First, make sure that the paper actually has a thesis that predicts what the rest of the paragraphs will be about. Once your thesis is clear, read each paragraph; this would be an ideal time to consider topic sentences (those sentences that control the focus of the paragraph) and ask yourself if those points are introduced or referenced in the thesis. If there is a paragraph that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest, either add it to your thesis or delete it entirely!

For example:

Thesis: Dogs are better than cats because they are loyal and playful.

First point: Dogs are loyal whereas cats are not.

Second point: Dogs are always eager to please; cats wait to be pleased.

Third point: Dogs love to play but cats rarely deign to play.

In this example, the second point about eagerness to please is not in the thesis statement. The thesis should be revised to add this point: Dogs are better than cats because they are loyal, accommodating, and playful.

Now you try! See if you can pick out the thesis statement in the passage below:

Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, states that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader’s imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man’s heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man’s absence with the police. In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a careful reader can observe Poe’s skillful manipulation of the senses.

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