The World's Most Comprehensive Checklist for
Thesis and Central Argument:
- Is your main point clearly identifiable?
- Do you state it clearly, effectively, and early?
- Do you define your object of study and do you describe it fairly?
- Do you make clear the relationship between your thesis and the central issue(s)
with which the text you interpret is concerned? Do you explain how the text
creates its effect rather than just saying it does so?
- Does your paper move logically from beginning to end?
- Do your paragraphs follow each other in a coherent and logical order? Have
you considered alternative logics for organizing your paper and made absolutely
sure that the organizational logic you use is the best possible one to use?
- Does your first paragraph set up the main issue you'll discuss and suggest
the direction of your discussion?
- Does each paragraph contain a clear topic sentence around which the paragraph
- Does your final paragraph draw a conclusion that follows from the body of
your paper, but does not merely rehash what has been said already?
- Do you resolve the issues you say you will resolve?
Use of evidence:
- Do you use enough examples to support your argument? Do you use too many?
- Do you make clear what each example is supposed to prove? Are you attentive
to language used in passages you quote? Does each example do what you say
- Do you explain each example fully enough?
- Are the examples sufficiently varied?
- Are any of them over-labored, over-explained, or made to bear more weight
than they can stand?
- Have you left out any examples useful to your thesis?
- Do you use any gratuitous examples just because you like them? Do you use
too many examples to illustrate one point?
- Have you achieved a good balance between specificity and generalization?
Between your use of textual evidence and your own ideas?
- Does each sentence read clearly and crisply?
- Have you rethought and rewritten any sentences you can't explain or whose
meaning isn't absolutely clear?
- Is the first sentence of your paper a strong, clear one likely to gain the
interest of a reader?
- Are your sentences varied enough?'
- Is the first sentence of each paragraph especially strong?
- Do you avoid the passive voice and unnecessary "to be" verbs?
- Have you used any words whose meaning you are not sure of?
- In any cases in which you were not sure of what word to use did you stay
with the problem until you found the exact word?
- Do metaphors and figures of speech you use make literal sense? Are all the
idioms used correctly?
- Is your terminology correct? Do you define the specialized terms you use?
Are your key words always used to mean exactly the same thing?
- Have you avoided sounding repetitive by varying your sentences rather than
by usin several different terms to mean precisely the same thing?
- Have you eliminated all padding you put in when you didn't think the paper
would be long enough?
- Have you gone through your paper, sentence by sentence, to eliminate all
the unnecessary words and phrases?
- Have you looked for and eliminated sentences (or paragraphs) that essentially
repeat what you have already said?
- Have you looked for multiple examples " pared down to the best, most
- Have you gotten rid of all inflated phrases calculated to impress readers?
- Have you eliminated roundabout phrases and rewritten complicated or confusing
sentences into shorter, clearer ones?
- Are you convinced that you have trimmed every possible bit of excess and
that you cannot say what you have to say more economically?
- Have you checked the grammar and syntax in each separate sentence?
- Have you checked the spelling of words that you are not sure of or that
- Have you examined each sentence for punctuation?
- Have you checked every quotation word by word against the original?
- Have you give proper credit for all material, written and oral, that you
have borrowed from others?
- Have you followed MLA citation format, and is your paper in the appropriate
[Adapted from Jerome Beatty. The Norton Introduction
to Fiction. 3rd ed. New York: Norton, 1985. 682-83.]