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From: Writing Tips by Professor Outka
(printable version here)
Writer's Web

1. How long should the thesis statement be, and where should I put it?

For a short essay (under 8 pages), a reader expects your thesis statement to appear at the end of the first introductory paragraph. A thesis statement is generally 1-3 sentences long. If you think about it, this placement makes sense: you're giving your readers the central idea of your paper as they move into the main body of the essay.

2. If the thesis statements come at the end of the introductory paragraph, what should come before the thesis?

Think about what your readers should know to understand your paper. You need to tell them the text and the author you'll be discussing, ideally in the first sentence (e.g., "In his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce investigates..."). You need to get right to your topic. Do NOT start at the beginning of recorded history and move forward ("Throughout history, wars have been fought in many places..."). Do NOT have lots of "throat clearing" sentences that say little (e.g., "Yeats uses language and imagery and includes many interesting themes" - what else would a writer use but language and imagery?). Start with your topic. If you're writing about wave imagery in Joyce, introduce this topic and the work in question in the first sentence, then introduce your topic more fully, and have this opening lead you naturally to the specific argument you're making.

*Some of the above information adapted from Claim Game, University of Virginia Teaching Website*

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