Chapter Twelve: Positing a Thesis Statement and Composing a Title / Defining Key Terms

Positing a Thesis Statement and Composing a Title

You are viewing the first edition of this textbook. A second edition is available – please visit the latest edition for updated information.

We discuss the following key subjects on this page:

Positing a Thesis Statement

We formulate a thesis statement by developing it until it is ready. Then we posit the thesis statement as part of a scholarly discussion. To posit is to put something in place, to take a position.

State your thesis clearly and place it in your paper before you state your overview of the supporting arguments that follow. A thesis statement effectively identifies your position and situates your ideas in the context of existing discourse. An effective thesis statement has the following features:

    1. It answers a research question
    2. It is arguable, meaning other answers are possible, but they are not as strong as the thesis you are stating
    3. It takes a side in an argument (and gives your readers a choice to agree or disagree)
    4. It is clearly stated
    5. It is specific
    6. It is relevant
    7. It is compelling
    8. It organizes all the points made in the rest of the paper

Composing a Title

Once you formulate your thesis statement, you will be prepared to create a title for your research project. Think of your title as a tool that helps other scholars select materials that best fit their needs. For example, if your title does not include the name of the literary work you are discussing, the author’s name, the theory, or method that you are using, your title may not be clear enough to help another researcher make a choice. Your paper may fit their needs perfectly, but if you do not include enough information in your title, that researcher is likely to skip over your work.

Your title can include a reference to your thesis statement. The title can thus function as an additional way of stating an argument, and help your reader know what to expect from your paper.


The Downfall of the Southern Gentry: A Marxist Reading of William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”

A common technique is to break the title into two parts separated by a colon, as in the example. One part indicates the topic or thesis and the other indicates the literary work, theory, or method.

In the “Back Matter” of this book, you will find a page titled “Rubrics.” In that page, we provide rubrics for the thesis statement and the title.


  1. What is your thesis statement?
  2. Does it meet all the criteria for a good thesis statement listed in the page?
  3. What is your title?
  4. Does your title indicate the literary work, theory and/or method, and hint at the thesis?
  5. What was the most important lesson you learned from this page? What point was confusing or difficult to understand?
  6. Using the criteria above, assess what is wrong with these thesis statements and suggest ways to improve them:
    • “Some people say that ‘Sonny’s Blues’ will help us solve the problem of racism today, but some people say it won’t.”
    • “Most people support the idea of teaching ‘Sonny’s Blues’ in the classroom.”
    • “Does ‘Sonny’s Blues’ encourage people to appreciate Black culture?”
    • “There are numerous types of effects that result from reading ‘Sonny’s Blues.’”
    • “I am angry about the way ‘Sonny’s Blues’ has been neglected.”
    • “Maybe ‘Sonny’s Blues’ is not the best text for understanding Black culture.”
    • “Teaching ‘Sonny’s Blues’ is inappropriate.”
    • “The real reason why ‘Sonny’s Blues’ became famous is a mystery.”

Write your answers in a webcourse discussion page.

Go to the Discussions area and find the Positing a Thesis Statement and Composing a Title Discussion. Participate in the discussion.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Strategies for Conducting Literary Research Copyright © 2021 by Barry Mauer & John Venecek is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book