How to Elevate Your Essays Using the ‘Thesis + 3’ Writing Exercise

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Struggling to get started on your essay for English? Ever tried doing a writing exercise to get you on the right track?

Well, we’ve got just the right one for you to use! It’s called a ‘Thesis + 3’ and it’ll get you into the habit of responding to essay questions.

Curious to know how to use the writing exercise? Keep reading to find out more!

What is a Thesis + 3 writing exercise?
Why 3?
Does Thesis + 3 make up your whole introduction?
The Purpose and Benefits of Writing Thesis + 3s
How to Write a Thesis + 3
What do you do once you have written a Thesis + 3?

What is a Thesis + 3 writing exercise? 

A Thesis + 3 is a writing exercise that requires you to write a thesis statement and 3 topic sentences in response to an essay question. 

For example:

Question: Stories show us the complex nature of being human. Explore this statement with reference to your prescribed text.

Thesis Quality stories reveal the complex and often contradictory nature of being human. William Shakespeare’s tragicomedy The Merchant of Venice (1600) effectively dramatises the complexities that arise from inconsistencies between human motivations and behaviour. 
Topic Sentence 1 Shakespeare’s poignant portrayal of Shylock’s mistreatment as a result of the anti-Semitic beliefs reveals the complexities of being perceived as ‘the Other’ in society. 
Topic Sentence 2 Through his authentic portrayal of the dynamic relationship between Shylock and Antonio, Shakespeare reflects the complexities of neglecting the desire for mercy to seek vengeance.  
Topic Sentence 3 Owing to the patriarchal values of the Elizabethan era, women such as Portia had limited values and self-agency, and consequently had to discreetly subvert the feminine gender roles imposed upon them in order to feel powerful.

Why 3? 

Most essays will require you to write 3 body paragraphs under timed conditions. Therefore by preparing 3 topic sentences, you are practising relevant skills to help you excel in your assessments! 

However, there are times where your thesis +3 could really be a thesis +2 or even a thesis +4 depending on the structure of your essay and the module you are writing in. 

For example, in Module B of the NSW syllabus, you may write about two poems or short stories. 

Question: Analyse how the author of your prescribed text has challenged assumptions of cultural identity.

Thesis Henry Lawson effectively manipulates language to reveal and subsequently challenge preconceived notions of the collective identity of Australian ‘bushmen’.  
Topic Sentence 1 Lawson challenges the cultural assumption that women rely on men to survive the harsh Australian landscape in his 1892 short story ‘The Drover’s Wife’. 
Topic Sentence 2 Contrastingly, in his 1896 story ‘Shooting the Moon’, Lawson challenges the assumption that authentic relationships rely on knowing everything about someone. 

For example, in Advanced Module A, you may have 4 paragraphs on your 2 prescribed texts. 

Question: Examine how the conversation between two texts illuminates the key values of the time.

Thesis While the reimagining of classic texts highlights the enduring value of key ideas, the dissonances between texts emphasise how context informs the representation of key values. Atwood’s 2016 retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611) foregrounds the importance of revenge and forgiveness while also illuminating the changing perception of imprisonment. 
Topic Sentence 1 Shakespeare poignantly reveals the universal desire for vengeance to restore ‘natural order’ in his tragicomedy The Tempest. 
Topic Sentence 2 Atwood’s characterisation of Felix as a grief-stricken father who has been wronged by Tony and Sal depicts the timeless desire to gain a sense of justice. 
Topic Sentence 3 In The Tempest, Shakespeare establishes the negative impacts that imprisonment has on humans and spirits such as Caliban. 
Topic Sentence 4 Atwood effectively explores the value of human agency through her examination of physical and psychological imprisonment in her 2016 prose novel. 

Note: this is not the only way to approach a ‘Textual Conversations’ question.

Does Thesis + 3 make up your whole introduction? 

As your thesis + 3 summarises your main argument and an outline of your points, you may think that this is a sufficient introduction. While this is partly true, there are a few things that you have to consider when writing an introduction vs a thesis + 3. 

