Since body paragraphs for an essay should be centered around one main idea that relates the thesis, creating a clear topic sentence is helpful for both the writer and the reader. For the writer, a topic sentence makes it easier to stay on topic and develop the main idea without getting off track. For the reader, topic sentences announce what the paragraph will be about and demonstrate how different paragraphs and ideas are connected to each other.
A topic sentence generally appears early in a body paragraph (often the first or second sentence) and controls the paragraph. A topic sentence is like a mini thesis sentence for each paragraph and serves to unify the contents of the paragraph. Everything that follows in the paragraph needs to relate to the topic sentence. Not all essays call for explicit topic sentences, but most beginning writers should learn how to write effective topic sentences early on in order to achieve paragraph unity.
It is also important that all topic sentences relate to the thesis statement. This allows for the essay to have greater unity and focus.
Examples of Topic Sentences:
Let’s use the following thesis statement as an example to see how topic sentences work: In order to succeed in the classroom, college students need to utilize the resources available to them throughout their academic careers.
Because this thesis statement is clear, we know that the essay will be about the various resources that college students need to use to succeed. Thus, each one of these resources becomes a main point that will be written about in the essay, and, in turn, each of these needs a topic sentence. Here are some examples of topic sentences that can be used for this essay:
One important resource that all college students should utilize for success is tutorial services.
Another important resource for student success is frequent use of the library.
In addition to using tutoring services and the library, college students should consult with their advisor on a regular basis to monitor success and make necessary changes when needed.
Notice how these topic sentences not only help the reader know what will be written about in each paragraph, they also help the writer organize the main ideas of the essay. If a writer creates clear topic sentences early in the writing process, he/she can use these to organize the essay and create unity in each of the paragraphs.
As writers become more advanced, topic sentences are not always needed. However, all beginning college level writers should know how to create and use them when constructing an essay.
A topic sentence is the most important sentence in a paragraph. Sometimes referred to as a focus sentence, the topic sentence helps organize the paragraph by summarizing the information in the paragraph. In formal writing, the topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph (although it doesn't have to be).
Purpose of the Topic Sentence
A topic sentence essentially tells readers what the rest of the paragraph is about. All sentences after it have to give more information about that sentence, prove it by offering facts about it, or describe it in more detail. For example, if the topic sentence concerns the types of endangered species that live in the ocean, then every sentence after that needs to expound on that subject.
Topic sentences also need to relate back to the thesis of the essay. The thesis statement is like a road map that will tell the reader or listener where you are going with this information or how you are treating it.
Topic Sentences and Controlling Ideas
Every topic sentence will have a topic and a controlling idea. The controlling idea shows the direction the paragraph will take.
Here are some examples:
- Topic Sentence: There are many reasons why pollution in ABC Town is the worst in the world.
- The topic is “pollution in ABC Town is the worst in the world” and the controlling idea is “many reasons.”
- Topic Sentence: To be an effective CEO requires certain characteristics.
- The topic is “To be an effective CEO” and the controlling idea is "certain characteristics."
- Topic Sentence: There are many possible contributing factors to global warming.
- The topic is "global warming" and the controlling idea is "contributing factors."
- Topic Sentence: Fortune hunters encounter many difficulties when exploring a shipwreck.
- The topic is “exploring a shipwreck” and the controlling idea is “many difficulties.”
- Topic Sentence: Dogs make wonderful pets because they help you to live longer.
- The topic is "dogs make wonderful pets" and the controlling idea is "because they help you to live longer."
- Topic Sentence: Crime in poverty-stricken areas occurs as a result of a systemic discrimination.
- The topic is "crime in poverty stricken areas" and the controlling idea is "systemic discrimination."
- Topic Sentence: Teen pregnancy may be prevented by improved education.
- The topic is "teen pregnancy may be prevented" and the controlling idea is "improved education."
- Topic Sentence: Cooking requires a number of different skills.
- The topic is "cooking" and the controlling idea is "many different skills."
- Topic Sentence: It is important to be ready before buying a house.
- The topic is "buying a house" and the controlling idea is it's "important to be ready."
- Topic Sentence: Graduating from high school is important for many different reasons.
- The topic is "graduating from high school" and the controlling idea is "many different reasons."
- Topic Sentence: Having a first child is difficult because of the significant adjustments in your life.
- The topic is "having a first child" and the controlling idea is "significant adjustments in your life."
- Topic Sentence: Remodeling a kitchen successfully requires research and a good eye.
- The topic is "remodeling a kitchen" and the controlling idea is "requires research and a good eye."
A carefully thought out topic sentence has two functions. First, it helps you, the author, to stay focused. Second, a clearly stated topic and controlling idea will give readers the tools they need to clearly understand what you have to say.
Remember that topic sentences set the tone for the paragraph and should relate back to the thesis or the main idea of the paper.