Occasions for Thesis/Support Essays
Thesis/support essays are useful when you want to convey a central idea clearly and succinctly. Because thesis/support essays open up and expand upon a single main point, they're well-suited to short reports, position papers, and critical analyses. Because they can, with a little practice, be written quickly, they're also handy for essay exams and letters of application or recommendation. As you become familiar with them, you'll no doubt see other uses.
You may notice that the form presented here channels your thinking and writing into a single direction. This channeling effect is both a limitation and a strength of thesis/support essays. It's a limitation because it restricts your opportunity to range widely over a field of interest, as in an informal essay. The channeling effect is a strength because you won't be able to wander from your subject, and because your main idea will always be supported by well-organized details.
Keeping these points in mind, you'll see how the basic thesis/support pattern promotes clear, systematic thinking on a single subject and can therefore be helpful whenever you want to set forth ideas and facts in an efficient, orderly way.
From Subject to Thesis
Often your subject will be determined by your teacher, your employer, or the writing context itself. Other times you may be free to choose your own subject. Either way, remember that the subject itself is only a starting point, which won't make or break your paper. Many unreadable papers have been written on exciting and important subjects, and many valuable papers have been done on subjects that at first glance appear dull and insignificant. Whether you're given a subject or choose your own, whether you like your subject or not, your job is to turn that subject into a solid, well-organized paper, and the following process can help. How you handle your subject counts most.
Think of your subject as pointing you in a direction, providing boundaries you should stay within, telling you in a general way where you're going, and at the same time where you're not going. If your subject is California, you may or may not get to San Francisco, but you definitely won't get to the Statue of Liberty. Similarly, if you're asked to write a report on the waste treatment facilities at your workplace, you've been given a subject that points you in one direction of thinking and eliminates others--customer relations, employee pension plans--from consideration for the time being. They're outside the boundaries set by your subject and may therefore be considered irrelevant. Such focusing of your attention is vital, and usually you'll want to carry the process even further, to provide yourself with a more definite sense of direction and purpose than the subject alone can offer.
Doing that, narrowing the boundaries of your subject, often makes the difference between a strikingly effective paper and a bland, ineffective one. Get into the habit of looking for ways to restrict the territory you'll be covering. Limit your broad subject to a smaller and more manageable topic.
A topic, as we're using the term here, is an area much like a subject but more definite, more specific. Usually the topic will be some particular aspect of the subject that you're most interested in or know the most about, the part your knowledge, experience, and interests make you feel closest to. The subject of California, for instance, might be narrowed to the topic of San Francisco or Monterey.
The topic of San Francisco might then be narrowed even further to the San Francisco earthquake of 1895.
Each narrowing tightens your focus and increases the chance of producing a unified, coherent essay.
Try Some Freewriting
Just write freely for ten or fifteen minutes. Stick with one general subject, but allow yourself to wander freely within those limits. Jot down whatever you already know about the subject or what you'd like to know. Write out your immediate personal reactions to the subject, your thoughts and feelings. Don't write what you think you're expected to feel, but what you do feel. Try to establish an authentic personal relationship to the subject. Try to get at whatever you find exciting, troubling, offensive, or useful.
When you finish, read back over your freewrite and complete the following sentence:
What most interests me about this subject is . . ..
Do Some Investigation
Your investigation could take many forms. Some topics may require little. Your existing knowledge and experience may be adequate for a paper on "what makes a successful high school basketball coach." Maybe you've known and played for a few successful coaches and are currently preparing to become one. If so, you can draw upon your existing knowledge.
On the other hand, maybe the process of narrowing your subject has led you to an area where you don't feel well-informed. If you're going to write about this topic, you'll need to do some reading, maybe even some phone calling and interviewing. If you aren't sure where to begin, check the suggestions in Outside Sources .
