It occurs to me that it might not be necessary to start with a thesis for or against the death penalty after all. Judgiing from my own thoughts and feelings, it would be hard for me to come out with a thesis statement that the death penalty should be abolished or that it should be retained. I simply don't know. It would be easy to say that the death penalty should be abolished because it is cruel and unusual punishment, because it is unfair to minorities, and because it doesn't deter capital offenses. It would also be easy to say that cold-blooded murderers don't deserve any consideration and that they ought to be eliminated--especially for such atrocities as torture-murders of women and children.
Another approach to a thesis statement therefore might be to state that the death penalty poses a moot question which has yet to be satisfactorily answered. Then the follow-up would be to present the arguments against the death penalty and the arguments in favor. (And there are plenty of people who favor retaining the death penalty and even using it more often.)
This would be a more difficult essay to write, and the conclusion would also be difficult to formulate, but many studies end with the time-honored, all-purpose conclusion that the problem needs further study. After all, your opinion is only one of millions, and your essay is not going to affect the death penalty one way or the other. The same would be true for me if I were to write an essay on the subject. I really don't know. I'm not crazy about the death penalty, but there are many cases I read about in which, to be honest, I certainly can't feel sorry for the person getting the lethal injection.
For those of you who aren’t exactly fans of essay writing, standing in front of a firing squad might seem like a better option than having to write another essay about the death penalty.
I hear ya. This is a long-debated topic and one that can be challenging to write about because it can seem like there’s nothing new to say.
But if you do decide to write about the death penalty, or if your professor has already decided that for you, here’s how to write a death penalty essay the smart way.
But First … The Not-So-Smart Way of Writing a Death Penalty Essay
Avoid these ineffective writing strategies that will waste your time and likely earn you a poor grade.
Cliches are tired, old expressions that are overused and don’t add anything new or original to your writing.
For example, if you’re arguing in favor of the death penalty, don’t simply state that someone should be executed because that person took a life. In other words, don’t argue “an eye for an eye.”
If you’re arguing against the death penalty, on the other hand, don’t say “two wrongs don’t make a right” or “you can’t stop violence with more violence.”
These expressions aren’t actual evidence. They just take up space and weaken your credibility because readers will think you don’t have any specific evidence to support your arguments.
Arguments based solely on religion
Unless you’re in a religious studies course or you’re specifically assigned to write about the death penalty from a religious point of view, you should generally steer clear of faith-based arguments.
Most professors want to see statistical, research-based evidence from scholarly sources rather than evidence from religious texts.
The death penalty is an emotionally charged topic, and we all have our own opinions about whether it should be legal. Your goal is not to present an angry rant about the legalities of capital punishment.
Remember, you’re writing an academic essay. Pay attention to the tone of your writing.
Okay, so that’s what you shouldn’t do. Time to move on to what you should do.
How to Write a Death Penalty Essay the Smart Way
Step #1: Know the basics about your assignment
Before you begin, make sure you understand your assignment. Are you supposed to write an opinion essay, an argument essay, a pros and cons essay, or some other type of paper?
Do you need to use sources, and if so, what types of sources are acceptable? Can you use Wikipedia, or do you have to use peer-reviewed journal articles?
If you need sources, what type of citation style is required? Should you use MLA citations or APA citations?
These are all basic components, but they’re important. Getting one of them wrong could turn your A paper into a D paper.
Think about it. If you’re supposed to write a research-based argument essay using only scholarly sources and you turn in a pros and cons paper citing only websites like Wikipedia, what do you think your grade will be?
(I’m sure it won’t be the A you were hoping for.)
Step #2: Decide your focus and thesis
If you’re writing about the death penalty, your first thought is probably to write an argument essay about why the death penalty should or should not be legal. This is certainly an appropriate topic and focus (especially if that’s what you have to write about). But if you have some leeway, why not choose a more original focus?
Here are a few suggestions:
Informative Death Penalty Essay Ideas
- Laws governing capital punishment in varying states (or other countries)
- Forms of execution (in the US or other countries)
- Types of drugs used in lethal injection
- Appeals process in death penalty cases
Argument Death Penalty Essay Ideas
- Constitutionality of the death penalty
- Whether the death penalty deters crime
- Race (or income level) as a factor in the sentencing of the death penalty
- Physician participation in executions
With your topic firmly in place, write a thesis statement that identifies the specific focus of your topic.
Keep in mind that if you’re writing an argumentative paper, your thesis will be argumentative too. It should let readers know on which side of the argument your paper stands.
In other words, don’t write something like this:
“It has long been debated as to whether the death penalty deters crime.”
This thesis statement not only starts with a cliche, but also makes a general statement about the death penalty. It’s not argumentative.
Instead, dowrite something like this:
“Even though proponents of capital punishment argue that it deters violent crime, in reality, evidence illustrates that capital punishment has little to no effect in deterring violence.”
This thesis is much more specific and provides a clear argument.
Step #3: Find appropriate (and credible) sources
I’m not positive, but I’m guessing that if you have to use sources for your death penalty essay, you aren’t allowed to use the dictionary definition of “capital punishment” or a Wikipedia article about anything.
This means you’ll need to complete at least some amount of research.
Here are a few credible death penalty news articles to get you started:
If you’re looking for a few more basic online news articles, try these death penalty articles. This list of 50 facts about the death penalty from the Death Penalty Information Center might help spark some ideas too.
If you’re not allowed to use websites, then it’s time to find something a bit more academic. Check out the 5 Best Resources to Help With Writing a Research Paper.
Not sure whether your sources are credible? Apply the CRAAP Test!
Step #4: Organize and prewrite
You have a topic, focus, thesis, and sources. Now comes the fun (and I use that term loosely) part: organizing all that information into an effective essay.
To begin, look through your sources again, and take some notes to highlight key ideas. Then start to sketch out what you think might be the main points of your paper.
Then, use an outline to put your ideas into place.
If outlining isn’t your thing, try another form of prewriting, such as listing or clustering.
The Home Stretch
With topic selection, researching, and organizing behind you, you can move into the final steps of the writing process—actually writing the paper!
Step #5: Draft
Don’t worry if you can’t think of a catchy introduction right away. Skip it. You can always write the introduction last.
You might want to start writing the body and the key arguments of your paper. If you’re not sure what type of information to include, read 3 Types of Essay Support That Prove You Know Your Stuff.
Don’t forget to wrap up your ideas with a killer conclusion!
Need a few essay ideas for inspiration? Check out these sample papers:
Step #6: Let our Kibin editors help with revision
Even a well-written draft is just that—a draft—and a draft can usually be improved. That’s where we come in.
Have one of our editors review your death penalty essay to make sure you’re not guilty of any writing crimes!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.