6 Strategies of Analyzing Sources

Six Strategies of Analyzing Sources-

  1. Make your source speak
  2. Attend carefully to the language of your source by quoting or paraphrasing them
  3. Supply ongoing analysis of sources ( don’t wait until the end)
  4. Us your sources to ask questions, not just to provide answers
  5. Put your source into conversation with one another
  6. Find your own role in the conversation( page 278 W.A.) (A. Agreement: apply it in another context to qualify or expand its implications; B. Seek out other perspectives on the source in order to break the spell it has cast on you ( See an example on pages 279-280, W.A.)

Guidelines for Conversing with Sources

  1. Avoid the temptation to plug in sources as answers. Aim for a conversation with them. Think of sources as voices inviting you into a community of interpretation, discussion and debate.
  2. Quote, paraphrase, or summarize in order to analyze. Explain what you take the source to mean, showing the reasoning that has led to the conclusion you draw from it.
  3. Quote sparingly. You are usually better off centering your analysis on a few quotation, analyzing their key terms, and branching out to aspect of your own subject that the quotations illuminate. Remember that not all disciplines allow direct quotation.
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of close paraphrasing. You will almost invariably beginning to interpret a source once you start  paraphrasing its key language.
  5. Locate and highlight what is at stake in your source. Which of its points does the source find most important? What positions does it want to modify or refute, and why?
  6. Look for ways to develop, modify, or apply what a source has said, rather than simply agreeing or disagreeing with it.
  7. If you challenge a position found in a source, be sure to represent it fairly. First, give the source some credit by identifying assumptions you share with it.Then isolate the part that you intend to complicate or dispute.
  8. Look for sources that address your subject from different perspectives. Avoid relying too heavily on any one source. Aim at the end to synthesize these perspectives: what is the common ground?
  9. When your sources disagree, consider playing mediator. Instead of immediately agreeing with one or the other, clarify areas of agreement or disagreement among them.

Thesis Workshop

Thesis Workshop

Entrance Ticket
This ticket will be used to help me understand what you already know coming into the workshop.

  • ·         Please name four characteristics of effective thesis statements.


  • ·         Please write an example of an effective thesis statement( your thesis for the analysis essay on a contested public space)

What is a thesis statement? ( hypothesis, controlling idea, primary claim)

  • the thesis of an analytical paper is an idea about what some feature or features or your subject means ( or tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion).
  • is a road map for the paper; in other words, it tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • directly answers the question asked of you. A thesis is aninterpretation of a question or subject, not the subject itself. The subject, or topic, of an essay might be World War II or Moby Dick or a contested public space ; a thesis must then offer a way to understand the war or the novel or place. A thesis should be an idea in need of an argument( debatable); that is, it should not be a statement of fact or an idea with which most readers would already agree.
  • makes a claim that others might dispute.
  • is usually a single sentence somewhere in your first paragraph that presents your argument to the reader. The rest of the paper, the body of the essay, gathers and organizes evidence that will persuade the reader of the logic of your interpretation.

In conclusion, an analytical thesis makes a claim about a subject of analysis: a text, an image, a place or an issue, for example. It reveals and explains a relationship, cause, effect or reason that might seem hidden, counterintuitive, or in other ways not-obvious to a casual reader.

How to arrive at a thesis statement?

  • A thesis is the result of a lengthy thinking process.
  • Formulating a thesis is not the first thing you do after reading an essay assignment. Before you develop an argument on any topic, you have to collect and organize evidence, look for possible relationships between known facts (such as surprising contrasts or similarities), and think about the significance of these relationships.
  • Once you have given enough thought about the data ( evidence), you will probably have a “working thesis,” a claim that can be supported by evidence but  may need adjustment along the way.
  • Writers use all kinds of techniques to help them ” read” the evidence, clarify relationships among sources and comprehendthe broader significance of a topic before they arrive at a thesis statement.

What does the thesis statement of a analytical writing look like? How does it evolve?

