What your thesis statement should do

Your main idea should give you some scope, it should show your confidence with discovery, it should display your grasp on the concept as being more than single faceted, and hopefully, it will show your writing prowess! This is the first thing the marker reads. You want to show them that you are confident enough to take on the rubric! You want to set your writing tone and sophistication early on, leaving the marker excited to read the unique idea you’ve put forward. You want to make your thesis statement broad enough so that you can branch from it throughout the essay, but you aren’t making it so succinct that you are summarising the syllabus in a sentence (not possible, in case you are looking for a challenge). Originality is a key factor that markers are attracted to. For the most part, you should avoid talking about the text in your thesis statement. Your initial idea should be about discovery. This is a concept based study, not a text based study. It’s an important differentiation to make! You want to wow the marker with your grasp on discovery in this essay, and support it with your knowledge of the texts. Not the other way around!

Okay, so now you have read 200 words of what you should do, let’s look at how to do it!

Think of the tree/umbrella

The way that I have always thought of your discovery thesis, and probably the way you have been taught as well, is something that is vaguely suggestive of a tree structure. When I talk about a thesis statement, I mean a motherhood sentence, a concept statement, a patriarch/matriarch, whatever your teacher has told you to call it. I’m talking about that main idea that everything else filters from. So you have the overarching umbrella idea, and then the smaller arguments cradled underneath it. Or, you have the tree idea, where the branches bend off to present smaller arguments.

This is why I think the dual sentence thesis is a great idea – you provide yourself that extra bit of leg-room to spread out throughout the essay. More on the dual sentence idea soon.


Start with the rubric

By the time the HSC exams knock at your door, you want to know the rubric pretty darn well. You’ll be less surprised by the exam question if you are comfortable with the rubric and its demands. Start thinking of synonyms for different areas of the rubric. The best idea, in my opinion, is to write up a list of words that relate to discovery – incorporating the exact words of the rubric but also synonyms, perhaps antonyms, and more. You’ll definitely refer back to this list as you’re writing out your essay! Think about the parts of the rubric that stand out as being widely true, and also which sections of the rubric appear as a potential hiccup if you were examined on that section (whether that be because you don’t think it relates to your texts, or because you don’t know what it means). Make a special note of the parts of the syllabus that would catch you out in an exam.


Then bring in your texts

We want the rubric next to our notes, or text analysis, or class workbook (or if I’m being realistic, the blank page you’ve been staring at for a few hours). Reading through each sentence of the rubric, ask yourself “is this seen in my texts?” Make note of the sections of the rubric that have a strong resonance in your prescribed and related texts. Your texts might not match completely on any account, which actually has the potential to work quite nicely. For example, if you are looking at the section of the syllabus that comments on the planned nature of discovery, and you think “yep! That suits my prescribed text beautifully!” And then you look at the unplanned discoveries that may be triggered by curiosity or otherwise, and you realise it is a perfect match for your related text! So you’re then caught in a situation of having texts that reflect opposite propositions about discovery. That’s great! You’ve opened yourself up to a discussion about the concept of discovery, as opposed to a lecture-style essay about the area of study. Alternatively, some sections of the rubric might be a perfect match for your prescribed and related texts. This will all come in handy…


Dos and Don’ts of wording

  • Definitely try to avoid extremely long sentences. When you’re pushing so many concepts into a sentence, particular under exam conditions, it is tempting to write it in a stream-of-consciousness style. The marker wants to be able to appreciate your perspective on discovery, but that needs to be accessible.

  • Be specific about the type of discovery you are talking about. “Discovery is..” or “The process of discovery is…” or “the experience of discovering…”

  • Don’t regurgitate a sentence from the rubric. That’s not original!

  • Don’t use synonyms from the thesaurus without checking their meaning in context. An epiphany isn’t always a correct synonym for the type of discovery you are dealing with. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. This isn’t just relevant to the word discovery, but also any word you are using, particularly in your thesis statement.

  • Do express yourself as clearly and articulately as possible.

  • Don’t be afraid to use two sentences to express a thesis statement. This shows that you are aware of the importance of discovery, as opposed to your texts. Give discovery the room it needs.

  • Don’t bring in the composer or the text in the thesis statement for AOS. This is a concept based module, not a text based module. Let discovery take the lead, and support it with texts later on.



Typically, I recommend sitting in a lower modality for your thesis statement. There isn’t a correct or incorrect way to do it. I chose to write in lower modality for the most part because I thought of my essay as though I was a professor who had studied discovery as a social implication, and my results (thesis) is the outcome of my study of two texts. Just because that statement of discovery is true in my two texts, does it mean it is true everywhere? Not necessarily.

Essentially, it wouldn’t be wise to say, “Planned discoveries are the most meaningful.” Although this may be true in both of your texts, do you think it is genuinely a truth of the nature of discovery? Personally, I think it is far better to suggest, “Planned discoveries have the potential to be surprisingly meaningful.” This way, you open yourself up to that rich discussion throughout the essay because you have left your idea precise, yet open-ended.


A planned thesis?

I think that having a planned thesis is the best approach for your essay. Within seconds of being allowed to write in the exam, you’ve already written a killer sentence and given yourself direction. Perfect, right? No doubt, the arguments and perspectives that you intend to espouse work well with your thesis statement. Therefore, why not set yourself up with the structure of a great essay, and then colour it in with textual evidence and the fresh perspective of the essay question?


But…the exam question?

