Thesis and Paragraph Development


Thesis Statements

Remember, as we discussed in class, A Thesis Statement is an idea, stated as an assertion, which represents a reasoned response to a question at issue which will serve as the central idea of a unified composition.  In other words, a thesis tells you reader the key point that your essay is going to prove.  It shows the focus of your essay and the position that you take on the subject at hand.

Some strong thesis statements that I culled from your synthesis/analysis essay drafts include:

Rebecca Brown always manages to provide readers with enough background information so that they remember her characters as people and not just "AIDS victims."
Comparing how Rebecca Brown represents people with AIDS to work by authors such as Douglas Crimp, Peter Selwyn, Suzzanne Fried, and others shows how The Gifts of the Body depicts AIDS in a productive, professional way.
The Gifts of The Body rejects certain negative connotations that have developed because of AIDS and superbly represents some of the truths for people living with this disease.

If you would like further help on developing a thesis statement, there are several handouts available online.  An entire list can be found here.


Paragraph Development

In class on March 2, we talked about the various elements of a paragraph for this type of essay.  To help make that clearer, I've prepared some examples below.  The paragraphs are from actual student papers, reprinted with their permission, though I may have revised a few words, phrases, or sentences to enhance their flow.  Everyone should remember our discussion from March 2 and read through the samples.  Compare them to your own paragraphs.  If this still does not make sense to you or you would like some assistance, see me or visit the Writing Center.  If you go to the Writing Center, you may want to take the address for this webpage or a printout so that you can show them what we covered in class (if you do your own print out, make sure to underline or color each sentence appropriately).
Topic Sentence*
Points that Support Topic Sentence
Evidence for Points
Description/Analysis of How Evidence
Proves the Points
*  Remember, the topic sentence should focus on analysis and not summary.  It tells your reader the exact focus of the paragraph; it's a one-sentence statement of what the paragraph will prove.

Example One

          Brown presents her characters in a way that helps readers see them as fully-developed human begins and not just people who have a disease, a strategy that Douglas Crimp would support.  Crimp argues how he thinks people with AIDS should be represented in his article, "Portraits of People with AIDS."  He analyzes many articles and pictures that show people with AIDS, including the photographs of Nicholas Nixon.  Crimp dislikes Nixon's photographs because they only show the dark side of this disease.  Crimp says that these photographs reenforce "hopelessnes" and "the privacy of the people portrayed is brutally invaded" (682).  For Crimp, representations like Nixon's show only part of life with AIDS and strip people of the things that make them human.  Brown does the oppositte in her book.  For example, she describes Connie, an older woman with AIDS.  Connie is very sick.  Brown's narrator describes how such a simple thing as a bath hurts Connie.  After one of her baths, the narrator says that Connie "sat on the bed and griped the edge.  She was breathing hard.  I lifted her feet and helped her lie down.  I held the back of her neck and laid her against the pillow" (22).  Connie must be ill to need so much help after a bath, and descriptions such as this show how sick she must be.  However, the illness is not all readers see of Connie.  Brown also shows her to be a caring, loving mother.  Connie tells the narrator stories about her kids, such as one about her son, Joe, that the family jokes about years later (55-7).  The narrator also describes how Connie's family takes care of her.  The narrator talks about how Joe "would take his coffee over and sit by Connie's bed and visit with her" (153).  And she shows how Connie's daugheter, Ingrid, "brought the twins to see her from time to time" (156).  These descriptions show how Connie is not just a sick woman but a woman who has children and grandchildren who love her.  She is a person.

Example Two

 However, even though Brown does a good job of representing people with AIDS, her book does not tell the complete story of life with AIDS for many Americans, especially African Americans.  Gender becomes important because Brown does show men and women with AIDS, but she rarely mentions race in her book.  Not focusing on race in her story leaves out an entire community that is being hit by AIDS.  In "The Black Death," Maxine Waters, a United States Representative shows what a pblem AIDS has become for many African Americans.  She writes, "AIDS is now the leading cause of death for black people aged 25 to 44.  African-American teenagers and young adults account for one-third of reported AIDS cases in the group aged 13 to 24. . . .  There can be no question that the AIDS crisis in the balck community is a public health emergency" (21).  AIDS clearly affects many, many African-American people throughout the United States.  However, Brown does not make this effect clear.  One character, Keith, is probably African AmericanThe narrator describes his skin as "dark brown" (117) and how he has paintings over his bed from Africa (121), but his skin could be dark from his illness and he could have acquired the artwork while traveling in Africa as a tourist.  Brown never makes the race of Keith or any of her characters clear.  Therefore, readers cannot see how AIDS affects people of different races across the country.  No book can tell the full story of life with AIDS, so readers cannot expect Brown to tell everyone's story, but readers must also remember that only a part of the entire story is being told.
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