Writing a Good Thesis for a Descriptive Essay

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Descriptive Essay

A description is a verbal picture of a person, place, or thing. When you describe someone or something, you give your readers a picture in words. To make the word picture as vivid as possible, observe and record specific details that appeal to all of the reader's senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. A descriptive paper needs sharp, colorful details.

Writing a Good Thesis for a Descriptive Essay

  • Begin with a subject that interests you

  • Narrow your subject until you could cover it within your page/word limit

  • In the paper about your hometown, you clearly could not cover every bit of it in 2-3 pages or 400-500 words. Instead, begin to think about one small part of your hometown that was important to you. It could be your bedroom, the woods, a football stadium...anything you want.

  • Make sure that your thesis states a dominant impression about what you are describing. Don’t worry about refining the sentence right away.

  • The statement “The subject of this paper will be my childhood bedroom” is not a good thesis statement. To check if your thesis has a point, ask yourself “so what?” Why does it matter that the subject of your paper is your bedroom? Instead, you should write something about your bedroom. For example, “My childhood bedroom was a warm, safe place.”

Proceeding with a Descriptive Essay

After you have a good thesis statement, these guidelines will help you to develop your ideas into an essay:

  • Make a list of as many details as you can that support the general impression.

For example:

Bright colors

Throw pillows



Pictures of family and friends

Stuffed animals

Bookshelves filled with books and games

  • Organize your paper according to one or a combination of the following:

  • Physical order - move from left to right, or far to near, or in some other consistent order

  • Size - begin with large features or objects and work down to smaller ones

  • A special order - use another order that is appropriate to the subject

  • Appeal to as many senses as possible when describing a scene

* Chiefly, you will use sight, but try to include touch, hearing, smell, and taste as well.

** Remember that it is the richness of your sense impressions that will help the reader form a picture of the scene.

Personal Checklist
Use this checklist to determine if you have fully developed your paper. Make any revisions necessary until each question can be answered “yes.”
1 - Unity

  • Do you have a clearly stated thesis in the introductory paragraph?

  • Does the thesis convey a dominant impression?

  • Does each supporting paragraph back up your thesis?

  • Is each paragraph necessary for the reader to understand the essay?

2 - Support

  • Are there at least two separate supporting points for your thesis?

  • Do you have specific evidence for each of your supporting points?

  • Do you have enough specific evidence for each of your supporting points?

3 - Coherence

  • Do you have a clear method of organization?

  • Did you use transitions and connecting words?

  • Do you have an effective introduction, conclusion, and title?

4 - Audience and Purpose

  • Do you have an appropriate audience in mind? Can you describe them?

  • Do you have a purpose for the paper? What is it supposed to do or accomplish?

  • Does the purpose match your assignment?

5 - Sentence Skills - Consult a grammar guide, such as Harbrace to check for errors in grammar or sentence structure. These typically include:

  • Sentence fragments

  • Fused sentences

  • Incorrect verb forms

  • Problems with subject and verb agreement

  • Problems with pronoun and antecedent agreement

  • Punctuation problems, including: apostrophes, quotation marks, semicolons, colons, commas, dash, hyphen, and parentheses

Adapted from College Writing Skills with Readings, Fourth Edition by John Langan

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