Going into the exam with a planned thesis doesn’t prevent flexibility. People asked why I memorised essays for exams – memorising something doesn’t limit my ability to make decisions to change sections based on the exam question. Similarly, your thesis statement can be adjusted. There are two most common ways to approach this. If you intend to use one prepared thesis statement, then you can use a follow up sentence to incorporate the essay question. The second approach is to actually leave a section of your thesis statement blank. So when you’re preparing at home, your thesis statement is incomplete, it lacks an ending phrase. For example, it might look like this: The nature of discovery suggests that a meaningful realisation may…” This way, you intend to talk about the meaningful nature of discovery throughout your response, no matter what. But, you leave the ending open to incorporate the essay question.

Personally, I took on a combination of both. My first sentence was set in stone, I knew what it would be. My second sentence was almost complete, it had a space to incorporate the stimulus.

Incorporating the essay question into your thesis statement

So when you see the essay question, you want to make sure you address all aspects of the question. Let’s have a look at the 2015 HSC Paper One, Section Three:

“The process of discovery involves uncovering what is hidden and reconsidering what is known.”

How is this perspective on discovery explored in your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing?


What you want to address here is:

  1. PROCESS of discovery

  2. Uncovering hidden things

  3. Reconsidering known things.

So this question is double barrelled, with the tiny twist of specifying the process of discovery, as opposed to the ramifications of discovery, for example.

My approach would be to make sure that in the first sentence, I directly identify the process of discovery, and the reality that the process involves both uncovering and reconsidering (synonyms can be used!). But what if the base of my argument is about the ramifications of discovery, as opposed to the process?

Why not twist the two together? There is no outcome without a process. So, we could continue to structure each of our paragraphs to be about the ramifications of discovery, as planned (being intensely meaningful, transformative of perspectives, and perhaps controversial). The paragraphs then simply need to have a section that analyses the process of discovery as a means of curating the ramifications of discovery – which means that for part of the paragraph, you can continue with your thesis statement and prepared arguments/analysis to support your idea.

What I’m trying to say here is, that you can always hybridise your prepared ideas and arguments with the essay question. It may take some restructuring of your arguments. This may be as small as tweaking words or entering a few new sentences, or it could be more complicated, by removing chunks of a paragraph to be replaced by a new perspective.


Best practice: Introduction and paragraph branching

The introduction is important because it is the first contact that your marker has with your brain (Figuratively, I imagine. It would be sticky, possibly mushy or slimy, if literal). The introduction is an invitation to that complex thought process of yours, but also an articulation of your study and writing skill. I think the best structure for a Discovery introduction is to begin with a double-sentence thesis statement. Don’t mention the text or composer. This is a space devoted to discovery. Just two sentences. Trust me.

Here is my introduction:


The evolution of each individual is fertilised by their experiences of and response to discovery. The extent of discovery is determined by the willingness to embrace the process of discovery and the connections made with places and people. Discoveries may be planned, as was the journey undertaken by the participants of Ivan O’Mahoney’s documentary Go Back To Where You Came From (2008). Else, discoveries can be unplanned and evoked by curiosity, as was the experience of Fat Maz in Tim Winton’s short story Distant Lands (1987). Discoveries have the ability to be intensely meaningful and transformative of one’s perspective.

As you can see, you are not limited to your first two sentences and what they describe of discovery. In each sentence in this introduction, I have suggested a new aspect of discovery. The last sentence is kind of a summary of the first two sentences.


Here are my topic sentences for the rest of the essay:

  1. The evolution of human perceptivity may begin in an environment that stimulates new experiences with the potential to impel discoveries. (Paragraph continues to talk about racism as a prompt for discovery)

  2. Racial prejudice is also a platform for discovery in Distant Lands.

  3. The influence of discovery may not necessarily be determined by the level of planning involved. The willingness of one to be ideologically receptive and to make connections with places and people determines more directly the degree to which a significant discovery influences the evolution of the individual.

  4. The difference in willingness to make connections between the two participants is highlighted in the Malaysian night raids scene. (Mini paragraph that compares the way that an open mind determines the influence of a discovery)

  5. An intensely meaningful discovery is revealed in Distant Lands, which was not evoked by a careful planning process, but of a spontaneous eruption of wonder and curiosity.

Then, my conclusion:

The evolution of an individual is owed to experiencing discoveries. The intensity of the surprise and challenge that comes with significant discoveries is not determined by the process of planning or the unexpected nature of a situation. Rather, the willingness of one to make connections with places and people opens opportunity for discovery, to which Go Back To Where You Came From and Distant Lands are both a testament to. From a point of initial existence that provides a platform for discovery, individuals make discoveries that are transformative of themselves and their perspectives.


To summarise:

A thesis statement is extremely important, because it sets the tone and scope for your essay. A lot of thinking should go into your thesis statement. It might take a lot of adjusting, or it could be a simple tweak that gets it to perfection. However, although it is important, don’t allow yourself to believe it limits you. As I showed in my introduction, there are plenty of opportunities to express your ideas about discovery in the introduction, and throughout the body.

Some examples of thesis statements (these are reasonably specific to Go Back To Where You Came From)

The depth or shallowness of understanding of one’s own cultural privilege in comparison to another may either encourage or limit the intensity of an individual’s ethnographical discoveries.

It is when an individual pursues a lifestyle of differing liberty to their own that humanitarian discoveries are likely to be highlighted.

The extent of emotional discovery is determined by the willingness of oneself to make connections with places and people.

If you’re looking for some help with a discovery thesis statement, why not ask us for our ideas on the “How to write an Area of Study essay” thread?

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Still stuck on your related text? Here’s our guide to ORTs!