A Road Map for Research: Completing a Thesis Generator and Thesis Topic Sentence-Frame

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SWBAT construct a research question leading to a working thesis by completing a thesis generator.

Big Idea

"'Where we going, man?' 'I don't know but we gotta go.” --Jack Kerouac in "On the Road

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

This is lesson 7 in the research unit. I teach this lesson after students have completed most of their research and have taken most of their notes. It's important for students to know their topics well so that they can complete the required tasks in this lesson. 

In this lesson, I teach students how to compose an essential question and generate a working thesis using a modified version of Jim Burke's Thesis Generator from What's the Big Idea? (2010 Heineman). Jim graciously allows teachers to use the template for classroom use. 

In the lesson students 

  • complete the thesis generator,
  • complete the thesis worksheet.

To accomplish the above, I walk students through the process of completing the thesis generator. 

Why Ask Why: Using the Thesis Generator to Turn Topics into Questions and Questions into a Working Thesis

15 minutes

To begin the lesson, I give students the Thesis Generator Template. This is a modified version of Jim Burke's in that the example is one I wrote for students when I taught a class in Native American literature. 

I read through the document w/ students and explain each part of the process. Because I believe teachers should model the writing process and write with students, I take them through my writing process for completing the thesis generator on the topic Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Thesis Generator shows the result of my writing with students. In class I handwrite the document and do this using the document camera. As I write, I point out how my thesis generator differs from the example one and invite them to work on their forms as I write and talk about my writing process; however, they need to do this as they take notes, too, as I want them to have another example to use. Student Thesis Generator shows one student's progress. 

In Thesis Generator Writing Process I offer insight into my approach to helping students complete the thesis generator.

From Thesis Generator to Working Thesis Statement

10 minutes

After completing the thesis generator, I show students how to complete the Thesis Worksheet. I use this sentence from for several reasons:

  • to keep students focused on their controlling idea and the major points in their paper,
  • to help students see gaps in their writing process,
  • to give students a framework for revising toward a formal thesis,
  • to help students use parallel structure in their thesis.

Thesis Generator and Thesis Worksheet Student Work shows how one student uses the thesis generator as a springboard for the thesis worksheet. 

The thesis worksheet tightens student writing but does so at the risk of reinforcing formulaic structure. This, however, is something teachers can reinforce or be more relaxed about. The point is that students express an opinion and know the reasons for their opinion. Having these in writing helps students construct their arguments, and like it or not, this is what students need to know how to do in college classes.