Understanding the Assignment Requirements and Crafting a Thesis

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SWBAT understand the assessment's expectations in order to craft a strong, useful thesis statement.

Big Idea

... as with bread-n-butter academic writing, students need a clear, strong, and complex thesis statement before drafting ...

Context and Introduction

12 minutes

At this point in the process of the AoF essay, students have finished reading their "expertise books," discovered a topic, written a few research questions, and begun basic research with our school's databases.  Also, they have located a "duplicate source" (see the previous lesson), and they have begun note-taking and management of all sources.  (This year students did have good luck with the "premium features" for EasyBib, which our school provides.)

It is now time to create the thesis statement for this essay.  Before we begin the final rough-drafting process, I reviewed this very useful handout from the Vanderbilt Writing Lab, and I ask that students re-draft/re-purpose a research question -- really get to the best possible one.

I ask them to set aside any research/reading for the moment, and open their outlines, notes, and/or question sets, created during the first lessons of this unit.  (I did provide this very simple Google Doc as a "starter" for getting their first questions flowing; I asked them to use it just after completing their outlines of the "opening matter" from their "expertise books.")

When they have the proper documents loaded in tabs, I proceed ...

Direct Instruction: Understanding What the Thesis Requires

34 minutes

I start this portion of the lesson with a very thorough review of the assessment instructions.  I read through these slowly, carefully, and I ask that students follow along on their own screens, as, per usual, I have hyperlinked the Google Doc from our class Slides deck. 

At the outset, the two biggest clarifications -- ones that require lots and lots of discussion in the coming days of drafting -- are sources (type and number) and "consequences."  If you scroll lower into the assessment instructions, you will find a table of the type and number of sources required.  To wit, I require:

  • two sources listed/referenced in “expertise book” (regardless of type of source) + “expertise book” itself (3)
  • academic journals (counted separately from "duplicate sources") (2)
  • popular magazines and/or newspapers (counted separately from "duplicate sources") (2)
  • student choice of one of the above OR a website with “permission (counted separately from "duplicate sources") (1)


Clarifications of "types" (aka. "Dr. Jones, what's a 'journal' again?) are daily and redound to one-on-one conferences and OTS checks.  It is a relentless question with 17/18 year olds.  They have seen so little actual print; they have been in so few libraries.

As to the concept of "consequences," I use the analogy of the trial system.  The prosecution sets out its case (thesis), provides evidence (support, research, warrants, sub-claims, etc.), and, hopefully, convinces a jury for the desired verdict (conclusion).  When the convict stands before the judge he/she receives a sentence ("consequence").  The assessment instructions include key yellow highlights that point out the relationship between my faux thesis and the concluding "consequences."

For the AoF is primarily an essay of fact and not opinion (at least in the "traditional" sense), students sometimes struggle with the idea of concluding-concluding with a meaningful thought, one that might lead to further scholarship or investigation.  (More on this sophisticated concept in my reflection for this lesson.)  Finally, as a "model" I provide one that I wrote myself.  I review this model aloud with students, and I encourage them to try the thinking on themselves ...

With all of this information "out there" ... I ask students to draft a thesis statement AFTER completing this Google Doc "worksheet."  This information will prove valuable to them (and me) in coming weeks ...