assignment 3-5: forming a sense of purpose and a working thesis

Due: Friday, October 21
Format: Please print the assignment on paper and bring it to class. Only one copy is required.
Length: A sentence (or two) for your working thesis and one healthy paragraph for your statement of purpose

For this assignment, review the DK Handbook pages 138-139 and pages 200-203. Then write a statement of purpose and a working thesis for your interpretive essay about “A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge.” Type and print your working thesis and statement of purpose and bring this paper to class on Friday. This assignment is not about Neufeld. Do not write about his purpose. You already did that in Assignment 3-3. For your statement of purpose, you should follow the directions on pages 200-203 in the DK Handbook, focusing on the bullet-pointed questions on page 202. If you are still confused, you could look at this student sample [RTF] of a statement of purpose written for an interpretation of “Back to the Land.”

You have already tried this assignment for your previous essay about “Back to the Land.” I won’t ask you to do this assignment again for your third essay, but I do want you to try it one more time now. As you might recall, a thesis statement for an essay is not the same as a purpose for writing. A thesis expresses (states explicitly as one or two sentences) the main idea or central claim of your essay. In contrast, your purpose is the motivation for writing your essay; it is not an explicit statement, but it works in the background to guide and control your analysis and what you want to say to your readers. As you develop your statement of purpose, you will be “thinking on paper” to get a clear sense of “what you really want your readers to think, feel, or do as they read your writing and when they are done reading it” (DK Handbook 200).

For example, if a student is protesting the construction of a Wal-Mart in her town, the thesis statement on her protest sign could be “Wal-Mart kills communities and destroys local businesses.” Her purpose is obvious, but it is unstated: She wants to prevent Wal-Mart from building a location in her town. Her purpose is also to generate media attention and join a crowd in protest. Thus, thesis statements and purposes are different.

Also keep in mind:

  • You should follow the guidelines in the DK Handbook, but your statement of purpose does not have to be as long as the example on page 203. It could be one longer paragraph or two healthy paragraphs.
  • You will not be making a “proposal for action” claim like the thesis in the example on page 139. Your thesis might be something like “In this comic, Neufeld uses x y z to show…” or “The placement of x and the contrast of y and z help Neufeld’s readers understand that…” or “The comic shows white readers the experiences of black Katrina victims through Neufeld’s use of x y z strategy.” (or whatever you want to say about the comic)
  • Look at this model for an evolving thesis statement [PDF]. You will see an example of a working thesis statement, and then you can see how this statement evolves as the writer presents evidence to complicate the initial claim. Your goal now is to simply write the working thesis statement, keeping in mind that the revised thesis statements will come later as you draft and evolve your essay and your thinking.