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Tentative Thesis Statement

A tentative thesis statement should guide your research just as a hypothesis guides a science experiment. A tentative thesis statement does not need to be “right,” and it most certainly should not be considered “final,” but it should indicate a useful direction for your research. To create a useful tentative thesis statement, consider the following advice:

  1. Brainstorm. What do you know about your topic so far? What “unknowns” remain about your topic? Can you make connections between your specific topic and other ideas about the culture or society you are studying? Jot down ideas on a sheet of paper and see what questions or connections emerge.
  2. Create a Question. A good thesis statement is in fact an answer to a good question. What question or questions would you like to answer through your research? The best questions will not be questions of fact (what happened...? who fought...? when did...?). The best questions will ask “whys” and “hows” that demand that you consider cause and effect relationships, that you make connections or comparisons between different events, or (perhaps most ambitiously) that you challenge preconceived ideas.
  3. Answer Your Question. A carefully-constructed, well-considered answer to your question will lead you to a strong tentative thesis statement. Your tentative thesis statement should be one well-written sentence—a statement and not a question. A proper thesis statement will include the important elements you want to cover in your paper and will indicate the order in which you will deal with those elements.

Remember, your thesis statement should make an argument; it should not just be statement of uncontestable facts. Also, remember that your tentative thesis statement will most likely change, sometimes considerably, as you do more research. The writing center at the University of Illinois offers these useful tips for thinking about a thesis statement.

The assignment you turn in to me should include
  • the question or questions you think you want to answer, and
  • the tentative thesis statement (a well-constructed hypothetical answer to your question or questions).

See me soon if you have questions! Good luck.

EXAMPLE:

How did the "New Song" Movement in Latin America relate to political activities in the 1960s and 1970s?

The New Song Movement in Chile and other Latin American countries combined a variety of musical traditions and provocative lyrics to unify support behind socialist political movements within those countries and in exiled Latino communities.