No matter the number of times I post personal and public comments in an online humanities class for students to create thesis statements and not to use statements of methodology, invariably most continue to use statements of methodology. Frankly, I don’t understand where this habit began and in what disciplines, other than in papers of scientific inquiry, it is encouraged.
As a result, I’ve come to the following conclusions, all of them thoroughly frustrating:
- Obviously, students do not read my comments on previous papers.
- Verified by activity logs, they do not refer to information I’ve posted online regarding thesis statements.
- Based on the fact that we are all creatures of habit, they habitually resort to what they think has worked before.
- Last but not least, they lack skills of transference.
- But really, most don’t think writing a paper is important, much less writing a paper on a subject in the humanities. Apparently even the testing agency SAT is making essay writing optional.
Using Track Changes in a student’s paper, I often highlight the statement of methodology and replace it with a thesis statement, that is if I can determine what is the student’s thesis statement. In addition, I send them personal notes in the assignment comment section. But continue with statements of methodology most do.
I’ve thought about bribing them, but I would be broke. In a face-to-face (F2F) technical writing course while we are going through the process of writing a feasibility study, I asked the teams that if I paid them $10,000 for an error-free document, could they eliminate all errors in correctness (grammar, mechanics, etc.) as well as eliminate factual errors. Most said they would try. My facial emphasis plus accompanying gestures punched home the point, well most of the time. But in feasibility studies, we need statements of methodology.
I have found a couple of sites that help students create thesis statements. The downsides are that students do need to read the information, proceed through the steps, and recognize garbage, as in garbage in, garbage out.
I went through the process on a different site, using the death penalty as a subject, and created the following nonsense:
Even though a murderer never gets to kill again, that it is barbaric because it’s often puts to death innocent people and it doesn’t deter.
At least the result from Ashford was more complex–four different thesis statements, each with accompanying explanations:
Thesis Statement Guide Results
Thesis Statement Model #1: Sample Thesis Statement
The death penalty is a barbaric form of punishment
Thesis Statement Model #2: Thesis with Concession
Notice that this model makes a concession by addressing an argument from the opposing viewpoint first, and then uses the phrase “even though” and states the writer’s opinion/main idea as a rebuttal.
Even though A murderer can never kill again, The death penalty is a barbaric form of punishment
Thesis Statement Model #3: Thesis with Reasons
Here, the use of “because” reveals the reasons behind the writer’s opinion/main idea.
The death penalty is a barbaric form of punishment because It does not deter, It is racially biased, and Innocent people die.
Thesis Statement Model #4: Thesis with Concession and Reasons
This model both makes a concession to opposing viewpoint and states the reasons/arguments for the writer’s main idea.
While A murderer can never kill again, The death penalty is a barbaric form of punishment because It does not deter, It is racially biased, and Innocent people die.
Remember: These thesis statements are generated based on the answers provided on the form. Use the Thesis Statement Guide as many times as you like. Your ideas and the results are anonymous and confidential. When you build a thesis statement that works for you, ensure that it addresses the assignment. Finally, you may have to rewrite the thesis statement so that the spelling, grammar, and punctuation are correct.
In an online course, how many times should a student be warned before a paper fails? Should I give up and hope that their next instructor finally succeeds? Does their inability to even desire to create thesis statements suggest a lack of engagement with evidence? In other words, do they think that readers must draw the conclusions? In other words, do they want to avoid argument?