Below is one way of thinking about crafting a textual analysis argument. If you want some other ways of thinking about close reading and thesis making, you might check out these sites:
- UNC Writing Center “Thesis Statements”
- University of Illinois Urbana Champagne, The Center for Writing Studies “Writing Tips: Thesis Statements”
Overview of Thesis Statements for a Textual Analysis Paper:
The thesis statement is usually found in the introduction, along with an opening or hook, and sometimes a detailed argument road map. Indeed the most important task of the introduction in an academic paper is to layout your thesis statement. While you may actually arrive at your thesis last when you are brainstorming and writing to think, in the draft you submit, you are writing to communicate, and as such you should foreground your thesis statement right away. Doing so helps both you and the reader, for the reader that starts off on the same page with you is more likely to stay on the same page with you even if parts of your paper and/or argument are not executed as clearly as you’d like. To be clear, while most thesis statements for short essays can be stated in one sentence, a thesis statement is not by definition one sentence. Depending on the argument, a strong thesis statement can easily be 1-3 sentences. Given that the papers for this class are relatively short, your thesis shouldn’t be much longer three sentences; if it is, the chances are that you need to narrow the scope of your argument.
Ultimately, your thesis clearly, precisely, and concisely communicate: 1) your object of examination; 2) your claim; and 3) the stakes of your claim. Strong thesis statements also provide what I call 4) an argument road map of how the argument will be presented in the body of the paper.
Breakdown Explanation of a Strong Thesis for a Textual Analysis Paper:
1) Object of Examination, which should be:
–relevant to the assignment- meaning it’s from one of the texts associated with the course assignment)
–textually located- meaning your object of examination is something you can locate in the text. While the text my signify towards objects, peoples, events, etc beyond the text, remember you only have access to this textual object. And for the purposes of this course, your arguments should be about some element of the the text. For a literary text that might mean looking at the incredible tension to heat and temperature in one scene; a curious chapter break; a minor character that shops up for two lines; or some other aspect of how the text is put together.
-sufficiently narrowed in scope- One of the biggest problems writers run into is that they try to talk about too big and too complex of an object in a paper that’s only 4 or 5 pages. You cannot talk about the whole text in 4-5 pages. In 4-5 pages, you likely can’t do justice to talking about a whole chapter. Arguments about the whole chapter or the whole text come from much longer and focused amounts of analysis and research, and they can easily be 25 pages (standard for a scholarly article) to 200 pages (standard for as scholarly book). So my aim is not to cramp your style but to make sure you’re not setting your self up for an argument that you can’t pull of in 4-5 pages. So focus on some small minor portion or element.
2) Your Claim about the Object of Examination, which should answer the questions:
-What do you want your reader to notice about the object of your examination?
-How are you reading (v.) (examining / analyzing/ interpreting) that object of examination?
-What is the your reading (n.) (interpretation / analysis) of that object?
3) Stakes of the Claim, which addresses the questions:
-What about the way we experience this text changes if we accept your claim?
-How does your claim affect the way we read (understand) the content in this particular part of the text? (i.e. How does your reading of this image change the way we read the rest of the stanza, scene, or chapter?)
-How does your claim affect the way we read (understand) some larger aspect of the text as a whole? (i.e. How does your interpretation of the author’s curious use of cold and warm in the opening scene affect the way we read the larger motifs, tropes, or themes of light and dark and good and bad in the text?)
4) Argument Road map , which in varying degrees of specificity addresses the following questions:
-How will you illustrate (prove/argue) this claim in the body of your paper? (What kind of logic, method, premise, research and/or critical intervention will you rely on?)
-What type and how much (textual) evidence will you present?
-In what order will you present your points (evidence and/or arguments)?
-Does the author employ a particular method of reading (analyzing) their object?