Your investigation may involve some note-taking and library work, but still not assume the discipline and scope of a formal research paper. Investigating the current condition of your city's bus system might require taking a bus ride and talking to some regular passengers and drivers. It might involve checking routes and timetables to look for areas of the city that are over or under served. You could ask the same question--Why does only one bus cover the whole north side of town?--to three or four different people. Certainly you'd want to learn something about the buses themselves: How old are they? How much does it cost to service them? How often are they replaced? Much of this information can be obtained from informal discussions, interviews, and direct observation.
7.1 Write a short paragraph explaining how you'd investigate each of the following topics:
a. Your county's use of alternative sentencing for non-violent criminals.
b. The present condition of the job market for college graduates with degrees in graphic design, or in your major field.
c. How recycling has affected waste management in your community during the past five years.
When you finish, exchange your paragraphs with a partner and discuss the similarities and differences in your approaches.
7.2 Narrow each of the following subject areas into a more definite topic. When you finish, select one topic and investigate it.
a. credit buying
b. physical fitness
d. substance abuse
Stating Your Thesis
A thesis is a one sentence statement about your topic. It's an assertion about your topic, something you claim to be true. Notice that a topic alone makes no such claim; it merely defines an area to be covered. The topic is seldom stated as a complete sentence with a subject and predicate. To make your topic into a thesis statement, you need to make a claim about it. Look back over your materials--branching charts, free writings, investigative notes--and think about what you believe to be true. Think about what your readers want or need to know. Then write a sentence, preferably at this point, a simple one, stating what will be the controlling idea of your paper. The result should look something like this:
Original Subject: an important issue in my major field
Focused Topic: drug education for college physical education majors
Thesis: Drug education deserves a more prominent place in this university's Physical Education program.
Or if your investigations led you to a different belief:
Thesis: Physical Education majors at this university receive a solid background in drug education.
It's always good to have a thesis you can believe in.
Notice, though, that a sentence stating an obvious and indisputable truth won't work as a thesis:
Thesis: This university has a Physical Education major.
That's a complete sentence, and it asserts something to be true, but as a thesis it's a dead end. It's a statement of fact pure and simple and requires to have little or nothing added. A good thesis asks to have more said about it. It demands some proof. Your job is to show your reader that your thesis is true, so that in end the reader will say, "Ah yes, now that it's been explained, I can see that the Physical Education Department really isn't doing enough with drug education."
7.3 Turn two of the topics you generated in Activity 7.2 into thesis statements. Exchange them with a partner and discuss their relative strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to cover the following points:
1. Is this a complete sentence?
2. Is every word clear and unambiguous in meaning?
3. Is the sentence a dead end, or does it call for additional information and explanation?
4. Does the statement make such a large claim that you believe the writer has no hope of proving it to be true in the space of 500 to 700 words?
5. What evidence will you need to see before you will believe that the thesis is true?
Supporting Your Thesis
Think of your thesis as a statement that remains to be proved. It commits you to showing your reader that it's founded upon good evidence and sound reasoning. That is, you want to show that you know what you're talking about, that you've investigated the matter thoroughly, have considered the implications of your findings, and are offering in your thesis not mere opinion, but a carefully thought-out conclusion. This job of uncovering and displaying your reasoning is the next step in writing a thesis/support essay.
Getting Inside an Idea
It isn't unusual to hear people say they can't write any more because they've run out of ideas, as though every sentence had to present a new thought. Most experienced writers come to understand, though, that whole essays, even whole books, can be built around one single idea that is fully developed and explored.
A writer's job is not simply to make a list of ideas, which would probably be seen as mere personal opinions, but to probe and test a single worthwhile thought to see what it's made of, to take the reader inside that idea rather than quickly pass over its surface.
To begin doing this, look carefully at your thesis. Try asking:
- Why do I believe this statement is true?
- What have I seen or done or read or heard that caused me to make this statement?
