The “Top-down” Approach to Writing Thesis Statements and Starting Papers

Gregory Fraser and Chad Davidson’s book Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing has some specific examples of how to be more specific when writing essays. Often times, it’s easy to forget that writing a paper is more difficult than it looks. Going off of Fraser and Davidson’s “Ladder of Specificity,” I will give you my own example and “take” on how to narrow your thesis statement and topic to fit the parameters of the assignment you’ve been given to achieve what you’ve been asked to write. First, you must pick a subject within the parameters of the assignment you’ve been given. Next, you have to narrow that to achieve the parameters of the assignment. Lastly, you must write the essay in a cohesive, articulate, and persuasive tone. It’s tough. It’s tough for most everyone.

 

When beginning to write an essay it’s imperative to remember that we need to take the bottom down approach. I’ve provided a visual below to make it easier to show you how to think about this:

Say you’ve been given an assignment to write about animals, for instance. I will provide you with a way to do so that will perhaps better show and explain how you might use a “top-down” approach when beginning essays and writing thesis statements for perhaps a 4-5 page paper.

From the topic of “animals” I have chosen “dogs.”

 

Amount of dogs in animal shelters

 

Areas that have the largest percentages of dogs in animal shelters

 

A specific area that has the largest percentages of dogs in animal shelters and what breed of dog that is most commonly received in animal shelters in that area.

From this, we might gain some understanding of how to do this. If we start with the largest topic that we could go off of, from “animals” narrowed down to “dogs,” we can then start to think of what we think is the most important aspect of dogs, and how to hone in on that idea. So, we progressively move toward, “A specific area that has the largest percentages of dogs in animal shelters and what breed of dog that is most commonly received in animals shelters in that specific area.” This is a pretty specific idea, although we could easily write 4-5 pages on this topic and be effective. While we could easily write 4-5 pages on dogs in general, but it is too broad of an idea to actually achieve any sort of analysis from that broad of a subject. The key to writing a good thesis statement is: specificity and articulation. In order to write a strong essay, you must first be able to hone in on an idea broad enough to achieve your parameters but to also achieve your highest potential with your argument.

 

*For more information on specificity, see Gregory Fraser and Chad Davidson’s book Analyze Anything: A Guide to Critical Reading and Writing for some great examples! 🙂

 

-Erica

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