29 March 2016
The class discussion of the weekly reading was about Ch.6 of Writing analytically entitled “Finding and evolving a research question”. As I am starting to build my project, I need to think about my thesis which is an “idea you formulate about your subject” (Rosenwasser & Stephen 2015:147) or the main argument or claim of a work , whether it is is an article, book, talk, poster. Then we looked up the meaning of thesis in OED which made all very crystal clear. Its derivatives such as hypothesis and antithesis were also looked at. Meanwhile, a thesis statement is also defined as a clear articulation of my thesis, that is, what my project will investigate, demonstrate or argue.
With these two definitions firmly set in my mind, I had one lingering question:what then should I argue in a 25,000-word dissertation next year? It is a long and extended defence of one main argument that is designed to demonstrate that my research project is making a real contribution to a real issue in the society. The pressure to come up with a thesis and thesis statement as early as possible is mounting and I find it stressful because I am not still clear how clearly my project will prove useful to my field and the larger world. So what Rosenwasser & Stephen aptly remind me is quite comforting:
“One of the most disabling misunderstandings about thesis statements is that a writer needs to have a thesis before he or she begins writing. Arriving at claims too early in the writing process blinds writers to complicating evidence (evidence that runs counter to the thesis) and so deprives them of opportunities to arrive at better ideas” (Rosenwasser & Stephen 2015:148).
So without being stressed out about formulating a perfect thesis statement now, what I need is “lots of critical thinking , writing and experimenting (and frustration)” as Jack said to us. He added, “1,000 hours are needed to master something.” Surely if anything is worth mastering, that many hours or even more must be sacrificed and I am asking myself if I am willing to do that.
It is then my observation that to prove a proposition in my dissertation, I have to lay out all the valid points and arguments which are backed up by own research/ investigation into the matter through careful and scientific inquiries, so it is rightly called a thesis.
Rosenwasser & Stephen then (2015) go on to give another helpful advice about the thesis by presenting two ways to arrive at and use thesis statement that will foster inquiry and cut rather than avoiding complexity. Focusing on an area of my subject that is open to opposing viewpoint or multiple interpretations and treating the thesis at which I arrive as a hypothesis to be tested rather than an obvious truth (p.147). As I admitted earlier, it simply drives me on toward better investigation into and development of ideas but I do not allow it to dictates my thinking and stifling its potential to expand.
Jack quoted Aristotle twice and they are worth remembering: “excellence is not an act but a habit” and “Well begun is half done”. So well known but so easily forgotten. Getting in the habit of pursuing a well-developed argument based on relentless reading and thinking is what I need. Writing this blog itself makes it ‘well begun’. Didn’t William Zinsser say “the most important sentence in any article is the first one”? I think I have begun well. Let me make sure it is well done!