What Is A Three Pronged Thesis Statement

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Two Prongs Too Many: Thesis Statement Revision

Hello! Friendly neighborhood Writing Center here with some advice for those of you struggling to turn your stuffy five-paragraph essay into an innovative, sparkling college paper.

You probably know what a thesis statement is already: a one (or several) sentence restatement of your paper's main argument. You've probably written a lot of these, and many of them have probably been what we in the biz call "three-prong thesis statements." Here's an example:

This leads into a nice, neat five-paragraph essay. A nice, neat, boring five-paragraph essay. The image above comes from the website for a ninth-grade class, and the teacher even tells his readers that "For most high school writing, it will suffice, though more sophisticated writers learn to transcend this." (Gardner). Wait--high school writing?

Yes, the five-paragraph essay was a fine structure in ninth grade, but by your first year of college, you should be more than ready to move beyond that. So how, in Mr. Gardner's words, can you "learn to transcend" the three-prong thesis?
One way is simply to snip off two of your prongs, and expand the one you're most drawn to. One of the cardinal sins of the five-paragraph essay is its tendency to oversimplify its points. Let's imagine you were tasked with writing an analysis of this image:
Your three-prong thesis might look something like this: "This image is melancholy because of its unfinished roof, the ruined grandeur of the Roman columns, and the plants beginning to grow in the cracks." If you were sitting across from me, here at the UGA Writing Center, I would ask you which of those prongs you think has the most promise.

You'd probably point out the "ruined grandeur of the Roman columns," and I would agree. I'd then spend the next fifteen or twenty minutes asking you more about that idea. What emotions does that instill in you? What's so melancholy about ruins? Why might the builders of this folly have left it unfinished? How does the lack of symmetry change our interpretation of the building?

Answering those questions, and making whatever observations--even and especially off-the-wall-sounding observations--will help you find more to say about your newly-focused thesis. From there, you can begin the process of writing, revising, and reorganizing again.

So, to summarize:

  • Pick the prong you consider the most promising and snip off the rest
  • Brainstorm on your newly unified thesis, and begin writing again.

There are, of course, other methods for reforming a three-prong thesis, but when you're pressed for time, simply hacking off two prongs and forcing yourself to narrow your focus can work wonders.

(images courtesy of http://staff.camas.wednet.edu/blogs/mgardner/essays/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Erm11.JPG)

Why you Should NOT Write a 3-point Thesis

Jun 11, 2013 byadmin

There’s nothing less scary than a movie where you know who the killer is going to be at the end. There’s nothing more boring than a sports game where you know the final score already. There’s nothing less annoying than your parents giving you the same old, same old rant about how you need to keep your grades up.


Why are these so terrible? Because they’re predictable and formulaic.


Predictability and formula can work well in some cases, but they often completely ruin certain things. One of those certain things is your essays. And this is why you should AVOID writing a 3-point thesis for your ACT essay.


Learning how to write a 3-point thesis is something every child learns in grade school. A 3-point thesis is a good thing to learn…for a child. But by the time you want to impress the ACT graders as a high school student that you are a sophisticated, adult writer and thinker, then you need to come up with a different plan.


A 3-point thesis in your ACT essay is like wearing pigtails for your graduation picture. Or training wheels on your motorcycle. It just doesn’t mesh with the adult world of communication. It serves its purpose when you’re young, but it is the distinguishing mark of a young writer – not a mature one.


So AVOID using a 3-point thesis. Right away an ACT writing grader will notice the 3-point thesis and perceive you to be a child-like writer who knows the rules and follows the formulas, but does not deserve the respect of an adult. This is a sure-fire way to guarantee that you receive nothing higher than a 4 out of 6. The grader will put you in that box before even exiting your introduction.


So what should you do instead?


Remember that at its most basic, functional level, a thesis only really needs to do ONE THING: to tell your reader what argument you will be making. You don’t need to list three reasons why your argument is true. You may not even have three worthwhile reasons to write about.


So don’t spend the first excruciating minutes trying to figure out what three reasons you should give for your point and plugging them into a formula that will undoubtedly sound like everyone else’s thesis. Instead, try to compose a thesis that describes the entire CONTEXT your argument fits into.


See how that better thesis works? First, it shares what one side might think about the issue, then it shares the side the writer is taking, and then it shares the general reason (not three reasons) why that point is good. By writing in your essay thesis the general idea, all your body paragraphs will automatically fit it.


It’s less formulaic or predictable. It’s sophisticated, adult-like writing. Plus, it’ll even say you some time.


Bad 3-point Thesis: “Movies made about books are bad to watch because they ruin the book, deviate from the book’s plot, and give kids a tempting alternative to actually reading.”


Better Thesis: “Although students might enjoy watching movies made about the books they read for school, they should avoid watching them until long after they finish the course because watching films made about books inevitably corrupts they’re understanding of that book’s content and message.”



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