How to Write Effective Standpoints

(Thesis Statements)

A. Any standpoint must first of all be S.O.D:

  1. Specific,

  2. Opinionated, and

  3. Deniable.


B. A good standpoint limits the scope of the subject to the length, purpose and audience of the argument. Be as specific as possible.  Your standpoint must be narrow enough that your topic can be discussed fully in the space available.


C. A standpoint is not a topic sentence, a title or a summary;  rather, you must make a deniable assertion.  You are arguing an idea that someone else might not share.


D. A standpoint must be unified;  that is, it expresses only one idea (for example, you do not want to write about both the age and the composition of the moon unless you can find a way to connect the two logically into one coherent idea—the fact that they both have to do with  the moon is too weak a connection).


E. Any standpoint must be intended for a specific audience. A standpoint written for no specific audience (or for a "universal audience," which is the same thing) is a bad standpoint. 


F. A good standpoint is never:

  • a title ("The Genocide in Darfur."),

  • an announcement ("In this paper I will discuss the war in Darfur."),

  • an unquestioned fact ("Darfur is located in Sudan."),

  • or an unanswered question ("What can we do to help out the innocent victims of the terrible genocide in Darfur?").


G. The biggest error most beginning scholarly writers commit is to create a standpoint that is too broad (and would take a large book--or an entire career--to write about). Their greatest fear is narrowing their subject too much and not having enough to write on. This is wrong, however. 


H. Your purpose in scholarly writing is normally not to write a general introduction "for dummies®" to a broad field of knowledge (e.g., smoking, health care, astronomy, auto maintenance). Nor is it just to prove you read the assignment or did the research, either. Rather, it is to for you to do an intensely focused, in-depth study of one tiny bit of knowledge, where you can learn just about everything there is to know about the question and become the expert on that tiny subject. Then you write the paper as an expert writing to other experts. 


I. In many forms of scholarly writing your text begins with a  hard-hitting standpoint. In others, the standpoint is placed at the end of the introduction. Ask your professor which is right for your particular writing situation and for your specific audience. 

O.W. Rev 1/09

For educational purposes only.


Owen M. Williamson - Education Bldg 211E - phone: (915) 747 7625 - fax: (915) 747 5655
The University of Texas at El Paso - 500 W. University Ave. - El Paso, TX 79968
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