Developing a Thesis Statement

Many papers you write require developing a thesis statement. In this section you’ll learn what a thesis statement is and how to write one.

Keep in mind that not all papers require thesis statements . If in doubt, please consult your instructor for assistance.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement . . .

  • Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic.
  • Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper.
  • Is focused and specific enough to be “proven” within the boundaries of your paper.
  • Is generally located near the end of the introduction ; sometimes, in a long paper, the thesis will be expressed in several sentences or in an entire paragraph.
  • Identifies the relationships between the pieces of evidence that you are using to support your argument.

Not all papers require thesis statements! Ask your instructor if you’re in doubt whether you need one.

Identify a topic

Your topic is the subject about which you will write. Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic; or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper.

Consider what your assignment asks you to do

Inform yourself about your topic, focus on one aspect of your topic, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts, generate a topic from an assignment.

Below are some possible topics based on sample assignments.

Sample assignment 1

Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II.

Identified topic

Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis

This topic avoids generalities such as “Spain” and “World War II,” addressing instead on Franco’s role (a specific aspect of “Spain”) and the diplomatic relations between the Allies and Axis (a specific aspect of World War II).

Sample assignment 2

Analyze one of Homer’s epic similes in the Iliad.

The relationship between the portrayal of warfare and the epic simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64.

This topic focuses on a single simile and relates it to a single aspect of the Iliad ( warfare being a major theme in that work).

Developing a Thesis Statement–Additional information

Your assignment may suggest several ways of looking at a topic, or it may name a fairly general concept that you will explore or analyze in your paper. You’ll want to read your assignment carefully, looking for key terms that you can use to focus your topic.

Sample assignment: Analyze Spain’s neutrality in World War II Key terms: analyze, Spain’s neutrality, World War II

After you’ve identified the key words in your topic, the next step is to read about them in several sources, or generate as much information as possible through an analysis of your topic. Obviously, the more material or knowledge you have, the more possibilities will be available for a strong argument. For the sample assignment above, you’ll want to look at books and articles on World War II in general, and Spain’s neutrality in particular.

As you consider your options, you must decide to focus on one aspect of your topic. This means that you cannot include everything you’ve learned about your topic, nor should you go off in several directions. If you end up covering too many different aspects of a topic, your paper will sprawl and be unconvincing in its argument, and it most likely will not fulfull the assignment requirements.

For the sample assignment above, both Spain’s neutrality and World War II are topics far too broad to explore in a paper. You may instead decide to focus on Franco’s role in the diplomatic relationships between the Allies and the Axis , which narrows down what aspects of Spain’s neutrality and World War II you want to discuss, as well as establishes a specific link between those two aspects.

Before you go too far, however, ask yourself whether your topic is worthy of your efforts. Try to avoid topics that already have too much written about them (i.e., “eating disorders and body image among adolescent women”) or that simply are not important (i.e. “why I like ice cream”). These topics may lead to a thesis that is either dry fact or a weird claim that cannot be supported. A good thesis falls somewhere between the two extremes. To arrive at this point, ask yourself what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about your topic.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times . Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Derive a main point from topic

Once you have a topic, you will have to decide what the main point of your paper will be. This point, the “controlling idea,” becomes the core of your argument (thesis statement) and it is the unifying idea to which you will relate all your sub-theses. You can then turn this “controlling idea” into a purpose statement about what you intend to do in your paper.

Look for patterns in your evidence

Compose a purpose statement.

Consult the examples below for suggestions on how to look for patterns in your evidence and construct a purpose statement.

  • Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis
  • Franco turned to the Allies when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from the Axis

Possible conclusion:

Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: Franco’s desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power.

Purpose statement

This paper will analyze Franco’s diplomacy during World War II to see how it contributed to Spain’s neutrality.
  • The simile compares Simoisius to a tree, which is a peaceful, natural image.
  • The tree in the simile is chopped down to make wheels for a chariot, which is an object used in warfare.

At first, the simile seems to take the reader away from the world of warfare, but we end up back in that world by the end.

This paper will analyze the way the simile about Simoisius at 4.547-64 moves in and out of the world of warfare.

Derive purpose statement from topic

To find out what your “controlling idea” is, you have to examine and evaluate your evidence . As you consider your evidence, you may notice patterns emerging, data repeated in more than one source, or facts that favor one view more than another. These patterns or data may then lead you to some conclusions about your topic and suggest that you can successfully argue for one idea better than another.

For instance, you might find out that Franco first tried to negotiate with the Axis, but when he couldn’t get some concessions that he wanted from them, he turned to the Allies. As you read more about Franco’s decisions, you may conclude that Spain’s neutrality in WWII occurred for an entirely personal reason: his desire to preserve his own (and Spain’s) power. Based on this conclusion, you can then write a trial thesis statement to help you decide what material belongs in your paper.

Sometimes you won’t be able to find a focus or identify your “spin” or specific argument immediately. Like some writers, you might begin with a purpose statement just to get yourself going. A purpose statement is one or more sentences that announce your topic and indicate the structure of the paper but do not state the conclusions you have drawn . Thus, you might begin with something like this:

  • This paper will look at modern language to see if it reflects male dominance or female oppression.
  • I plan to analyze anger and derision in offensive language to see if they represent a challenge of society’s authority.

At some point, you can turn a purpose statement into a thesis statement. As you think and write about your topic, you can restrict, clarify, and refine your argument, crafting your thesis statement to reflect your thinking.

As you work on your thesis, remember to keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Sometimes your thesis needs to evolve as you develop new insights, find new evidence, or take a different approach to your topic.

Compose a draft thesis statement

If you are writing a paper that will have an argumentative thesis and are having trouble getting started, the techniques in the table below may help you develop a temporary or “working” thesis statement.

Begin with a purpose statement that you will later turn into a thesis statement.

Assignment: Discuss the history of the Reform Party and explain its influence on the 1990 presidential and Congressional election.

Purpose Statement: This paper briefly sketches the history of the grassroots, conservative, Perot-led Reform Party and analyzes how it influenced the economic and social ideologies of the two mainstream parties.

Question-to-Assertion

If your assignment asks a specific question(s), turn the question(s) into an assertion and give reasons why it is true or reasons for your opinion.

Assignment : What do Aylmer and Rappaccini have to be proud of? Why aren’t they satisfied with these things? How does pride, as demonstrated in “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” lead to unexpected problems?

Beginning thesis statement: Alymer and Rappaccinni are proud of their great knowledge; however, they are also very greedy and are driven to use their knowledge to alter some aspect of nature as a test of their ability. Evil results when they try to “play God.”

Write a sentence that summarizes the main idea of the essay you plan to write.

Main idea: The reason some toys succeed in the market is that they appeal to the consumers’ sense of the ridiculous and their basic desire to laugh at themselves.

Make a list of the ideas that you want to include; consider the ideas and try to group them.

  • nature = peaceful
  • war matériel = violent (competes with 1?)
  • need for time and space to mourn the dead
  • war is inescapable (competes with 3?)

Use a formula to arrive at a working thesis statement (you will revise this later).

  • although most readers of _______ have argued that _______, closer examination shows that _______.
  • _______ uses _______ and _____ to prove that ________.
  • phenomenon x is a result of the combination of __________, __________, and _________.

What to keep in mind as you draft an initial thesis statement

Beginning statements obtained through the methods illustrated above can serve as a framework for planning or drafting your paper, but remember they’re not yet the specific, argumentative thesis you want for the final version of your paper. In fact, in its first stages, a thesis statement usually is ill-formed or rough and serves only as a planning tool.

As you write, you may discover evidence that does not fit your temporary or “working” thesis. Or you may reach deeper insights about your topic as you do more research, and you will find that your thesis statement has to be more complicated to match the evidence that you want to use.

You must be willing to reject or omit some evidence in order to keep your paper cohesive and your reader focused. Or you may have to revise your thesis to match the evidence and insights that you want to discuss. Read your draft carefully, noting the conclusions you have drawn and the major ideas which support or prove those conclusions. These will be the elements of your final thesis statement.

Sometimes you will not be able to identify these elements in your early drafts, but as you consider how your argument is developing and how your evidence supports your main idea, ask yourself, “ What is the main point that I want to prove/discuss? ” and “ How will I convince the reader that this is true? ” When you can answer these questions, then you can begin to refine the thesis statement.

Refine and polish the thesis statement

To get to your final thesis, you’ll need to refine your draft thesis so that it’s specific and arguable.

  • Ask if your draft thesis addresses the assignment
  • Question each part of your draft thesis
  • Clarify vague phrases and assertions
  • Investigate alternatives to your draft thesis

Consult the example below for suggestions on how to refine your draft thesis statement.

Sample Assignment

Choose an activity and define it as a symbol of American culture. Your essay should cause the reader to think critically about the society which produces and enjoys that activity.

  • Ask The phenomenon of drive-in facilities is an interesting symbol of american culture, and these facilities demonstrate significant characteristics of our society.This statement does not fulfill the assignment because it does not require the reader to think critically about society.
Drive-ins are an interesting symbol of American culture because they represent Americans’ significant creativity and business ingenuity.
Among the types of drive-in facilities familiar during the twentieth century, drive-in movie theaters best represent American creativity, not merely because they were the forerunner of later drive-ins and drive-throughs, but because of their impact on our culture: they changed our relationship to the automobile, changed the way people experienced movies, and changed movie-going into a family activity.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast-food establishments, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize America’s economic ingenuity, they also have affected our personal standards.
While drive-in facilities such as those at fast- food restaurants, banks, pharmacies, and dry cleaners symbolize (1) Americans’ business ingenuity, they also have contributed (2) to an increasing homogenization of our culture, (3) a willingness to depersonalize relationships with others, and (4) a tendency to sacrifice quality for convenience.

This statement is now specific and fulfills all parts of the assignment. This version, like any good thesis, is not self-evident; its points, 1-4, will have to be proven with evidence in the body of the paper. The numbers in this statement indicate the order in which the points will be presented. Depending on the length of the paper, there could be one paragraph for each numbered item or there could be blocks of paragraph for even pages for each one.

Complete the final thesis statement

The bottom line.

As you move through the process of crafting a thesis, you’ll need to remember four things:

  • Context matters! Think about your course materials and lectures. Try to relate your thesis to the ideas your instructor is discussing.
  • As you go through the process described in this section, always keep your assignment in mind . You will be more successful when your thesis (and paper) responds to the assignment than if it argues a semi-related idea.
  • Your thesis statement should be precise, focused, and contestable ; it should predict the sub-theses or blocks of information that you will use to prove your argument.
  • Make sure that you keep the rest of your paper in mind at all times. Change your thesis as your paper evolves, because you do not want your thesis to promise more than your paper actually delivers.

In the beginning, the thesis statement was a tool to help you sharpen your focus, limit material and establish the paper’s purpose. When your paper is finished, however, the thesis statement becomes a tool for your reader. It tells the reader what you have learned about your topic and what evidence led you to your conclusion. It keeps the reader on track–well able to understand and appreciate your argument.

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

Writing Process and Structure

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Getting Started with Your Paper

Interpreting Writing Assignments from Your Courses

Generating Ideas for

Creating an Argument

Thesis vs. Purpose Statements

Architecture of Arguments

Working with Sources

Quoting and Paraphrasing Sources

Using Literary Quotations

Citing Sources in Your Paper

Drafting Your Paper

Generating Ideas for Your Paper

Introductions

Paragraphing

Developing Strategic Transitions

Conclusions

Revising Your Paper

Peer Reviews

Reverse Outlines

Revising an Argumentative Paper

Revision Strategies for Longer Projects

Finishing Your Paper

Twelve Common Errors: An Editing Checklist

How to Proofread your Paper

Writing Collaboratively

Collaborative and Group Writing

Think of yourself as a member of a jury, listening to a lawyer who is presenting an opening argument. You'll want to know very soon whether the lawyer believes the accused to be guilty or not guilty, and how the lawyer plans to convince you. Readers of academic essays are like jury members: before they have read too far, they want to know what the essay argues as well as how the writer plans to make the argument. After reading your thesis statement, the reader should think, "This essay is going to try to convince me of something. I'm not convinced yet, but I'm interested to see how I might be."

An effective thesis cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." A thesis is not a topic; nor is it a fact; nor is it an opinion. "Reasons for the fall of communism" is a topic. "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" is a fact known by educated people. "The fall of communism is the best thing that ever happened in Europe" is an opinion. (Superlatives like "the best" almost always lead to trouble. It's impossible to weigh every "thing" that ever happened in Europe. And what about the fall of Hitler? Couldn't that be "the best thing"?)

A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay.

Steps in Constructing a Thesis

First, analyze your primary sources.  Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication. Does the author contradict himself or herself? Is a point made and later reversed? What are the deeper implications of the author's argument? Figuring out the why to one or more of these questions, or to related questions, will put you on the path to developing a working thesis. (Without the why, you probably have only come up with an observation—that there are, for instance, many different metaphors in such-and-such a poem—which is not a thesis.)

Once you have a working thesis, write it down.  There is nothing as frustrating as hitting on a great idea for a thesis, then forgetting it when you lose concentration. And by writing down your thesis you will be forced to think of it clearly, logically, and concisely. You probably will not be able to write out a final-draft version of your thesis the first time you try, but you'll get yourself on the right track by writing down what you have.

Keep your thesis prominent in your introduction.  A good, standard place for your thesis statement is at the end of an introductory paragraph, especially in shorter (5-15 page) essays. Readers are used to finding theses there, so they automatically pay more attention when they read the last sentence of your introduction. Although this is not required in all academic essays, it is a good rule of thumb.

Anticipate the counterarguments.  Once you have a working thesis, you should think about what might be said against it. This will help you to refine your thesis, and it will also make you think of the arguments that you'll need to refute later on in your essay. (Every argument has a counterargument. If yours doesn't, then it's not an argument—it may be a fact, or an opinion, but it is not an argument.)

This statement is on its way to being a thesis. However, it is too easy to imagine possible counterarguments. For example, a political observer might believe that Dukakis lost because he suffered from a "soft-on-crime" image. If you complicate your thesis by anticipating the counterargument, you'll strengthen your argument, as shown in the sentence below.

