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Writing a Thesis Statement

The following is a sort of “advice column” from the Writing Center that gives some writing tips for academic papers.

In high school you might have learned to write essays with five paragraphs: one to introduce your thesis, three to argue it, and one to conclude it. Writing at the collegiate level, however, rarely allows for such a rigid formula. Depending on the complexity and depth of your assignment, you might have to provide more than just evidence for your thesis. You may have to contextualize it, challenge its counterarguments, offer solutions—things that could employ any number of paragraphs, not just five.

A strong thesis can help you avoid formulaic writing and effectively communicate with your audience. The more you learn about the purpose, definition, and technique of thesis statements, the stronger your theses will become, and the more your subsequent skills of organization, technique, and style will improve.

A thesis defines the scope of a piece of writing, the limits of what material your work will cover. It helps readers understand what to look for as they read, and it can help keep you from digressing as you write. Additionally, a thesis gives the writing energy, a sense of forward motion, which captivates your readers and leads them through each paragraph to the conclusion.

Your job in researching a topic is to compile observations, which are deductive statements about the facts that you discover. You may conclude something like:

“Julius Caesar was a tyrant.”

While this opinion is useful in beginning your writing, it’s difficult to sustain strong academic writing on such a one-dimensional idea. A strong thesis combines observations with perspective. As you collect your observations, ask yourself what factors might have caused the conditions of your observation or what implications your observation might lead to. You might posit something like

“Julius Caesar’s experience in the military cultured his tyrannical behavior.”

A perspective like this adds dimension to your writing, which will ultimately make it more reasonable and engaging.

Strong theses also employ concrete words, which reference particular, explicit ideas. Words like “Julius Caesar,” “aggressive,” “establishment,” and “dictator” are specific enough to form a coherent concept and keep your reader from getting confused. With more concrete words, a thesis might look something like this:

“Julius Caesar’s aggressive leadership at the Battle of Alesia led to his establishment as a dictator.”

Try to think of your thesis from an unbiased perspective. Have you considered all the implications of your argument? What would someone who disagrees with you have to say? The strongest theses do not ignore their counterarguments, but confront them openly. They inspire opposing points of discussion, rather than put them down.

Developing these advanced strategies might seem overwhelming, but practicing them as much as you can will improve your writing in the long run. If you ever need help, come talk to a Writing Center tutor.

Sam Lund

I’m a social media fiend, an introverted people person, a wanna-be foodie, a college cheerleader, and I’m an English Major.

Sam, Lund

Sadly, not an Oprah gif.

Some people may think that being a cheerleader and an English major is contradictory. How is it possible to be a quiet bookworm and yell like a crazy person in front of 60,000 people at the same time? To answer that question—I’m not sure. All I know is I love people and I love reading. That’s what brought me to English.

For me, the English major has been anything but burying my nose in dusty books (although I don’t mind brushing the cobwebs off an old friend now and again). In case you weren’t aware of what you are viewing, it’s called the Internet, and, contrary to popular belief, it’s not all cat videos and Oprah gifs. Everything I love about literature and English can be seen through the fresh and exciting lens of social media. And trust me; it’s not as contradictory as it sounds. Right now on social media, people are taking literature and making it new, interesting, and even more meaningful. I thrive on seeing my favorite works remixed online, and all the ways people interact with those texts and with other people.
It was here at BYU where not only I found (mush alert!) my husband, but I discovered that I could do many things I enjoy simultaneously. Thank goodness for the English major. And gooooooo Cougars!

One of my favorite books is The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon by Washington Irving.




Jessica Romrell

I am a reader, a writer, a tennis player, a violinist and I’m an English major.

Romrell, Jessica

Jessica Romrell

I am and always have been an avid reader. This began with my father buying me the Harry Potter books on CD. I spent many hours listening to those books, and since then I have loved reading. I love it so much, that I’m going to turn it into a profession. I am minoring in editing, and my dream is to become an editor or book reviewer for science fiction/fantasy novels.

One of my favorite books is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Experiences Abroad: The Wordsworth Trust

The following is a summary of our vice president’s, Shane Peterson, summer internship with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, U.K. If you have been on a study abroad trip, international internship, or travelled anywhere exciting, then please share your experiences with us by submitting to our website. If you are interested in applying for the Wordsworth Trust internship, then visit for more details.


