Chapter 3: The Full Three Storey Thesis
Congratulations! You are done the first draft of your two-storey thesis statement and are headed towards a second revision. One of the keys to revising your two-storey thesis at this stage is to remember that you are analyzing another author’s complex argument. You are not being asked to voice your own opinion on the author’s topic, nor make an argument that agrees or disagrees with the author’s stance on the topic. Rather, you are being asked to identify the best two specific words and phrases used by the author that most clearly point to their complex argument. Those two specific pieces of evidence are the evidence that you are using to then analyze the author’s complex argument in your own words. Let’s walk through the evaluation together.
In a two-storey thesis, it is essential to identify the author’s audience (i.e the very people the author hopes will read the article) and in which genre the author is working. Identifying the author’s intended audience is important because an author will use different vocabulary, sentence structure, and tone to argue to different groups of people; an author would argue differently, for example, if they were talking to a group of high school students in Toronto, Canada, than they would speaking to a group of senior citizens in Calgary, Canada. As well, knowing what type of document the author is creating, or the genre, will help you understand the conventions and discourse in which the author is participating. The same topic could be discussed in a newspaper article or a magazine editorial or an academic journal article, but the language and presentation will be markedly different across these publications.
You can then use the understanding of the author’s audience and genre to focus more tightly on the author’s argument. Remember: you are not reconstructing the author’s entire argument. Instead, you are writing a short essay that examines what you believe to be one of the more important arguments the author makes. To this end, you should focus on the two best pieces of evidence in support of this selected argumentative path. As this level, your reader generally knows there are many different ways to interpret an author’s work in an essay: your close reading should include two pieces of evidence that best support your interpretation of the author’s audience and genre. Rather than looking at the whole essay, you should focus on the one or two integral elements that you think offer the best evidence for your reconstruction of one of the author’s focused arguments. Your two-storey thesis statement must propose an examination of the purpose and function of the author’s essay; stating your opinion of the author’s subject is not the goal of a close reading. Rather, your thesis should combine the components of audience, genre, and evidence to produce your focused and unique examination of the author’s particular argument.
First Storey: Evidence/Observations
This section asks you to examine the first storey of your two-storey thesis statement a bit more closely.
You can not put your finger on a whole sentence or paragraph, nor can you put your finger on statements like “the author’s example of…” or on general comments about the author’s tone. In a close reading, your two pieces of evidence should be two or three words or phrases and you should use them as direct quotes (that is, they should have “quotation marks” around them to indicate that they are the author’s words and not yours).
This section also asks you to consider the connotative value of the words and phrases that you have selected. Denotative meaning is the literal definition of a word or phrase; connotative meaning is the implied or suggested feeling or meaning attached to the word or phrase. Denotative and connotative are not polar opposites; both work together to expand the value of a word or phrase. For example, a rose has a very specific denotation related to the phylum of plant it belongs to; however, it has connotations of love, organic growth, and beauty. When reconstructing an author’s complex argument, you want to choose words or phrases from the author’s essay that have the most connotative richness that you can find.
Does each piece of your evidence add a different portion of the author’s complex argument to your thesis?
Second Storey: Argument
This section examines whether your own arguments or opinions are clouding your close reading. You must make sure that the second storey proposes an analytical examination of the author’s argument in your own words and is not a declaration of your opinions on the author’s subject matter. This is done by ensuring your controversial claim is an analytical response to the evidence you have identified. Focusing on the evidence from the text ensures you are focused on the author’s argument and not your own. You need to identify the author’s argument, via your interpretation of the text, in your own words, but you need to do so in such a way that you give the author’s argument enough time and space to be complex. As mentioned in Chapter 2, it will usually take more than a few words to capture the author’s argument, so do not be afraid to make your thesis statement into two sentences. The author’s argument is complex and therefore your proposed examination of that argument should also be complex!
There are some simple checks you can do to make sure you are using university-level language to reconstruct the author’s argument. The Style section of the evaluation asks you to consider your choice of words and phrases. While “I” might be an effective rhetorical device to make your own argument, it is not effective in a scholarly close reading because the focus should be on analyzing the author’s argument. Phrases such as “I think…” or “I believe…” are not just unwarranted, they are redundant. There is no need to state such a fact—of course you think and believe what you wrote!
The use of “we,” “our,” and “us” is simply too broad in this context—the reader has no sense of who is being represented by these general pronouns. If you are struggling with this, revisit your identification of the author’s potential audience, and refer to this audience by name.
We, along with our past students, compiled a list of words that are most often too broad to use in a university-level essay, named the Control-F List, opens new window. When reviewing your thesis, and your essay, you should use the “Find” function in your word processor (i.e. press Ctrl-F) and search for words like “society” and “people.” Often when you use words on the Ctrl-F list, you are using the broad term when you actually mean something far more specific. Authors are rarely discussing a group as broad as “people” but are likely focused on a more specific set of individuals—like, “female first-year university students in Canada,” for example. It is extremely useful to get in the habit of saying what you actually mean and using specific and precise language. Using the Ctrl-F list of broad words makes sure that you are analyzing the specific topic and argument that the author is discussing. If you are struggling with the Ctrl-F list, go back to the original text. Instead of using the generic term “society,” identify the specific group of people the author is addressing or examining. Instead of using the generic term “technology,” identify the specific hardware or software the author is discussing.