You are probably wondering what goes into a topic sentence, why you must write a good topic sentence, and how topic sentences could transform your entire essay.
The truth is that students who have perfected the art of writing great topic sentences have always been successful in every piece of academic writing, such as essays, term papers, research papers, proposals, etc., that they undertake.
A well-polished topic sentence is crucial to your paragraphs. By reading the topic sentences, your professor or instructor can tell the grade that your paper will fetch.
Given that a topic sentence is like a headline to a news piece in a newspaper, whose purpose is to highlight what is to come in the paragraph, writing the best is inevitable.
Comparatively, a topic sentence is to a paragraph, what a thesis statement is to an essay, and what signposts are to whole sections in an essay or long paper. If we consider a paragraph a miniature essay, a topic sentence is a mini-thesis statement.
Let's explore every detail of the topic sentence to help you write topic sentences that will make your readers yearn to read more of your written pieces.
A topic sentence is the foremost sentence that appears in every paragraph. Its central role is to help organize the paragraph by summarizing the information in a paragraph. It expresses what the paragraph is about. Everything in the paragraph is anchored on the topic sentence.
The topic sentence comes first in terms of paragraph structure. Although it is always the first sentence, it can sometimes come after the transitional sentence.
When composing our guide to help you write masterful body paragraphs, we insisted on writing a perfect topic sentence to get higher grades for essays and papers. The topic sentence does many things. However, its main role is to state the paragraph's main point or controlling idea. It is akin to a mini-thesis in your body paragraphs. Let's see other roles it also plays.
A topic sentence does the following:
Now that we know its roles or functions, let's look at the characteristics of a good topic sentence. Your topic sentence should strive to achieve these standards:
If you are wondering how to start a topic sentence, you should understand that topic sentences begin with a simple statement that you then refine to reflect the content of your paragraphs. Generally, a good topic sentence is specific enough to give an idea of the focus of the specific paragraph but general enough that it does not give everything away.
So, where does the topic sentence go in a paragraph? Must it be at the beginning? Let's find out.
Although many people think a topic statement must be the first sentence in the paragraph, it is not cast in stone.
It is a conventional writing practice that a topic sentence comes early to orient the reader to the paragraph's focus. However, you can occasionally place the topic sentence after a transition sentence to create continuity of ideas or related topics.
The transition sentence summarizes what was discussed in the previous paragraph; your topic sentence expresses the focus of the paragraph you are writing.
Example: In the novel "Sula," Morrison uses the physical bonds of female friendship to propel her characters into self-awareness.
Example 1: Undoubtedly, many people had seen the eventual growth of Bitcoin and cautioned others that it would be disastrous (Transition sentence). However, people who lost are those who were so much into the concept to take any pieces of advice (Topic sentence)
The next sentence will discuss the characteristics of people who lost money in the Bitcoin crash.
Example 2: Notably, Morrison succeeds in initiating the coming-of-age of female characters using spiritual and emotional bonds (Transition Sentence). In addition, the author uses the physical bonds of female friendship to propel her adolescent protagonists into self-awareness (Topic Sentence).
This sentence means that the coming paragraph delves into how the author uses physical bonds while the previous one discussed spiritual and emotional bonds.
Before we delve into how to write a topic sentence or the appropriate steps to take, it helps to have a discussion on the different forms a topic sentence can take. Let's look at the types and the respective examples of topic sentences.
Type of Topic Sentence
Explanation and Example
A simple statement or the direct approach
This is a primary type of topic sentence, usually containing a general statement elaborated in the paragraph.
Example 1: Recent research by scholars reveals that keeping pets could improve the psychological well-being of elderly people without family members for social support.
Example 2: As I left the hospital, I was convinced I wanted to become a neurosurgeon and was determined to do just that.
This type calls for special attention or a specific action to a given point the paragraph covers. It alerts the readers to understand the importance of the paragraph.
Example: It would be a mistake to assume that students never care about learning a second language.
Addressing the reader
This type of topic sentence anticipates what the readers might be doubting and responds.
Example: You might ask yourself why caring for the homeless matters.
Connecting the previous paragraph or transitional or bridge sentences
Although, to some extent, topic sentences deal with transitions, in some cases, they are the ones that do the work. Use this approach to change a topic drastically and draw your readers' attention to the switch.
Such topic sentences alert readers about the link between the new and previous ideas.
Example 1: Having witnessed the widespread effects on the global transport industry, tourism was not spared either.
Example 2: Not everyone would agree that caring for homeless people is noble.
The question or interrogative
It opens a paragraph with a question that seeks to engage the readers.
Example: Did you imagine that the entire world would be unprepared for a global pandemic?
It breaks the sequence and monotony of using the same sentences repeatedly. Instead, it directly commands or signals the readers to focus on a given idea.