This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a student intern for the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, U.K., which is situated in the beautiful Lake District National Park. The Trust maintains the museum of William Wordsworth, a famous Romantic Poet. During my stay at the Trust, I was able to give tours of Dove Cottage to tourists, guide people around the museum full of Wordsworth artifacts, work on research projects in the Jerwood Centre, help out at special events for the Trust like exhibit openings, and attend sections of the annual Wordsworth Conference. I was also able to help the head curator, Jeff Cowton, curate and create a gallery for a WWI exhibit coming this November and create a guide for future BYU interns coming to the Trust.

My favorite part of the whole experience was being apart of an even the Trust put on to commemorate the centenary of World War I. We hosted an event at the Jerwood Centre, where a local history group and the glee club read letters, recited poetry, and sang songs from the time period. Then, for attendees of the annual Wordsworth conference, we opened up the Cottage and only had candles lit inside, reenacting what it would have looked like during Wordsworth’s day. Then, at eleven o’clock, we put out all the lights in the Cottage, museum, and residential houses as part of a nationwide blackout to commemorate those who lost their lives in the war. It was surreal and wonderful just being there on this historic occasion, and I felt privileged to be apart of it.

In my spare time, I was able to read a lot of Wordsworth, learn some basic Japanese vocabulary, eat some real English fish and chips, and explore the surrounding lakes, fells, and footpaths in the Grasmere Valley. I also visited surrounding villages like Ambleside or Bowness-on-Windermere and see some famous tourist attractions in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle, the Cotswolds, and Oxford.

In all, this has been an incredible experience for me, and I hope to go back and see the Lakes again someday.



Tanner Schenewark

I’m an older brother, a Harvard Business School Enthusiast, and a classical music aficionado. And I’m an English Major.

Taylor Scheneweck

The Triumph of Life

I want to be a better reader and a better writer. That’s why I’m an English major. I believe that these two things are our best help during life’s quest, whatever that may be. My quest leads me variably in the direction of constitutional questions, for-profit philanthropy, and a great mortal purpose I haven’t completely discovered. I have a blog of my own writing, but it’s hidden: ) I’ve been published at least twice and questionably a third time, and would love to start my own business, as long as it’s fun and helps people. I discover myself through teaching.

One of my favorite books is John Henry Cardinal Newman’s The Idea of a University.




Hi, I’m Kate!

I’m a musician, a gamer, a fan of stormy weather, and a film lover. And I’m an English major.

Katie Neish

Me and my adorable husband.

For a long time I wanted to be a music major, but I ended up finding my true calling in English. When I was just three or four years old, I would pull my yellow wagon over to the bookshelf, pull every single book off and place it in the wagon, and “read” them for hours and hours. I suppose I should have seen my English major coming a long way off! In all seriousness, I love words, and I love learning how to use them. I like all kinds of writing, but I love that the skills I’m learning in the English program are applicable to almost everything else I do. Isn’t language wonderful?

One of my favorite books is Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Hi, I’m Kurt, son of Thor!

I’m a writer (burgeoning), an epic fantasy reader (avid), a Utahn, and a fighter. And I’m an English major.

Kurt Anderson

I’m actually a panda masquerading as a human.

Sadly, my surname does not follow the Scandinavian tradition and is actually Anderson, after a much more distant ancestor. But a little bit about me…I thought that I was a Biochemistry major, but last semester I discovered my true destiny as an English major. This has led to a whirlwind of change as I have redefined my professional career plans, but I’m ready to get involved. I love to read, mostly epic fantasy (Brandon Sanderson is a big role model), I’m learning to write and loving it. And I do fight, but not to kill.

I’ve grown up most of my life in Utah, with only a short stint in California (it was wacky). I hope that I can get to know many more people who share my irrational love of epic fantasy books, such as the Wheel of Time or pretty much anything from Brandon Sanderson. I love the classics, too, though I know far too few. You’ll have to bear with me until I can fully expound on the virtues of Milton or Virgil.

And that’s about it. You can amuse yourself by visiting my blog, which I recently made due to peer pressure AKA seeing everyone else on here with a blog. But I do try and talk about (semi)relevant things from a witty point of view.

