Build-a-Paragraph Workshop


Topic Sentences, like the thesis, offer arguable claims.

Here are some protocols:

?           It must be speculative (it necessitates further discussion/argument)

?           It should involve a certain complexity; it cannot be obvious (i.e., restating plot)

?           It must be specific (avoid broad and vague statements—“McCandless’s philosophy of individualism teaches us overcome many struggles” or “Krakauer’s work deals with many life questions”).

?           It must connect to the central driving analytical claim: the thesis.


Observations: An empirical or practical observation about the text that is obvious, conclusive and not debatable. Generally, observations recap the “what” of a text: what the author says or believes, what happens, so forth, writing that lends more to summary than analytical development.


Claims: Claims are theoretical statements (derived from a hypothesis or driving theoretical question) that are debatable, matters of interpretation, and therefore require justification and elaboration. It is your job to convince readers of the legitimacy of your claim / driving theoretical idea (presented as the thesis).


Part 1 Exercise: Determine which of the statements are claims and which are merely factual observations.


  1. Tolstoy’s extract, invoked as an epigraph in Into The Wild, brings to the reader’s attention the word wild.
  2. The “wild” is not just a literal place. Indeed, as Krakauer shows, it points to a metaphorical wildness in the heart of man, our deep-seated desire to experience some power greater than ourselves.
  3. Chris McCandless’s new name Alexander Supertramp signifies his deep inner longing to escape the constraints of society and the “rules” that restrict freedom of individual choice.
  4. Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild tells the story of a young man who had everything one might want—intelligence, education, money—and throws it away.
  5. One of the reasons Chris McCandless is attracted to “the wild” is because he associates it as a place for freedom and anarchy, a place where rules do not apply.
  6. The bus on Stampede Trail speaks to America’s imperialist mythology of conquest and ownership, mankind’s often futile attempts to leave an indelible mark on nature and to possess the land.
  7. In his work, Krakauer explores the tension between McCandless and his father.
  8. Chris McCandless rejects the bourgeoise values of a capitalist American society that overly values material belongings.


Part 2 Exercise: Identify a claim (one you find compelling and interesting) as the basis of a topic sentence for a paragraph. Select three illustrations from the text (in the form of direct quotations and specific page numbers) that assist your claim. Keep in mind that all textual support should 1) connect to the topic sentence claim and 2) offer fruitful avenues for analysis.


Part 3 Exercise: Raise three (3) theoretical questions that can be asked of these illustrations that will lead to compelling analysis and interpretive substance. Hint: Asking “how,” “why” and “so what” questions always lead to analysis.



Take-Home Quiz: Revise at least one body paragraph from Essay 1 by Friday 5th. When completed, provide a full paragraph (at least 8 sentences) in which you evaluate the changes you made to the paragraph. Why did you make these changes? What have you learned from this process? Submit your quiz to EMMA no later than 1:00 for a formal grade. Save it as Students last name_Paragraph Revised. Upload it as Essay 1 and Postwrite. Please also provide peer access to your entry.