ENGL079 Week 3 Lecture

Structure of Academic Writing Part 1

Introductions and Thesis Statements

The introduction in a formal academic essay can be thought of as a triangle or funnel: It starts with a broad focus, it establishes the topic in general terms, then the focus narrows. It ends in a thesis statement, which clarifies the key points (or arguments) on which the essay will focus.

Here’s an example of an essay introduction:

“Design” is a broad term, especially when discussing interior design. Many elements contribute to effective interior design. Three of the most important elements are unity, focal point, and balance.

Do you see that the introduction opens with a broad focus? (’Design is a broad term.’) But the introduction ends with a specific point. ('Three of the most important elements are unity, focal point, and balance.')

The specific point at the end of the introduction is the thesis statement.

Thesis Statements

In academic writing, introductions must include thesis statements. A thesis statement lays the foundation for the rest of an essay. It clarifies a writer’s key point or points. Often it is the last sentence in an introduction.

Consider the introduction above. It introduces 'design' at the start. Then it narrows focus to three aspects of interior design. Therefore, an essay built from this intro should contain body paragraphs that detail the three elements of effective design.

In general, information in thesis statements helps determine the content and structure for the rest of an essay. A thesis statement indicates an essay’s:

1. Focus
It answers what the essay is about.

2. Purpose
It answers why the essay has been written. That may be to persuade, explain, or compare and contrast, for examples.

The example thesis statement here clarifies that the essay would detail three elements of effective interior design, since that is the focus. The essay’s overall purpose is to explain.

(Note that in higher-level courses, you will write essays that must persuade readers.)

Relationships Between Body Paragraphs and Thesis Statements

A thesis statement sets readers' expectations for what body paragraphs will discuss. Consider this thesis statement, for example:

Three of the most important elements are unity, focal point, and balance.

Based on the thesis statement, body paragraphs should discuss three elements of interior design. For example, the first body paragraph might elaborate on the element of unity in effective interior design. The second body paragraph could explain the concept of a focal point. Then the third would address balance. Please note: the order in which you state your ideas in the thesis statement dictates the order in which you write your body paragraphs. The first idea should be the topic of your first body paragraph, while the second idea should be the topic of your second body paragraph, etc.

In a body paragraph, a writer explains and develops a key idea from a thesis statement or introduction. Developing these key ideas requires body paragraphs to contain examples, details, and/or research intended to help the reader understand the point you are making. The details should support the idea you stated in your thesis statement and help the reader remember what your overall point is. All the writing in your essay should reference the reader back to your thesis. This helps the reader stay focused and remember your main point.