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Revising the Thesis

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Let's say you're writing a history paper, and your working thesis is this: "Although both sides fought the Civil War over the issue of slavery, the North fought for moral reasons while the South fought to preserve its own institutions."

What might be giving you trouble with organization is that you've created some very broad categories to work with (slavery, morality, institutions). They're all relevant to the Civil War, but there's only so much you can do in a three-, five-, or even ten-page paper. If you look more closely, you can narrow your argument by finding more specific terms; narrowing your argument will, in turn, help you rethink your organization.

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Make a list

In two columns, list the reasons why each side fought the Civil War, limiting yourself to ones you address (however briefly) in your draft. Let's say you come up with the following:

North South
slavery slavery
moral issues self government
humane treatment right to property
against tyranny against tyranny
against oppression of slaves against federal government oppression

As you can see, some of the issues pertain to both sides and some just to one or the other. Thus, the listing process should relatively quickly confirm whether the draft obeys the argument laid out in the working thesis.

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Re-examine the thesis

You can now see that the draft offers clearer terms for your argument. A revised thesis statement might now read: Both sides fought against tyranny and oppression, but while the South fought for the political and economic rights of slave owners, the North fought for the human rights of slaves . This revised thesis offers more specifics, which should help you organize your draft more successfully by narrowing the scope.

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Re-examine the draft's general structure

It seems from the list and the revised thesis statement that you probably want to establish the similarities first and then explain the differences. Check your draft; did you begin with the similarities and move on to the differences? If not, you need to reorganize.

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Reorganize the argument

You still need to ask yourself which differences are most important. The order in which you present your points generally reflects a hierarchy of significance for your readers to follow.


Reorganizing Your Draft

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Revising the Thesis. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License