  • The governing idea of most analytical writing is too complex to be asserted as a single sentence claim.
  • In analytical writing, the thesis is more likely to become evident in phrases, guided by some kind of opening  claim sufficient to get the paper started. This claim is commonly known as the working thesis ( 229, W.A.).
  • Sometimes as much as the 1st third of a paper will explore an idea that the rest of the paper will subsequently replace with a different not necessarily opposing perspectives. There will be a trail or trajectory that lets readers anticipate a shift from one possible way of seeing things to another.
  • You should be able to spot tension( pressure of one idea against another possibility) in good thesis statements. ( 230 W.A.)
  • Most effective working theses, though they may begin more simply, achieve both grammatical and conceptual complexity as they evolve. Thus, they begin with : although: or incorporate ” however” or  use an ” appears to be about x but is actually about y “kind of formulation.

Weak thesis: Woman in contemporary films are more sensitive than men.

Examples of a strong thesis. Why are these theses stronger than the simple statement above? Example the complex syntax of each sentence.

  • The complications that fuel the plots in today’s romantic comedies arise because women and men express their sensitivity so differently; the resolution, however, rarely requires the men to capitulate.
  • A spate of recent films has witnessed the emergence of the new ” womanly” man as hero, and not surprisingly, his tender qualities seems to be the reason he attracts the female love interests.

How to Draft a Thesis Statement?
The thesis makes a claim about your topic or text, lays out key evidence to support this claim, and explains the significance of the claim ( so what)

Claim: WHAT are you saying about the topic?
Evidence: HOW do you know this?
Significance: WHY does this matter?

For example-

  • Claim: The play reinforces the idea that individuals are powerless to change their fates
  • Evidence: The chorus uses foreshadowing, Romeo and Juliet are characterized as young and naïve, their final deaths are caused by situational irony
  • Significance: The course of our lives cannot be changed by hard work or wily, we must accept our destinies.

How to combine the simple sentences into a complex one using complex syntax?

Through (EVIDENCE), the passage ( place or image) reveals that (CLAIM); thus, the text ( image, place or passage) shows us that (Significance).

Here is an example-

Through the foreshadowing element of the chorus, the characterization of Romeo and Juliet as young and naïve, and the situational irony of the final scene, the play reinforces the idea that individuals are powerless to change their fates. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet thus serves as a reminder that the course of fate cannot be altered by hard work or personal will; we must accept our fate as is.

Evaluating examples of thesis statements( cited from http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/thesis-statements/) –

Suppose you are taking a course on 19th-century America, and the instructor hands out the following essay assignment:Compare and contrast the reasons why the North and South fought the Civil War. You turn on the computer and type out the following:

A. (Example 1) The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different.

(Analysis) This weak thesis restates the question without providing any additional information. You will expand on this new information in the body of the essay, but it is important that the reader know where you are heading. A reader of this weak thesis might think, “What reasons? How are they the same? How are they different?” Ask yourself these same questions and begin to compare Northern and Southern attitudes (perhaps you first think, “The South believed slavery was right, and the North thought slavery was wrong”). Now, push your comparison toward an interpretation—why did one side think slavery was right and the other side think it was wrong? You look again at the evidence, and you decide that you are going to argue that the North believed slavery was immoral while the South believed it upheld the Southern way of life. You write:

2. ( Working thesis)  While 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.

( Analysis) Now you have a working thesis! Included in this working thesis is a reason for the war and some idea of how the two sides disagreed over this reason. As you write the essay, you will probably begin to characterize these differences more precisely, and your working thesis may start to seem too vague. Maybe you decide that both sides fought for moral reasons, and that they just focused on different moral issues. You end uprevising the working thesis into a final thesis that really captures the argument in your paper:

3. ( Final thesis) While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government.

Compare this to the original weak thesis. This final thesis presents a way of interpreting evidence that illuminates thesignificance of the question. Keep in mind that this is one of many possible interpretations of the Civil War—it is not the one and only right answer to the question. There isn’t one right answer; there are only strong and weak thesis statements and strong and weak uses of evidence.

B. ( Example 2)  Let’s look at another example. Suppose your literature professor hands out the following assignment in a class on the American novel: Write an analysis of some aspect of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn. “This will be easy,” you think. “I loved Huckleberry Finn!” You grab a pad of paper and write:

 1. (weak thesis) Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel.

