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6.2 Testing a Thesis

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand why you should test your thesis.
  2. Use questions to test a thesis.

Now that you have formed your working thesis, you are ready to test it. The purpose of the test is to satisfy yourself that your thesis will work well. To test your satisfaction, answer the following questions. Read the tips if you need some help answering the questions.

Questions

Question #1: Is your proposed thesis interesting?

Tip: When you read the thesis statement, do you find yourself wondering about different aspects of the topic? In other words, do you want to know the answer to the thesis question? Do you think others will also want to know?

Question #2: Is your proposed thesis arguable?

Tip: If you are writing an argumentative essay and developing a thesis for a topic that is controversial, make sure you can also formulate in your head what the thesis for “the other side” would sound like.

Question #3: Is your proposed thesis specific enough?

Tip: Make certain that your thesis addresses a specific point about a specific person, place, idea, or situation. Do not proceed with vague wording, such as “all over the world,” “many people,” or “will cause problems.” Avoid relying too much on qualitative, superlative, or hyperbolic language, such as excellent, awesome, interesting, sad, or silly. Such words do not carry any concrete meaning.

Question #4: Is your proposed thesis manageable?

Tip: If you would have to research for two solid months to cover the breadth of the thesis, it is not suitable for a five-page paper. On the other hand, if a reader can understand the whole point simply by reading the thesis, the thesis is not suitable.

Question #5: Is your proposed thesis researchable?

Tip: Make sure you are confident that you will be able to find the information you need. Proceeding when you think you will have trouble finding enough information can cost you a lot of time if you come to a point where you think you have to start over.

Question #6: Is your proposed thesis significant to you and others?

Tip: If you choose a thesis that you care deeply about, others are likely to also find it significant. After you determine that your thesis is something about which you care deeply, you should double-check that your desired audience will also care.

After you have chosen a topic and a thesis and have begun work on the essay, you will be invested in your idea, so it won’t be as easy to answer these questions objectively. But doing so early on is worth the effort since the process will likely result in a more successful essay in the long run.

Key Takeaways

  • You should test your thesis for your satisfaction that your thesis will work well.
  • To test a thesis, you need to ask questions to determine whether it is sufficiently interesting, arguable, specific, manageable, researchable, and significant.
  • The thesis-testing process requires effort but will likely result in your satisfaction and a more successful essay.

Exercise

Each of the following six thesis-testing questions is followed by two sample theses. In each case, choose the thesis for which the answer to the question is “yes.” Explain why the option that wasn’t chosen does not receive a “yes” answer.

  1. Is your proposed thesis interesting?

    1. Textbooks are unpleasant to read.
    2. Students who have a steady love interest in college tend to receive higher grades.
  2. Is your proposed thesis arguable?

    1. America’s foreign policy in the Balkans from 1991 to the present has had a stabilizing influence in the region.
    2. The world would be a better place if we would just give peace a chance.
  3. Is your proposed thesis specific?

    1. American toddlers who live with small pet dogs are more comfortable playing by themselves without the attention of a playmate or parent.
    2. Girls who marry young have lifelong self-esteem problems.
  4. Is your proposed thesis manageable?

    1. Native Americans in North America want to maintain old customs.
    2. Music can actually provide a helpful studying background for some students.
  5. Is your proposed thesis researchable?

    1. Milk chocolate doesn’t taste as good as it did when I was a kid.
    2. Costa Rica’s declining cacao crop over the last twenty years has been caused by several factors: climate change, natural disasters, and a changing workforce.
  6. Is your proposed thesis significant?

    1. Reality television and social networking sites have contributed to changes in how eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds view their own privacy.
    2. Television provides an inexpensive and meaningful form of entertainment.