Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Not quite a thesis statement...

No Pilcrows Please
Not yet anyway...
(Image from Wikipedia)

As long-time readers know, I require my students to write an expository essay, and since Koreans generally don't learn how to do this in high school or even other university courses, then I always have a lot of explaining to do, and their first attempts are muddled by misunderstandings about what I'm looking for.

Next week, students are required to hand in their thesis statement, which is a single sentence with the logical structure A --> B b/c A --> C, e.g., "Socrates is mortal because he is human."

Note that this is one single sentence.

Many of my students, each semester, misunderstand this first assignment and turn in an entire paragraph ... minus a thesis statement. Here's an early example from this semester:
People often tend to fear about changes. It is true that changes sometimes bring problems with it. For example, I prefer to always go to a beauty salon which I know well. I can be sure that my hair will be cut just the way I want. But what if the beauty salon one day closes or moves to another city? The answer is clear. I have to find another beauty salon. This can be annoying and I might have some trial and error for a while. But someday I will find a new beauty salon, and moreover, it can even be a chance that I might find a better one. We often face changes that we can not avoid, and we should try to make these changes an opportunity. Multiculturalism is one of the changes increasing in the global world and it is hard to stop this change. The wisest way to deal with this is to benefit from it, and not suffer from it -- and this depends on our attitude to multiculturalism.
As one can see, this is more of an introductory paragraph, and it does demonstrate a fairly good control of English as a second language -- albeit with errors to suffer correction -- but it doesn't appear to have an explicit thesis statement. The implicit thesis statement would seem to be something like this: "Multiculturalism must be accepted because it is nearly impossible to stop." I wouldn't find that a very satisfying argument, but it would at least approximate the proper logical structure.

Anyway, here's what I told the student:
Unfortunately, you have not written a thesis statement. What you have written below is a paragraph, not a statement. A thesis statement is one single sentence with the logical structure A --> B b/c A --> C.

Since you seem unclear on what a thesis statement is, I suggest that you re-read the material on thesis statements in the handout. Also, there is a new handout that explains the essay in simplified form, so you'll want to read that as well, and you can find it at the cafe website.

As for your paragraph ... it sounds like a beginning paragraph, but I wonder how effective this introductory passage is since it compares multiculturalism to a new hairdresser. Your example raises obvious questions. What if your new hairdresser ruins your hair? What if you have several hairdressers working on different areas of your hair, each hairdresser using a different style? By analogy, what if multiculturalism ruins your society? You might want to reconsider this manner of introducing your argument (when you have actually constructed a thesis statement) before the first draft of the essay is due.

But that can wait. For now, you need to write a thesis statement, and it is due next week, on Monday, April 23, for the due date has been changed.
The student, therefore, has an extra week, and even then, this exercise receives no grade and is purely for the student's benefit, for I use the exercise to ensure that each student understands precisely what a thesis statement is and has has managed to construct one perfectly before moving on to writing the expository essay that will lay out the subordinate arguments and provide the supporting evidence.

If I can get students to do that, I've succeeded in my main aim.



At 8:16 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

BEAUTIFUL. I have a very close and dear family member who's been a college prof all his life. He would assure you that most American students can't even write THAT well. Your students are already surpassing his. :P

At 8:16 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

P.S. I meant that your observations were beautiful. The writing was adequate.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dang, Saur -- at first, I had imagined that you were referring to my image in the photo from Sunday's blog entry.

But I know that I'm not about to win any beauty contests.

Oh, well, if I'm not beautiful to the eye's observations, at least my own observations can be beautiful.


Jeffery Hodges

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