A thesis is the main point or argument of an essay or other mode of criticism.
A strong thesis is:
• Arguable: Can be supported by evidence and analysis, and can be disagreed with.
• Unique: Says something new and interesting.
• Concise and clear: Explained as simply as possible, but not at the expense of clarity.
• Unified: All parts are clearly connected.
• Focused and specific: Can be adequately and convincingly argued within the the paper, scope is not overly broad.
• Significant: Has importance to readers, answers the question "so what?"
Research is usually vital to developing a strong thesis. Exploring both primary and secondary sources can help you develop and refine your central point.
1. Conduct Background Research.
A strong thesis is specific and unique, so you first need knowledge of the general research topic. Background research will help you narrow your research focus and contextualize your argument in relation to other research.
You will want to explore both Primary Sources and Secondary Sources.
A Primary Source is the main media object you will be analyzing. This could be a movie, a news segment, or even a historical text like a newspaper, poster, or magazine. Secondary Sources are articles that are part of scholarly conversation that you are seeking to enter into. If you are analyzing a Primary Source, you want to know what the authors of Secondary Sources had to say about it so that you can respond to what they have said and use it to either bolster or set apart your arguments.
2. Narrow the Research Topic.
Ask questions as you review sources:
3. Formulate and explore a relevant research question.
Before committing yourself to a single viewpoint, formulate a specific question to explore. Consider different perspectives on the issue, and find sources that represent these varying views. Reflect on strengths and weaknesses in the sources' arguments. Consider sources that challenge these viewpoints.
Example: How are side-kicks portrayed in the films of John Ford? What does this tell us either about John Ford or his audience? What do other sources say about the messages embedded in John Ford's films?
4. Develop a working thesis.
Is the topic:
Your thesis will probably evolve as you gather sources and ideas. If your research focus changes, you may need to re-evaluate your search strategy and to conduct additional research. This is usually a good sign of the careful thought you are putting into your work!
Example: "While [Terence[ Malick communicates his vision through a sort of ahistorical mysticism, his choice to set [Tree of Life] in a certain space and at a certain time grounds it in history. That setting means that the philosophical binary Malick presents—with its gendered overtones—cannot be understood without a close examination of that era’s attitudes toward spirituality and gender." -- Christopher Michael Elias, "Sons of God: Postwar Gender and Spirituality in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life." In Film Criticism, Volume 44, Issue 1, 2020.