Some Caveats and Some Examples

A thesis is never a question.  Readers of academic essays expect to have questions discussed, explored, or even answered. A question ("Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?") is not an argument, and without an argument, a thesis is dead in the water.

A thesis is never a list.  "For political, economic, social and cultural reasons, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe" does a good job of "telegraphing" the reader what to expect in the essay—a section about political reasons, a section about economic reasons, a section about social reasons, and a section about cultural reasons. However, political, economic, social and cultural reasons are pretty much the only possible reasons why communism could collapse. This sentence lacks tension and doesn't advance an argument. Everyone knows that politics, economics, and culture are important.

A thesis should never be vague, combative or confrontational.  An ineffective thesis would be, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because communism is evil." This is hard to argue (evil from whose perspective? what does evil mean?) and it is likely to mark you as moralistic and judgmental rather than rational and thorough. It also may spark a defensive reaction from readers sympathetic to communism. If readers strongly disagree with you right off the bat, they may stop reading.

An effective thesis has a definable, arguable claim.  "While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline" is an effective thesis sentence that "telegraphs," so that the reader expects the essay to have a section about cultural forces and another about the disintegration of economies. This thesis makes a definite, arguable claim: that the disintegration of economies played a more important role than cultural forces in defeating communism in Eastern Europe. The reader would react to this statement by thinking, "Perhaps what the author says is true, but I am not convinced. I want to read further to see how the author argues this claim."

A thesis should be as clear and specific as possible.  Avoid overused, general terms and abstractions. For example, "Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe because of the ruling elite's inability to address the economic concerns of the people" is more powerful than "Communism collapsed due to societal discontent."

Copyright 1999, Maxine Rodburg and The Tutors of the Writing Center at Harvard University

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How to write a thesis statement, what is a thesis statement.

Almost all of us—even if we don’t do it consciously—look early in an essay for a one- or two-sentence condensation of the argument or analysis that is to follow. We refer to that condensation as a thesis statement.

Why Should Your Essay Contain a Thesis Statement?

  • to test your ideas by distilling them into a sentence or two
  • to better organize and develop your argument
  • to provide your reader with a “guide” to your argument

In general, your thesis statement will accomplish these goals if you think of the thesis as the answer to the question your paper explores.

How Can You Write a Good Thesis Statement?

Here are some helpful hints to get you started. You can either scroll down or select a link to a specific topic.

How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One

How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is Assigned

Almost all assignments, no matter how complicated, can be reduced to a single question. Your first step, then, is to distill the assignment into a specific question. For example, if your assignment is, “Write a report to the local school board explaining the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class,” turn the request into a question like, “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” After you’ve chosen the question your essay will answer, compose one or two complete sentences answering that question.

Q: “What are the potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class?” A: “The potential benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade class are . . .”
A: “Using computers in a fourth-grade class promises to improve . . .”

The answer to the question is the thesis statement for the essay.

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How to Generate a Thesis Statement if the Topic is not Assigned

Even if your assignment doesn’t ask a specific question, your thesis statement still needs to answer a question about the issue you’d like to explore. In this situation, your job is to figure out what question you’d like to write about.

A good thesis statement will usually include the following four attributes:

  • take on a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree
  • deal with a subject that can be adequately treated given the nature of the assignment
  • express one main idea
  • assert your conclusions about a subject

Let’s see how to generate a thesis statement for a social policy paper.

Brainstorm the topic . Let’s say that your class focuses upon the problems posed by changes in the dietary habits of Americans. You find that you are interested in the amount of sugar Americans consume.

You start out with a thesis statement like this:

Sugar consumption.

This fragment isn’t a thesis statement. Instead, it simply indicates a general subject. Furthermore, your reader doesn’t know what you want to say about sugar consumption.

Narrow the topic . Your readings about the topic, however, have led you to the conclusion that elementary school children are consuming far more sugar than is healthy.

You change your thesis to look like this:

Reducing sugar consumption by elementary school children.

This fragment not only announces your subject, but it focuses on one segment of the population: elementary school children. Furthermore, it raises a subject upon which reasonable people could disagree, because while most people might agree that children consume more sugar than they used to, not everyone would agree on what should be done or who should do it. You should note that this fragment is not a thesis statement because your reader doesn’t know your conclusions on the topic.

Take a position on the topic. After reflecting on the topic a little while longer, you decide that what you really want to say about this topic is that something should be done to reduce the amount of sugar these children consume.

You revise your thesis statement to look like this:

More attention should be paid to the food and beverage choices available to elementary school children.

This statement asserts your position, but the terms more attention and food and beverage choices are vague.

Use specific language . You decide to explain what you mean about food and beverage choices , so you write:

Experts estimate that half of elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar.

This statement is specific, but it isn’t a thesis. It merely reports a statistic instead of making an assertion.

Make an assertion based on clearly stated support. You finally revise your thesis statement one more time to look like this:

Because half of all American elementary school children consume nine times the recommended daily allowance of sugar, schools should be required to replace the beverages in soda machines with healthy alternatives.

Notice how the thesis answers the question, “What should be done to reduce sugar consumption by children, and who should do it?” When you started thinking about the paper, you may not have had a specific question in mind, but as you became more involved in the topic, your ideas became more specific. Your thesis changed to reflect your new insights.

How to Tell a Strong Thesis Statement from a Weak One

1. a strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand..

Remember that your thesis needs to show your conclusions about a subject. For example, if you are writing a paper for a class on fitness, you might be asked to choose a popular weight-loss product to evaluate. Here are two thesis statements:

There are some negative and positive aspects to the Banana Herb Tea Supplement.

This is a weak thesis statement. First, it fails to take a stand. Second, the phrase negative and positive aspects is vague.

Because Banana Herb Tea Supplement promotes rapid weight loss that results in the loss of muscle and lean body mass, it poses a potential danger to customers.

This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific.

2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion.

Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:

My family is an extended family.

This is a weak thesis because it merely states an observation. Your reader won’t be able to tell the point of the statement, and will probably stop reading.

While most American families would view consanguineal marriage as a threat to the nuclear family structure, many Iranian families, like my own, believe that these marriages help reinforce kinship ties in an extended family.

This is a strong thesis because it shows how your experience contradicts a widely-accepted view. A good strategy for creating a strong thesis is to show that the topic is controversial. Readers will be interested in reading the rest of the essay to see how you support your point.

3. A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.

Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper. For example:

Companies need to exploit the marketing potential of the Internet, and Web pages can provide both advertising and customer support.

This is a weak thesis statement because the reader can’t decide whether the paper is about marketing on the Internet or Web pages. To revise the thesis, the relationship between the two ideas needs to become more clear. One way to revise the thesis would be to write:

Because the Internet is filled with tremendous marketing potential, companies should exploit this potential by using Web pages that offer both advertising and customer support.

This is a strong thesis because it shows that the two ideas are related. Hint: a great many clear and engaging thesis statements contain words like because , since , so , although , unless , and however .

4. A strong thesis statement is specific.

A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say:

World hunger has many causes and effects.

This is a weak thesis statement for two major reasons. First, world hunger can’t be discussed thoroughly in seven to ten pages. Second, many causes and effects is vague. You should be able to identify specific causes and effects. A revised thesis might look like this:

Hunger persists in Glandelinia because jobs are scarce and farming in the infertile soil is rarely profitable.

This is a strong thesis statement because it narrows the subject to a more specific and manageable topic, and it also identifies the specific causes for the existence of hunger.

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How to write a thesis statement + examples

Thesis statement

What is a thesis statement?

Is a thesis statement a question, how do you write a good thesis statement, how do i know if my thesis statement is good, examples of thesis statements, helpful resources on how to write a thesis statement, frequently asked questions about writing a thesis statement, related articles.

A thesis statement is the main argument of your paper or thesis.

The thesis statement is one of the most important elements of any piece of academic writing . It is a brief statement of your paper’s main argument. Essentially, you are stating what you will be writing about.

You can see your thesis statement as an answer to a question. While it also contains the question, it should really give an answer to the question with new information and not just restate or reiterate it.

Your thesis statement is part of your introduction. Learn more about how to write a good thesis introduction in our introduction guide .

A thesis statement is not a question. A statement must be arguable and provable through evidence and analysis. While your thesis might stem from a research question, it should be in the form of a statement.

Tip: A thesis statement is typically 1-2 sentences. For a longer project like a thesis, the statement may be several sentences or a paragraph.

A good thesis statement needs to do the following:

  • Condense the main idea of your thesis into one or two sentences.
  • Answer your project’s main research question.
  • Clearly state your position in relation to the topic .
  • Make an argument that requires support or evidence.

Once you have written down a thesis statement, check if it fulfills the following criteria:

  • Your statement needs to be provable by evidence. As an argument, a thesis statement needs to be debatable.
  • Your statement needs to be precise. Do not give away too much information in the thesis statement and do not load it with unnecessary information.
  • Your statement cannot say that one solution is simply right or simply wrong as a matter of fact. You should draw upon verified facts to persuade the reader of your solution, but you cannot just declare something as right or wrong.

As previously mentioned, your thesis statement should answer a question.

If the question is:

What do you think the City of New York should do to reduce traffic congestion?

A good thesis statement restates the question and answers it:

In this paper, I will argue that the City of New York should focus on providing exclusive lanes for public transport and adaptive traffic signals to reduce traffic congestion by the year 2035.

Here is another example. If the question is:

How can we end poverty?

A good thesis statement should give more than one solution to the problem in question:

In this paper, I will argue that introducing universal basic income can help reduce poverty and positively impact the way we work.

  • The Writing Center of the University of North Carolina has a list of questions to ask to see if your thesis is strong .

A thesis statement is part of the introduction of your paper. It is usually found in the first or second paragraph to let the reader know your research purpose from the beginning.

In general, a thesis statement should have one or two sentences. But the length really depends on the overall length of your project. Take a look at our guide about the length of thesis statements for more insight on this topic.

Here is a list of Thesis Statement Examples that will help you understand better how to write them.

Every good essay should include a thesis statement as part of its introduction, no matter the academic level. Of course, if you are a high school student you are not expected to have the same type of thesis as a PhD student.

Here is a great YouTube tutorial showing How To Write An Essay: Thesis Statements .

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Articulate and analyze key rhetorical concepts in presenting a position or an argument.
  • Demonstrate awareness of context, audience, and purpose in a position argument.
  • Identify the thesis and supporting evidence of a position argument.
  • Distinguish different types of evidence used in a position argument.

The purpose of a position argument is to persuade readers to adopt a viewpoint. Writers of position arguments focus on a thesis that takes a stance on a debatable issue and support that thesis with reasoning and evidence. When writing persuasively, consider your audience and use the kinds of reasoning strategies and evidentiary appeals you believe will be convincing. In addition, use language with which your audience is most comfortable. In academic environments, academic language is generally most acceptable, although you may choose to challenge this notion for rhetorical purposes. Outside academic environments, tailor your language to connect best with your audience.

Reasoning is most effective when it is built on evidence that readers recognize as logical and practical. Suppose you want to persuade your audience that because of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, additional police should be hired to protect the building and the people who work there. You could include information about the number of police on duty that day, the number of people injured, and the amount of damage done. You then could explain how the number of police on duty was insufficient to protect the people and the Capitol.

Additionally, you identify and refute the counterclaims . An example of a counterclaim against hiring additional police officers might be that the cost is too high. Your response, then, might be that the cost could easily be shifted from another nationally funded source.

Characteristics of Position Arguments

The characteristics of a position argument include the following elements.

Ethos (Ethical Appeal)

You establish credibility by showing readers that your approach to the issue is fair and that you can be trusted. One way to demonstrate fairness and trustworthiness is to use neutral language that avoids name-calling. For instance, in your paper about hiring additional police to defend the Capitol, you would avoid taking political sides and would use neutral language when describing police, workers in the Capitol, and demonstrators.

To show trustworthiness, always follow these guidelines:

  • Use only respected, reliable sources as evidence. Avoid sources that lean heavily to the political right or left or that are otherwise questionable as to accuracy. Reliable sources include scholarly, peer-reviewed articles and books; professional articles and books; and articles from magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs. For more information about credible sources, see Research Process: Accessing and Recording Information and Annotated Bibliography: Gathering, Evaluating, and Documenting Sources.
  • Present evidence from sources in the same context in which it was originally presented. Do not change the original author’s meaning or tone. Be especially careful of such changes when you paraphrase or summarize. See Spotlight on… Citation for more about paraphrasing and summarizing.
  • Cite evidence to the proper sources. Use the citation style required by your instructor, usually MLA Documentation and Format or APA Documentation and Format Proper citations direct readers to more information about your sources and show you are not plagiarizing.
  • Incorporate common ground between readers who support your position and those who do not. To do this, many authors use evidence pulled from patriotic or religious documents to create ethical appeal. For instance, regarding the activity that took place at the Capitol, both sides might find common ground in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which outlines rights of the people. The protestors might cite the section of the amendment that deals with freedom of assembly; those on the other side might point out that the amendment guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” and that the assembly was not peaceable.

Logos (Logical Appeal)

You appeal to your audience’s intelligence by showing that you understand the value of sound reasoning. To do this, state your position clearly and support it with rational arguments, critical thinking, and credible evidence. Also, avoid exaggerating or making claims you cannot support with reliable evidence. Many authors use facts and statistics to create logical appeal.

To appeal to logic, follow these guidelines:

  • State your position clearly with easy-to-understand language. For example, to appeal to readers’ intelligence in your paper about hiring additional police to defend the Capitol, avoid using vocabulary that would feel unnatural. Instead of writing “The verbiage from the campaigners importuned the dispossession of their statesmen,” write “The protestors demanded the resignations of their congressional representatives.”
  • Support your position with reasoning that is neither incomplete nor faulty. Sound reasoning is that which all can agree makes sense. For example, you would not contend that to be ready for future protests, the Capitol police force must be doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 because you cannot know the number needed at any time. However, you could argue that the Capitol police force and government leaders should study the January 6, 2021, riot to determine how many additional police are needed, should such an occasion arise again.
  • Present your critical thinking through a well-constructed argument. By ordering your position argument in a manner that moves logically from one point to the next, you help guide readers through your thought process, which is reflected in the smooth flow of ideas that work together to support your thesis.
  • Incorporate credible evidence from trusted and reliable academic, government, media, and professional sources. Using these sources shows readers that you recognize biased material and have excluded it from your paper.