Example 1: Look at the tourism industry data and agree that it was also not spared.
Example 2: Let us consider a new perspective on the debate.
Just like the name, these are complicated topic sentences with multiple ideas of the same topic.
Example: Even though most people believe in the Big Bang theory, the truth is that some consider God as the sole creator of the universe.
These topic sentences state the main idea in a paragraph and not the purpose of the paragraph.
Example: Before long, I noticed that my attention and keenness in mathematics matched the requirements to become a computer engineer. (A good one for college essay writing)
When dealing with counterevidence, your topic sentences can come in the middle of the paragraph and not the beginning. For example, the paragraph might concede a point or state a fact that reverses the claim in the previous paragraph. Pivots indicate a change in direction. When writing pivots, you must use signals like but, yet, or however, or longer phrases or sentences that indicate an about-face.
Example: By contrast, the Uber founders did not follow the conventional business growth approach.
Yes, topic sentences can be used as transitions between paragraphs. They help build a flow of ideas by linking a paragraph from the previous one. When intending to use them as transitions, it is good to use transition or linking words as part of the topic sentence to vividly establish connections between the two ideas.
You can use them in various ways; we will cover each and give examples as necessary.
When you intend to compare ideas in a paragraph with those in the preceding paragraph, or when presenting contrasting information, you can use words that highlight the difference.
You can use transitions such as however, on the other hand, yet, or in contrast.
Example: Although the costs of protecting the environment might be assumed to be high, the long-term benefits outweigh the cost.
Besides using transition words, you can also imply the contrast by formulating the topic sentence as a question.
Example: Is banning Bitcoin a solution, or are there other government-led strategies that can be used to control the cryptocurrency industry?
When a paragraph gives details or other examples of the same point, you can use words that imply similarity/emphasis, such as: for example, as an illustration, indeed, or in fact.
Example: Indeed, the Bitcoin industry has been flocked to and preferred by organized criminals who have managed to transact without being noticed by authorities.
When a paragraph shifts focus to a different aspect of the same subject, your topic sentence can sum up what was in the previous paragraph and anticipate what to expect in the new paragraph you are writing.
Example: While Bitcoin has strengthened global organized crime, the technology it is based on, blockchain technology, can be leveraged by governments for accountability, transparency, and sustainability of operations.
Let us now explore the examples of topic sentences, distinguishing between the two parts of a topic sentence: topic and controlling idea.
Topic and Controlling Idea
1. There are many reasons to ban the use of bicycles on highways.
Topic: banning the use of bicycles on highways
Controlling idea: many reasons
2. Although many colleges offer scholarships to attend a college for free, many deserve high education and do not receive scholarships
Topic: Although many colleges offer scholarships to attend a college for free (college should be free)
Controlling idea: many who deserve high education do not receive scholarships.
3. Due to the unfamiliarity with a specific culture, many individuals may feel separate from a community that follows different cultural traditions than their own.
Topic: unfamiliarity with a specific culture.
Controlling idea: many individuals may feel separate from a community that follows different cultural traditions than their own.
4. Aside from being a substance for recreational use, marijuana also has some uses in the industrial and manufacturing field.
Topic Sentence: uses of marijuana.
Controlling idea: marijuana also has some uses in the industrial and manufacturing field.
5. One of the top reasons that make me want to work with children is that I care for and enjoy being around kids
Topic: why I want to work with kids.
Controlling idea: I care for and enjoy being around kids.
6. Recess time is necessary and beneficial during school hours to let kids refresh their minds and build up new energy they can use for the rest of the day
Topic: recess time is beneficial during school hours.
Controlling Idea: let kids refresh their minds and build up new energy they can use for the rest of the day.
7. Technological advancements in the late 1800s ushered in the first efficient electric cars.
Topic: technological advancement and electric cars.
Controlling idea: ushered in the first truly electric cars.
8. Given the potential positive impacts of electric cars on society, the automotive industry should prioritize research and development funding.
Topic: positive impacts of electric cars.
Controlling idea: the automotive industry should prioritize research and development funding.
9. Social media presents many benefits in society, including social support, information access, and learning new concepts.
Topic: benefits of social media in society.
Controlling idea: social support, information access, and learning new concepts.
If you want to be a skillful writer, frame your topic sentence per the examples we have given above. The topic should tell your readers what the paragraph is about, while the controlling idea informs them of its direction. Topic sentences should set the tone of the paragraph and, at the same time, reflect on your paper's thesis or main idea.
With your knowledge, let us now look at the steps you should take to write a perfect topic sentence. These steps will come in handy when writing an essay or paper. As explained below, you can write a good topic sentence in 5 steps.
When you select a good topic for your essay or paper, you can develop various topic sentences that support the topic with different ideas, as reflected in the paragraphs. Therefore, select a topic that is neither too narrow nor too broad yet interesting and practical.
