By Sarah Johnson
“Topic sentences are great.” As the first sentence in a paragraph, this statement, while setting up an idea, is not quite yet a topic sentence. This first sentence does tell the reader that topic sentences are great, but it doesn’t highlight why they are great. So, what is a topic sentence? Simply put, a topic sentence is the first sentence of each paragraph in the main body of an essay that tells the reader what that paragraph is about. Without these sentences, an essay’s meaning is not quite clear to the reader.
“Topic sentences are important not only because they create a structure for the essay but also because they help the reader understand what each paragraph is really about.” Now that sentence is a topic sentence! As I begin to qualify that sentence, my reader will already know what point I am going to prove and not worry about digging through my paragraph to find my main point. Another way to think about a topic sentence is as a mini thesis. Your essay should already have a main claim or argument; your topic sentences are just mini claims or theses that show what each paragraph is trying to prove or show.
Some tips for writing topic sentences:
—Think about topic sentences as you write your draft and, especially, as you re-read and revise your draft.
—Once you finish writing each paragraph, return to your first sentences and compare it to that paragraph’s last sentences. You might find that the last sentence in your paragraph is the topic sentence.
—Avoid observation; try to analyze in your topic sentences.