Learning Skills

Thinking in Theses


Web Resources for This Assignment

For General Education 110

Egypt
The Egyptian Book of the Dead 125

For General Education 111

Discovery and Reformation
Thinking in Topics

What is a Thesis?

   In discussing how to organize information, we covered the issue of topics in the last learning skills assignment. This time, however, we're going to deal with a type of topic, the thesis. Like a topic, a thesis is meant to organize information, often distantly related information, into a coherent whole. Unlike a topic, however, a thesis is an argument, that is, it is an interpretation of the information. A topic simply indicates that all the information gathered within it are all related. A thesis explains what larger issue might be explained by all the information that is organized by the thesis. Do you see the difference? A topic relates to information. A thesis relates to the use or significance of that information. After your exercise on significance, guess which way of thinking is better? Information only? Or the use of information?
   That is, of course, a no-brainer. Ten points for being as smart as Dan Quayle (oops, we might get sued for that!). You can see, however, that thinking in theses is far more difficult than thinking in topics, just as coming up with a significance for a piece of information is far more difficult than simply defining a piece of information.
   How do you think in theses? Go back to the explanation. If a topic organizes a bunch of information, then it follows that you organize the information when you're organizing a topic. If a thesis organizes the significance of a bunch of information, then it follows that when you organize information under a thesis, you are, in fact, organizing the uses or significances of that information.

The Arguments in the Textbook

General Education 110

   For students in General Education 110, I want you to do the same thing you did in the previous exercise, that is, I want you to create a set of categories under which you might put all the information that you learned in the textbook and in the one reading (the Book of the Dead). Rather than topics, however, I want you to organize this information in arguments, that is, interpretations of the information. What arguments can you make about Egyptian culture from these readings? What interpretations can you make about Egyptian culture? All I want you to do is to list these arguments, and I want you to list several of them. Indicate after each argument a rough idea of what information you'd use to make this argument.

General Education 111

   For students in General Education 111, I want you to create a set of categories under which you would put the information in the "Reformation" chapter of the textbook, either the cloth or on-line version. I want you, in a single paragraph, to indicate all the main topics that you find in the textbook readings on the Reformation. After you've done that, I want you to organize the central information in the textbook as arguments, that is, the various interpretations and uses that the information is being used for. What overall arguments is the author making about the Reformation? What is the author trying to convince you of in presenting the information to you? What does the author feel needs explaining? All I want you to do is list the arguments in the textbook, and I want you to list several of them. Indicate after each argument a rough idea of what information the textbook is using to make this argument.
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