Your Thesis and Claims

First, a reminder about thesis statements:


A thesis statement in an essay is a sentence that explicitly identifies the purpose of the paper or previews its main ideas.

The thesis statement is that sentence or two in your text that contains the focus of your essay and tells your reader what the essay is going to be about.

A strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand, justifies discussion, and expresses one main idea.

Next, a reminder about claims. At the bottom of this page, note that this assignment is different than the initial assignments about thesis and claims.


Claims are the "wanted ends" of arguments.

Claims are also the beginnings of arguments.

When one makes a claim, one has to be prepared to support the claim with evidence and reasoning as there are few "self-evident" and "universally accepted" claims ("She/he who asserts a claim, must provide evidence").

There are not very many universally accepted, taken for granted claims that do not require some amount of evidence.

Every/any claim that is made requires (at least some) evidence in the face of challenge by the audience ("oh yeah?")

Claims sometimes stand alone and at other times are part of a series (of claims and subclaims).

In effect, the "thesis" of a work or part of a work is a kind of claim (we might say that the overall thesis is the "main claim").

There are three major kinds of claims: Claims of fact, claims of value, and claims of policy.

Claims of fact make statements about, for example:
states of being/not being ("there is a full moon out tonight)
aspects/attributes of things ("that barn is red/large/old/empty")
the state of affairs ("the roadway is busy today).

Generally speaking, we think of claims of fact as either being true or false.

Claims of value are decided based on establishing the merits of preferable modes of behavior (instrumental values) or ultimate goals (terminal values) [see items in the Rokeach values survey for Amerian rankings and examples]. For example,
"This is a beautiful watch" (we will argue about the relative beauty of the watch, whether than argue about whether it's a watch)
"Talking behind someone's back is irresponsible"(we will argue about whether gossip is responsible communication).
"Committed relationships are preferable to youthful indiscretions" (we will argue about the value of mature love).

Claims of value depend on acceptance of the value by the audience and their agreement to the relative evaluation level assigned to the subject/object.

Claims of policy respond to the common English sentence: Who should Do What? Claims of policy propose that specific action should be undertaken/completed by specific entities. For example:

"Bradley University should replace the current library with a new building"
"Students at Bradley should be able to miss classes without penalty (faculty should not consider attendance in grading at Bradley)." [it's usually better to state a policy claim in the affirmative rather than the negative, though both happen]
"Bradley students should develop and execute disciplined study skills during their time at university."

There are sometimes implied claims of fact and value lurking inside claims of policy. For example:
"Since smoking is bad for the health of the smoker and imposes 2nd hand smoke risks to others, smoking on campus should be banned."
Here, the policy claim is that "smoking on campus should be banned" (and that IS, ultimately, what we will decide). However, during the argument we will probably debate the fact claims ("smoking is bad for the smoker," "second hand smoke is bad for others") as well as the value claims ("it's better to protect the general health of people on campus than to protect their personal rights and freedoms"--in this case, the right to partake in a legal activity, smoking). Neither of these subclaims DIRECTLY addresss the policy claim "smoking on campus should be banned" although establishing both the fact and value subclaims can help substantiate the policy claim.

It is important that you know when are making claims and what kinds of claims you are making. Making and substantiating a series of claims is how you "make an argument," in our case, via a written paper.

Likewise, it's important to be able to identify and evaluate the claims that others make, particularly when you are searching for evidence in support of your claims.

In both cases, it's crucial that the person making the claim (presenting the argument) provides sufficient support to establish their claim.

Be especially vigilant for instances in which the speaker/writer/source makes one (kind of) claim and supports another (but thereby expects the audience to accept the first as established). And of course, you don't want to make this error. For example, I might make the claim:

"Since smoking is bad for the health of the smoker and imposes 2nd hand smoke risks to others, smoking on campus should be banned."

I might then provide a TON of evidence in support of the health risks from smoking both to the smoker and those nearby. I might then ask you to conclude that we should, therefore, ban smoking on campus.

Note that I've not engaged in the implied value arguments (about the relative merits of limiting personal freedom in favor of public health). Nor have I directly argued about the policy I am advocating (how do we enact and enforce the policy? What are the sanctions/punishments? Who is in charge? etc.)


When your reading summary is targeted at YOUR THESIS AND CLAIMS,

1. Summarize the reading

2. State your thesis and make 3 claims about the material in the reading.

These are NOT THE CLAIMS THE AUTHOR MAKES. These are claims you make about the reading after reading it:

Your thesis statement about the reading

1 main claim of fact

1 main claim of value

1 main claim of policy

Be sure you list each claim type. Do not analyze the author's thesis and claim structure. Rather, establish your own thesis and claim structure ABOUT the reading. Your main points must relate to the thesis that you propose.

an example:

Because AT&T couldn't grasp the potential of ARPANET, the military took over the network project. They enforced rules and regulations to keep the network efficient and disciplined. In 1983, they split the network in two: one for the military, called MILNET, and one for research, still called ARPANET (they were both still linked, but the gateway machines could limit access to either network). The military's main contribution was imposing a standard protocol, TCP/IP, for all machines linked to the network.Lawrence Landweber approached the NSF in 1981 to create a computer science network, which helped move the Internet from military to civilian use. BITNET was also created in 1981 for academic institutions to communicate with each other using telephone lines. By 1991, it had grown to 49 countries, but it began to decline in popularity in 1993. MERIT was commissioned to build the NSFNET for supercomputing in 1987, which enabled the Internet to grow even more rapidly. ARPANET had become slow in comparison, so it was decommissioned in 1990. In 1991, Senator Al Gore helped pass a bill to establish a network to connect NASA, the Department of Energy, NSF, and ARPA. However, during the 2000 presidential election, he was accused of saying he had "invented the Internet"; he had not made any such claim. During the early days of the Internet, various groups and committees were formed to coordinate research for networking on an international scale. By the 1990s, TCP/IP had helped create a global network. The Domain Name System was established in 1983 to help regulate the assignment of domain names (.com, .uk, etc.). The US took control over Domain Name System in 1998 and held control until 2009, when it was decided that no one country should control the Internet.


The Internet was originally under control of the military, but it later was given control to civilians, helping to expand it to a global scale.

Claim of fact:

The amount of machines connected to the Internet nearly doubled every year (p. 94). In 1990, there were nearly one third of a million machines; in 1991, there was almost 620,000 computers; in 1992, over one million; in 1993, there over two million.

Claim of value:

The Internet should not be under the control of one government or country (pp. 101-104). A private organization is more flexible than government to meet the changing needs of the Internet.

Claim of policy:

The various networks and machines need to connect to each other using a standard protocol (p. 90). This would ensure efficiency and wider use of the network.