Thesis Sentences vs. Blueprint Sentences -->

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Thesis Sentences vs. Blueprint Sentences

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“Dear, Kacy. This is a blueprint sentence, not a thesis.” 
This succinct comment stands out in my memory because it’s one of the first true pieces of constructive criticism I ever received on my writing.

building schematic with ruler and title text overlaid

The sentence was written in the margin of the first page of my first real research paper. As an end-of-year project, each student in my sixth-grade class selected a country to write a report on, and then we created poster boards and made traditional food from the country to share at an international day at my school. I picked Bermuda because at the time I was a little obsessed with the Bermuda Triangle. I remember cutting out pictures of business people wearing shorts with their suit jackets, and baking some really good cookies that seemed like sugar cookies to me but were also apparently very Bermudan.

For the first two weeks, I received every possible point for the project. I’d come to school with six (beyond the requirement of five!) books on the day our sources were required. I’d diligently written out the assigned number of index cards with individual facts. After turning in the outline I’d crafted using my index cards, I was fully prepared to collect another perfect score.

“What?? What’s a blueprint sentence?” Probably I should have asked what a thesis sentence was, because I had an example of a blueprint sentence right in front of me: Bermuda is located on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean and this paper is about its history, economy, and culture. Like the blueprint of a building, I’d provided a layout of the contents of my paper, but I hadn’t produced an argument or put forth any idea. My reader would know to expect a paragraph on Bermuda’s history, a paragraph about its economy, and a paragraph about the culture. But what did I want to say about the country?

I think my thesis statement ended up being something about the Bermuda Triangle, but I can’t say for sure. And I had to double-check that Bermuda is indeed in the Atlantic Ocean while drafting this post. So, the actual information I obtained during the project clearly hasn’t stayed with me too well. But I still think about this experience when teaching, tutoring, or writing myself. It’s great to give your reader an idea about the general format of your paper, but the most important part isn’t a list of the different topics you’ll cover. 

The advantage of hindsight (and a few additional decades of writing experience) tells me I should have realized this from the beginning. After all, I had picked Bermuda because of its mysterious Triangle, so why shouldn’t I use what peaked my own interest to grab my reader’s? And why is it that I can so vividly remember the picture I copied from a book, of a group of men holding briefcases and wearing shorts under their suit coats, but I can’t remember Bermuda’s capital? Or where I left my phone? 

Hmmm. Can someone try calling it?

Kacy Walz Author picture - Walden University Writing Center Instructor

Kacy Walz is a Minnesota native currently living in St. Louis, MO. She has been a Writing Instructor at Walden since 2016 and spends most of her free time trying to complete her PhD, seeking out adventure, and playing with her puppy dog.

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