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So, Just What is a Topic Sentence?

Content topic sentence what is it
  • June 13, 2017

Every essay, paper, book review, or article has two topic sentences. So, if we are going to define a topic sentence, then we actually have to define them both. You will have a topic sentence for the entire piece of writing and then topic sentences for each paragraph of that piece.

What All Topic Sentences Have in Common

Whether it is for an entire essay or for a paragraph, there are two parts of a topic sentence. So, just what are the two parts of the topic sentence - the topic itself and the main idea. For example, a topic sentence might be: “French fries are a main contributor to obesity in America.” The topic is “French fries; the main idea is “a main contributor to obesity in America.” So, to define topic sentences, these two elements are key.

The topic itself is what you are writing about; the main idea limits that topic. So, for example, you will not be writing about how potatoes are grown or harvested. You will, however, be talking about how they are actually cooked (in fat) and how many calories and fat grams amounts of French fries contain.

What All Topic Sentences Have in Common - student in the library

Now that you know what does a topic sentence consist of, you also have a good idea of how to form a topic sentence – state the topic clearly and then exactly what will be covered about that topic.

Topic Sentence as Thesis Statement

Every piece of writing a student does has a point – some purpose. Once you get into college, that point or purpose becomes more complex. The “I am going to write about the life of Abraham Lincoln” no longer works. You have to have some point to make about him, and all of the content in that piece must relate to the point you are making about him. You might have an argumentative topic sentence, for example, such as, “Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation not on principle but as a political move.” Now, you have a point to make.

The best topic sentences for essays and papers provoke a response from the reader, such as the one above. It will engage the reader and make him want to move on through the piece.

Topic Sentences for Paragraphs

Just as your entire piece has a “topic sentence,” so does every paragraph. If you are going to have a well-organized and a well-written essay or paper, every paragraph must also have a point to make. Go back to the topic sentence for an essay on French fries. What do you want to say about this food product that contributes to obesity – you might have paragraphs on how French fries are cooked, the ingredients that are so “addictive” to consumers, and the methods by which fast-food restaurants market them. Other paragraphs will include factual information about caloric and fat content of the food.

Most often, a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph is the most effective. It tells the reader right away what they will be reading. And, remember, it must have those two parts. For example, your first paragraph topic sentence might be, “The cooking process of French fries allows the oil (fat) to be absorbed through the entire potato piece.” The rest of your paragraph will give the details on that cooking process. “The cooking process” is your topic; the rest of that sentence is the main idea and limits what you will be saying.

Topic Sentence Tips

Here are some important tips that will help you become a great topic sentence writer.

  • If you wonder how long should a topic sentence be, there is no hard and fast rule. It should have the topic and the main idea, whatever that takes. But do not burden your reader with a sentence that is too complex – it will lose its impact.
  • Ask yourself why the information is important to a reader. This can often give you the main idea that you are trying to convey.
  • Ask yourself what is the reason for you including the information – is to inform, to persuade, etc.? That can often give you the idea for your topic sentence.
  • Can topic sentences be questions? What about this? “If the Emancipation Proclamation was a political decision, what were the politics involved?” You have a topic sentence question that works and tells your audience that you will address the political issues involved in that executive order. So, can a topic sentence be a question? Yes, so long as it has the topic and the main idea.

Your Topic Sentences are Meant to Inform

Topic sentences, whether in the form of a thesis statement of an entire piece of writing or for each paragraph of that piece, are critical elements of any essay or paper you produce. But just as important is the detail that accompanies those sentences. Most often, that will require research to get the data you need to make your points. If all of this seems a bit overwhelming, then get some help while you improve your own skills. Research custom essay services online by checking out a good writing services review site, and find one that is highly recommended by other customers.