Why is this thesis weak? Think about what the reader would expect from the essay that follows: you will most likely provide a general, appreciative summary of Twain’s novel. The question did not ask you to summarize; it asked you to analyze. Your professor is probably not interested in your opinion of the novel; instead, she wants you to think about why it’s such a great novel—what do Huck’s adventures tell us about life, about America, about coming of age, about race relations, etc.? First, the question asks you to pick an aspect of the novel that you think is important to its structure or meaning—for example, the role of storytelling, the contrasting scenes between the shore and the river, or the relationships between adults and children. Now you write:

2. ( working thesis) In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain develops a contrast between life on the river and life on the shore.

Here’s a working thesis with potential: you have highlighted an important aspect of the novel for investigation; however, it’s still not clear what your analysis will reveal. Your reader is intrigued, but is still thinking, “So what? What’s the point of this contrast? What does it signify?” Perhaps you are not sure yet, either. That’s fine—begin to work on comparing scenes from the book and see what you discover. Free write, make lists, jot down Huck’s actions and reactions. Eventually you will be able to clarify for yourself, and then for the reader, why this contrast matters. After examining the evidence and considering your own insights, you write:

3. ( final thesis) Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature.

This final thesis statement presents an interpretation of a literary work based on an analysis of its content. Of course, for the essay itself to be successful, you must now present evidence from the novel that will convince the reader of your interpretation.

Now it’s your turn to try-

Activity 1: What can you learn from a thesis?

Each member reads his/her thesis aloud and the rest of the group answer each question from below about his/her statement. We will not discuss the thesis until everyone has had an opportunity to record his/her thoughts.

  • What question is this thesis trying to answer (or prove)?
  • What topics do you think this student is going to research?
  • Is the thesis statement clear? Is the thesis statement simply observational? Why?
  • How could you narrow down or strengthen this thesis statement?

Activity 2: Identify as many traits as you can in each member’s thesis-

  1. • Focus on narrow, clearly defined subjects
  2. • Use strong, precise verbs
  3. • Assert and structure an argument
  4. • Provide clear reasons for claims
  5. • Are not statements of fact, but debatable claims with potential counter-arguments
  6. • Tend to be syntactically complex, or even take two sentences to describe a relationship
  7. • Raise and begin to answer a challenging intellectual question

Activity 3: Revise your thesis by asking yourself the following questions-

  • Do I answer the question? Re-reading the question prompt after constructing a working thesis can help you fix an argument that misses the focus of the question( see the the analysis assignment description).
  • Have I taken a position that others might challenge or oppose?If your thesis simply states facts that no one would, or even could, disagree with, it’s possible that you are simply providing a summary, rather than making an argument.
  • Is my thesis statement specific enough? Thesis statements that are too vague often do not have a strong argument. If your thesis contains words like “good” or “successful,” see if you could be more specific: why is something “good”; what specifically makes something “successful”?
  • Does my thesis pass the “So what?” test? If a reader’s first response is, “So what?” then you need to clarify, to forge a relationship, or to connect to a larger issue.
  • ( after you have finished the the essay) Does my essay support my thesis specifically and without wandering? If your thesis and the body of your essay do not seem to go together, one of them has to change. It’s okay to change your working thesis to reflect things you have figured out in the course of writing your paper. Remember, always reassess and revise your writing as necessary.
  • Does my thesis pass the “how and why?” test? If a reader’s first response is “how?” or “why?” your thesis may be too open-ended and lack guidance for the reader. See what you can add to give the reader a better take on your position right from the beginning.


Exit TicketThis ticket will be used to help me understand what you learned in the workshop.

1. Please name four characteristics of effective thesis statements.


2. Please provide your revised thesis statement.


  1. Thesis statement workshop handout 1
  2. Handout 2

10/28 Agenda


Continue with Lesson 3 Part 2

  1. Share quotations that reveal the Puritan Values
  2. List symbols ( worksheet)
  3. Share imaginary diary of a Puritan
  4. Discuss the NY Times Article
  5. Complete the worksheet
  6. End of the Lesson Assessment
  7. HW: a)Complete the essay on Prison Door  b) Read Tocqueville’s article on religion and democracies