A statement which seriously attempts a thesis and is generally well written, such that the reader generally has a good idea what the writer means. It is a pseudo-thesis because it doesn’t really advance any new idea or provide a genuinely creative insight or imagining. There are four typical types of pseudo-theses:
For the example theses:
Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
1. The Summary
- It’s a summary or description of the text
- The student is avoiding real argument or contention
- Often arises from the student thinking that the assignment, rather than demanding an argument, is asking him to prove that he has read the text
Summary Thesis: In Robert Frost’s poem, “Fire and Ice,” the narrator is debating whether desire or hate, respectively symbolized by fire and ice, is more destructive.
2. The Blueprint
- The idea that the thesis is a “road map” for the rest of the essay
- We often see this in the 5-paragraph essay
- On the surface it is more argumentative than the “summary” thesis
- It falls short because it is limiting; students are tempted to modify or exaggerate evidence in order to fit the blueprint thesis
- It is also too neat and tidy; it leaves no room for surprise, or growth of ideas
Blueprint Thesis: Robert Frost explores the tension between desire and hate through metaphor, simple language, and an uneven rhyme scheme.
3. The “Okey-Dokey”
- Students give an “okey-dokey” thesis when they are suspicious of offering an insight of their own
- Usually it is too easily conceded. It doesn’t use good or solid evidence, or, if it does, it fails to argue why this evidence is good or solid.
- It usually comes off as reasonable, too reasonable, just “okey-dokey”
- It will put you to sleep
“Okey-dokey” Thesis: “Fire and Ice” shows that human emotion can be destructive, and that desire and hate, like fire and ice, are two strong agents of this destruction.
4. The Zany
- Substitutes ‘wild’ and ‘outlandish’ for ‘argumentative’
- Usually manifests as unsupportable metaphors or comparisons
- As a result, the writer’s point is hazy
- Also common is that it’s written in ornate language, which is used to disguise the writer’s lack of argument
Zany Thesis: In “Fire and Ice” the prophetic Robert Frost predicts an anthropogenic apocalypse which is directly tied to a lack of human self cognizance with respect to the bipolar emotions of hate and desire.
1 All definitions and paraphrases come from Frank Cioffi’s The Imaginative Argument, Princeton University Press, 2005.