Pathos (Emotional Appeal)

You appeal to your audience’s feelings—such as sympathy, anger, fear, insecurity, guilt, and conscience—to support your position.

For example, to appeal to your audience’s emotions in your paper about the need for more Capitol police, you might do the following:

  • Help your readers understand feelings of fear. One way to appeal to this emotion is to quote from interviews with government workers and bystanders who were hiding behind locked doors and had no police protection.
  • Use vivid description and concrete language to recreate images that showed lone officers overwhelmed by crowds of people and beaten.
  • Use nonaggressive language to address the positions of readers who do not support your stance. For example, some readers may believe that the federal government spends too much money already and should not allocate more. By using language that is not inflammatory, you can show your empathy for others, and this may help you convince them to support your position.

Kairos (Timeliness)

The sense of timing—presenting your position at the right time—is critical in a position argument. The issue must be worthy of attention at the time it is presented for readers to feel a sense of urgency. For example, in an argumentative paper about the significance of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, you could do the following:

  • Point out the history of the BLM movement, which began in 2013 after the acquittal of the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin (1995–2012) in 2012.
  • Note that today, most of the speeches delivered in BLM rallies held across the country reference the May 2020 murder of George Floyd (1973–2020).
  • Emphasize that Floyd’s killing remains front and center in the minds of rally participants. In other words, the topic of Floyd’s death is timely, and related circumstances indicate a favorable time for action.

You can find further discussion about these appeals in Rhetorical Analysis: Interpreting the Art of Rhetoric .

These are key terms and characteristics of position arguments:

  • Allusion : direct or implied reference to a person, place, work of literature, idea, event, or anything a writer expects readers to know about. Allusion is a frequently used literary device.
  • Citation : reference to the source of information used in a writer’s research.
  • Critical thinking : ability to identify and solve problems by gathering information about a topic and then analyzing and evaluating evidence to form a judgment.
  • Counterclaim (dissenting opinion) : statement of what the other side might say in opposition to the stance the writer takes about an issue.
  • Ethos : appeal to readers’ ethical sense; establishing authority and credibility.
  • Evidence : facts and other information that prove or disprove the validity of something written or stated.
  • Introduction : first part of a paper. In position arguments, the writer alerts readers to the issue or problem discussed and often presents the thesis at the end of the introduction.
  • Kairos : appeal to timeliness of the subject matter.
  • Logos : appeal to readers’ sense of logic, or reason.
  • Pathos : appeal to readers’ emotions.
  • Purpose : author’s reason for writing the paper. In a position argument, the purpose is to persuade readers to agree with the writer’s stance.
  • Reasoning : logical and sensible explanation of a concept.
  • Recursive : movement back and forth from one part of the writing process to another.
  • Rhetorical appeals : methods of persuasion (ethos, logos, pathos, and kairos).
  • Rhetorical question : questions intended to make a point rather than to get an answer. Rhetorical questions, which often have no answers or no obvious answers, appear frequently in argument writing as a way of capturing audience attention.
  • Topic : subject of a paper. In this genre, the topic is a debatable issue.
  • Thesis : declarative sentence (sometimes two) that states a writer’s position about the debatable issue, or topic, of the paper.
  • Transitional words or phrases : words and phrases that help readers connect ideas from one sentence to another or from one paragraph to another. Transitions establish relationships among ideas.

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how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

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Writing a Paper: Thesis Statements

Basics of thesis statements.

The thesis statement is the brief articulation of your paper's central argument and purpose. You might hear it referred to as simply a "thesis." Every scholarly paper should have a thesis statement, and strong thesis statements are concise, specific, and arguable. Concise means the thesis is short: perhaps one or two sentences for a shorter paper. Specific means the thesis deals with a narrow and focused topic, appropriate to the paper's length. Arguable means that a scholar in your field could disagree (or perhaps already has!).

Strong thesis statements address specific intellectual questions, have clear positions, and use a structure that reflects the overall structure of the paper. Read on to learn more about constructing a strong thesis statement.

Being Specific

This thesis statement has no specific argument:

Needs Improvement: In this essay, I will examine two scholarly articles to find similarities and differences.

This statement is concise, but it is neither specific nor arguable—a reader might wonder, "Which scholarly articles? What is the topic of this paper? What field is the author writing in?" Additionally, the purpose of the paper—to "examine…to find similarities and differences" is not of a scholarly level. Identifying similarities and differences is a good first step, but strong academic argument goes further, analyzing what those similarities and differences might mean or imply.

Better: In this essay, I will argue that Bowler's (2003) autocratic management style, when coupled with Smith's (2007) theory of social cognition, can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover.

The new revision here is still concise, as well as specific and arguable.  We can see that it is specific because the writer is mentioning (a) concrete ideas and (b) exact authors.  We can also gather the field (business) and the topic (management and employee turnover). The statement is arguable because the student goes beyond merely comparing; he or she draws conclusions from that comparison ("can reduce the expenses associated with employee turnover").

Making a Unique Argument

This thesis draft repeats the language of the writing prompt without making a unique argument:

Needs Improvement: The purpose of this essay is to monitor, assess, and evaluate an educational program for its strengths and weaknesses. Then, I will provide suggestions for improvement.

You can see here that the student has simply stated the paper's assignment, without articulating specifically how he or she will address it. The student can correct this error simply by phrasing the thesis statement as a specific answer to the assignment prompt.

Better: Through a series of student interviews, I found that Kennedy High School's antibullying program was ineffective. In order to address issues of conflict between students, I argue that Kennedy High School should embrace policies outlined by the California Department of Education (2010).

Words like "ineffective" and "argue" show here that the student has clearly thought through the assignment and analyzed the material; he or she is putting forth a specific and debatable position. The concrete information ("student interviews," "antibullying") further prepares the reader for the body of the paper and demonstrates how the student has addressed the assignment prompt without just restating that language.

Creating a Debate

This thesis statement includes only obvious fact or plot summary instead of argument:

Needs Improvement: Leadership is an important quality in nurse educators.

A good strategy to determine if your thesis statement is too broad (and therefore, not arguable) is to ask yourself, "Would a scholar in my field disagree with this point?" Here, we can see easily that no scholar is likely to argue that leadership is an unimportant quality in nurse educators.  The student needs to come up with a more arguable claim, and probably a narrower one; remember that a short paper needs a more focused topic than a dissertation.

Better: Roderick's (2009) theory of participatory leadership  is particularly appropriate to nurse educators working within the emergency medicine field, where students benefit most from collegial and kinesthetic learning.

Here, the student has identified a particular type of leadership ("participatory leadership"), narrowing the topic, and has made an arguable claim (this type of leadership is "appropriate" to a specific type of nurse educator). Conceivably, a scholar in the nursing field might disagree with this approach. The student's paper can now proceed, providing specific pieces of evidence to support the arguable central claim.

Choosing the Right Words

This thesis statement uses large or scholarly-sounding words that have no real substance:

Needs Improvement: Scholars should work to seize metacognitive outcomes by harnessing discipline-based networks to empower collaborative infrastructures.

There are many words in this sentence that may be buzzwords in the student's field or key terms taken from other texts, but together they do not communicate a clear, specific meaning. Sometimes students think scholarly writing means constructing complex sentences using special language, but actually it's usually a stronger choice to write clear, simple sentences. When in doubt, remember that your ideas should be complex, not your sentence structure.

Better: Ecologists should work to educate the U.S. public on conservation methods by making use of local and national green organizations to create a widespread communication plan.

Notice in the revision that the field is now clear (ecology), and the language has been made much more field-specific ("conservation methods," "green organizations"), so the reader is able to see concretely the ideas the student is communicating.

Leaving Room for Discussion

This thesis statement is not capable of development or advancement in the paper:

Needs Improvement: There are always alternatives to illegal drug use.

This sample thesis statement makes a claim, but it is not a claim that will sustain extended discussion. This claim is the type of claim that might be appropriate for the conclusion of a paper, but in the beginning of the paper, the student is left with nowhere to go. What further points can be made? If there are "always alternatives" to the problem the student is identifying, then why bother developing a paper around that claim? Ideally, a thesis statement should be complex enough to explore over the length of the entire paper.

Better: The most effective treatment plan for methamphetamine addiction may be a combination of pharmacological and cognitive therapy, as argued by Baker (2008), Smith (2009), and Xavier (2011).

In the revised thesis, you can see the student make a specific, debatable claim that has the potential to generate several pages' worth of discussion. When drafting a thesis statement, think about the questions your thesis statement will generate: What follow-up inquiries might a reader have? In the first example, there are almost no additional questions implied, but the revised example allows for a good deal more exploration.

Thesis Mad Libs

If you are having trouble getting started, try using the models below to generate a rough model of a thesis statement! These models are intended for drafting purposes only and should not appear in your final work.

  • In this essay, I argue ____, using ______ to assert _____.
  • While scholars have often argued ______, I argue______, because_______.
  • Through an analysis of ______, I argue ______, which is important because_______.

Words to Avoid and to Embrace

When drafting your thesis statement, avoid words like explore, investigate, learn, compile, summarize , and explain to describe the main purpose of your paper. These words imply a paper that summarizes or "reports," rather than synthesizing and analyzing.

Instead of the terms above, try words like argue, critique, question , and interrogate . These more analytical words may help you begin strongly, by articulating a specific, critical, scholarly position.

Read Kayla's blog post for tips on taking a stand in a well-crafted thesis statement.

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2.2 Explaining and analyzing the line of reasoning of an argument

8 min read • december 30, 2022

Minna Chow

In this guide, we'll cover how to explain the line of reasoning for an argument. This is a concept that was first introduced in AP Seminar, but continues to be relevant for AP Research. Not only will you need to understand the line of reasoning for other people's arguments, you'll also need to understand your own line of reasoning in your paper. We're also gonna be talking about

Definitions and Information come from page 20 of the AP Research CED.

So, let's recap! What is a line of reasoning?

Line of Reasoning

A line of reasoning is defined by College Board as one or more claims justified through evidence (for an argument .)

Sometimes, the line of reasoning consists of only one piece of evidence and reasoning.

For a silly example, suppose you were arguing with a friend about if pineapple belongs on pizza. You argue yes (go with me) and your claim is that pineapple belongs on pizza because it's delicious. You know because you've had pineapple on pizza before.

In this example...

Your argument is that pineapple belongs on pizza.

Your claim is that pineapple on pizza tastes good.

Your evidence is that you've eaten pineapple on pizza before.

In this case, your line of reasoning is one claim-evidence pair long.

However, with more complicated arguments (like the thesis statement of a whole paper, or a section of a paper) the line of reasoning will be much longer.

What does a Line of Reasoning Look Like?

Not every line of reasoning is organized in the same way. They'll differ based on the purpose of the argument.

For example, if your argument is meant to show causality, you might start by defining the issue, then claiming A causes B, then give your reasons, and at the end explain why they matter.

However, if you want to propose a solution, you might present a shortened version of a causality essay so you have space for evidence that supports your solution.

So, how can you tell what the line of reasoning is? Start by looking at the argument's purpose! Ask yourself, what is this argument trying to do? Once you have the answer, look at how the paper attempts to accomplish its goal to establish causation or propose a solution or create a call to action... It will generally do this through a series of claims with (hopefully) evidence attached to said claims; that series is your line of reasoning.

It might help to understand what some types of reasoning are.

Types of Reasoning

The College Board wants you to at least be aware of two types of reasoning: Inductive and Deductive Reasoning . Inductive reasoning uses specific observations and/or data points to identify trends, make generalizations, and draw conclusions. You can think of it as "bottom up" reasoning; it takes examples to prove the rule. For example, in the pineapple on pizza argument, the specific fact that "I think pineapple on pizza is delicious" is used to come to the broad conclusion that "pineapple belongs on pizza."

With inductive reasoning , you want to watch out that your specific observations do lead to your larger conclusion. In my pineapple on pizza argument, you can easily argue against it by saying that just because I like pineapple on pizza doesn’t mean it belongs on pizza.

Deductive reasoning uses broad facts or generalizations to generate additional, more specific conclusions about a phenomenon. This is "top down" reasoning; it uses facts that are assumed to be true to come to specifics.

Let's look at an example from pop fiction! Famously, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was able to use deductive reasoning to deduce information about people. In the Red-Headed League, he deduces that his client has done a lot of writing because his sleeve cuffs are shiny from rubbing on a desk. This is an example of deductive reasoning because Holmes is taking a generalization ( a shiny sleeve cuff indicates that someone writes often) to generate specific conclusions ( my client has done a lot of writing recently.)

How could we make this a case of inductive reasoning ?

Imagine if Holmes's client says that he's done a lot of writing recently. Later, Holmes observes that his client has a shiny sleeve cuff. After seeing many writers with shiny sleeve cuffs, Holmes concludes that shiny sleeve cuffs are an indication that someone's a writer.

GIF from Giphy.com

With deductive reasoning , you want to watch out that the assumed facts are actually true (or as true as they can be.) If it can be proven that shiny sleeve cuffs don't indicate that someone writes often, or could indicate something different, then Holmes's specific deduction about his client wouldn't be true.

Validity of an Argument

It's important to understand the line of reasoning of an argument because once you do, you can tell if the argument is valid or not. People generally have a sense for lines of reasoning. We can tell if an argument isn't quite right or if there seems to be a hole in the logic. However, that sense isn't always well developed, and can be confused. A writer or speaker can deliver a message so dazzlingly well that they can conceal logical contradictions, errors, and just plain bad argumentation.

How do they do this? Have you ever heard the saying, "it's not what you say but how you say it?" Writers have a variety of rhetorical strategies to get their message across. Let's cover them briefly here.