P.S. I’m a rather eligible bachelor, in case you were wondering

P.P.S. That post-script was in no way influenced by prevailing social and cultural norms, or my mother. Also just in case you were wondering.

One of my favorite books is Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Memory of Light.



Hello, I am Kekai Gonsalves

I am an ever growing poem. I am a knot of stubborn hair. I am a daughter of a rock in the ocean. I am an English major.

Kekai Gonsalves

Kaua’i, Hawai’i

My eyes are dark as the shadows of reef under the deep ocean. My thin collarbones extend as hands do when they serve. My skin has an inherited tan with a golden tint from the sun’s presence of day. My lips are left bronzed by humid air. My hair is a dark brown and to care for it, I bend my neck forward for my chocolate curls to follow. I twirl it between my hands eight times, place it at the top of my head, spiral the ringlets, and tuck the strands’ ends into the ring of brunette hair. Attributes do not define me, yet the messy, relaxed bun I form is a depiction of my culture and an image I live to parallel. I form my bun as natives pound and shape a local plant into a paste. It is shaped as I balance on my bicycle, tires colliding with my beaten path home. It is shaped as I contend passionately for a ball on a youthful soccer field of grass, sweat, and bruise. It is shaped as I hold a pencil between my pressed lips and smooth teeth in haste of writing an essay. It is shaped as I park my cherry pick up at the beach. It is shaped as I feel leather binding in my palms and embrace scripture. The bun enables me to do many things. Without hair flowing freely, I am able to execute any labor or toil. I hope to always be able to hold myself together and fulfill a duty. The best way to put my shoulder to the wheel is to put my hair in a knot at the top of my head first. I seek to be beautiful, hold my head high, and hold my bun higher.

One of my favorite books is The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.


Disney and the English Major by Eliza Schow

In all my life, I don’t think I’ve ever been among so many Disnerds. If you don’t know that term, or if you do and you simply don’t think it’s a title that apples to you, shame on you. Go watch Aladdin. I come from Kansas, a land of people that find my love for Disney amusing. To them, Disney is classified as a genre of fantastical films that give children unrealistic expectations for life. When I came to BYU, I was ecstatic to find that if one stood in a group of students and randomly started singing “LET’s get down to business”, everyone would respond with “To deFEAT… the Huns!” At last, I had found my people.

I will admit up front that my love for Disney was founded on the catchy musical numbers, the pretty princess dresses and the even prettier boys these princesses ended up with that enraptured my seven-year old psyche. Gradually, my love for Disney became based on a personal investment I felt for the characters’ well being, (and perhaps it didn’t hurt that I still wanted to dance around in a pink ball-gown with a smiling prince looking down at me while “Once Upon a Dream” played in the background). However, it wasn’t until I wrote a 1,000-word analysis on the themes of self-fulfillment, objectification of women, and self-identity in Tangled that I realized how important it was for me as an English major to appreciate the messages woven into the stories that we think we know so well.

I feel like there is a stereotype for English majors, that in our efforts to look at a side to life with “a fresh eye”, we tend to present human nature as selfish, scheming, or hypocritical, giving off the message “Life is awful because humans are awful and that’s all there is to it”. What we’re missing, or perhaps what we’ve lost, is something that Disney can give back to us. For decades, Disney films haven’t just been entertaining and uplifting humans, but enlightening and inspiring us as well. If we English majors can take a leaf out of Disney’s book and try to present human nature as both flawed and inherently good, I do believe we can do so much more for the human spirit by giving the gift of hope, something that perhaps we are the most capable of doing.


Amanda Breck

I’m a military brat, a reader, a writer, a golfer, and I’m an English major.

Breck, Amanda

These are a few of my favorite things.

I haven’t been in the English program for very long, but so far I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve been reading and writing since before I can remember. My mom occasionally pulls out stories I wrote in elementary school to embarrass me with. I always carry a little notebook, and my hands are always covered in ink from how much I write. I started a blog in 2010 to share my short stories, but I quickly moved into the world of book blogging. I fell in love with reading young adult literature, and post reviews whenever I have time. If you’re looking for a great YA book to read, I hope you’ll check out my blog, Amanda’s Writings.

One of my favorite books is Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones.