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
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:
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.
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
efficiently without wandering off into areas other
than the one your thesis promises to address.
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.
A thesis is a focused area within a broader topic. For example:
Insanity in Hamlet
Hamlet uses insanity to his advantage
Health Questions re Vegetarianism Veg’s are
healthier than meat eaters
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.
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.
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
- After your draft is in the revision stage,
underline what you consider to be your thesis statement.
- Is it focused or is it still too broad?
- Does it “fit” with what the rest of your essay
says, or might it (or your body) need an adjustment?
- Is your statement efficiently introduced or
does it just explode onto the scene with no prior discussion or reader-related
Words of Transition
- Read each of your work’s paragraphs as if they
- Paraphrase each paragraph.(Define each paragraph’s
main idea in one sentence)
- Consider how each distinct paraphrase relates
to the thesis you intend to support.
- Consider each paragraph as a link in a chain
- Are there any weak links?
- How can you strengthen them?
- Look for smooth transitions between paragraphs.
- How does the last sentence of one paragraph
“link” with the leading sentence of the following paragraph?
- Does a following paragraph relate to the previous
paragraph, have its say, and anticipate the next paragraph?
- Re-read introduction and conclusion (skip
the body). Do they “talk” about the same thing or have you discovered
that you have gone off-line in the process of developing your body?
- Is there any chance that you might consider
your conclusion as a better introduction because it states what your paper
says more clearly than your original intro?
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.
Hence On the other
hand In this sense . . .
According to . . . Because