Rhetorical Strategies

Here are some examples of rhetorical strategies :

word choice (ex: loaded language)

appeal to authority/emotion/logic (ex: appealing to the audience's compassion, appealing to one's wealth and success)

qualifiers (words like probably, mostly, and so on; these prevent arguments from sounding too conclusive if they're actually not.)

fallacies like No True Scotsman (only a fake pizza lover could stand pineapple on pizza!) or Slippery Slope (if we allow pineapple to be on pizza, it will cause a chain reaction that leads to the destruction of the pizza industry!)

emphasis words like absolutely, necessary, conclusively, highlight, emphasize, etc

With the exception of fallacies, these strategies are not by themselves bad things. In fact, they're efficient tools to get one's message across!

Rhetorical devices can be a tool for "evil" when they're used to manipulate, mislead or deceive an audience. In order to tell if an argument is valid, we need to look beyond flashy rhetorical strategies and focus on the meaning of the arguments we’re presented.

Looking for Logical Alignment

In short, an argument is valid when there is logical alignment between the line of reasoning and the conclusion. This means that you as the reader can understand how the line of reasoning naturally leads to the conclusion presented. You're looking to see...

Does the evidence makes sense?

  • Does this evidence do what the author says it does?
  • Is this really evidence or just a very strong opinion without anything to back it up? (This happens more often than you'd think.)

Of course, it's possible not to understand an argument that is still valid. Some arguments take time to work through, and sometimes you just don’t have the background understanding needed to tackle a certain argument.

However, if you detect misalignment between the line of reasoning and the conclusion, if you don't understand how the author got from point A to point B or you feel that point A doesn't lead to point B, it's perfectly healthy to doubt the conclusion you've been given.

Acknowledgement of Complexity

Another indicator of whether or not an argument is valid is if it acknowledges complexity or not. While not a dealbreaker, it's a red flag if the argument you're reading doesn't acknowledge its context , limitations , implications , or other arguments on the same topic. What does this look like?

Context : Generally, papers will have an introduction and/or a place for a topic overview, where the author discusses what's already been said and done about this subject. This context doesn't have to be all-inclusive — indeed, it's almost impossible to be — but the context should be at least acknowledged.

Limitations : No single research project or paper can cover everything, and papers should announce where the limits of their research are.

Implications : Why should we care about this conclusion or solution? We'll discuss more about implications here.

Other arguments: Effective arguments acknowledge opposing or qualifying arguments. They can just be accepted or they can be countered (such as refuting or rebutting them.) It doesn't make an argument weaker to say that not everyone agrees with it; on the contrary, it shows that the author acknowledges the complexity of the work they're handling.

Why Does This Matter?

If you don't understand an argument's line of reasoning, it can be hard to deal with its complexity as well. If you don't understand the complexity of an argument you want to use in your paper, you might oversimplify or generalize it in your writing. This will make your final paper weaker.

In this guide, we've covered lines of reasoning and ways to analyze the big-picture claims of an argument, paper or section of a paper. In the next guide, we'll be looking specifically at how evidence can be analyzed.

Key Terms to Review ( 9 )

Acknowledgement of complexity

Deductive reasoning

Implications

Inductive reasoning

Limitations

Logical alignment

Rhetorical strategies

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Lit & More

Lit & More

March 19, 2023 ·

Teaching Line of Reasoning to AP English Lit

AP Classroom & AP Scoring · Writing Resources

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

In 2019, the College Board released a new, itemized rubric. The new rubric differed from the previous nine-point holistic rubric by breaking the writing down into three sections: thesis, evidence and commentary, and sophistication. When I first saw the new six point rubric, I was so excited for the change. Giving scores holistically always felt uncomfortable, even after I served as an AP Reader. High school teachers usually have rubrics with various sections, so stamping on a number and moving onto the next essay felt very out of character for me.

Once I started teaching the new rubric, however, I encountered an issue that many other teachers have found. In order to get a 3 or higher on the new six-point rubric, students must establish a “line of reasoning” in their essay. But that phrase was new to us and not obvious in its meaning.

AP® is a trademark registered by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this website .

So, what is a line of reasoning?

In the AP Lit CED, they say, “ Students will then organize the various claim and-evidence paragraphs to follow a line of reasoning, enriching those paragraphs with commentary that consistently explains how each specific paragraph—and specific evidence within each paragraph—relates to the argument as a whole. ” Therefore, we can summarize that the line of reasoning refers to commentary on the argument as a whole. How we communicate that to students, however, is a whole different ball game.

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

Why did we need a line of reasoning?

Before the CED overhaul, many students were writing essays that focused on literary elements rather than argumentation. If a prompt asked them to analyze a poem for a relationship, then suggested they used diction, point of view, and metaphor in their response, you’d often find an essay with this outline:

  • Thesis: [Text] discusses relationships using diction, point of view, and metaphor.
  • Paragraph 1: Look at the diction!
  • Paragraph 2: Look at the point of view!
  • Paragraph 3: Look at the metaphors!
  • Conclusion: Therefore, you can see the relationships using diction, point of view, and metaphors.

Did you see what went missing? There was often little to no analysis on the main part of the prompt (analyzing relationships) because students got too carried away proving their knowledge of literary elements.

Resources to help you teach the line of reasoning

Here are some resources to help teach your students how to identify and write a line of reasoning for AP English Lit. Some of the ideas are mine and some are from other teachers, but hopefully you’ll find one method that makes sense to you and your students.

The Golden Thread

In 2021, I helped Susan Barber create mini skill videos for students in preparation for the AP Lit exam. I explained that the line of reasoning is a golden thread that unites your various claims together to be one cohesive argument, rather than 2-3 separate arguments. By the way, the golden thread analogy was not my creation, but I’m not sure who originated it.

Writing for a line of reasoning requires students to prove their knowledge of literary elements but uniting it under a common interpretation or argument. I call this argument the golden thread. You can talk about various literary elements or different claims, but each paragraph should return to proving this MAIN point, your line of reasoning (or golden thread). Check out this short video for a clearer explanation, where I used Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool” as my example poem.

The Hand Turkey/Four Leaf Clover

In 2019, Roy Smith shared an idea with the AP Lit community that many students found useful. He called it the hand turkey. The idea helps students visually break down a prompt into 3-4 separate claims, then work to unite these claims under a strong thesis. The visual layout reminds students to branch ideas out from the thesis so that all of their arguments are united under that strong thesis. Check out Roy’s blog to read more and see a great example from a student.

Recently, Jennifer Stuckey did a similar activity using a four-leaf clover instead of a turkey (because, you know, March). The acitivty still works great! Here’s an example from her lesson:

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

Rainbow Drafting

Early in the year, I ask students to take a look at one of their first essays. I hand out different highlighters or markers and ask them to highlight different parts of their essays. In grades 9-10, I teach students to write APE paragraphs (assert, prove, explain). To keep this common language, I ask them to do the same, show me assertions, proof, and explanations in different colors. Eventually, we move towards the AP Lit rubric, where I explain how the explanation serves as both commentary and a line of reasoning.

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

Kelly Herrera does the same but calls it rainbow drafting and keeps the AP Lit verbiage. She tells her students to highlight the thesis or claim in one color, the evidence in another, the commentary in third color, and the line of reasoning in fourth. Once again, this is a great activity for visual learners. Many students think they’re doing all of these steps, but once they go back and highlight each section of their writing they may see where they got derailed or distracted.  

Annotating Sample Scored Essays

Sometimes I’ve found that the only way to teach writing is to show examples of what works and what doesn’t. For example, I’ve taken a bunch of the released essays from the 2019 open question on Idealism and annotated how the author did (or didn’t) establish a line of reasoning. These downloads are only found in my resources on line of reasoning on TpT , but I’m including them here for you to see.

What I do is take a finished essay and follow the author’s thoughts, breaking them down into claims or assertions, evidence or proof, and commentary and lines of reasoning. In the first essay, I can clearly see the line of reasoning established and returned to in each paragraph, where in the lower-scoring essays they are briefly mentioned and then abandoned (or not established at all). Seeing how this works can help even the most stubborn student see that it will benefit their AP Lit score to establish a strong line of reasoning.

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

Word Association

Here’s a new idea from Tia Miller. I’ll let Tia explain it in her own words:

“You give each of them a word to start with and they write down the first word to come to mind. Pass to the next person, repeat, etc. The last person then has to explain the line of reasoning from the first word to the last. It’s a fun activity. I think I first got it from Ashley Clark on the Seminar Facebook page, though I think she just gives them a list and has them explain it. I think it’s more fun to have the kids make it.”

The Bottom Line:

However you teach it, the line of reasoning is not an element that can be ignored in an AP Lit essay. It’s a thought that is established and grown in an essay, a point that is made THROUGHOUT an essay, not just at the beginning or the end. I hope these resources and strategies help give you some insight on what a line of reasoning is and how to teach it clearly.

Special thanks to Roy Smith, Tia Miller, and Kelly Herrera, and Jennifer Stuckey for the ideas used in this blog post. If you have a killer lesson on teaching line of reasoning, I’d love to hear about it! Drop me a line at [email protected] or comment here and I’ll add it to this blog post!

Reader Interactions

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March 19, 2023 at 7:32 am

Gina- I love your emails! You are clear and provide great ideas to break down the elements of analyzing literature. I look forward to your suggestions and Susan Barber also is a wonderful resource! Thanks so much !

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March 20, 2023 at 5:21 am

You are my AP Lit guru. Thank you for such an insightful post!

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March 28, 2023 at 2:02 pm

I just tried the Word Association LOR activity today, and it was a big hit! My seniors are hilarious anyway, but this just put them over the top. We were also really able to talk about building a line of reasoning and not repeating the same things and using circular reasoning. And when they wanted to say, “well, this connection is pretty self-explanatory,” I was able to say “Absolutely not. Nothing is self-explanatory in AP Lit.” They quickly understood what I was asking them to do, and they shifted their explanation strategies. It was fun. And it was an added bonus when I called on them using the “spinning wheel of death” (aka wheelofnames.com). Thank you for posting these ideas! This is year 31 for me, and I always find something new to try on your site. I appreciate the time and effort you give to everything.

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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

  • An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
  • An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

  • Explain the analysis of the college admission process
  • Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

  • Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

  • Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

Line of Reasoning:  3 Activities for AP® Literature

  • November 1, 2023
  • AP Literature , Writing

One of the essential skills that our AP® English students need is to develop a line of reasoning.  But the truth is that students struggle with the whole concept because it is so abstract.  So these three lesson plans for line of reasoning will be just what you need.

What is Line of Reasoning?  Three activities for AP Literature.

What is Line of Reasoning?

So first, what is a line of reasoning?  It is the internal structure of an essay, especially an argument essay.  The line of reasoning is established by the thesis and the rest of the structure evolves through the topic sentences which connect directly back to the thesis.

AP® Literature students need to formulate a clear and complex thesis and then back it up with evidence presented in a logical order. 

It’s imperative that students understand that the line of reasoning in AP® Lit is like a map.  I use a game board as a metaphor to help students see that they have to reach certain milestones along a path to create a clear line of reasoning.  ( You can get this game board anchor chart here .)

Three activities for line of reasoning:  1. Focus on the AP Lit Thesis; 2. Write a group essay; 3. Listen to Poetry Unbound Podcast.

3 Activities to Teach Line of Reasoning in AP® Lit

Focus on the thesis.

The most important aspect to developing a strong line of reasoning is using the thesis to identify a set of insights into the text which helps the students to establish the complexity of the text. (Complexity in the text is usually part of the prompt.)

Throughout the year, I have students do quick exercises as warm ups to practice developing sophisticated thesis statements which in turn encourages them to develop the essay around the insights they have made.

When students have written an essay, have them highlight using several colors.  Then students use one color for each insight listed in their thesis and a third (or forth) color to mark their transitions.  This should allow the students to see how successful their line of reasoning is.

For quick practice, use Poem of the Week , Passage of the Week or the ones included with the Line of Reasoning AP® Lit Anchor Charts.

Write Group Essays

The group essay is a perfect way to help students focus on their line of reasoning in AP® Lit.  When students work on a group essay, they formulate a thesis together and determine what each body paragraph will be about.  Then they go off on their own to write one of those body paragraphs.  It helps to have them do this step for homework.

When they come back together, they have to read their paragraphs outloud to the group and then work together to integrate them into a cohesive essay.  They need to work to include transitions and ensure that their thesis is fully supported.

By its very nature, the group essay forces the group to focus on the organization.

A girl write an essay for AP Literature.

Listen to Poetry Unbound

Poetry Unbound is a podcast hosted by poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama.  In each episode Ó Tuama presents an essay about a poem.  And, his lines of reasoning are brilliant.  From the moment he begins with an anecdote to his wrap up, it is clear that he has a plan for how to analyze the poem.

Allow students to explore episodes and make observations about how he organizes his essays.  Print a transcript and then them highlight in the same way I described above.  Or have them use this format to develop their own poetry podcasts.

how to write a thesis with a line of reasoning

Helping Your Students Develop a Line of Reasoning

Your students can work to more fully develop their line of reasoning throughout the year by simply being aware of its existence.  Encouraging your students to map their reasoning through outlines or highlighter exercises will build their confidence and understanding.

Additional Resources

Helping Your Students Master the AP® Lit Thesis

Teaching Students to Master the AP® Lit FRQ

How to Embed a Quote with Double Entry Journals

Teaching Poetry Analysis through Poem of the Week

Shop This Post

Line of Reasoning AP® Lit Anchor Charts

AP® Lit Essay Writing Anchor Charts Bundle

Daily Poetry Analysis:  Poem of the Week

Prose Passage of the Week

Bell Ringer Bundle

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How to Write the AP Lang Argument Essay + Examples

What’s covered:, what is the ap language argument essay, tips for writing the ap language argument essay, ap english language argument essay examples, how will ap scores impact my college chances.