At this point, look less for specific details than for "good reasons." Maybe you've heard the expression, "Give me three good reasons why I should believe you." If you can do that, give at least three good reasons why a reasonable person should believe your thesis, you're well on your way. For example, the thesis, "Drug education deserves a more prominent place in this university's Physical Education program," could be supported as follows:
Original Subject: an important issue in my major field
Focused Topic: drug education for college physical education majors
Thesis: Drug education deserves a more prominent place in this university's Physical Education program.
Reason 1: Athletes are especially likely to be victims of drug abuse.
Reason 2: The university presently offers very little instruction in this area.
Reason 3: As coaches and health education teachers our graduates will be in a good position to pass the knowledge along to their team members and students.
7.4 For each thesis statement you wrote in Activity 7.3, list at least three good reasons you can offer in support. Be sure each reason is stated as a complete sentence. Next write each Thesis/Support Group out in the format shown above and exchange with a partner. Discuss them. Which ones are most promising? Which are least promising? Why?
7.5 Of the four groups of sentences (two for you and two for your partner) select one group to share and discuss with the whole class. This need not be your best group. It could be one that puzzles you, one you and your partner disagree about, or one you just can't get straightened out.
7.6 Study the following groups of sentences. Which ones offer promise for further development? Which don't? Pay special attention to the quality of the thesis sentence. Also note whether the supporting reasons really do support the main idea.
a. Thesis: Boa Constrictors can be very educational pets.
Reason one: They teach responsibility.
Reason two: They come from South America.
Reason three: Their owners will learn many facts about reptiles.
b. Thesis: Taco Pronto restaurants sacrifice individuality for efficiency.
Reason one: Different restaurants within the chain are almost identical in layout and design.
Reason two: Individuality is valued very highly by most Americans.
Reason three: Menus are planned with an eye toward standardization and uniformity.
c. Thesis: Elementary school is very important.
Reason one: Almost every neighborhood in the United States has an elementary school.
Reason two: Without an elementary school education you would have trouble in junior high.
Reason three: Elementary school teaches children many important social lessons.
d. Thesis: Spring is the greatest season of the year.
Reason one: Baseball season starts.
Reason two: Everything turns green.
Reason three: The whole world is in love.
e. Thesis: The Subaru is made in Japan.
Reason one: It is a very reliable automobile.
Reason two: It gets good gas mileage.
Reason three: It is inexpensive to purchase.
A Skeleton Essay
You may have realized that each "good reason," each support sentence, is like a miniature thesis statement. It, too, is a claim that requires support to be convincing. And the next step is to see how each support sentence might be opened and developed into a solid, detailed paragraph. Look back over your notes, scour your memory, and squeeze your imagination to discover what kinds of facts, details, examples, and illustrations you can offer to help your reader understand your ideas and see the reasoning they are founded on. Consider your support sentences one at a time and think of how you can help your reader see the specifics that have led you to make these assertions.
In your essay, these support sentences will act as topic sentences which state the controlling idea of each paragraph, and a topic sentence, because it's so much like a thesis statement, can be opened and developed in much the same way. Consider the following example:
Skeleton Essay: An Example
|Thesis: Lucille Kooch is an outstanding high school biology teacher.|
|Reason 1: She knows the material well.||Reason 2: Her course covers a large amount of material.||Reason 3: She motivates her students to learn.|
|Reason 1.1: She seldom needs notes to lecture.||Reason 2.1: She covers ecology.||Reason 3.1: She is entertaining.|
|Reason 1.2: She gives thorough, in-depth answers to all questions.||Reason 2.2: She covers taxonomy.||Reason 3.2: She is demanding but fair.|
|Reason 1.3: She has a doctorate in biology.||Reason 2.3: She covers microbiology.||Reason 3.3: She stresses practical application of the material.|
While these thirteen sentences alone don't fully develop the central idea, they do provide a framework for that development.
They are a "skeleton essay" which allows you to see how the various parts of your paper relate to your thesis. Much like an outline, they can help you move ahead in your writing with the security and assurance that come from having an overall plan.
