Thesis Statement Funnel

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Give a general opening statement, possibly with an interesting “hook”. This statement can be about the novel in general, about the character you’re writing about, or about something from real life that is somehow related to your essay (3-5 sentences).

Body Sentences: State the main ideas of your essay.
These should be similar to your topic
sentences (3-4 sentences).

State your thesis
in a single
sentence.

OPENING STATEMENT: The first sentence is the wide end of the funnel – the least specific statement in the paragraph. It is a focused generalization about your topic that provides necessary context and introduces the main idea. The opening serves two purposes:  to identify your subject, and to attract your readers’ attention. You want to invite your readers into the rest of your essay. Typically, these opening statements are either hooks, or main idea statements.

HOOK: The purpose of a hook is to grab your readers’ attention, to pique their curiosity about what you have to say. A hook relates to the readers’ experiences or knowledge, or engages their emotions in some way. The hook opening works best in argumentative and other expository essays. Some standard hook openings include: question, dramatic statement, shocking or interesting fact or statement, humorous statement.

For example, if you are writing a persuasive piece to convince your friends to watch Iron Man 3, you might consider the following openings:

  1. Question: Is it possible to portray humiliating weakness and admirable strength at the very same moment? In the case of Tony Stark, the answer is yes.
  2. Dramatic Statement:  One man, Tony Stark, holds the possibility of world peace in his hands; his actions define the future safety, security, and happiness of an entire population.
  3. Shocking or Interesting Statement: What Iron Man 3 makes most clear is that we are our technology; how we use it defines humanity.
  4. Humorous Statement: Tony Stark, like any other geek, hangs out in his basement thinking about girls and gadgets.

PLEASE AVOID the “dictionary definition” hook, as in, “The dictionary definition of hero is ‘a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.'” Not only does this turn your very first sentence over to somebody else’s words, but it is a flat, and avoidable cliché.

MAIN IDEA STATEMENT: The purpose of this opening is to express the heart of the essay – to present a main idea about the subject of the essay.  Main idea statements are often used in analytical writings like character analysis or essays exploring the development of theme.

Examples:

  1. If the purpose of your essay is to analyze Tony Stark as a flawed character, you might open with a statement about man’s fallibility. Something as simple as: People are flawed; Tony Stark is no exception.
  2. If you are writing an essay analyzing the significance of the main female character in Iron Man 3, Pepper Potts, you might open with a statement about typical portrayals of women in action films. Something like: While audience members are accustomed to viewing a damsel in distress saved by the action hero, they want more from female characters than just a pretty face in need of some rescuing. Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3 gives them what they want. 

BODY SENTENCES: Next, transition from the opening statement into the body sentences. The body sentences, sentences between the opening and the thesis, are used to clarify and narrow the subject. Additionally, this space should be used to introduce subtopics – the subjects that will be covered in the body paragraphs of the essay. This section gets more and more specific as the paragraph progresses. The goal is to lead into the thesis statement, to move from general idea to specific point. By the end of the body sentences in the introduction, the writer needs to bridge to the thesis.

THESIS: The thesis statement is the narrow end of the funnel, the most specific point. It is the driving assertion for the essay, the sentence that expresses what you will prove in the body of paragraphs of your essay.

POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN WRITING YOUR INTRODUCTION

  • Do not announce what you will be writing about in the essay. Avoid statements like, “In this essay, I will explore_________.” Just explore the subject.
  • Italicize titles of books, movies, and other major works.
  • Put quotation marks around the titles of pieces that are part of a larger, major work. For example, you would italicize an album title, but put quotation marks around the song titles included on that album. You would italicize the title of a collection of essays or poems, and put quotation marks around the titles of essays or poems in that collection.  You italicize the title of a magazine, but put quotation marks around titles of articles included in that magazine.
  • Give an author’s full name in the introduction paragraph. Once you provide the full name, you should refer to him/her by last name only. Never refer to an author by first name.

Here is a sample funnel intro paragraph:

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, thousands of Americans lost their jobs and their homes when farms and businesses failed and unemployment and poverty exploded. As a result, many were “set adrift” to wander and to seek work in strange places. This rootlessness created a jarring contrast to the ideal of the American Dream that so many Americans had been led to believe was within everybody’s reach: that if you work hard enough, you can create your own fortune, no matter what. In his novel, Of Mice and Men, set in the 1930s, John Steinbeck portrays several of these lonely, drifting characters who are struggling under the difficult times of the Great Depression. Characters are skeptical of companionship and are reluctant to make connections to any person or place. The novel illustrates the emotions, hopes, and disappointments of these characters, who opt out of the belief in owning property and being a member of a community because of the miseries that they suffer every day. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses the emptiness of the ranchers’ lives to show the American Dream to be nothing more than a myth that is impossible to achieve.

