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I'm writing an essay but I struggle with thesis statements and paragraphs. My teacher wants my thesis to be significant, specific, single, and supportable. I often know what I want to write, but struggle with writing about 3 points with 3 different paragraphs. I often see just one point broad point and try to make an essay based off of that. How do I fit one broad point into the structure of three specific points and an overall thesis?

Here's an example of an essay in development that I am trying to fix.

“Remember that…”, a statement when applied to the early years of my life it commences a flood of nostalgic memories about cartoons no longer on T.V., video games 20 years of date, toys long forgotten. These are the type memories we hold close to our hearts since they are from a time we love to reflect on, our childhood. A time in our lives that is so important to us years later, since it represents a time of freedom you`ll never get back again.

Freedom is the air our soul inhales. Our childhood was freedom, it was free from the stress that our teenage and adult years would exert on us. This was a time where my day depended on what I wanted to do not what I had to do, which made each day seem like a different adventure. I possed little knowledge of the world, so each day I would aquire new information, rules, etc which made each day unique from the rest. Yet its this image of the adventure which makes me feel many emotions at once, this image which completely encapsulates this time so different from today. What ever this adventure was; playing Nintendo 64 on rainy Saturday afternoons, watching Pokemon in the basement with my older brother, web-surfing the primitive days of google, or what ever the adventure was I`ll never experience it as pure as I did. Time has passed inevitably and with time comes change, and because of it Ill never play Nintendo 64 the same way again, back then the whole experience would consume me, occasionally interrupted by thoughts which may or may not have been related to it, but what was there, was warmth. This warmth was produced by my little body, this warmth made my eyes glued to the screen, this warmth which I simply defined as it made feel good. Good, a word I would only use back then, but now I have aquired so many other advanced adjectives, that good will always be a thing of the past. With other things learnt one would describe playing Nintendo 64 as unhealthy or a waste of time. This time could be used to pursue what ever you think you want to do like reading a book, drawing, etc. Time for me, now needs to be dedicated to a passion to excel in, in order to find a job related to it, with the closeness of adult years I am told many things I should or need to spend time with, such as an activity I learned from the media, school, friends, but not something I learned from myself, like I did in my childhood. These were the days in which what should be done was decided by my random personal whim, these were the days where time was on my side, the days where I explored the world with my quiet young mind, the days that can only be connected now by a statement such as “remember…”. What ever that memory was keep it close to you, since its from your childhood and never agin will things be the same.

closed as off-topic by S. Mitchell, Zayne S Halsall, Neil Fein Jan 18 '16 at 17:31

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question appears to be off-topic because asking what to write or asking for help rephrasing a sentence or passage are both off-topic here, as such questions are very unlikely to help anybody else." – S. Mitchell, Zayne S Halsall, Neil Fein
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Hi Ben and welcome to Writers. I've made an edit to your question to make it a better fit for our site. Questions asking for critiques are off-topic, but questions that ask how to solve a particular problem and that include examples are fine. Answers will focus on the problem -- in this case, the structure of an essay -- and might or might not rework parts of your example to demonstrate what they mean. Good luck with your assignment. – Monica Cellio Jan 3 '16 at 19:02
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    Hmm. "This is not homework", but "My teacher wants ..." – Jay Jan 3 '16 at 23:18
  • I agree that this question is off-topic here. Placing on hold. – Neil Fein Jan 18 '16 at 17:31
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Many people struggle to grasp big ideas. In your case, you need to break one main idea down into three. When I write, I like to think of it as explaining it to a child. You are going to sit down and explain your essay to a seven-year old child who fully grasps the English language, but only has the attention span to last about four or five sentences.

  1. Pick out the three main points. If you only had three sentences, what would they be? Then, put each of these ideas into one sentence each, to make a total of three sentences. These are your topic sentences.

  2. To make an thesis statement, combine your topic sentences. I start by stringing them together and making a sort of "list" of what my essay will talk about. This will give you a very boring and dull thesis statement. But it is a thesis nonetheless. Feel free to beef it up and add more interest to it later.

  3. To write the essay, make sure everything you say is important. Be mindful of tangents and off-topic sentences. Think about what you're going to say, say it, and get out as quickly as possible. It's hard, trust me I know, but be brutal when cutting things out.

I wish you well in all of your writing endeavors! If you'd like edits on your essay, I'd be happy to provide them, but I'd need to know how you'd like to receive them.

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Ah, I remember the five paragraph essay days. They are as structured as a sonnet and the point of practicing them is to focus your writing. The thesis statement is your entire essay summarized in one sentence. I have an easier time writing it last, but you may have a different experience.