In 2023, over 550,148 students across the U.S. took the AP English Language and Composition Exam, and 65.2% scored higher than a 3. The AP English Language Exam tests your ability to analyze a piece of writing, synthesize information, write a rhetorical essay, and create a cohesive argument. In this post, we’ll be discussing the best way to approach the argumentative essay section of the test, and we’ll give you tips and tricks so you can write a great essay.

The AP English Language Exam as of 2023 is structured as follows:

Section 1: 45 multiple choice questions to be completed in an hour. This portion counts for 45% of your score. This section requires students to analyze a piece of literature. The questions ask about its content and/or what could be edited within the passage.

Section 2: Three free response questions to be completed in the remaining two hours and 15 minutes. This section counts for 55% of your score. These essay questions include the synthesis essay, the rhetorical essay, and the argumentative essay.

  • Synthesis essay: Read 6-7 sources and create an argument using at least three of the sources.
  • Rhetorical analysis essay: Describe how a piece of writing evokes meaning and symbolism.
  • Argumentative essay: Pick a side of a debate and create an argument based on evidence. In this essay, you should develop a logical argument in support of or against the given statement and provide ample evidence that supports your conclusion. Typically, a five paragraph format is great for this type of writing. This essay is scored holistically from 1 to 9 points.

Do you want more information on the structure of the full exam? Take a look at our in-depth overview of the AP Language and Composition Exam .

Although the AP Language Argument may seem daunting at first, once you understand how the essay should be structured, it will be a lot easier to create cohesive arguments.

Below are some tips to help you as you write the essay.

1. Organize your essay before writing

Instead of jumping right into your essay, plan out what you will say beforehand. It’s easiest to make a list of your arguments and write out what facts or evidence you will use to support each argument. In your outline, you can determine the best order for your arguments, especially if they build on each other or are chronological. Having a well-organized essay is crucial for success.

2. Pick one side of the argument, but acknowledge the other side

When you write the essay, it’s best if you pick one side of the debate and stick with it for the entire essay. All your evidence should be in support of that one side. However, in your introductory paragraph, as you introduce the debate, be sure to mention any merit the arguments of the other side has. This can make the essay a bit more nuanced and show that you did consider both sides before determining which one was better. Often, acknowledging another viewpoint then refuting it can make your essay stronger.

3. Provide evidence to support your claims

The AP readers will be looking for examples and evidence to support your argument. This doesn’t mean that you need to memorize a bunch of random facts before the exam. This just means that you should be able to provide concrete examples in support of your argument.

For example, if the essay topic is about whether the role of the media in society has been detrimental or not, and you argue that it has been, you may talk about the phenomenon of “fake news” during the 2016 presidential election.

AP readers are not looking for perfect examples, but they are looking to see if you can provide enough evidence to back your claim and make it easily understood.

4. Create a strong thesis statement

The thesis statement will set up your entire essay, so it’s important that it is focused and specific, and that it allows for the reader to understand your body paragraphs. Make sure your thesis statement is the very last sentence of your introductory paragraph. In this sentence, list out the key points you will be making in the essay in the same order that you will be writing them. Each new point you mention in your thesis should start a paragraph in your essay.

Below is a prompt and sample student essay from the May 2019 exam . We’ll look at what the student did well in their writing and where they could improve.

Prompt: “The term “overrated” is often used to diminish concepts, places, roles, etc. that the speaker believes do not deserve the prestige they commonly enjoy; for example, many writers have argued that success is overrated, a character in a novel by Anthony Burgess famously describes Rome as a “vastly overrated city,” and Queen Rania of Jordan herself has asserted that “[b]eing queen is overrated.”

Select a concept, place, role, etc. to which you believe that the term “overrated” should be applied. Then, write a well-developed essay in which you explain your judgment. Use appropriate evidence from your reading, experience, or observations to support your argument.

Sample Student Essay #1:

[1] Competition is “overrated.” The notion of motivation between peers has evolved into a source of unnecessary stress and even lack of morals. Whether it be in an academic environment or in the industry, this new idea of competition is harmful to those competing and those around them.

[2] Back in elementary school, competition was rather friendly. It could have been who could do the most pushups or who could get the most imaginary points in a classroom for a prize. If you couldn’t do the most pushups or win that smelly sticker, you would go home and improve yourself – there would be no strong feelings towards anyone, you would just focus on making yourself a better version of yourself. Then as high school rolled around, suddenly applying for college doesn’t seem so far away –GPA seems to be that one stat that defines you – extracurriculars seem to shape you – test scores seem to categorize you. Sleepless nights, studying for the next day’s exam, seem to become more and more frequent. Floating duck syndrome seems to surround you (FDS is where a competitive student pretends to not work hard but is furiously studying beneath the surface just like how a duck furiously kicks to stay afloat). All of your competitors appear to hope you fail – but in the end what do you and your competitor’s gain? Getting one extra point on the test? Does that self-satisfaction compensate for the tremendous amounts of acquired stress? This new type of “competition” is overrated – it serves nothing except a never-ending source of anxiety and seeks to weaken friendships and solidarity as a whole in the school setting.

[3] A similar idea of “competition” can be applied to business. On the most fundamental level, competition serves to be a beneficial regulator of prices and business models for both the business themselves and consumers. However, as businesses grew increasingly greedy and desperate, companies resorted to immoral tactics that only hurt their reputations and consumers as a whole. Whether it be McDonald’s coupons that force you to buy more food or tech companies like Apple intentionally slowing down your iPhone after 3 years to force you to upgrade to the newest device, consumers suffer and in turn speak down upon these companies. Similar to the evolved form of competition in school, this overrated form causes pain for all parties and has since diverged from the encouraging nature that the principle of competition was “founded” on.

The AP score for this essay was a 4/6, meaning that it captured the main purpose of the essay but there were still substantial parts missing. In this essay, the writer did a good job organizing the sections and making sure that their writing was in order according to the thesis statement. The essay first discusses how competition is harmful in elementary school and then discusses this topic in the context of business. This follows the chronological order of somebody’s life and flows nicely.

The arguments in this essay are problematic, as they do not provide enough examples of how exactly competition is overrated. The essay discusses the context in which competition is overrated but does not go far enough in explaining how this connects to the prompt.

In the first example, school stress is used to explain how competition manifests. This is a good starting point, but it does not talk about why competition is overrated; it simply mentions that competition can be unhealthy. The last sentence of that paragraph is the main point of the argument and should be expanded to discuss how the anxiety of school is overrated later on in life. 

In the second example, the writer discusses how competition can lead to harmful business practices, but again, this doesn’t reflect the reason this would be overrated. Is competition really overrated because Apple and McDonald’s force you to buy new products? This example could’ve been taken one step farther. Instead of explaining why business structures—such as monopolies—harm competition, the author should discuss how those particular structures are overrated.

Additionally, the examples the writer used lack detail. A stronger essay would’ve provided more in-depth examples. This essay seemed to mention examples only in passing without using them to defend the argument.

It should also be noted that the structure of the essay is incomplete. The introduction only has a thesis statement and no additional context. Also, there is no conclusion paragraph that sums up the essay. These missing components result in a 4/6.

Now let’s go through the prompt for a sample essay from the May 2022 exam . The prompt is as follows:

Colin Powell, a four-star general and former United States Secretary of State, wrote in his 1995 autobiography: “[W]e do not have the luxury of collecting information indefinitely. At some point, before we can have every possible fact in hand, we have to decide. The key is not to make quick decisions, but to make timely decisions.”

Write an essay that argues your position on the extent to which Powell’s claim about making decisions is valid. 

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position. 
  • Provide evidence to support your line of reasoning. 
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning. 
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

Sample Student Essay #2:

Colin Powell, who was a four star general and a former United States Secretary of State. He wrote an autobiography and had made a claim about making decisions. In my personal opinion, Powell’s claim is true to full extent and shows an extremely valuable piece of advice that we do not consider when we make decisions.

Powell stated, “before we can have every possible fact in hand we have to decide…. but to make it a timely decision” (1995). With this statement Powell is telling the audience of his autobiography that it does not necessarily matter how many facts you have, and how many things you know. Being able to have access to everything possible takes a great amount of time and we don’t always have all of the time in the world. A decision has to be made with what you know, waiting for something else to come in while trying to make a decision whether that other fact is good or bad you already have a good amount of things that you know. Everyone’s time is valuable, including yours. At the end of the day the decision will have to be made and that is why it should be made in a “timely” manner.

This response was graded for a score of 2/6. Let’s break down the score to smaller points that signify where the student fell short.

The thesis in this essay is clearly outlined at the end of the first paragraph. The student states their agreement with Powell’s claim and frames the rest of their essay around this stance. The success in scoring here lies in the clear communication of the thesis and the direction the argument will take. It’s important to make the thesis statement concise, specific, and arguable, which the student has successfully done.

While the student did attempt to provide evidence to support their thesis, it’s clear that their explanation lacks specific detail and substance. They referenced Powell’s statement, but did not delve into how this statement has proven true in specific instances, and did not provide examples that could bring the argument to life.

Commentary is an essential part of this section’s score. It means explaining the significance of the evidence and connecting it back to the thesis. Unfortunately, the student’s commentary here is too vague and does not effectively elaborate on how the evidence supports their argument.

To improve, the student could use more concrete examples to demonstrate their point and discuss how each piece of evidence supports their thesis. For instance, they could discuss specific moments in Powell’s career where making a timely decision was more valuable than waiting for all possible facts. This would help illustrate the argument in a more engaging, understandable way.

A high score in the “sophistication” category of the grading rubric is given for demonstrating a complex understanding of the rhetorical situation (purpose, audience, context, etc.), making effective rhetorical choices, or establishing a line of reasoning. Here, the student’s response lacks complexity and sophistication. They’ve simply agreed with Powell’s claim and made a few general statements without providing a deeper analysis or effectively considering the rhetorical situation.

To increase sophistication, the student could explore possible counterarguments or complexities within Powell’s claim. They could discuss potential drawbacks of making decisions without all possible facts, or examine situations where timely decisions might not yield the best results. By acknowledging and refuting these potential counterarguments, they could add more depth to their analysis and showcase their understanding of the complexities involved in decision-making.

The student could also analyze why Powell, given his background and experiences, might have come to such a conclusion, thus providing more context and showing an understanding of the rhetorical situation.

Remember, sophistication in argumentation isn’t about using fancy words or complicated sentences. It’s about showing that you understand the complexity of the issue at hand and that you’re able to make thoughtful, nuanced arguments. Sophistication shows that you can think critically about the topic and make connections that aren’t immediately obvious.

Now that you’ve looked at an example essay and some tips for the argumentative essay, you know how to better prepare for the AP English Language and Composition Exam.

While your AP scores don’t usually impact your admissions chances , colleges do care a lot about your course rigor. So, taking as many APs as you can will certainly boost your chances! AP scores can be a way for high-performing students to set themselves apart, particularly when applying to prestigious universities. Through the process of self-reporting scores , you can show your hard work and intelligence to admissions counselors.

That said, the main benefit of scoring high on AP exams comes once you land at your dream school, as high scores can allow you to “test out” of entry-level requirements, often called GE requirements or distribution requirements. This will save you time and money.

To understand how your course rigor stacks up, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine . This resource takes your course rigor, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, to determine your chances of getting into over 1600 colleges across the country!

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write a perfect synthesis essay for the ap language exam.

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Advanced Placement (AP)

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If you're planning to take the AP Language (or AP Lang) exam , you might already know that 55% of your overall exam score will be based on three essays. The first of the three essays you'll have to write on the AP Language exam is called the "synthesis essay." If you want to earn full points on this portion of the AP Lang Exam, you need to know what a synthesis essay is and what skills are assessed by the AP Lang synthesis essay.

In this article, we'll explain the different aspects of the AP Lang synthesis essay, including what skills you need to demonstrate in your synthesis essay response in order to achieve a good score. We'll also give you a full breakdown of a real AP Lang Synthesis Essay prompt, provide an analysis of an AP Lang synthesis essay example, and give you four tips for how to write a synthesis essay.

Let's get started by taking a closer look at how the AP Lang synthesis essay works!

Synthesis Essay AP Lang: What It Is and How It Works

The AP Lang synthesis essay is the first of three essays included in the Free Response section of the AP Lang exam.

The AP Lang synthesis essay portion of the Free Response section lasts for one hour total . This hour consists of a recommended 15 minute reading period and a 40 minute writing period. Keep in mind that these time allotments are merely recommendations, and that exam takers can parse out the allotted 60 minutes to complete the synthesis essay however they choose.

Now, here's what the structure of the AP Lang synthesis essay looks like. The exam presents six to seven sources that are organized around a specific topic (like alternative energy or eminent domain, which are both past synthesis exam topics).

Of these six to seven sources, at least two are visual , including at least one quantitative source (like a graph or pie chart, for example). The remaining four to five sources are print text-based, and each one contains approximately 500 words.

In addition to six to seven sources, the AP Lang exam provides a written prompt that consists of three paragraphs. The prompt will briefly explain the essay topic, then present a claim that students will respond to in an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources provided.

Here's an example prompt provided by the College Board:

Directions : The following prompt is based on the accompanying six sources.

This question requires you to integrate a variety of sources into a coherent, well-written essay. Refer to the sources to support your position; avoid mere paraphrase or summary. Your argument should be central; the sources should support this argument .

Remember to attribute both direct and indirect citations.

Introduction

Television has been influential in United States presidential elections since the 1960's. But just what is this influence, and how has it affected who is elected? Has it made elections fairer and more accessible, or has it moved candidates from pursuing issues to pursuing image?

Read the following sources (including any introductory information) carefully. Then, in an essay that synthesizes at least three of the sources for support, take a position that defends, challenges, or qualifies the claim that television has had a positive impact on presidential elections.

Refer to the sources as Source A, Source B, etc.; titles are included for your convenience.

Source A (Campbell) Source B (Hart and Triece) Source C (Menand) Source D (Chart) Source E (Ranney) Source F (Koppel)

Like we mentioned earlier, this prompt gives you a topic — which it briefly explains — then asks you to take a position. In this case, you'll have to choose a stance on whether television has positively or negatively affected U.S. elections. You're also given six sources to evaluate and use in your response. Now that you have everything you need, now your job is to write an amazing synthesis essay.