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It is not unusual to want to rush when you approach your conclusion, and even experienced writers may fade. But what good writers remember is that it is vital to put just as much attention into the conclusion as in the rest of the essay. After all, a hasty ending can undermine an otherwise strong essay.

A conclusion that does not correspond to the rest of your essay, has loose ends, or is unorganized can unsettle your readers and raise doubts about the entire essay. However, if you have worked hard to write the introduction and body, your conclusion can often be the most logical part to compose.

The Anatomy of a Strong Conclusion

Keep in mind that the ideas in your conclusion must conform to the rest of your essay. In order to tie these components together, restate your thesis at the beginning of your conclusion. This helps you assemble, in an orderly fashion, all the information you have explained in the body. Repeating your thesis reminds your readers of the major arguments you have been trying to prove and also indicates that your essay is drawing to a close. A strong conclusion also reviews your main points and emphasizes the importance of the topic.

The construction of the conclusion is similar to the introduction, in which you make general introductory statements and then present your thesis. The difference is that in the conclusion you first paraphrase, or state in different words, your thesis and then follow up with general concluding remarks. These sentences should progressively broaden the focus of your thesis and maneuver your readers out of the essay.

Many writers like to end their essays with a final emphatic statement. This strong closing statement will cause your readers to continue thinking about the implications of your essay; it will make your conclusion, and thus your essay, more memorable. Another powerful technique is to challenge your readers to make a change in either their thoughts or their actions. Challenging your readers to see the subject through new eyes is a powerful way to ease yourself and your readers out of the essay.

Tip

When closing your essay, do not expressly state that you are drawing to a close. Relying on statements such as in conclusion, it is clear that, as you can see, or in summation is unnecessary and can be considered trite.

Tip

It is wise to avoid doing any of the following in your conclusion:

  • Introducing new material
  • Contradicting your thesis
  • Changing your thesis
  • Using apologies or disclaimers

Introducing new material in your conclusion has an unsettling effect on your reader. When you raise new points, you make your reader want more information, which you could not possibly provide in the limited space of your final paragraph.

Contradicting or changing your thesis statement causes your readers to think that you do not actually have a conviction about your topic. After all, you have spent several paragraphs adhering to a singular point of view. When you change sides or open up your point of view in the conclusion, your reader becomes less inclined to believe your original argument.

By apologizing for your opinion or stating that you know it is tough to digest, you are in fact admitting that even you know what you have discussed is irrelevant or unconvincing. You do not want your readers to feel this way. Effective writers stand by their thesis statement and do not stray from it.

Exercise 3

On a separate sheet of a paper, restate your thesis from Note 9.52 “Exercise 2” of this section and then make some general concluding remarks. Next, compose a final emphatic statement. Finally, incorporate what you have written into a strong conclusion paragraph for your essay.

Collaboration

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers

Mariah incorporates some of these pointers into her conclusion. She has paraphrased her thesis statement in the first sentence.

In a society fixated on the latest and smartest digital technology, a consumer can easily become confused by the countless options and specifications. The ever-changing state of digital technology challenges consumers with its updates and add-ons and expanding markets and incompatible formats and restrictions–a fact that is complicated by salesmen who want to sell them anything. In a world that is increasingly driven by instant gratification, it’s easy for people to buy the first thing they see. The solution for many people should be to avoid buying on impulse. Consumers should think about what they really need, not what is advertised.

Tip

Make sure your essay is balanced by not having an excessively long or short introduction or conclusion. Check that they match each other in length as closely as possible, and try to mirror the formula you used in each. Parallelism strengthens the message of your essay.

Writing at Work

On the job you will sometimes give oral presentations based on research you have conducted. A concluding statement to an oral report contains the same elements as a written conclusion. You should wrap up your presentation by restating the purpose of the presentation, reviewing its main points, and emphasizing the importance of the material you presented. A strong conclusion will leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Key Takeaways

  • A strong opening captures your readers’ interest and introduces them to your topic before you present your thesis statement.
  • An introduction should restate your thesis, review your main points, and emphasize the importance of the topic.
  • The funnel technique to writing the introduction begins with generalities and gradually narrows your focus until you present your thesis.
  • A good introduction engages people’s emotions or logic, questions or explains the subject, or provides a striking image or quotation.
  • Carefully chosen diction in both the introduction and conclusion prevents any confusing or boring ideas.
  • A conclusion that does not connect to the rest of the essay can diminish the effect of your paper.
  • The conclusion should remain true to your thesis statement. It is best to avoid changing your tone or your main idea and avoid introducing any new material.
  • Closing with a final emphatic statement provides closure for your readers and makes your essay more memorable.

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