The 3 topic sentences that you write are the opening sentences for your body paragraphs. So, while they summarise your main points, you don’t want to have the same wording in your introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. 

Introductions should include: 

  • Your thesis statement 
  • A context statement 
  • An outline of your points 
  • A statement of intent (optional) 

Given this information, you will also need to include a context statement and a summary of your main points (with different wording than your topic sentences) for your introduction. 

The Purpose and Benefits of Writing Thesis + 3s

Thesis 3 Writing Exercise - Benefits

#1: They are time-efficient 

Thesis +3s are a great time-efficient method of responding to a variety of questions under timed conditions! For instance, instead of spending 40 minutes on writing a whole essay, you could spend 40 minutes writing around 8 thesis +3s. 

You may be thinking that this means you will never have to write a practice essay, but unfortunately, this is not the case. You should still be writing complete essays!

Thesis +3s are just another method that you can consider in order to answer multiple questions in a limited amount of time. Each exercise has its time and place. 

#2: You can use them as a diagnostic tool 

Thesis +3s also give you an idea if you have a sufficient amount of appropriate quotes. Even though it might be tempting to only memorise a small number of quotes and ‘cram’ these into any essay, the more quotes you have to work with, the better your essay will be.

By completing thesis + 3s based on key ideas (rather than based on what quotes you have), you can determine if you need to find more quotes that support a point that you have made. 

For example, if you write a topic sentence about the relationship between two characters in your text, but you don’t have any quotes memorised to support this point, you can revisit your text to find appropriate evidence. 

#3: You can get quick feedback from your teacher/tutor 

If you show your thesis + 3 to your teacher/tutor, they can give you almost instant feedback on whether you are on the ‘right track’ for your essay. 

How to Write a Thesis + 3 

Step 1: Find an essay question 

Head to our site where you can find a whole bunch of practice questions for the module that you are studying!

You can also check out past HSC papers from NESA. 

Step 2: Set a 5-minute timer

When you first start writing thesis + 3s you don’t need to complete all 3 statements within 5 minutes.

You may even spend about 5 minutes PER statement in the beginning to ensure that you are able to address the question effectively. 

However, as you approach closer to the exam (e.g. your prelim exams or your HSC), you will need to ‘pick up the pace’.

As you are probably aware, you don’t have a lot of time in formal exams to write an essay, so by practising your timed writing (e.g. writing a thesis + 3 in 5 minutes), you will be better equipped to answer the question in exam conditions. 

Step 3: Write 

Write your thesis statement and your topic sentences. Try to be as specific as possible and address all aspects of the question!

Step 4: Seek feedback

Once you have completed your thesis + 3, you should seek feedback from a ‘feedback buddy’. This could be a teacher, tutor, peer, friend, sibling, parent etc. 

Step 5: Apply feedback 

In order to improve, you should apply the feedback you receive to your thesis + 3.

For example, your feedback buddy might suggest that you include more specific details in your response. Your feedback buddy might also give you feedback about the content of your response, so you can take this on board when you are writing your essay. 

What do you do once you have written a Thesis + 3? 

Once you have written a thesis + 3, you should not just crumple up your sheet of paper and forget about it forever. The best thing about thesis +3s is that your teacher or tutor can quickly look over your statements and give you feedback about whether you are on the right track. 

Once you have been given feedback, you can use your thesis +3 as a basis for writing a practice essay. 

If you have written multiple thesis +3s, you can also start to look out for patterns in the types of questions that are being asked, as well as how you tend to respond to them (i.e. what stories/poems/values/themes you are responding with). 

Now that you are a little bit more familiar with the thesis + 3 method, have a go at responding to the practice question down below and get feedback from your teacher and/or tutor.  

Good luck! 

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Brianna Huynh hopes to become a full-time teacher and is currently studying a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts Majoring in English and Geography at Macquarie University. Bri loves tutoring students at Art of Smart in English and Geography and loves discussing her love for words and nature with the students. In her spare time, you can find her reading, writing or binge watching the latest TV show.



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