But what does "synthesize" mean, exactly? According to the CollegeBoard, when an essay prompt asks you to synthesize, it means that you should "combine different perspectives from sources to form a support of a coherent position" in writing. In other words, a synthesis essay asks you to state your claim on a topic, then highlight the relationships between several sources that support your claim on that topic. Additionally, you'll need to cite specific evidence from your sources to prove your point.

The synthesis essay counts for six of the total points on the AP Lang exam . Students can receive 0-1 points for writing a thesis statement in the essay, 0-4 based on incorporation of evidence and commentary, and 0-1 points based on sophistication of thought and demonstrated complex understanding of the topic.

You'll be evaluated based on how effectively you do the following in your AP Lang synthesis essay:

Write a thesis that responds to the exam prompt with a defensible position

Provide specific evidence that to support all claims in your line of reasoning from at least three of the sources provided, and clearly and consistently explain how the evidence you include supports your line of reasoning

Demonstrate sophistication of thought by either crafting a thoughtful argument, situating the argument in a broader context, explaining the limitations of an argument

Make rhetorical choices that strengthen your argument and/or employ a vivid and persuasive style throughout your essay.

If your synthesis essay meets the criteria above, then there's a good chance you'll score well on this portion of the AP Lang exam!

If you're looking for even more information on scoring, the College Board has posted the AP Lang Free Response grading rubric on its website. ( You can find it here. ) We recommend taking a close look at it since it includes additional details about the synthesis essay scoring.

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Don't be intimidated...we're going to teach you how to break down even the hardest AP synthesis essay prompt.

Full Breakdown of a Real AP Lang Synthesis Essay Prompt

In this section, we'll teach you how to analyze and respond to a synthesis essay prompt in five easy steps, including suggested time frames for each step of the process.

Step 1: Analyze the Prompt

The very first thing to do when the clock starts running is read and analyze the prompt. To demonstrate how to do this, we'll look at the sample AP Lang synthesis essay prompt below. This prompt comes straight from the 2018 AP Lang exam:

Eminent domain is the power governments have to acquire property from private owners for public use. The rationale behind eminent domain is that governments have greater legal authority over lands within their dominion than do private owners. Eminent domain has been instituted in one way or another throughout the world for hundreds of years.

Carefully read the following six sources, including the introductory information for each source. Then synthesize material from at least three of the sources and incorporate it into a coherent, well-developed essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies the notion that eminent domain is productive and beneficial.

Your argument should be the focus of your essay. Use the sources to develop your argument and explain the reasoning for it. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Indicate clearly which sources you are drawing from, whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the descriptions in parentheses.

On first read, you might be nervous about how to answer this prompt...especially if you don't know what eminent domain is! But if you break the prompt down into chunks, you'll be able to figure out what the prompt is asking you to do in no time flat.

To get a full understanding of what this prompt wants you to do, you need to identify the most important details in this prompt, paragraph by paragraph. Here's what each paragraph is asking you to do:

  • Paragraph 1: The prompt presents and briefly explains the topic that you'll be writing your synthesis essay about. That topic is the concept of eminent domain.
  • Paragraph 2: The prompt presents a specific claim about the concept of eminent domain in this paragraph: Eminent domain is productive and beneficial. This paragraph instructs you to decide whether you want to defend, challenge, or qualify that claim in your synthesis essay , and use material from at least three of the sources provided in order to do so.
  • Paragraph 3: In the last paragraph of the prompt, the exam gives you clear instructions about how to approach writing your synthesis essay . First, make your argument the focus of the essay. Second, use material from at least three of the sources to develop and explain your argument. Third, provide commentary on the material you include, and provide proper citations when you incorporate quotations, paraphrases, or summaries from the sources provided.

So basically, you'll have to agree with, disagree with, or qualify the claim stated in the prompt, then use at least three sources substantiate your answer. Since you probably don't know much about eminent domain, you'll probably decide on your position after you read the provided sources.

To make good use of your time on the exam, you should spend around 2 minutes reading the prompt and making note of what it's asking you to do. That will leave you plenty of time to read the sources provided, which is the next step to writing a synthesis essay.

Step 2: Read the Sources Carefully

After you closely read the prompt and make note of the most important details, you need to read all of the sources provided. It's tempting to skip one or two sources to save time--but we recommend you don't do this. That's because you'll need a thorough understanding of the topic before you can accurately address the prompt!

For the sample exam prompt included above, there are six sources provided. We're not going to include all of the sources in this article, but you can view the six sources from this question on the 2018 AP Lang exam here . The sources include five print-text sources and one visual source, which is a cartoon.

As you read the sources, it's important to read quickly and carefully. Don't rush! Keep your pencil in hand to quickly mark important passages that you might want to use as evidence in your synthesis. While you're reading the sources and marking passages, you want to think about how the information you're reading influences your stance on the issue (in this case, eminent domain).

When you finish reading, take a few seconds to summarize, in a phrase or sentence, whether the source defends, challenges, or qualifies whether eminent domain is beneficial (which is the claim in the prompt) . Though it might not feel like you have time for this, it's important to give yourself these notes about each source so you know how you can use each one as evidence in your essay.

Here's what we mean: say you want to challenge the idea that eminent domain is useful. If you've jotted down notes about each source and what it's saying, it will be easier for you to pull the relevant information into your outline and your essay.

So how much time should you spend reading the provided sources? The AP Lang exam recommends taking 15 minutes to read the sources . If you spend around two of those minutes reading and breaking down the essay prompt, it makes sense to spend the remaining 13 minutes reading and annotating the sources.

If you finish reading and annotating early, you can always move on to drafting your synthesis essay. But make sure you're taking your time and reading carefully! It's better to use a little extra time reading and understanding the sources now so that you don't have to go back and re-read the sources later.

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A strong thesis will do a lot of heavy lifting in your essay. (See what we did there?)

Step 3: Write a Strong Thesis Statement

After you've analyzed the prompt and thoroughly read the sources, the next thing you need to do in order to write a good synthesis essay is write a strong thesis statement .

The great news about writing a thesis statement for this synthesis essay is that you have all the tools you need to do it at your fingertips. All you have to do in order to write your thesis statement is decide what your stance is in relationship to the topic provided.

In the example prompt provided earlier, you're essentially given three choices for how to frame your thesis statement: you can either defend, challenge, or qualify a claim that's been provided by the prompt, that eminent domain is productive and beneficial . Here's what that means for each option:

If you choose to defend the claim, your job will be to prove that the claim is correct . In this case, you'll have to show that eminent domain is a good thing.

If you choose to challenge the claim, you'll argue that the claim is incorrect. In other words, you'll argue that eminent domain isn't productive or beneficial.

If you choose to qualify, that means you'll agree with part of the claim, but disagree with another part of the claim. For instance, you may argue that eminent domain can be a productive tool for governments, but it's not beneficial for property owners. Or maybe you argue that eminent domain is useful in certain circumstances, but not in others.

When you decide whether you want your synthesis essay to defend, challenge, or qualify that claim, you need to convey that stance clearly in your thesis statement. You want to avoid simply restating the claim provided in the prompt, summarizing the issue without making a coherent claim, or writing a thesis that doesn't respond to the prompt.

Here's an example of a thesis statement that received full points on the eminent domain synthesis essay:

Although eminent domain can be misused to benefit private interests at the expense of citizens, it is a vital tool of any government that intends to have any influence on the land it governs beyond that of written law.

This thesis statement received full points because it states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning on the issue of eminent domain. It states the author's position (that some parts of eminent domain are good, but others are bad), then goes on to explain why the author thinks that (it's good because it allows the government to do its job, but it's bad because the government can misuse its power.)

Because this example thesis statement states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning, it can be elaborated upon in the body of the essay through sub-claims, supporting evidence, and commentary. And a solid argument is key to getting a six on your synthesis essay for AP Lang!

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Step 4: Create a Bare-Bones Essay Outline

Once you've got your thesis statement drafted, you have the foundation you need to develop a bare bones outline for your synthesis essay. Developing an outline might seem like it's a waste of your precious time, but if you develop your outline well, it will actually save you time when you start writing your essay.

With that in mind, we recommend spending 5 to 10 minutes outlining your synthesis essay . If you use a bare-bones outline like the one below, labeling each piece of content that you need to include in your essay draft, you should be able to develop out the most important pieces of the synthesis before you even draft the actual essay.

To help you see how this can work on test day, we've created a sample outline for you. You can even memorize this outline to help you out on test day! In the outline below, you'll find places to fill in a thesis statement, body paragraph topic sentences, evidence from the sources provided, and commentary :

  • Present the context surrounding the essay topic in a couple of sentences (this is a good place to use what you learned about the major opinions or controversies about the topic from reading your sources).
  • Write a straightforward, clear, and concise thesis statement that presents your stance on the topic
  • Topic sentence presenting first supporting point or claim
  • Evidence #1
  • Commentary on Evidence #1
  • Evidence #2 (if needed)
  • Commentary on Evidence #2 (if needed)
  • Topic sentence presenting second supporting point or claim
  • Topic sentence presenting three supporting point or claim
  • Sums up the main line of reasoning that you developed and defended throughout the essay
  • Reiterates the thesis statement

Taking the time to develop these crucial pieces of the synthesis in a bare-bones outline will give you a map for your final essay. Once you have a map, writing the essay will be much easier.

Step 5: Draft Your Essay Response

The great thing about taking a few minutes to develop an outline is that you can develop it out into your essay draft. After you take about 5 to 10 minutes to outline your synthesis essay, you can use the remaining 30 to 35 minutes to draft your essay and review it.

Since you'll outline your essay before you start drafting, writing the essay should be pretty straightforward. You'll already know how many paragraphs you're going to write, what the topic of each paragraph will be, and what quotations, paraphrases, or summaries you're going to include in each paragraph from the sources provided. You'll just have to fill in one of the most important parts of your synthesis—your commentary.

Commentaries are your explanation of why your evidence supports the argument you've outlined in your thesis. Your commentary is where you actually make your argument, which is why it's such a critical part of your synthesis essay.

When thinking about what to say in your commentary, remember one thing the AP Lang synthesis essay prompt specifies: don't just summarize the sources. Instead, as you provide commentary on the evidence you incorporate, you need to explain how that evidence supports or undermines your thesis statement . You should include commentary that offers a thoughtful or novel perspective on the evidence from your sources to develop your argument.

One very important thing to remember as you draft out your essay is to cite your sources. The AP Lang exam synthesis essay prompt indicates that you can use generic labels for the sources provided (e.g. "Source 1," "Source 2," "Source 3," etc.). The exam prompt will indicate which label corresponds with which source, so you'll need to make sure you pay attention and cite sources accurately. You can cite your sources in the sentence where you introduce a quote, summary, or paraphrase, or you can use a parenthetical citation. Citing your sources affects your score on the synthesis essay, so remembering to do this is important.

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Keep reading for a real-life example of a great AP synthesis essay response!

Real-Life AP Synthesis Essay Example and Analysis

If you're still wondering how to write a synthesis essay, examples of real essays from past AP Lang exams can make things clearer. These real-life student AP synthesis essay responses can be great for helping you understand how to write a synthesis essay that will knock the graders' socks off .

While there are multiple essay examples online, we've chosen one to take a closer look at. We're going to give you a brief analysis of one of these example student synthesis essays from the 2019 AP Lang Exam below!

Example Synthesis Essay AP Lang Response

To get started, let's look at the official prompt for the 2019 synthesis essay:

In response to our society's increasing demand for energy, large-scale wind power has drawn attention from governments and consumers as a potential alternative to traditional materials that fuel our power grids, such as coal, oil, natural gas, water, or even newer sources such as nuclear or solar power. Yet the establishment of large-scale, commercial-grade wind farms is often the subject of controversy for a variety of reasons.

Carefully read the six sources, found on the AP English Language and Composition 2019 Exam (Question 1), including the introductory information for each source. Write an essay that synthesizes material from at least three of the sources and develops your position on the most important factors that an individual or agency should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Source A (photo) Source B (Layton) Source C (Seltenrich) Source D (Brown) Source E (Rule) Source F (Molla)

In your response you should do the following:

  • Respond to the prompt with a thesis presents a defensible position.
  • Select and use evidence from at least 3 of the provided sources to support your line of reasoning. Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
  • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
  • Use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating your argument.

Now that you know exactly what the prompt asked students to do on the 2019 AP Lang synthesis essay, here's an AP Lang synthesis essay example, written by a real student on the AP Lang exam in 2019:

[1] The situation has been known for years, and still very little is being done: alternative power is the only way to reliably power the changing world. The draw of power coming from industry and private life is overwhelming current sources of non-renewable power, and with dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, it is merely a matter of time before coal and gas fuel plants are no longer in operation. So one viable alternative is wind power. But as with all things, there are pros and cons. The main factors for power companies to consider when building wind farms are environmental boon, aesthetic, and economic factors.

[2] The environmental benefits of using wind power are well-known and proven. Wind power is, as qualified by Source B, undeniably clean and renewable. From their production requiring very little in the way of dangerous materials to their lack of fuel, besides that which occurs naturally, wind power is by far one of the least environmentally impactful sources of power available. In addition, wind power by way of gearbox and advanced blade materials, has the highest percentage of energy retention. According to Source F, wind power retains 1,164% of the energy put into the system – meaning that it increases the energy converted from fuel (wind) to electricity 10 times! No other method of electricity production is even half that efficient. The efficiency and clean nature of wind power are important to consider, especially because they contribute back to power companies economically.

[3] Economically, wind power is both a boon and a bone to electric companies and other users. For consumers, wind power is very cheap, leading to lower bills than from any other source. Consumers also get an indirect reimbursement by way of taxes (Source D). In one Texan town, McCamey, tax revenue increased 30% from a wind farm being erected in the town. This helps to finance improvements to the town. But, there is no doubt that wind power is also hurting the power companies. Although, as renewable power goes, wind is incredibly cheap, it is still significantly more expensive than fossil fuels. So, while it is helping to cut down on emissions, it costs electric companies more than traditional fossil fuel plants. While the general economic trend is positive, there are some setbacks which must be overcome before wind power can take over as truly more effective than fossil fuels.

