Audience, Purpose, and Thesis

Possibly the two most important things a writer must consider are audience and purpose.   Communication can’t happen without an other and it is useless without a general or specific agenda.  For a writer, it just makes good sense to know who you are directing your work toward and what it is you want your work to accomplish.  And it’s equally important that your reader feels a part of your intended audience and that she understands what you want your work to say to her.  In this sense, audience and purpose work in two directions: A writer’s audience will influence his purpose, while his purpose will influence which audience the writer chooses to address.  The terms are symbiotic.

While audience and purpose are the writer’s main concerns, the way a paper’s purpose is offered to the audience lies in the paper’s thesis, the presentation, in writing, of the paper’s main idea. The thesis is what connects audience with purpose and thus deserves much attention.

Even though the concept of thesis itself seems quite simple, thesis is a slippery subject.  Primarily the thesis presents a work’s main idea by making a statement that implies or shows the direction the rest of the work will take.  For example, if a paper’s purpose is to show that Hitler’s politcal rise in Germany was the product of a sound resurent industrial economy, the thesis would not make a statement of purpose by starting out with, “My paper will show that . . .,”  rather, a thesis statement will directly state the writer’s views: “Hitler's Nazi party was the product of a sound resurgent industrial economy.”  In the process of making such a statement, the paper’s purpose and the main idea by which this purpose can be realized bring the reader into a sense of what she will be reading in the following pages and the writer’s promise to deliver the goods.

The thesis not only connects audience with purpose, it also promises the reader that the work will follow through on the idea the thesis presents.   Unless the writer already has a strong sense of purpose and already knows pretty much what she wants to say, discovering a thesis is not an easy thing.  And, once found, maintaining a thesis or focus is one of the writer’s greatest responsibilities.

What we have discussed so far is that audience and purpose are the necessary basics of writing and that a well wrought thesis statement and its successful follow through are the means by which audience and purpose can meet on paper.  Although there is no etched-in-stone rule regarding the discovery of thesis, we can discuss a few general starting points:

I  Purpose
a)  Begin by understanding your purpose for writing.
b)  Consider what it is you want your writing to achieve or accomplish.
c)  Once you understand your own expectations of your work, try to “say” your goals in
     various ways to see how your idea looks on paper.  (This is called free-writing.)
d)  You might want to “write your way into your thesis” by starting with the broader scope of
     your topic and narrowing down your view of the topic until a generally solid,
     recognizable, focus emerges.

II  Audience
a) Consider who will be reading your work.  Plan to use the language and style that you feel
    your reader will expect (and respect).
b) Consider, as well, the ways in which you can push your idea through clearly and
     efficiently without wandering off into areas other than the one your thesis promises to address.

III Maintenance
Maintaining your thesis can be difficult.  A good way to stay on track is to write a large portion of your work and then proofread for continuity and logical progression.  It is much easier to “correct” a pre-existing text than it is to work on an imaginary text that may not ever happen the way you see it in your mind.  Once you have your draft in front of you, you can “move your pieces around” according to your purpose.  Transitions from paragraph  to paragraph are often good places to look for focus and direction.  You can do this during the writing process and through good revision skills after you finish your first draft.  During the writing itself, try to stop occasionally and look at what you have already written; refer to the ideas that you have generated and try to maintain the direction these ideas imply.  Always be aware of your original intent and work toward its support.

Another good place to check for thesis maintenance is in the relationship between your beginning and end.  Do they relate to the same ideas, position, goals--or does the conclusion end with apples while the beginning promises oranges?  Does the whole essay work to its original purpose?  Does the whole essay honor, address, your thesis?  After you, as the author, evaluate your work and answer some of these questions, you can go back and fine tune your work by checking transition, focus, and development of the ideas your thesis promises.  When you feel your paper is finished, invite an outside reader to look at your text.  Tell your reader what you want your paper to do and ask for an honest appraisal of whether or not your work hits its target.  Discuss how weak links might be strengthened, how certain transitions might work or not work.

 IV  Focus
A thesis is a focused area within a broader topic. For example:

   Broad Topic                      Narrowed Topic                                           Focused Topic
     Hamlet                           Insanity in Hamlet                                    Hamlet uses insanity to his advantage
     Vegetarianism               Health Questions re Vegetarianism      Veg’s are healthier than meat eaters
     Gun Control                  NRA Provisions for Gun Control          NRA uses sportsmen's rights as a political ploy

Note that in each instance above, a broader topic is brought under control by the writer actually taking a stand or making a statement about a certain portion of the broad topic which is distinct from all other infinitely possible approaches.  Through the process of focusing and narrowing, both the writer AND the reader discover the writer’s intent and the purpose of the text at hand.

V  Revision
In all cases, thesis notwithstanding, revision is at the heart of a well-tuned paper.  Once the draft is visible and touchable, the writer can see her work’s high points and flaws and work to adjust and readjust the words, sentences, and paragraphs to more efficiently match her purpose.  She can adjust, as well, her style to meet the standards and expectations of her intended audience.  But all of this adjusting and readjusting works toward and depends upon the clear and efficient “telling” a good paper must  accomplish.  A sound thesis and the writer’s ability to push her idea through to a thoughtful conclusion will join audience with the writer’s purpose so that writer and reader can join in future dialogues that the well written paper will encourage.

Thesis Checklist
Since honest and responsible self-evaluation is necessary to good writing, here are a few tips and helpful questions you might ask yourself regarding thesis and writing in general.  Since a thesis will often grow in the process of its own development, a certain amount of revision and adjustment is necessary to the success of your final product.  Don’t feel irrevocably tied to the first version of your thesis.  While your general purpose might still be the same, the way to this purpose needs to be fine-tuned after your first draft is in your hand.

Re-consider your statement:

Continuity and Logical Progression of Thesis Words of Transition
Here are few words that will allow you to maintain your focus and smooth out paragraph transitions.  Try to apply these transitional tools whenever you need to make connections between thoughts or use them as progressive links to join ideas.

      Although    Therefore          Hence           On the other hand      In this sense . . .
      Similarly     Conversely       Thus             According to . . .      Because