The Writing Continuum While it may be tempting to think of the writing done for paper one as completely unrelated to any other writing you’ll do at GT, think of all types of prose falling onto a “writing continuum.”
On one end of the continuum, we have “open form” prose. Open form Narrative-based prose This side of the continuum is less concerned with getting a specific point across as much as it is with sharing an event or experience, conveying an emotion, telling a story, etc.
On the other end of the continuum, we have “closed form” prose. Closed form Open form Thesis-driven prose This side of the continuum is more concerned with delivering a point and proving that point through research, evidence, logical arguments etc. All points in closed-form prose directly advance central thesis. This prose is very rigidly structured. (Ex. “There are three reasons why windpower is untenable: A, B, and C.” One paragraph is dedicated to each of these three reasons.)
Most forms of writing fall somewhere in between these two extremes on the continuum. Closed Implied thesisprose Open Sometimes writers imply a thesis/argument. The persuasive purpose of the paper is still there, but the position the author is trying to convince her or his audience of is not explicitly stated, and may often be complex.
Authors chose their form based on their purpose for writing, their choice of topic/type of argument, and the audience whom the author imagines is going to read the text. Closed Delayed thesis Implied thesis Open When authors employ a delayed thesis style, the thesis statement is still made explicit for the reader, but is not stated until after some if not all of the evidence has been presented. Authors chose this form for very controversial topics or if they imagine a very skeptical audience.
Where would you place the essays we’ve read thus far this semester? • Davis? • Poole? • Roundtable discussion?
You’ll note that what seemed to be the defining element for the essay type was the thesis statement. What is a thesis? Is it all that different from a topic? What is a thesis statement supposed to do? Where should it go?
Let’s have a running definition of a thesis statement. A thesis statement • is an answer to a question we know to be both problematic and significant. (This is why paper 1 is so important-- one long exercise in practicing the work necessary to create a thesis statement.) • takes risks in that people could disagree with it or that it could be proven wrong. • creates tension in that it surprises and simultaneously challenges the reader with a thought they might not have considered. • when given early in the essay forecasts the direction for the rest of the document and lets readers know what to expect.
What is the difference between a topic and a thesis? While a topic also might forecast the direction for the rest of the document, topics do not take risks because they do not engender disagreement. Also, while topics may hint at surprising information, they do little to create tension if they do not show how that new info changes how a given idea should be viewed.
How can we take these following statements that do not take risks and turn them in to strong thesis statements? • The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was an event that altered the US space program. • The advent of locomotive technology had a big impact on American culture. • There are some good and bad things about credit cards. • There are many reasons why local governments are deciding to add bicycle lanes to their roads.
Although the Challenger disaster was a horrible event that saddened an entire nation, the lessons learned from NASA’s mistakes in the incident have proved valuable. • Although many people would readily admit that the locomotive was an invention that brought more regions of America together in closer contact, research suggests that it had a devastating impact within those communities themselves. • While seemingly everyone in the US has demonstrated a preference for spending on credit versus using hard currency in business transactions , research shows that this enthusiastic trust in credit systems as a means of payment is unwarranted.
Note that each one of these examples employs a “surprising reversal” formula • creates tension by invoking a “common view” or “innocuous view” within itself. • hints at how it plans on expanding that common view • could be proven wrong. The reader won’t know for sure until the evidence has been presented.