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What Is a Claim in an Essay?

The goal of most essay writing exercises is to tackle a debatable topic. The writer starts by researching the topic, then adopts a side to the debate. This is where a claim emerges. In an essay, therefore, a claim is the primary argument and could be the most important aspect of the writing. The effectiveness, quality, and complexity of the whole paper hinges on the claim. In other words, claims that are obvious or boring translate to boring and obvious essays. The claim is what defines the goals of the paper, as well as the scope, direction, and exigence. All the telling details, argumentation, quotation, and evidence in the paper are directed towards supporting the claim. In addition, a good claim must be specific.

Most students make the mistake of confusing between an opinion and an arguable claim. However, the two are very different. For instance, while an arguable claim is supported by debatable evidence, opinions are often just supported by more opinion. In addition, claims can be substantiated through evidence, testimony, research and academic reasoning. However, please remember that not every claim has equal strength. Most of the time when students hear about a claim in essays, they tie it to a thesis.

But Wait, What Is a Thesis?

In the context of essay writing, a thesis refers to the main claim or main argument of the essay. Since the thesis offers a unifying theme for the entire essay, it generally appears at the beginning of the paper. In short essays, the claim often comes within the first or second paragraph. A good thesis statement is more interpretive or analytic, rather than just factual or descriptive. Creating a clear and original thesis statement is critical to writing a good argumentative essay.

Many students often assume that the term thesis statement means that the central claim has to be stated in one sentence. However, effectively articulating a complex claim often demands more than just one sentence in most cases, more than one sentence will be necessary to assert your central claim. Although there are no defined rules on how you should formulate and express your claim, there are some useful strategies that you could use to develop stronger claims, as well as mechanisms for evaluating the strength of your claim.

Some Myths about Claims in the Context of Academic Essays

As you prepare to write your essay, it is important to demystify some misconceptions about claims as they are used in academic writing. You may have come across some of these myths, and may even believe some yourself. However, let us set the record straight on the most common myths:

  • A claim ought to be general to allow lots of evidence in the text

In an actual sense, a claim that is too broad can only be supported by evidence that is really broad. In the end, you find yourself describing instead of arguing. In other words, it is best to be concrete, specific and focused. Consider carefully what you intend to argue, and the implications of your argument.

  • A claim must not include everything in the paper as it gives away information, eliminating the suspense

This is far from true. An academic essay is not a mystery novel that requires suspense. It helps to be clear from the onset what you intend to argue to allow your audience to follow, comprehend and believe your points. State what you intend to do, and how you intend to do it. The remaining element of your essay can then go to fleshing out the central claim through the use of subclaims, for example, telling details, and evidence.

  • A claim ought to be correct or true beyond doubt

A widely held misconception is that a claim in an essay must be true, if the reader is to buy into your argument. Well, the processes of developing an argument and substantiating a claim are never truly black and white. Rather argumentative essays are more about the writer’s ability to articulate a position and argue for that position, supported by relevant evidence. In fact, there are times when you may find yourself disagreeing with some of the sources at some point in the essay and agreeing with them later in the same paper. Instead of having a wrong or right response, complex claims are more of provocations, explications, analyses, or application of ideas, concepts, and theories.

Other Tips for Effective Claims

During the entire process of writing your essay, your thesis the or claim is likely to evolve and become more refined. In fact, your central claim is likely to change severally as you gather evidence and reconsider your main ideas. As such, it helps to think of your central claim as serving the roles of motivating and structuring your initial draft, and as the main organizing idea of the final draft. In essence, therefore, you are likely to have a working claim that guides the process of drafting and outlining, and a more refined final claim that covers your careful and thorough consideration of the evidence presented. Here are some tips to help with your central claim:

  • Draft a working claim

Brainstorming questions on your topic will help you develop the working claim. Consider debates and controversies to which you can contribute. Focus on the connection between the outcome you are interested in and what could be the cause of the outcome. The point is to ensure that you develop a central argument to give your first draft an organizing and unifying idea.

  • Evaluate your claim

As you come up with your working claim, it is important to assess its efficacy based on the elements of a strong claim. In general, a strong claim is contestable, reasonable, specific, significant, and interpretive.

  • Revise your claim

After finalizing your initial draft, it is time to revise your paper, including your central claim. Consider whether the evidence you have presented supports your claim. Is it possible to make a claim more precise and specific? Ensure that your claim conveys exactly what you intend to argue and that the evidence that you have presented is directly linked to the claim.

To summarize, the goal of this article is to improve students’ understanding of claims in an essay and how they can be formulated. Students ought to remember that strong claims are clear, concise, direct, and provocative. There is no room to be vague and undecided. Most importantly, focus on one main idea.

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