Thesis Statements, Claims, and Evidence
The three important parts of an argumentative essay are:
- A thesis statement is a sentence, usually in the first paragraph of an article, that expresses the article’s main point. It is not a fact; it’s a statement that you could disagree with. Therefore, the author has to convince you that the statement is correct.
- Claims are statements that support the thesis statement, but like the thesis statement, are not facts. Because a claim is not a fact, it requires supporting evidence.
- Evidence is factual information that shows a claim is true. Usually, writers have to conduct their own research to find evidence that supports their ideas. The evidence may include statistical (numerical) information, the opinions of experts, studies, personal experience, scholarly articles, or reports.
Each paragraph in the article is numbered at the beginning of the first sentence.
Identifying the Thesis Statement. Paragraph 2 ends with this thesis statement: “People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.” It is a thesis statement for three reasons:
- It is the article’s main argument.
- It is not a fact. Someone could think that peoples’ prior convictions should affect their access to higher education.
- It requires evidence to show that it is true.
Finding Claims. A claim is statement that supports a thesis statement. Like a thesis, it is not a fact so it needs to be supported by evidence.
You have already identified the article’s thesis statement: “People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.”
Like the thesis, a claim be an idea that the author believes to be true, but others may not agree. For this reason, a claim needs support.
- Question 1. Can you find a claim in paragraph 3? Look for a statement that might be true, but needs to be supported by evidence.
Paragraphs 5-7 offer one type of evidence to support the claim you identified in the last question. Reread paragraphs 5-7.
- Question 2. Which word best describes the kind of evidence included in those paragraphs: A report, a study, personal experience of the author, statistics, or the opinion of an expert?
Paragraph 8 makes two claims:
- “The United States needs to have more of this transformative power of education.”
- “The country [the United States] incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other nation in the world.”
Paragraphs 8 and 9 include these statistics as evidence:
- “The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly 25 percent of the incarcerated population around the globe.”
- “Roughly 2.2 million people in the United States are essentially locked away in cages. About 1 in 5 of those people are locked up for drug offenses.”
Question 3. Does this evidence support claim 1 from paragraph 8 (about the transformative power of education) or claim 2 (about the U.S.’s high incarceration rate)?
Question 4. Which word best describes this kind of evidence: A report, a study, personal experience of the author, statistics, or the opinion of an expert?
Remember that in paragraph 2, Andrisse writes that:
- “People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.” (Thesis statement)
- “More must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.” (Claim)
Now, review paragraphs 11-13 (Early life of crime). In these paragraphs, Andrisse shares more of his personal story.
Question 5. Do you think his personal story is evidence for statement 1 above, statement 2, both, or neither one?
Question 6. Is yes, which one(s)?
Question 7. Do you think his personal story is good evidence? Does it persuade you to agree with him?
Listed below are some claims that Andrisse makes in paragraph 14. Below each claim, please write the supporting evidence from paragraphs 15 and 16. If you can’t find any evidence, write “none.”
Claim: The more education a person has, the higher their income.
Claim: Similarly, the more education a person has, the less likely they are to return to prison.
In these paragraphs, Andrisse returns to his personal story. He explains how his father’s illness inspired him to become a doctor and shares that he was accepted to only one of six biomedical graduate programs.
Do you think that this part of Andrisse’s story serves as evidence (support) for any claims that you’ve identified so far? Or does it support his general thesis that “people’s prior convictions should not be held against them in pursuit of higher learning?” Please explain your answer.
Andrisse uses his personal experience to repeat a claim he makes in paragraph 3, that “more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.”
To support this statement, he has to show that barriers exist. One barrier he identifies is the cost of college. He then explains the advantages of offering Pell grants to incarcerated people.
What evidence in paragraphs 21-23 support his claim about the success of Pell grants?
Paragraphs 24-28 (Remove questions about drug crimes from federal aid forms)
In this section, Andrisse argues that federal aid forms should not ask students about prior drug convictions. To support that claim, he includes a statistic about students who had to answer a similar question on their college application.
What statistic does he include?
In paragraph 25, he assumes that if a question about drug convictions discourages students from applying to college, it will probably also discourage them from applying for federal aid.
What do you think about this assumption? Do you think it’s reasonable or do you think Andrisse needs stronger evidence to show that federal aid forms should not ask students about prior drug convictions?