You don't need to list three or four sentences under each topic sentence, but since these sentences will guide you in developing your paragraphs, you'll want as many as seem reasonable. If you can't come up with at least one or two such guide sentences in support of a topic sentence, you should question whether you'll be able to write a solid paragraph on the idea. You might need to rethink and reword the topic sentence so that it offers more room for expansion.
7.7 Take the best thesis statement you've generated so far and write out a skeleton essay that contains topic sentences and guide sentences for each paragraph. Exchange this skeleton essay with a partner and discuss your progress. As you discuss the papers, pay special attention to whether you can imagine a clear, fully developed essay growing out of what you see. What points need further clarification and support? What points are starting to look especially strong and convincing?
Developing Your Paragraphs
Your topic sentences indicate the major areas of support for your thesis, and the guide sentences indicate the general course of development you plan to take within each paragraph. Still, the job of composing your paper is far from complete. While you've opened up your main idea to expose its parts, you have yet to get down to giving the specifics, the precise details that will help your reader feel the full weight of your thought. You must show the foundation of specific evidence that your general ideas are built upon. The following suggestions for paragraph development will help you coax forth the details that will make your writing solid and substantial.
Give an Example
Notice how often a paragraph will say, in the second or third sentence, "for instance" or "for example." This is the writer's way of introducing you to a typical instance, an actual incident or object that will serve as a proof or illustration of the point under discussion. Sometimes the example will take the form of a brief physical description:
I can still remember her imitation of a frog. Puffing out her cheeks and hopping around the room, she almost seemed to become one as she croaked out a mating call.
Other times it may take the form of a story:
Once I'd been suspended from school for a minor infraction, which I won't go into here, and she still wanted me to turn in my tree project, but would give me no credit for it. Even so, I turned it in, doing an extra good job, and she somehow managed to give me a B for that grading period.
Either way, an example is an excellent way to get readers involved. An example allows readers to see, to touch, to hear, to taste, and to feel some of the actual stuff your thoughts are made of.
Examples are also easy to fold into your paper. You can often slip a brief example in between two guide sentences in your skeleton essay, or you can sometimes use one or two extended examples to develop a whole paragraph.
7.8 Illustrate each of the following statements with a short narrative or descriptive example.
a. Dan tends to be messy.
b. The furniture was quite uncomfortable.
c. My street needs to be repaved.
d. The food looks unappetizing.
e. The trees were diseased.
7.9 Fold a brief example between two of the guide sentences in your skeleton essay.
Reason 3.2: She is demanding but fair. Details: Once I had been suspended from school for a minor infraction, which I won't go into here, and she still wanted me to turn in my tree project, but would give me no credit for it. Even so, I turned it in, doing an extra good job, and she somehow managed to give me a B for that period. Reason 3.3: She stresses practical application of the material.
Offer an Explanation
Sometimes a point made in your thesis sentence, a topic sentence or a guide sentence will need further elaboration and clarification. That is, the reader may pick up the general outline of what you're saying, but a second sentence or two may be needed before the full meaning comes across. The first two sentences of this paragraph work like that. The second one explains the first, and the next two (including this one) carry the process even further. Each sentence, after looking back at the previous one to see if it tells the whole story with perfect clarity, goes on to fill in the gaps and make the meaning more precise.
This kind of development offers refinement of your general principles. It's not unusual, therefore, to see a topic sentence followed by a brief explanation, followed by an example or illustration:
She covers taxonomy. We studied Thomas Linnaeus and his system of binomial nomenclature, learning the reasons for the system as well as the basic principles of operation, and we learned how to classify specific species by careful observation of their identifying characteristics.
Not every topic sentence or guide sentence needs further explanation, but if you've used any words that readers might have trouble with, or if you feel your readers might get only a rough idea of your real point, you could probably use a sentence or two of clarification and elaboration.
7.10 Add a brief explanatory comment to make the meaning of each of the following sentences more clear.
a. Shelley is an easy person to be with.
b. Our house can get cold in the winter.
c. This watch is quite valuable.
d. The park is dangerous at night.
e. The new prices were more reasonable.
