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How to Create a Thesis & Outline for a Poetry Essay

by Kate Prudchenko, Demand Media Google

    Any academic essay must have a thesis statement and a poetry essay is no exception. The main purpose of a poetry essay is not to summarize the poem, but to develop an in-depth idea that makes an argument based upon an analysis of the poem. The thesis statement should contain the essay's main argument about the poem.

    What Is a Poetry Essay

    A poetry essay develops an interpretation about a particular poem. This interpretation contains an argument about what you think the poet is saying or doing in the poem and what effect the poem’s various elements, like diction or rhyme, have on the poem as a whole. This argument will in turn form the basis of your essay’s thesis statement.

    How to Create Thesis Statement

    The thesis of the essay will be your statement of interpretation of what a particular poem means. There are two related set of questions that you should consider in order to come up with the thesis for your poetry essay: What is this poem about and why did the writer write the poem as he or she did? The second part of this question asks why did the writer choose to use the words, images, metaphors and perhaps the particular kind of rhythm scheme; what effect is he or she trying to achieve? Your thesis statement should contain answers to these questions.

    Connecting the Thesis to the Outline

    Once you figure out the answers to the questions above, you can then write your thesis statement. The purpose of the rest of the essay is to provide support for your argument, or to prove your thesis with specific examples from the text. For example, you might decide that William Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils” is saying something about Wordsworth’s attitude toward life. While this is a good start, this idea is not specific enough to be a thesis. The thesis should make an argument about Wordsworth’s perspective within the poem so that it can then be supported or proven in the rest of the essay. An example of a thesis might be: "In his poem, 'Daffodils,' Wordsworth uses daffodils as a metaphor for a happy life."

    How to Write Outline

    In order to outline your poetry essay, break up the outline into three main parts: introduction, argument, and conclusion. The introduction will introduce the poem and the poet and state your thesis. The argument section will typically be between two and five paragraphs, and each paragraph will make individual points that support the thesis statement. For example, one paragraph might discuss how daffodils are a symbol of the poem’s main theme. The number of paragraphs and the argument section of the poem will vary according to how many supporting points you need to make in order to prove your thesis. Finally, the conclusion is the third section of the essay. This section should summarize the main points of the essay and take the argument one step further.

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    About the Author

    Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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