An sit, Quid sit, Quale sit

How can you create a clear and sharp thought?

Lawyers in ancient Rome used a formula to focus their arguments. You can use the formula to clarify your thinking and focus a thesis.

The formula consisted of three questions:


A Question of Fact

(Latin name  - ‘an sit’)


A Question of Definition

(Latin name – ‘quid sit’)


A Question of Quality

(Latin name – ‘quale sit’)



A Question of Fact

When you are given – or think of – a subject or situation, there will be doubts about whether some of events really happened or whether something really exists. You could write a thesis based on a question of fact.

The deaths of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1917 must be considered an act of government-led genocide. (assert)

In no way did the Turkish government systematically organise the deaths of Armenians between 1915-1917. (deny)

The question of fact is ‘did the government order/organize the killings?’. The essay will be focused on this part of the subject only. The essay will not define genocide. It will not debate the number of people killed. It will not consider the history of the subject. The essay will focus on the actions of the government only. This would lead to a sharp thesis with a tight, well-defined essay.


A Question of Definition

Using the same subject, instead of focusing on whether something happened, the thesis could accept that something happened and focus on how we should define it.


The deaths of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915-1917 was, by all legal definitions, genocide. (assert)

The 1.5 million Armenians who died between 1915-1917 were victims of war, not genocide. (deny)


Using another subject:


The current immigration policies of Australia are racist.  (assert)

Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another; in no way does Australia apply this thinking to its immigration policies and therefore cannot be accused of racism. (deny)


A Question of Quality

A question of quality focuses on the idea of ‘what kind’. To make this concept clear, look at the following examples of breaking the law.


-          A man steals a loaf of bread to feed his starving family

-          A wealthy business ignores health and safety laws for his workers

-          A secret government agency uses physical abuse (torture?) to get information from a captured soldier

-          A woman drives faster than the speed limit

-          A woman drives faster than the speed limit to get her pregnant daughter to hospital


All of the above are, by definition, examples of breaking the law. However, there are different ‘qualities’ to the actions which would make us view them very differently. When writing a thesis statement, you can argue the qualities of a subject.


In August 1945, the US air force dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing around 200,000 people. The Americans claimed they were targeting nearby military bases but only around 20,000 soldiers were killed. The vast majority of casualties were civilians.

The qualities of the US decision could be argued in theses.


Arguing the quality of ‘justification’

The atomic bombings on 1945 were justified because they brought the war to an early end, saving the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions. (assert)

Under no circumstances can the use of atomic weapons against civilians be justified. (deny)


Arguing the quality of ‘value’


Spending 250 million pounds on food aid for these people will only exacerbate the problems we face.


Every pound we spend on food aid contributes to saving something priceless: the lives of innocent children.


When thinking about how to argue ‘what kind’ all you need to do is describe the subject with an adjective. Once you have the adjective, you can argue whether the subject has that quality or not.

Some examples are




Write about the effectiveness of Ban Ki Moon’s leadership of the UN. 


Ban Ki Moon’s leadership of the UN oozed incompetence from the moment he took office.

Write about a proposal to send men to Mars.


With current technology, and any technology the international community develops in the next fifty years, any mission to Mars is beyond the realms of realistic possibility.

Write about the use of metaphor in a Shakespeare play.


Shakespeare’s use of metaphor has affected every modern writer who has read the plays.

Write about the monarchy.


The monarchy provides no useful service to modern society.

Posted On February, 06 Monday 2017 04:16 AM

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