7.11 Find a sentence in your skeleton essay that could use some clarification. Add to it a sentence or two of explanation. If possible, follow the explanation with an example.
Make a Comparison or a Contrast
Seeing an object or idea alongside similar one directs our attention to points of likeness and difference. This gives us a better idea of their distinctive and shared features. Thus, we can give a more exact understanding of what an elk is like by showing how it differs from a deer or a moose than by simply describing the elk in isolation. The thoroughness of the comparison depends upon our purpose in making it. Sometimes just a passing reference will be enough:
Ice slabs floated on the river like scattered pieces of a child's jigsaw puzzle.
Other times you may want to be more thorough, devoting a full paragraph to the comparison. Either way, you need to look for definite points of correspondence and difference. These are the foundation of your comparison.
In an extended comparison, you can use these points as a basis of organization (point by point structure), moving back and forth from one item to another. Or you can discuss one item fully and then discuss the second (item by item structure), being careful to cover the same points for each. These two patterns are illustrated below:
Point by Point Structure
Point 1: item A, item B
Point 2: item A, item B
Point 3: item A, item B
Point 4: item A, item B
Item by Item Structure
Item A: point 1, point 2, point 3, point 4
Item B: point 1, point 2, point 3, point 4
Either pattern will work although their effects are different. Point by point emphasizes specific features. Item by item emphasizes the the items as wholes. Whichever pattern you select, be sure to keep your attention, and your reader's, on specific features that provide a basis for comparison.
7.12 Use comparison or contrast to develop two of the following sentences. Use point by point organization for one and item by item for the other.
a. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing have much the same appeal.
b. My own vegetable soup is not at all like the canned variety.
c. Bicycles and motorcycles are not so different as you might think.
d. Ants and humans have more in common than most people realize.
e. Seeing a movie in a theatre is totally different from seeing it on television.
7.13 Look over the skeleton essay you've been working on and see if you can find a spot where you could use comparison to develop your ideas.
Present the Facts
Facts are an especially useful kind of development. Like examples, they let readers see the concrete particulars your ideas are built on. If your readers know your thoughts are drawn from careful and detailed observation of reality, they'll more likely take those thoughts seriously than they would mere opinion. Two valuable kinds of details are facts and statistics.
When you use facts and statistics, be sure they're accurate and that your reader can verify their accuracy by consulting your sources or other independant sources. Nothing will destroy your credibility faster than a reader's belief that you're intentionally or inintentionally distorting the facts. For a fuller discussion of the purposes and methods of documentation, see Documenting Your Sources. Often, as in the following example, an informal reference that clearly identifies your source of information will be adequate:
According to Bob Hull, the city's new recycling coordinator, 70% of all homes are participating in the new campaign, and this has resulted in a 30% reduction in the volume of waste received at the landfill.
If you're in doubt about whether informal or formal documentation is best, ask your teacher.
The thesis-support pattern refines and systematizes natural thought patterns. Besides offering an organizational framework for your writing, the thesis-support pattern can also serve as an aid to invention. It can help you probe your subject and uncover your thoughts about it. It can also help you see the reasons, experiences, observations, and judgments that underlie those thoughts.
The following process can help you produce effective expository essays on a wide variety of subjects assigned by another or chosen by yourself.
First: Restrict the scope of your subject by focusing on the particular part of it (your topic) that you know the most about and are most interested in.
Second: Make a clear, precisely worded, one sentence statement about your topic. This thesis statement should make an assertion that is not obviously true, but which you believe you can show to be true.
Third: State at least three or four "good reasons" for believing your thesis. These reasons will serve as the topic sentences for each paragraph in the body of your essay.
Fourth: Give two or three "good reasons" for believing each of your topic sentences. These sentences, which we have been calling guide sentences, will help you see a general direction of development for each paragraph.