After selecting the topic, ensure that you do some light preliminary research. Preliminary research will help you determine what scholars are saying about your topic.
Besides, you will also develop a perspective on the topic. And as you develop a perspective, you will have an idea of what the topic sentences, thesis, and paragraphs should look like.
For this step, you can use scholarly and non-scholarly resources because your main aim is to familiarize yourself with the chosen topic.
As you research, you will know the points to address in your essay, especially the controlling or main idea, otherwise known as the thesis statement. Construct a thesis statement that is assertive, focused, and concise. It should determine your topic sentences.
After developing a thesis statement, create an outline as a roadmap for your essay or paper writing process. The outline will determine what points fall where and in what order.
Remember to specify the topic sentences for your body paragraphs when crafting the outline. Ensure that the topic sentences you have selected support your thesis.
You can refine the topic sentences as you write, so do not be so hard on yourself.
Writing the topic sentence follows the same guidelines as that writing sentences. However, there are a few deviations. We shall share more when exploring the tips to write topic sentences successfully.
After writing your topic sentences as a simple statement, in the beginning, revise them as you write or as you make discoveries on the topic. Ensure that each topic sentence matches the content in each paragraph.
Think of your topic sentences as signposts that tell readers the direction of your argument in the paragraph.
Ensure that there is a connection between the paragraphs for solid writing. And remember, you can use your topic sentences as transitions. When fine-tuning the topic sentences, ensure that they are clear and coherent. Anyone should understand them quickly and know what the paragraph is about. Also, use specific wording depending on the type of topic sentence you are writing.
Apart from the steps discussed above, use the following tips to write topic sentences that make sense.
A topic sentence is most likely the first sentence in your paragraph and sometimes the second after a transition sentence. Regardless of order, ensure it states the topic and the controlling idea. Doing so makes your intention and direction in the paragraph known to your readers.
A topic sentence links your paragraph to your thesis statement. Therefore, you need to ensure that it balances broad and narrow ideas. Avoid vagueness or being too general when writing an idea. Never write a narrow statement but let it be a sentence with some sense of focus and direction.
A paragraph is a mini-essay; start by hooking your readers in the topic sentence. You can achieve this by describing a character, using a dialogue, stating a fact, using details or facts, portraying emotions, shocking revelations, or stating some mysteries to get the readers interested. Then, when you whet your readers' appetite, they automatically give in and read the entire paragraph.
Good topic sentences are clear. Make sure that your topic sentences are brief. Make your intentions clear off the bat. You should frame the topic sentence to make it slightly more specific than the thesis statement.
A short, clear, and direct topic sentence creates a good flow. Only state, in your topic sentence, facts that can be substantiated or supported by concrete evidence
. You can use a reasonable opinion in your topic sentence. However, that should be the case if you can back up your claims through supporting sentences. Topic sentences are not limited to facts alone; you can use opinions if they can be substantiated. And as soon as you are ready with your essay, do a complete topic sentence reverse outline to assess whether they are strong, clear, and concise.
We have already discussed using topic sentences as transitions in the examples and previous sections. First, guide your readers through your argument by connecting ideas when you use transition topic sentences. Then, when you use them as a bridge, you achieve some great flow that keeps your readers interested until the end.
Like in chess or poker, you should never lay all your cards or show your next move early. When writing topic sentences, avoid listing what to expect in the paragraph. Instead, give a snippet of what is to come in the paragraph. Avoid mentioning everything upfront because there is no need to read the entire paragraph.
If you make any statement in the topic sentence, support it in the paragraph. Therefore, if you have no intention of examining any point further, let it slide. However, if you give facts, opinions, or both, ensure that your paragraph expounds on and expands on them.
You can use all the sentence starters and hooks but quotes and rhetorical questions. When a quote or question is fantastic, leave it out of the topic sentence preferences.
These are not your words; a topic sentence should include some of your opinions and not someone else's. Mainly, that is why we never have in-text citations on topic sentences.
When you realize that a quote is opinion-based, adopt its concept, and write your opinion. And if it is based on facts, save it for later in the paragraph and then expound it to support the topic sentence and the thesis.
Regarding the rhetorical question, let the readers formulate questions in their minds, not you. In a similar vein, avoid summarizing events in your topic sentences.
After you are done with writing your body paragraphs, you can use the checklist below to evaluate their effectiveness.
If yes to any of these, please proceed with your paper. If not, make the necessary adjustments.
Related: How to structure essay paragraphs.
You can craft creative and impressive topic sentences for an essay or paper with the examples we shared.
Use the checklist to assess if the topic sentences in your paper make sense. You will transform your writing to an entirely new level and attract the best grades.
Otherwise, if you are stuck with writing topic ideas for your outline assignment or feel like your topic sentences could be corrected, our experts will gladly help you.
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