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Thesis statements in AP essays
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The thesis statement in the AP essay


What is a thesis?

A thesis statement is a statement of an argument that you intend to prove. A good thesis statement makes the difference between a thoughtful essay and a simple retelling of facts.

The thesis for an AP essay must include all parts of the question along with the position you will prove.

The thesis statement is typically located at the end of your opening paragraph. (The opening paragraph serves to set the context for the thesis.)

The thesis statement is the “engine” which drives the entire essay.

Remember, your reader will be looking for your thesis. Make it complete, clear, strong, and easy to find.

Attributes of a good thesis:

• It should be contestable, proposing an arguable point with which people could reasonably disagree. A strong thesis takes a stand and justifies the discussion you will present.

• It is specific and focused. A strong thesis proves a point without discussing “everything about Instead of music, think “American jazz in the 1 930s” and your argument about it.

• It clearly asserts your own conclusion based on evidence. Note: Be flexible. The evidence may lead you to a conclusion you didn’t think you’d reach.

• It provides the reader with a map to guide him/her through your work.

• It avoids vague language (like “it seems”).

• It avoids the first person. (“I believe,” “In my opinion”)

• It should pass the So what? or Who cares? test (Would your most honest friend ask why he should care or respond with “but everyone knows that”?) For instance, “people should avoid driving under the influence of alcohol,” would be unlikely to evoke any opposition.

How do you know if you have a solid thesis?

Try these four tests:

• Does the thesis include all parts of the question? This is the most important fact to remember because an incomplete thesis results in an incomplete answer to the question. An inadequate essay will result, which will receive a low grade.

• Would a reasonable reader NOT respond with “Duh!” or “So what?” or “Gee, no kidding!” or “Who cares?”

• Does the thesis avoid general phrasing and/or sweeping words such as “all” or “none” or “every”?

• Does the thesis lead the reader toward the topic sentences (the subtopics needed to prove the thesis)?

If you cannot answer “YES” to these questions, you will need to make changes in order for your thesis to pass these tests.


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