Fifth: Develop your guide sentences with illustrative and supportive detail. Try using one or more of these traditional means of development: 1. Give an example. 2. Offer an explanation. 3. Make a comparison. 4. Supply the details.
After you've used the process a few times, it won't feel so stiff and mechanical as it might at first. As you get more comfortable, you'll modify the process to suit your own purposes and your composing style. That's good. But take your time. Don't shortcut or re-arrange the process until you're certain you know what you're doing and why.
Revising Your Thesis: The Thesis As Predictor
One major purpose of the thesis is to predict what will follow. It does this for both writer and reader. It provides the writer with purpose and direction throughout the composing process. For the reader it creates expectations about the form and content of what's to come, and the reader's satisfaction with the final essay will depend largely upon whether these expectations have been satisfied.
Still, while we want the thesis to set up expectations for the total paper, few of us are prophets. Because we don't know what we want to say until we discover it by writing, the original thesis is often only a hunch or hypothesis about where the paper will go. It isn't unusual for the sentence that started the paper growing to make a commitment the paper doesn't fully honor.
While writing, you may have grown to a new awareness of your subject, so that your original thesis now seems imprecise or misleading. If so, you need to re-state your thesis to take your new understanding into account.
Your revised thesis becomes a distillation of your entire paper, and because by now you've seen not just the general outline, but the main divisions and even the supporting details, you may want to include some of this in your thesis. For instance, "The major responsibility for preventing dental problems lies within you," might be revised as follows: "Learning a few basic skills and practicing them in a daily routine will help keep your dental problems to a minimum." The second thesis not only states the main idea more precisely but also forecasts the paper's main divisions and the order of discussion.
If you can write a single sentence that clearly indicates the relationship between the various parts of your paper, those parts probably fit together well. Seeing this, your reader will perceive your paper to be clear, unified, and well-organized.
7.14 Look back at one of the papers you have been working on to see if you can revise the thesis to more accurately reflect your paper's content and structure.
Introductions and Conclusions
The beginning and end of your essay are positions of high emphasis. They deserve careful attention. Keep them short and purposeful. Use them to create and satisfy expectations. Get into the habit of reading your introduction and conclusion together, with an eye toward revision, as one of the last stages in your writing process.
If you sometimes have trouble with introductions and conclusions, you may find the following suggestions useful.
First impressions are often lasting impressions. This is true in life, and especially in writing. Your readers' first judgments, even if mistaken, about the value of the topic, your skill as a writer, and your character as a person have a strong impact on their total response to your work.
If you get off to a good start, readers might have enough faith to stick with you through the rough spots, forgiving an occasional error or concentrating extra hard when you explain a complex idea. On the other hand, if readers don't see the importance of your topic or think you're uninformed, overly sentimental or sarcastic, they'll continue to hold those impressions until you prove them false. They may even set your paper aside unread.
It might be helpful, therefore, to think of your introduction as a first meeting between you and your readers. It's the occasion at which you take the first steps toward building a strong relationship, one that will last at least for the rest of the paper.
If you see your introduction this way, you'll see also that no single pattern or format can meet the demands of every writing situation. For this reason, the suggestions below should be regarded as exactly that--suggestions. In some situations they may not be helpful, but in others they may provide exactly the right approach for a particular purpose or reader.
Focus Your Reader's Attention
Just because readers are people, they have individual interests, viewpoints, preoccupations, and needs. Your memo on staff reorganization may come across your supervisor's desk just before an important luncheon meeting when she's hungry and a bit nervous. She may not have been thinking much about the idea you mentioned last week, and what she has been thinking may not have been in line with your thoughts.
In such a situation, you need to try seeing things from her point of view. You must reach beyond your personal perspective for the common ground you share. Having shown that you're sensitive to, and perhaps even share, the reader's needs, you'll be well poised to state your ideas.
Because this type of introduction gradually moves from a broad concern with general issues to a narrower range of interest stated in a thesis sentence, it's often referred to as a funnel. Notice how the following introduction focuses attention on the thesis.
