC series, also recounted and shared with the audience the story of the Manila House, a Filipino community gathering place located in Washington, D.C. that is also known as a place where the Toribio family prepared Filipino home cooked meals for bachelors and friends from the late 1930s to 1950s.
This year, the Manila House was recognized as a Literary Landmark by the United for Libraries. The designation was a culmination of the joint efforts made by the RMCF, Philippine Arts, Letters, and Media (PALM) Council, The Philippines on the Potomac (POPDC) Project and the Toribio family.
“The weight of this bronze plaque encompasses all of the soul that came to the Manila House more than 80 years ago,” said Ms. Cacas after she proudly unveiled the plaque at the symposium.
After the formal program, panelists and guests attended a simple reception where they enjoyed a variety of special dishes generously contributed by Bistro 7107, Sweet City Desserts, Inah’s Place, Lumpia Pansit Atbp., Manila Mart Grocery & Carry-Out, Purple Patch, and Ms. Mary Cacas and Mr. Jaime Bello.
Istorya-DC is an annual, educational event to share the histories, stories, and research about DC area Filipino communities held every October. This year’s event was organized with the support of The Rita M. Cacas Foundation, US-Philippines Society, Philippines on the Potomac, Filipino Cultural Association of the University of Maryland, and the Philippine Embassy. ###
28 October 2016
Public Diplomacy Officer, Ms. Darell Artates, welcomed the Istorya-DC 2016 symposium panelists and guests to the Romulo Hall of the Philippine Embassy on 28 October 2016.
28 October 2016
Ms. Rita M. Cacas delivered her remarks and shared the story of The Manila House at mid century.
28 October 2016
1st Panel: (L-R) Bistro 7107 and Sweet City Desserts’ owner Manny Tagle; Timpla Supper Club co-founder Katrina Villavicencio; and Purple Patch owner Patrice Cleary
28 October 2016
2nd panel: (L-R) Former owner of Sony’s Filipino restaurant Luis Florendo; Analyst and playwright Amanda Tira Andrei O’Connor; and Nila Toribio-Straka of the Toribio family
28 October 2016
The plaque designating The Manila House as a Literary Landmark by the United for Libraries was unveiled at the Istorya-DC 2016 symposium.