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Writing an Academic Essay (Part 2) (第10回)

#10.  Writing an Academic Essay (Part 2)

 by Jayna Tokie Tanaka

 Choosing a Thesis Statement and the Main Points of the Essay

      Choosing a thesis statement is probably the most difficult part of writing an essay. Who do you want to address?  In other words, who will read your essay? What do you want to persuade your audience about? Can you find enough evidence to support your thesis? The topic I have chosen is “guns in the U.S.” In answer to the first question, my audience will be people outside the U.S. who are not familiar with the everyday reality of gun ownership and use inside the U.S. I want to persuade people that the situation is so horrific at this time that they should never allow their governments to permit gun ownership as it exists in the U.S. News sources and U.S. government statistics can provide abundant facts about gun ownership, gun use, and gun laws.  The thesis statement I have chosen is: Private gun ownership has become the scourge of the United States.

      By writing such a strong thesis statement, I must explain what I mean with evidence.  Just as all the main ideas in a paragraph must support the topic sentence in a paragraph, all the main points in an essay must support the thesis statement.  In the case of an essay, each main point will be explained in one paragraph. The word “scourge” is the key word in the thesis sentence. It can mean “the cause of affliction or calamity,” and some synonyms for the word include “plague,” “curse,” and “torment.” Indeed, I believe that the prevalence of guns throughout the U.S. is overwhelming the abilities of the many governments in the U.S. to deal with it. The evidence I present must show that there are just too many incidents which involve guns for law enforcement officials to control. In other words, the laws which control gun ownership, the number of guns themselves, and the number of incidents involving firearms are unbelievable when compared to other developed countries, and they are the reasons that this one issue has become a curse for the country as a whole. By creating three categories to present evidence, it becomes easier to collect facts and opinions.

     Since each category can then become one paragraph of the essay, the next step is to decide what order the ideas should be presented and what the topic sentence for each of the paragraphs should be. The outline at this point would look like this:
                                                  The Scourge of Guns in the U.S.
                                                                    (tentative)
          I.  Introductory Paragraph
               Thesis statement: Private gun ownership has become the scourge of the U.S.
          II.  Body Paragraphs
                A.  Topic sentence:The various governments in the United States have so many different laws that it has
                      become almost impossible to control the ownership of guns by private individuals.
                B.  Topic sentence: The number of guns in the hands of private owners is almost unbelievable when
                      compared to that of other developed countries.
                C.  Topic sentence:This huge number of guns has led to an unbelievable number of incidents in which 
                      guns have been used to kill and maim.
          III.  Concluding Paragraph

     It is at this point that I inspect my students’ writing. The students should have done enough research and have thought a great deal about the various ideas they want to include. It is true that the various parts of the essay have not been definitely decided, and it is possible, as one is writing, to change the wording in all parts of the essay. However, the collection of data and the writing of the various parts have usually progressed in tandem, so by looking at an outline such as this, the writers and the teacher for whom the students are writing can judge whether the topic, the controlling idea, and the various assertions make sense. The teacher can then give the “go-ahead” to continue working on the essay.
                                                                                                                                         (To Be Continued)

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■筆者紹介
Jayna Tokie Tanaka(ジェイナ・トキエ・タナカ)
ハワイ大学マノア校大学院課程にて修士号(日本文学)取得後,来日。明治学院大学,東京国際大学,早稲田大学で長年英語講師として教鞭をとる。現在,早稲田大学政治経済学部に英語講師として勤務。弊社英語顧問。

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