Writing a Thesis Driven Paper

Linking Evidence and Claims:

10 on 1 Versus 1 on 10

This handout is taken from Rosenwasser and Stephen, Writing Analytically, Heinle, 2003)


A thesis and a claim are synonyms.  “By way of definition, a claim is an assertion that you make about your evidence—an idea that you believe the evidence supports.  The primary claim in a paper is the thesis.  In analytical writing, the thesis is a theory that explains what some feature of features of a subject mean.  The subject itself, the pool of primary material (data) being analyzed, is know as evidence” (75).


“The All-Purpose Organizational Scheme”


1.  Write an introduction.

          Begin analytical papers by defining some issue, question, problem or phenomenon that the paper will address.  An introduction is not a conclusion.  It lays out something that you have noticed that you think needs to be better understood.  Use the introduction to get your readers to see why they should be more curious about the thing you have noticed.  Aim for half a page.


2.  State a working thesis

          Early in the paper, often at the end of the first paragraph or the beginning of the second, make a tentative claim about whatever it is you have laid out as being in need of exploration.  The initial version of your thesis, know as the working thesis, should offer a tentative explanation, answer, or solution that the body of your paper will go on to apply and develop (clarify, extend, substantiate, qualify, and so on).


3.  Begin querying your thesis.

          Start developing your working thesis and other opening observations with the question “So what?”  This question is shorthand for questions like “what does this observation mean?” and “Where does this thesis get me in my attempts to explain my subject?”


4.  Muster supporting evidence for your working thesis.

          Test its adequacy by seeing how much of the available evidence it can honestly account for.  That is, try to prove that your thesis is correct. But also expect to come across evidence that does not fit your initial formulation of the thesis.

5.  Seek complicating evidence.

          Find evidence that does not readily support your thesis.  Then explore—and explain—how and why it doesn’t fit.


6.  Reformulate your thesis.

          Use the complicating evidence to produce new wording in your working thesis (additions, qualifications, and so forth).  This is how a thesis evolves, by assimilating obstacles and refining terms.


7.  Repeat steps 3 to 6.

          Query, support, complicate, and reformulate your thesis until you are satisfied with its accuracy.


8.  State a conclusion.

          Reflect on and reformulate your paper’s opening position in light of the thinking your analysis of evidence has caused you to do.  Culminate rather than merely restate your paper’s main idea in the concluding paragraph.  Do this by getting your conclusion to again answer the question “So what?’  In the conclusion, this question is short-hand for “where does it get us to view the subject in this way? Or “What are the possible implications or consequences of the position the paper has arrived at?”  Usually the reformulated (evolved) thesis comes near the beginning of the concluding paragraph.  The remainder of the paragraph gradually moves the reader out of your piece, preferably feeling good about what you have accomplished for him or her.


Linking Evidence and Claims


          Unsubstantiated Claims

          Problem:    Making claims that lack supporting evidence.

          Solution:     Learn to recognize and support unsubstantiated assertions.


          Pointless Evidence

          Problem:    Presenting a mass of evidence without explaining how it relates to the claims.

          Solution:     Make details speak.  Explain how evidence confirms and qualifies the claim.









Analyzing Evidence in Depth: “10 on 1”


How do you move from making details speak and explaining how evidence confirms and qualifies the claim to actually composing a paper?


Phrased as a general rule 10 on 1 holds that it is better to make ten observations or points about a single representative issue or example than to make the same basic point about ten related issues or examples.


















Point 10


Point 9


Point 6


Point 8


Point 7


Point 5


Point 4


Point 3


Point 2


Point 1



















In sum, you can use 10 on 1 to accomplish various ends:  (1) to locate the range of possible meanings your evidence suggests, (2) to make you less inclined to cling to your first claim inflexibly and open the way for you to discover a way of representing more fully the complexity of your subject, and (3) to slow down the rush to generalization and thus help to ensure that when you arrive t a working thesis, it will be more specific and better able to account for your evidence.

First find 10 examples, do a 1 on 10 as a preliminary step—locating 10 examples that share a trait—and then focus on one of these for in-depth analysis.  Proceeding in this way would guarantee that your example was representative.  It is essential that your example be representative because in doing 10 on 1 you will take one part of the whole, put it under a microscope, and then generalize about the whole on the basis of your analysis.