Looking at your essay, I can't tell if you are writing about freedom, nostalgia, or different types of things that trigger memories, or what. There are a lot of themes there that are worth working on. I'm going to pick one of these and show you how I would build your essay from that, but you could choose a different focus and build your essay differently.

Let's say your essay is about how your perception of your own entertainment has changed over time. Looking at the rest of what you've written, here are three examples relating to freedom that you talk about in your essay:

  1. Childhood is free of the concerns experienced by teens and adults, and full of the wonder of first experiences.
  2. Once your first experiences were over, you still enjoyed the boundless goodness of simply experiencing the things you chose for yourself.
  3. Now that you are grown, social expectations mean that you must now find ways to enjoy experiencing the things other people choose for you instead.

You will use these three examples to illustrate your point (i.e., your thesis statement). When you have more experience, you can be clever about the examples, using them to highlight different aspects of your thesis or to compare and contrast different views of the same issue. I've chosen three that are basically sequential and show progression because I think it is easier to understand the structure that way, and also because you revisit N64 several times to describe how your perspective has changed and I think these examples could work with that.

Take each example and write it into a paragraph that explains it, possibly using one or two sentences to describe an example of what you mean. You can use the same example, like the N64, or different examples, like Pokemon, N64, and lawn darts. When you go back and revise, the artful part is to make the last sentence of your paragraph act as a transition to the next paragraph. There are bunches of techniques, but probably the easiest is some kind of contrast. Here is an example from your own text:

Whatever this adventure was -- playing Nintendo 64 on rainy Saturday afternoons, watching Pokemon in the basement with my older brother, web-surfing the primitive days of google -- I'll never experience it as pure as I did.

Time has passed inevitably and with time comes change.

Great. Now you have three paragraphs of examples, so it should be a lot more obvious what your point is. Go back and write your introductory paragraph to tell us what point your examples will illustrate.

Then write the concluding paragraph. Your last paragraph should tell us why the examples should have illuminated your point and invite the reader to reflect on your shared experience. I think this example for your writing is a nice ending for your essay:

Whatever that memory was keep it close to you, since it's from your childhood and never again will things be the same.

Especially if you take the time to point out to the reader your expectation that they have similar experiences to your own.

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Ben. Many of us can relate to your struggle. However, your question will likely be flagged as a "can you do my homework for me" question. If you don't mind, I'll respond by helping you answer your question.

Scanning your first draft, I can see your core idea (the thesis). Pick it out. Then pick out the three most powerful thoughts that support your core idea, like three legs on a stool.

Put aside your first draft, don't edit it. Write a second draft of your essay that only contains the core idea and the three supporting thoughts.

You're a creative big-picture thinker, so you have many interesting and related ideas to sort through. It will be challenging, but be ruthless and make choices. Put aside thoughts that don't fit in the structure. Incorporate thoughts that you realize are facets of the "big three."

Put aside your second draft, don't edit it. Write a third draft, fine tune and balance the content. Polish your grammar and style.

I hope you share your work here! Keep on writing!

  • This isn't a school assignment I'm just practicing, but thanks! – Ben Jan 3 '16 at 20:51
  • @Ben (Your question mentions "My teacher", so I made a safe assumption. It doesn't matter.) I've focused on answering your question: "How do I fit one broad point into the structure of three specific points and an overall thesis?" The answer is to use multiple drafts to convert a freeform first draft into an essay structure. It might be difficult at first, and the results might not look great. But do it several times and you'll get the hang of the process. – rolfedh Jan 3 '16 at 21:28
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Hmm, who says that an essay must have three main points?

If this is a school assignment, and the teacher says "you must write an essay with three main points", etc, then if you have an idea for an essay that you just can't hammer into three main points, I'd say use a different idea.

If you're writing an essay because you want to talk about this particular subject, then it doesn't matter how many main points you have, whether it's 3 or 2 or 5. Just make the points you want to make. I've written lots of essays, and I never say, "Oh, blast, I have 4 main points, I've got to figure out which one to leave out." (I may say, "Oh, blast, I have 20 main points, this is way too much for one essay. I need to leave something out.")

If you need to meet an arbitrary standard for a class, I'd say, Just hammer it into the mold. If you are required to have exactly three main points, think through what you're trying to say and see if you cannot extract three main points. Like if you're trying to support a thesis, what are the tree main arguments you can come up with for that thesis? If you have four, then drop one or perhaps combine two into one. If you have only two, then try to think of a third, or break one into two parts.

If I was teaching a class, I might give an assignment like this to force the student to think about what his main points are and to enumerate them. I would not give such an assignment to say that in general, every essay must have exactly three points.

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