[4] Aesthetics may be the greatest setback for power companies. Although there may be significant economic and environmental benefit to wind power, people will always fight to preserve pure, unspoiled land. Unfortunately, not much can be done to improve the visual aesthetics of the turbines. White paint is the most common choice because it "[is] associated with cleanliness." (Source E). But, this can make it stand out like a sore thumb, and make the gargantuan machines seem more out of place. The site can also not be altered because it affects generating capacity. Sound is almost worse of a concern because it interrupts personal productivity by interrupting people's sleep patterns. One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support.

[5] As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and the consequences. But, by balancing economics, efficiency, and aesthetics, power companies can create a solution which balances human impact with environmental preservation.

And that's an entire AP Lang synthesis essay example, written in response to a real AP Lang exam prompt! It's important to remember AP Lang exam synthesis essay prompts are always similarly structured and worded, and students often respond in around the same number of paragraphs as what you see in the example essay response above.

Next, let's analyze this example essay and talk about what it does effectively, where it could be improved upon, and what score past exam scorers awarded it.

To get started on an analysis of the sample synthesis essay, let's look at the scoring commentary provided by the College Board:

  • For development of thesis, the essay received 1 out of 1 possible points
  • For evidence and commentary, the essay received 4 out of 4 possible points
  • For sophistication of thought, the essay received 0 out of 1 possible points.

This means that the final score for this example essay was a 5 out of 6 possible points . Let's look more closely at the content of the example essay to figure out why it received this score breakdown.

Thesis Development

The thesis statement is one of the three main categories that is taken into consideration when you're awarded points on this portion of the exam. This sample essay received 1 out of 1 total points.

Now, here's why: the thesis statement clearly and concisely conveys a position on the topic presented in the prompt--alternative energy and wind power--and defines the most important factors that power companies should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm.

Evidence and Commentary

The second key category taken into consideration when synthesis exams are evaluated is incorporation of evidence and commentary. This sample received 4 out of 4 possible points for this portion of the synthesis essay. At bare minimum, this sample essay meets the requirement mentioned in the prompt that the writer incorporate evidence from at least three of the sources provided.

On top of that, the writer does a good job of connecting the incorporated evidence back to the claim made in the thesis statement through effective commentary. The commentary in this sample essay is effective because it goes beyond just summarizing what the provided sources say. Instead, it explains and analyzes the evidence presented in the selected sources and connects them back to supporting points the writer makes in each body paragraph.

Finally, the writer of the essay also received points for evidence and commentary because the writer developed and supported a consistent line of reasoning throughout the essay . This line of reasoning is summed up in the fourth paragraph in the following sentence: "One thing for power companies to consider is working with turbine manufacturing to make the machines less aesthetically impactful, so as to garner greater public support."

Because the writer did a good job consistently developing their argument and incorporating evidence, they received full marks in this category. So far, so good!

Sophistication of Thought

Now, we know that this essay received a score of 5 out of 6 total points, and the place where the writer lost a point was on the basis of sophistication of thought, for which the writer received 0 out of 1 points. That's because this sample essay makes several generalizations and vague claims where it could have instead made specific claims that support a more balanced argument.

For example, in the following sentence from the 5th paragraph of the sample essay, the writer misses the opportunity to state specific possibilities that power companies should consider for wind energy . Instead, the writer is ambiguous and non-committal, saying, "As with most things, wind power has no easy answer. It is the responsibility of the companies building them to weigh the benefits and consequences."

If the writer of this essay was interested in trying to get that 6th point on the synthesis essay response, they could consider making more specific claims. For instance, they could state the specific benefits and consequences power companies should consider when deciding whether to establish a wind farm. These could include things like environmental impacts, economic impacts, or even population density!

Despite losing one point in the last category, this example synthesis essay is a strong one. It's well-developed, thoughtfully written, and advances an argument on the exam topic using evidence and support throughout.

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4 Tips for How to Write a Synthesis Essay

AP Lang is a timed exam, so you have to pick and choose what you want to focus on in the limited time you're given to write the synthesis essay. Keep reading to get our expert advice on what you should focus on during your exam.

Tip 1: Read the Prompt First

It may sound obvious, but when you're pressed for time, it's easy to get flustered. Just remember: when it comes time to write the synthesis essay, read the prompt first !

Why is it so important to read the prompt before you read the sources? Because when you're aware of what kind of question you're trying to answer, you'll be able to read the sources more strategically. The prompt will help give you a sense of what claims, points, facts, or opinions to be looking for as you read the sources.

Reading the sources without having read the prompt first is kind of like trying to drive while wearing a blindfold: you can probably do it, but it's likely not going to end well!

Tip 2: Make Notes While You Read

During the 15-minute reading period at the beginning of the synthesis essay, you'll be reading through the sources as quickly as you can. After all, you're probably anxious to start writing!

While it's definitely important to make good use of your time, it's also important to read closely enough that you understand your sources. Careful reading will allow you to identify parts of the sources that will help you support your thesis statement in your essay, too.

As you read the sources, consider marking helpful passages with a star or check mark in the margins of the exam so you know which parts of the text to quickly re-read as you form your synthesis essay. You might also consider summing up the key points or position of each source in a sentence or a few words when you finish reading each source during the reading period. Doing so will help you know where each source stands on the topic given and help you pick the three (or more!) that will bolster your synthesis argument.

Tip 3: Start With the Thesis Statement

If you don't start your synthesis essay with a strong thesis statement, it's going to be tough to write an effective synthesis essay. As soon as you finish reading and annotating the provided sources, the thing you want to do next is write a strong thesis statement.

According to the CollegeBoard grading guidelines for the AP Lang synthesis essay, a strong thesis statement will respond to the prompt— not restate or rephrase the prompt. A good thesis will take a clear, defensible position on the topic presented in the prompt and the sources.

In other words, to write a solid thesis statement to guide the rest of your synthesis essay, you need to think about your position on the topic at hand and then make a claim about the topic based on your position. This position will either be defending, challenging, or qualifying the claim made in the essay's prompt.

The defensible position that you establish in your thesis statement will guide your argument in the rest of the essay, so it's important to do this first. Once you have a strong thesis statement, you can begin outlining your essay.

Tip 4: Focus on Your Commentary

Writing thoughtful, original commentary that explains your argument and your sources is important. In fact, doing this well will earn you four points (out of a total of six)!

AP Lang provides six to seven sources for you on the exam, and you'll be expected to incorporate quotations, paraphrases, or summaries from at least three of those sources into your synthesis essay and interpret that evidence for the reader.

While incorporating evidence is very important, in order to get the extra point for "sophistication of thought" on the synthesis essay, it's important to spend more time thinking about your commentary on the evidence you choose to incorporate. The commentary is your chance to show original thinking, strong rhetorical skills, and clearly explain how the evidence you've included supports the stance you laid out in your thesis statement.

To earn the 6th possible point on the synthesis essay, make sure your commentary demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the source material, explains this nuanced understanding, and places the evidence incorporated from the sources in conversation with each other. To do this, make sure you're avoiding vague language. Be specific when you can, and always tie your commentary back to your thesis!

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What's Next?

There's a lot more to the AP Language exam than just the synthesis essay. Be sure to check out our expert guide to the entire exam , then learn more about the tricky multiple choice section .

Is the AP Lang exam hard...or is it easy? See how it stacks up to other AP tests on our list of the hardest AP exams .

Did you know there are technically two English AP exams? You can learn more about the second English AP test, the AP Literature exam, in this article . And if you're confused about whether you should take the AP Lang or AP Lit test , we can help you make that decision, too.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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The Last Thing This Supreme Court Could Do to Shock Us

There will be no more self-soothing after this..

For three long years, Supreme Court watchers mollified themselves (and others) with vague promises that when the rubber hit the road, even the ultraconservative Federalist Society justices of the Roberts court would put democracy before party whenever they were finally confronted with the legal effort to hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6. There were promising signs: They had, after all, refused to wade into the Trumpian efforts to set aside the election results in 2020. They had, after all, hewed to a kind of sanity in batting away Trumpist claims about presidential records (with the lone exception of Clarence Thomas, too long marinated in the Ginni-scented Kool-Aid to be capable of surprising us, but he was just one vote). We promised ourselves that there would be cool heads and grand bargains and that even though the court might sometimes help Trump in small ways, it would privilege the country in the end. We kept thinking that at least for Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts , the voice of reasoned never-Trumpers might still penetrate the Fox News fog. We told ourselves that at least six justices, and maybe even seven, of the most MAGA-friendly court in history would still want to ensure that this November’s elections would not be the last in history. Political hacks they may be, but they were not lawless ones.

On Thursday, during oral arguments in Trump v. United States , the Republican-appointed justices shattered those illusions. This was the case we had been waiting for, and all was made clear—brutally so. These justices donned the attitude of cynical partisans, repeatedly lending legitimacy to the former president’s outrageous claims of immunity from criminal prosecution. To at least five of the conservatives, the real threat to democracy wasn’t Trump’s attempt to overturn the election—but the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute him for the act. These justices fear that it is Trump’s prosecution for election subversion that will “destabilize” democracy, requiring them to read a brand-new principle of presidential immunity into a Constitution that guarantees nothing of the sort. They evinced virtually no concern for our ability to continue holding free and fair elections that culminate in a peaceful transfer of power. They instead offered endless solicitude for the former president who fought that transfer of power.

However the court disposes of Trump v. U.S. , the result will almost certainly be precisely what the former president craves: more delays, more hearings, more appeals—more of everything but justice . This was not a legitimate claim from the start, but a wild attempt by Trump’s attorneys to use his former role as chief executive of the United States to shield himself from the consequences of trying to turn the presidency into a dictatorship. After so much speculation that these reasonable, rational jurists would surely dispose of this ridiculous case quickly and easily, Thursday delivered a morass of bad-faith hand-wringing on the right about the apparently unbearable possibility that a president might no longer be allowed to wield his powers of office in pursuit of illegal ends. Just as bad, we heard a constant minimization of Jan. 6, for the second week in a row , as if the insurrection were ancient history, and history that has since been dramatically overblown, presumably for Democrats’ partisan aims.

We got an early taste of this minimization in Trump v. Anderson , the Colorado case about removing Trump from the ballot. The court didn’t have the stomach to discuss the violence at the Capitol in its sharply divided decision, which found for Trump ; indeed, the majority barely mentioned the events of Jan. 6 at all when rejecting Colorado’s effort to bar from the ballot an insurrectionist who tried to steal our democracy. But we let that one be, because we figured special counsel Jack Smith would ride to the rescue. Smith has indicted Trump on election subversion charges related to Jan. 6, and the biggest obstacle standing between the special counsel and a trial has been the former president’s outlandish claim that he has absolute immunity from criminal charges as a result of his having been president at the time. Specifically, Trump alleges that his crusade to overturn the election constituted “official acts” that are immune from criminal liability under a heretofore unknown constitutional principle that the chief executive is quite literally above the law.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held in February that the president does not have blanket or absolute immunity for all actions taken in office, including “official” acts performed under the guise of executing the law (for example, Trump’s attempt to weaponize the DOJ against election results under the pretense of investigating fraud). The D.C. Circuit’s emphatic, cross-ideological decision should have been summarily affirmed by SCOTUS within days. Instead, the justices set it for arguments two months down the road—a bad omen, to put it mildly . Even then, many court watchers held out hope that Thursday morning’s oral arguments were to be the moment for the nine justices of the Supreme Court to finally indicate their readiness to take on Trump, Trumpism, illiberalism, and slouching fascism.

It was not to be. Justice Samuel Alito best captured the spirit of arguments when he asked gravely “what is required for the functioning of a stable democratic society” (good start!), then answered his own question: total immunity for criminal presidents (oh, dear). Indeed, anything but immunity would, he suggested, encourage presidents to commit more crimes to stay in office: “Now, if an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?” Never mind that the president in question did not leave office peacefully and is not sitting quietly in retirement but is instead running for presidential office once again. No, if we want criminal presidents to leave office when they lose, we have to let them commit crimes scot-free. If ever a better articulation of the legal principle “Don’t make me hit you again” has been proffered at an oral argument, it’s hard to imagine it.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke to this absurdity when she responded in what could only be heard as a cri de coeur: “Stable democratic society needs good faith of public officials,” she said. “That good faith assumes that they will follow the law.” The justice noted that despite all the protections in place, a democracy can sometimes “potentially fail.” She concluded: “In the end, if it fails completely, it’s because we destroyed our democracy on our own, isn’t it?”

But it was probably too late to make this plea, because by that point we had heard both Alito and Gorsuch opine that presidents must be protected at all costs from the whims of overzealous deep state prosecutors brandishing “vague” criminal statutes. We heard Kavanaugh opine mindlessly on the independent counsel statute and how mean it is to presidents, reading extensively from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in a case arguing that independent counsels are unconstitutional. (Yes, Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr , the independent counsel.) If you’re clocking a trend here, it’s gender. Just as was the case in Anderson , it’s the women justices doing the second-shift work here: both probing the thorny constitutional and criminal questions and signaling a refusal to tank democracy over abstractions and deflections. As was the case in the EMTALA arguments, it’s the women who understand what it looks like to cheat death.

Is the president, Sotomayor asked, immune from prosecution if he orders the military to assassinate a political rival? Yes, said John Sauer, who represented Trump—though it “depends on the circumstances.” Could the president, Justice Elena Kagan asked, order the military to stage a coup? Yes, Sauer said again, depending on the circumstances. To which Kagan tartly replied that Sauer’s insistence on specifying the “circumstances” boiled down to “Under my test, it’s an official act, but that sure sounds bad, doesn’t it?” (Cue polite laughter in the chamber.)