During the past year our sales have grown well beyond the level projected in last April's report, A Regional Marketing and Sales Strategy. This success demonstrates that we have a good product, a strong marketing plan, and an effective sales force in the field. Now, as planning for the coming year begins, its time to consider how we can implement this strategy on a national level.
Begin With a Fact or Example
By now, you understand the importance of concrete, specific details in your paper's body. Details can also be excellent ways of opening and closing, as they give your reader a concrete,specific connection to the subject.
Last July, Duke, a four year old Labrador retriever, was dragged behind a pickup truck on a rope and left to die on the desert. Fortunately, he was found and taken to the Humane Society where his wounds were treated and he was gradually nursed back to health. Eventually, he was adopted by Bill and Linda, a young couple who say they couldn't imagine finding a better pet. Not all stories of animal abuse end as happily as Duke's, but the Humane Society works hard to help all animals in distress, and it deserves your support.
Note a Common Misconception
If your readers were fully informed on your subject, there wouldn't be much need for them to read your essay. So, whether their misconceptions are due to lack of information, failure to draw valid conclusions from factual information, or some other reason, it's often helpful to acknowledge misunderstandings at the start. In doing so, you show that you're aware of these views, and also demonstrate why your paper is important: to correct these mistaken ideas, to bring about better understanding.
When I first tell people that I grew up without a father, they often express sympathy. It's true that I never had a dad to play catch with or teach me to fish, but I played catch with friends and learned to fish on my own. Actually, I found that growing up in a single parent family has several advantages.
The sense of opposition generated by this type of introduction creates tension, and in doing so, sharpens and dramatizes your ideas.
Raise a Question
Explanations often begin as a result of trying to answer a question or solve a problem, and a thesis statement, especially in the early stages of writing, is often a tentative answer to a question that you want to explore. Why not share the question with your readers and invite them to join in the search for an answer?
Like many people my age, I limit my cholestoral intake, but recently I've learned that some cholestoral can actually be healthy for me. What exactly is cholestoral, and what does it do? How can I tell whether the cholestoral in a salmon steak is good or bad for me? To maintain a healthy blood cholestoral level, we should all understand what this chemical compound is and how it works in the human body.
Make a Bold Assertion
Another way of saying this might be: Go out on a limb. Take a risk. Of course, this approach can be overdone and can lead to exhibitionism and sensationalism, especially if you're writing on a subject that demands caution and moderation. In those situations, this "Look, ma! No Hands!" approach could be a disaster.
The new fall television lineups are out, and they look like the same old trash: more violence, more insipid sitcoms, more hackneyed plots and one-dimensional characters. This is mind pollution, pure and simple. The American people deserve better programming from the major networks.
7.15 Write three different introductory paragraphs for one of your essays. Exchange and discuss them with a partner. What are the strengths and weakness of each introduction?
Although some writers find them difficult, conclusions need not be a problem, especially if you've been working toward a goal throughout your essay. As you near the end of your paper, you might try asking a few fundamental questions. So what? What does all this finally have to do with anything, anyway? What would I most like my readers to take away from this essay? What do I hope they'll do now that they've read this? What are the last houghts I'd like to impart on their minds before we part company?
Often your own instincts will tell you what needs to be said, worked through, made clear, at the end. If you remember that endings are always a place of great emphasis, you won't leave your reader with a mere supporting fact from one of your subpoints. If your remember that part of your conclusion's purpose is to give a sense of finality and closure, you won't open up a new subject and leave your reader hanging.
Keeping such general principles in mind and also being careful you don't needlessly repeat material you've already discussed adequately, you should start getting a sense of how best to end your essay, and if you've done your job well, your reader should agree.
7.16 Write a short paragraph discussing the conclusion of one of your essays. Why did you end in this way? In what other ways did you consider ending? Why did you reject them? How do you feel about the ending you finally wound up with? Exchange your paragraph and the corresponding essay with a partner and discuss them.
