ESSAY WRITING WORKSHOP
Monday, September 22, 2008, 11:30am, LUC 108
What is a
? What is a
--A thesis is an argument or a claim supported by evidence.
--A good thesis is persuasively argued with strong evidence; a thesis statement by itself without
supporting evidence is not a good thesis—it is merely an uninformed opinion.
--Evidence in this case would be: design elements of the film you’re studying (visual, performance, or
literary, depending on your topic), and any outside research you are using to back up certain points.
What comes first, a
--You don’t need to have a thesis statement already in mind before gathering evidence, and likewise,
you don’t have to wait until collecting all your evidence to begin developing a thesis statement. They
build upon each other.
DEVELOPING A THESIS:
1. First, watch the film all the way through. Take a few notes. Your focus here should be on
understanding the various subjects and conflicts of the film.
2. After seeing the film, write down what you think are the
of the film. Every film has themes.
They are not always obvious, and they can be a matter of your own interpretation. How does the film
approach its subjects? What does it “say” about those subjects?
For example, let’s say you’re writing about Paul Newman’s performance in
. After viewing
once, you should have a sense of its main themes. Write them down. One of them may well
be “redemption.” Try to narrow it down further. Redemption of what? The film has a lot going on in
terms of redemption: the Newman character himself, the legal profession, and the Catholic Church are
just three things (out of many more) that the film presents as being in need of redemption.
3. With your ideas of the film’s theme(s) in mind, watch the film again, this time keeping in mind your
topic (visual/performance/literary design) as it relates to your understanding of the theme(s). There are
moments, images, and situations in the film where aspects of visual design, performance, and literary
design relate directly to theme. Note as many of these as you can during this second viewing. These
moments, images, and situations will be the majority of your
4. Look over your notes and organize your evidence. Rank them: some are very important, some are less
important in relation to your understanding of the theme(s). Think of the film as a work of design
composed of several parts and you are pulling out some of those parts (what you think are the most
important ones) to illustrate, through your topic (visual/performance/literary design), the theme(s) of the