Placement of the thesis statement in argumentative essays written by Chinese and American students: A study of contrastive rhetoric

Jinghui Liu, Purdue University


The study presents a contrastive rhetoric perspective to exam the factors that influenced American and Chinese students' writing, and the similarities and differences in placement of thesis statement in argumentative essays composed by Chinese and American students. The theoretical framework in the present study came from Kaplan's theory of contrastive rhetoric both as a research base and as a base from which to make pedagogical implications. Data for the study were collected by using questionnaire and argumentative essay. The sample population chosen for the study was 170 high school students, representing three groups: 50 American students (AE) from a Midwestern city of the United States, 60 Chinese students writing in English (CE) as well as 60 Chinese students writing in Chinese (CC) in Shanghai, China. The quantitative data triangulation method showed that combining the sample comparative T-test of questionnaire and the distribution frequency of writing practices was more effective and explicit than solely one method. A questionnaire survey indicated that students engaged in a continuum of factors in English in genres of writing, elements of writing, target audiences, language background and place of main idea. Although some researchers treated the middle location as a part of the deductive or inductive pattern, the results of questionnaire revealed the notion that placing the thesis of statement in the middle of the essay constituted a different pattern than the typical deductive or inductive pattern. The findings of writing practices indicated that American students and both groups of Chinese students used a higher percentage of the thesis-at-beginning (TB) pattern in their argumentative essays. English and Chinese students' essays writing in the thesis-in-middle (TM) and thesis-at-end (TE) patterns shared a closer commonality. The study suggests that looking for the placement of the thesis statement to examine the preferential rhetorical patterns is a method that could be replicated in studying essays of various languages.




Garfinkel, Purdue University.

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