This shameless, maximalist approach should have drawn anger from the conservative justices—indignation, at least, that Sauer took them for such easy marks. But it turns out that he calibrated his terrible arguments just right. The cynicism on display was truly breathtaking: Alito winkingly implied to Michael Dreeben, representing Smith, that we all know that Justice Department lawyers are political hacks, right? Roberts mocked Dreeben for saying “There’s no reason to worry because the prosecutor will act in good faith.”

The conservative justices are so in love with their own voices and so convinced of their own rectitude that they monologued about how improper it was for Dreeben to keep talking about the facts of this case, as opposed to the “abstract” principles at play. “I’m talking about the future!” Kavanaugh declared at one point to Dreeben, pitching himself not as Trump’s human shield but as a principled defender of the treasured constitutional right of all presidents to do crime. (We’re sure whatever rule he cooks up will apply equally to Democratic presidents, right?) Kavanaugh eventually landed on the proposition that prosecutors may charge presidents only under criminal statutes that explicitly state they can be applied to the president. Which, as Sotomayor pointed out, would mean no charges everywhere, because just a tiny handful of statutes are stamped with the label “CAN BE APPLIED TO PRESIDENT.”

The words bold and fearless action were repeated on a loop today, as a kind of mantra of how effective presidents must be free to act quickly and decisively to save democracy from the many unanticipated threats it faces. And yet the court—which has been asked to take bold and fearless action to deter the person who called Georgia’s secretary of state to demand that he alter the vote count, and threatened to fire DOJ officials who would not help steal an election—is backing away from its own duty. The prospect of a criminal trial for a criminal president shocked and appalled five men: Thomas, Alito, Kavanaugh, and Gorsuch suggested that Smith’s entire prosecution is unconstitutional; meanwhile, Roberts sounded eager at times to handle the case just a hair more gracefully: by cutting out its heart by preventing the jury from hearing about “official acts” (which lie at the center of the alleged conspiracy). Justice Amy Coney Barrett was far more measured, teasing out a compromise with Dreeben that would compel the trial court to tell the jury it could not impose criminal liability for these “official” acts, only “private ones.” Remember, drawing that line would require months of hearings and appeals, pushing any trial into 2025 or beyond. The president who tried to steal the most recent election is running in the next one, which is happening in mere months.

The liberal justices tried their best to make the case that justice required denying Trump’s sweeping immunity claim, permitting the trial to move forward, and sorting out lingering constitutional issues afterward, as virtually all other criminal defendants must do. They got little traction. Everyone on that bench was well aware that the entire nation was listening to arguments; that the whole nation wants to understand whether Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election was an existential threat to democracy or a lark. Five justices sent the message, loud and clear, that they are far more worried about Trump’s prosecution at the hands of the deep-state DOJ than about his alleged crimes, which were barely mentioned. This trial will almost certainly face yet more delays. These delays might mean that its subject could win back the presidency in the meantime and render the trial moot. But the court has now signaled that nothing he did was all that serious and that the danger he may pose is not worth reining in. The real threats they see are the ones Trump himself shouts from the rooftops: witch hunts and partisan Biden prosecutors. These men have picked their team. The rest hardly matters.

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FTC Announces Rule Banning Noncompetes

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Today, the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule to promote competition by banning noncompetes nationwide, protecting the fundamental freedom of workers to change jobs, increasing innovation, and fostering new business formation.

“Noncompete clauses keep wages low, suppress new ideas, and rob the American economy of dynamism, including from the more than 8,500 new startups that would be created a year once noncompetes are banned,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “The FTC’s final rule to ban noncompetes will ensure Americans have the freedom to pursue a new job, start a new business, or bring a new idea to market.”

The FTC estimates that the final rule banning noncompetes will lead to new business formation growing by 2.7% per year, resulting in more than 8,500 additional new businesses created each year. The final rule is expected to result in higher earnings for workers, with estimated earnings increasing for the average worker by an additional $524 per year, and it is expected to lower health care costs by up to $194 billion over the next decade. In addition, the final rule is expected to help drive innovation, leading to an estimated average increase of 17,000 to 29,000 more patents each year for the next 10 years under the final rule.

Banning Non Competes: Good for workers, businesses, and the economy

Noncompetes are a widespread and often exploitative practice imposing contractual conditions that prevent workers from taking a new job or starting a new business. Noncompetes often force workers to either stay in a job they want to leave or bear other significant harms and costs, such as being forced to switch to a lower-paying field, being forced to relocate, being forced to leave the workforce altogether, or being forced to defend against expensive litigation. An estimated 30 million workers—nearly one in five Americans—are subject to a noncompete.

Under the FTC’s new rule, existing noncompetes for the vast majority of workers will no longer be enforceable after the rule’s effective date. Existing noncompetes for senior executives - who represent less than 0.75% of workers - can remain in force under the FTC’s final rule, but employers are banned from entering into or attempting to enforce any new noncompetes, even if they involve senior executives. Employers will be required to provide notice to workers other than senior executives who are bound by an existing noncompete that they will not be enforcing any noncompetes against them.

In January 2023, the FTC issued a  proposed rule which was subject to a 90-day public comment period. The FTC received more than 26,000 comments on the proposed rule, with over 25,000 comments in support of the FTC’s proposed ban on noncompetes. The comments informed the FTC’s final rulemaking process, with the FTC carefully reviewing each comment and making changes to the proposed rule in response to the public’s feedback.

In the final rule, the Commission has determined that it is an unfair method of competition, and therefore a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, for employers to enter into noncompetes with workers and to enforce certain noncompetes.

The Commission found that noncompetes tend to negatively affect competitive conditions in labor markets by inhibiting efficient matching between workers and employers. The Commission also found that noncompetes tend to negatively affect competitive conditions in product and service markets, inhibiting new business formation and innovation. There is also evidence that noncompetes lead to increased market concentration and higher prices for consumers.

Alternatives to Noncompetes

The Commission found that employers have several alternatives to noncompetes that still enable firms to protect their investments without having to enforce a noncompete.

Trade secret laws and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) both provide employers with well-established means to protect proprietary and other sensitive information. Researchers estimate that over 95% of workers with a noncompete already have an NDA.

The Commission also finds that instead of using noncompetes to lock in workers, employers that wish to retain employees can compete on the merits for the worker’s labor services by improving wages and working conditions.

Changes from the NPRM

Under the final rule, existing noncompetes for senior executives can remain in force. Employers, however, are prohibited from entering into or enforcing new noncompetes with senior executives. The final rule defines senior executives as workers earning more than $151,164 annually and who are in policy-making positions.

Additionally, the Commission has eliminated a provision in the proposed rule that would have required employers to legally modify existing noncompetes by formally rescinding them. That change will help to streamline compliance.

Instead, under the final rule, employers will simply have to provide notice to workers bound to an existing noncompete that the noncompete agreement will not be enforced against them in the future. To aid employers’ compliance with this requirement, the Commission has included model language in the final rule that employers can use to communicate to workers. 

The Commission vote to approve the issuance of the final rule was 3-2 with Commissioners Melissa Holyoak and Andrew N. Ferguson voting no. Commissioners Rebecca Kelly Slaughter , Alvaro Bedoya , Melissa Holyoak and Andrew N. Ferguson each issued separate statements. Chair Lina M. Khan will issue a separate statement.

The final rule will become effective 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Once the rule is effective, market participants can report information about a suspected violation of the rule to the Bureau of Competition by emailing  [email protected]

The Federal Trade Commission develops policy initiatives on issues that affect competition, consumers, and the U.S. economy. The FTC will never demand money, make threats, tell you to transfer money, or promise you a prize. Follow the  FTC on social media , read  consumer alerts  and the  business blog , and  sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts .

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Victoria Graham Office of Public Affairs 415-848-5121

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Placement of the thesis statement. Step 1: Start with a question. Step 2: Write your initial answer. Step 3: Develop your answer. Step 4: Refine your thesis statement. Types of thesis statements. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

  2. Developing a Thesis Statement

    A thesis statement . . . Makes an argumentative assertion about a topic; it states the conclusions that you have reached about your topic. Makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of your paper. Is focused and specific enough to be "proven" within the boundaries of your paper. Is generally located near the end ...

  3. Thesis Statements & Lines of Reasoning

    A thesis statement is a sentence or two that presents the central argument or main point of a piece of writing. It is the foundation of the argument and guides the development of the essay. The thesis statement should be clear, concise, and arguable, and should be supported by the rest of the essay. A strong thesis statement sets the tone for ...

  4. PDF Identifying the Line of Reasoning

    EVALUATING THE LINE OF REASONING THESIS!CENTRAL CLAIM: The thesis is not always found at the beginning of a passage; it could be explicitly stated, or it may be implicit; read the entire text before determining the thesis. Education is the weapon to end illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism around the world. CLAIM #1: Extremists are afraid of ...

  5. Developing A Thesis

    A good thesis has two parts. It should tell what you plan to argue, and it should "telegraph" how you plan to argue—that is, what particular support for your claim is going where in your essay. Steps in Constructing a Thesis. First, analyze your primary sources. Look for tension, interest, ambiguity, controversy, and/or complication.

  6. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    This is a strong thesis because it takes a stand, and because it's specific. 2. A strong thesis statement justifies discussion. Your thesis should indicate the point of the discussion. If your assignment is to write a paper on kinship systems, using your own family as an example, you might come up with either of these two thesis statements:

  7. How to write a thesis statement + Examples

    It is a brief statement of your paper's main argument. Essentially, you are stating what you will be writing about. Organize your papers in one place. Try Paperpile. No credit card needed. Get 30 days free. You can see your thesis statement as an answer to a question. While it also contains the question, it should really give an answer to the ...

  8. 10.3 Glance at Genre: Thesis, Reasoning, and Evidence

    Logos: appeal to readers' sense of logic, or reason. Pathos: appeal to readers' emotions. Purpose: author's reason for writing the paper. In a position argument, the purpose is to persuade readers to agree with the writer's stance. Reasoning: logical and sensible explanation of a concept.

  9. Academic Guides: Writing a Paper: Thesis Statements

    When drafting your thesis statement, avoid words like explore, investigate, learn, compile, summarize, and explain to describe the main purpose of your paper. These words imply a paper that summarizes or "reports," rather than synthesizing and analyzing. Instead of the terms above, try words like argue, critique, question, and interrogate.

  10. How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement: 4 Steps + Examples

    Step 4: Revise and refine your thesis statement before you start writing. Read through your thesis statement several times before you begin to compose your full essay. You need to make sure the statement is ironclad, since it is the foundation of the entire paper. Edit it or have a peer review it for you to make sure everything makes sense and ...

  11. 2.2 Explaining and analyzing the line of reasoning of an argument

    In this case, your line of reasoning is one claim-evidence pair long. However, with more complicated arguments (like the thesis statement of a whole paper, or a section of a paper) the line of reasoning will be much longer. What does a Line of Reasoning Look Like? Not every line of reasoning is organized in the same way.

  12. Teaching Line of Reasoning to AP English Lit

    Teaching Line of Reasoning to AP English Lit. In 2019, the College Board released a new, itemized rubric. The new rubric differed from the previous nine-point holistic rubric by breaking the writing down into three sections: thesis, evidence and commentary, and sophistication. When I first saw the new six point rubric, I was so excited for the ...

  13. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement. 1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.; An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.; An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies ...

  14. PDF AP English Language and Composition

    prompt with a thesis that takes a defensible position; provide evidence to support their line of reasoning; explain how the evidence supports their line of reasoning; and use appropriate grammar and punctuation in communicating their argument. As per the Course and Exam Description, (CLE-1.0, REO 1.0, STL-1.R), students were expected to be

  15. PDF AP English Language and Composition

    Write an essay that argues your position on the value of striving for perfection. In your response you should do the following: • Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position. • Provide evidence to support your line of reasoning. • Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.

  16. PDF AP English Language and Composition

    to write a thesis statement for such texts. On the AP Exam, a clear communication of the thesis is required in the student's essays. ... Writers may lead readers through a line of reasoning and then arrive at a thesis. 6.A: Writing - Develop a line of reasoning and commentary that explains it throughout an argument.

  17. How to Write an Argumentative Essay

    Make a claim. Provide the grounds (evidence) for the claim. Explain the warrant (how the grounds support the claim) Discuss possible rebuttals to the claim, identifying the limits of the argument and showing that you have considered alternative perspectives. The Toulmin model is a common approach in academic essays.

  18. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  19. Line of Reasoning: 3 Activities for AP® Literature

    The line of reasoning is established by the thesis and the rest of the structure evolves through the topic sentences which connect directly back to the thesis. AP® Literature students need to formulate a clear and complex thesis and then back it up with evidence presented in a logical order. It's imperative that students understand that the ...

  20. How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay + Example

    A strong thesis statement will clearly state your stance without summarizing the issue or regurgitating the claim. The CollegeBoard is looking for a thesis statement that "states a defensible position and establishes a line of reasoning on the issue provided in the prompt." Step 4: Create a Minimal Essay Outline

  21. How to Write the AP Lang Argument Essay + Examples

    Write an essay that argues your position on the extent to which Powell's claim about making decisions is valid. In your response you should do the following: Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position. Provide evidence to support your line of reasoning. Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.

  22. How to Write a Perfect Synthesis Essay for the AP Language Exam

    Paragraph 1: The prompt presents and briefly explains the topic that you'll be writing your synthesis essay about. That topic is the concept of eminent domain. Paragraph 2: The prompt presents a specific claim about the concept of eminent domain in this paragraph: Eminent domain is productive and beneficial.This paragraph instructs you to decide whether you want to defend, challenge, or ...

  23. Supreme Court immunity arguments: The court just showed how and why it

    We got an early taste of this minimization in Trump v.Anderson, the Colorado case about removing Trump from the ballot.The court didn't have the stomach to discuss the violence at the Capitol in ...

  24. FTC Announces Rule Banning Noncompetes

    Today, the Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule to promote competition by banning noncompetes nationwide, protecting the fundamental freedom of workers to change jobs, increasing innovation, and fostering new business formation. "Noncompete clauses keep wages low, suppress new ideas, and rob the American economy of dynamism, including from the more than 8,500 new startups that would ...