Mr. McMahand


English Composition



Building a Critical Analysis


Thesis Statements


Several components comprise the making of a useful, provocative thesis statement. 


First, before writing the thesis, be sure that you have read the source essay carefully and thoughtfully and that you have a clear understanding of both the main and supporting claims as well as the smaller, finer nuances that encompass the work.


Second, prior to composition, determine which main and auxiliary ideas from the source text to explore in your analysis.  Some essays are richer, more complex than others; therefore, your selection of a focus may well prove critical in the overall caliber and effectiveness of your analysis.


Third, your thesis must be argumentative in that it poses for the reader an interpretation of the source text.  You are primarily breaking down the author’s ideas, but also her underlying assumptions, as well as the verbal design and structure of those ideas.  Throughout your paper, you will examine the writer’s use of examples, external quotations, and, where appropriate, the use of language.


Fourth, make your thesis imaginative, creative in its reach.  You do not want to state the obvious.  Here is an example:  Jack Shaheen argues that the media has systemically propagated negative images of Arabs and Arab Americans.  Now this statement would work just fine as the first sentence of an introductory paragraph.  However, to rest your central thought here would hardly address the keener erudition lurking behind the author’s overall theme or the strategic plan by which he pursues his thematic goal.  Here is a second example, one more befitting your level of abilities:  Shaheen’s critique of stereotypes casts a rather wide net, encompassing images from wrestling to television sit-coms.  Were Shaheen, however, to concentrate on the effect of evening news broadcasts, his piece might gain greater authorial power and a deeper display of detail. 


Finally, notice that the second thesis example contains a tight control of the subject matter with even a mention of specific images from the essay; it also judges Shaheen’s writing, suggesting ways in which it might hold greater impact.  (And yes, your thesis needn’t be one sentence.  You may use two, if necessary).  And so, your thesis should draw on seminal moments of the text as well as posit a critique of the source text, either its ideas or the way they come together. 





The Body


Introductory Paragraph: 

Provide the author’s name, the title of the source text, its general argument,

and your thesis




In the space of a paragraph—no more than two paragraphs— you should summarize the important claims and evidence from the source text.  You should include a review of the writer’s examples, quotes from outside sources, etc., using this material as a springboard for your analysis.

Suggestion:  Use transitions between all paragraphs and within paragraphs.

Suggestion:  Use sentences with phrases that credit the author with his or her ideas.  For example:  Foucault suggests…  According to Lekfkowitz …  The notion of a “split national imaginary,” to borrow Said’s phraseology, …         




In this space, you really begin to divide and support your thesis statement.  You want to draw your topic sentences from the thesis statement, looking at different sections of the source text through the prism of your thesis.  Everything in your analysis should gesture back to your thesis statement.  Devote the greater part of your essay to the analysis, and try not to fall into the trap of simply rewriting the source text with a summary of its main and minor ideas. 

Suggestion:  Use critical verbs and verbal phrases to show your interpretive understanding of what the author is saying and how he or she is saying it.  Example:  Jennings collapses several prejudices into his scathing appraisal of the American Dream, which he re-imagines from the vantage point of a sexual outsider.

Suggestion: Keep your ideas separate from the ideas of the author. 

Suggestion: Apply your knowledge of key concepts (cultural mimicry/ Crab theory, etc.) to your discussion of the source text.    



Make your conclusion interesting, not merely compulsory.  Restate your thesis but in different language, not a cut and paste from the introduction.  To keep your prose vibrant and interesting, you may also choose to lodge a minor new point in the conclusion, a prediction, a call for further analysis, etc.   



General Suggestions:

Follow the correct MLA format.

Pay attention to your grammar and style during the editing process.