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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.