In the course of writing your thesis, one of the first terms that you encounter is the word variable. Failure to understand the meaning and the usefulness of variables in your study will prevent you from doing good research. What then are variables and how do you use variables in your study? I explain the concept below with lots of examples on variables commonly used in research.
You may find it difficult to understand just what variables are in the context of research especially those that deal with quantitative data analysis. This initial difficulty about variables becomes much more confusing when you encounter the phrases “dependent variable” and “independent variable” as you go deeper in studying this important concept of research as well as statistics.
Understanding what variables mean is crucial in writing your thesis proposal because you will need these in constructing your conceptual framework and in analyzing the data that you have gathered. Therefore, it is a must that you should be able to grasp thoroughly the meaning of variables and ways on how to measure them. Yes, the variables should be measurable so that you will be able to use your data for statistical analysis.
I will strengthen your understanding by providing examples of phenomena and their corresponding variables below.
Definition of Variables and Examples
Variables are those simplified portions of the complex phenomena that you intend to study. The word variable is derived from the root word “vary”, meaning, changing in amount, volume, number, form, nature or type. These variables should be measurable, i.e., they can be counted or subjected to a scale.
The following examples of phenomena from a global to a local perspective. The corresponding list of variables is given to provide a clear illustration of how complex phenomena can be broken down into manageable pieces for better understanding and to subject the phenomena to research.
- Phenomenon: climate change
Examples of variables related to climate change:
- sea level
- the amount of carbon emission
- the amount of rainfall
- Phenomenon: Crime and violence in the streets
Examples of variables related to crime and violence:
- number of robberies
- number of attempted murders
- number of prisoners
- number of crime victims
- number of laws enforcers
- number of convictions
- number of car napping incidents
- Phenomenon: poor performance of students in college entrance exams
Examples of variables related to poor academic performance:
- entrance exam score
- number of hours devoted to studying
- student-teacher ratio
- number of students in the class
- educational attainment of teachers
- teaching style
- the distance of school from home
- number of hours devoted by parents in providing tutorial support
Examples of variables related to fish kill:
- dissolved oxygen
- water salinity
- age of fish
- presence or absence of parasites
- presence or absence of heavy metal
- stocking density
- Phenomenon: Poor crop growth
Examples of variables related to poor crop growth:
- the amount of nitrogen in the soil
- the amount of phosphorous in the soil
- the amount of potassium in the ground
- the amount of rainfall
- frequency of weeding
- type of soil
Notice in the above examples of variables that all of them can be counted or measured using a scale. The expected values derived from these variables will, therefore, be in terms of numbers, amount, category or type. Quantified variables allow statistical analysis. Variable correlations or differences are then determined.
Difference Between Independent and Dependent Variables
Which of the above examples of variables are the independent and the dependent variables? The independent variables are just those variables that may influence or affect the other variable, i.e., the dependent variable.
For example, in the first phenomenon of climate change, temperature (independent variable) may influence sea level (dependent variable). Increased temperature will cause expansion of water in the sea. Thus, sea level rise on a global scale may occur. In the second phenomenon, i.e., crime and violence in the streets, the independent variable may be the number of law enforcers and the dependent variable is the number of robberies.
I will leave to you the other variables so you can figure out how this works.
How will you know that one variable may cause the other to behave in a certain way? Finding the relationship between variables require a thoroughreview of the literature. Through a review of the relevant and reliable literature, you will be able to find out which variables influence the other variable. You do not just simply guess relationships between variables. The whole process is the essence of research.
At this point, I believe that the concept of the variable is now clear to you. Share this information to your peers who may have difficulty in understanding what the variables are in research.
©2012 October 22 P. A. Regoniel
Cite this article as: Regoniel, Patrick A. (October 22, 2012). What are Examples of Variables in Research?. In SimplyEducate.Me. Retrieved from http://simplyeducate.me/2012/10/22/what-are-examples-of-variables-in-research/
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