“thesis tension”

The other day, Gail arrived for her consultation upset that she had failed a test in her English 101 class.  She showed me that in one part she had totally misunderstood what adding “tension” to a thesis was.  At that moment, I realized that I didn’t know what it was either.  (Turns out no one else here knew the term either, nor is it in any of our many style guides.)  Last week she’d mentioned it and I had assumed her instructor was simply using “tension” as a way to refer to the need for debatability or controversy in a thesis.  

So the last few days I’ve been finding references to it and figuring out exactly what it refers to.  And this morning, I combed the internet and our style guides for examples of theses with “tension.”  I’m going to hand-out this sheet (below) at our staff meeting this afternoon and lead a discussion on it.  I think I’ll say it’s basically adding a surprise, a twist… giving the audience’s “before” view… an “although” or “whereas” statement… showing the sophistication of your argument.

EXAMPLES of “TENSION” added to BASIC THESIS STATEMENTS (in bold)

While Dukakis’ “soft-on-crime” image hurt his chances in the 1988 election, his failure to campaign vigorously after the Democratic National Convention bore a greater responsibility for his defeat. 

Although standardized tests, such as the SAT, are usually considered a valid way to assess students and they are widely used in college admissions, these tests do not accurately reflect a student’s knowledge or ability.

Although the author captivates her audience with compelling expert testimony and a riveting personal anecdote, her sudden turn to misleading statistics and offense stereotypes undermines her credibility; consequently, she fails to persuade.

While at first it might appear that lipstick is being used merely to hide the characters’ feelings of betrayal, a closer look reveals that its most essential use is actually to map the path to the betrayal itself. By using lipstick as the signposts, betrayal can be discovered and navigated. As a result, characters are able to re-draw the borders of their relationships, and to re-route the course of their lives.

Many critics have called the novel misogynistic, but the last chapter suggests it is more feminist than usually assumed. 

Although the religious tone in the poem suggests a devout belief in God, the speaker is in fact experiencing a crisis of faith.

Neither neo-protectionism nor post-industrial theory explains the steep reversal of fortune for the Canadian furniture industry in the period 1988-1994. Data on productivity, profits, and employment, however, can be closely correlated with provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in the same period.

Dutch laws on euthanasia have been rightly praised for their attention to the principles of self-determination. Recent cases, however, show that they have not been able to deal adequately with issues involving technological intervention of unconscious patients. Hamarckian strategies can solve at least the question of assignation of rights. Although many parents of teens struggling with body image may blame television models and other such stars, these body issues and their disorders stem back to their daughters’ younger days of pigtails and Barbies. 

Despite their high-tech special effects, today’s graphically violent horror movies do not convey the creative use of cinematography or the emotional impact that we saw in the classic horror films of the 1940s and 50s. 

Often dismissed because it is animated, The Simpsons treats the issue of ethnicity more powerfully than did the critically praised All In The Family.

Although several politicians and political commentators (such a William F. Buckley in “The War Against Drugs Is Lost”) argue from a pragmatic position that current U.S. anti-drug policies are ineffective and too expensive (both fiscally and socially), I find that the most compelling case against current U.S. drug policies exist in the history of the U.S. prohibition against alcohol in the early part of the 20th century.

In Kate Chopin’s book The Awakening and Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s novella The Yellow Wallpaper, the female protagonists veer from the collective mainstream of a patriarchal society because of their pronounced feelings of alienation, frustration, and emotional and creative repression within this social structure, marked by the subordination of women.  Ultimately, both characters escape the narrow restraints of this early 20th century mentality either by suicide–as in The Awakening–or through insanity–as in The Yellow Wallpaper.  However tragic this may appear on the surface, the implication of deliverance from their restricted environments is one of liberation and transgression from and of the dominant culture.  In this way, the women’s actions are equally heroic. 

While cultural forces contributed to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, the disintegration of economies played the key role in driving its decline. 

Achilles and Odysseus were both great warriors, but differed greatly in both personality and their treatment of others.

Although his decision to go to war may be handling foreign policy well in every other way, Pres Bush needs to explain more of his reasons for sending more troops toIraq.

Although most people agree that abstinence sex education is a good thing general, it often presents false information, uses scare tactics, and _____. 

Although our way of life includes a lot of conveniences, our throw-away society is costing our economy and our ____.

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