Your guide to writing a Literature thesis

How to Write a Literature Thesis

Imagine writing an essay is the same as building a home. A good literature thesis is your foundation. Therefore, understanding what makes your thesis strong and innovative is essential. If a reader’s first reaction to the thesis is, “Big Deal,” then you have not done a sufficient job. A good literature thesis hooks the reader, keeps the argument open for debate, and presents the structural idea of your essay. So how do you do that?

Hooking the Reader

The best hooks give the reader an image to latch onto, avoid generalizations, and are written in the active voice.

Look at this example:

Revolutionary Road, written in the 1950’s, tells the story of an unhappy suburban couple and remains the best book ever written.

As you probably guessed, this is a poor literature thesis and does little in the way of a hook. By using the passive voice, “…written in the 1950’s,” generalizing, “… remains the best book ever written,” and failing to present an image, the writing seems flat and uninspired. Now try this:

Richard Yeats’ Revolutionary Road tells the story of a young couple who decide to trade white picket fences for the Parisian life of artistry and freedom.

In the above example, only the active voice is used, thus establishing authority. The image of white picket fences stands in for the word “suburban,” creating an image many readers can associate with. Lastly, when you avoid generalizations, your reader can decide for himself how he feels without your telling him it’s the best book on the planet. Which brings us to:

Keeping it Open for Debate

Do you like it when people tell you how to think? Who does? Avoiding hasty generalizations and fallacious arguments will help make your Literature Thesis stronger and less didactic. For a comprehensive list of typical fallacies, you should visit:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacies

Also, avoiding certain words that writers tend to generalize with might help. Some of these words include: Superlative adjectives (the biggest, the best), most adverbs (always, never, actually, literally), and extreme quantifiers (all, none).

Presenting the Structural Idea of Your Essay

By the time most students enter University, they’ve been well schooled in the three-paragraph essay structure. When using this structure, writers often state the three paragraphs to follow in their literature thesis. For example:

William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” explores the human tendencies toward repression, closed-mindedness, and alienation.

In the three-paragraph essay structure, a paragraph focusing on repression, closed-mindedness and alienation might follow. While this is a tried and true method, your job is far from finished. Your word choices and similes ought to connect with these three ideas. For instance, think of words and images connected with alienation and weave them in throughout your essay. Some examples might include: solely, alone, disconnected, or severed. You can use these words when appropriate, and they will add to the themes and unity of your literature essay. If your essay is a home, your literature thesis is the foundation. Once your foundation is solid, it’s time to start designing and decorating.

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