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Osceola Writing Center

Topic Sentences

If a thesis statement is like a road map for your reader, topic sentences are definitely the signposts along the way that signal where you are in the journey. See below for ways to incorporate topic sentences in your essays.

What is it?

A topic sentence is usually the first sentence of a body paragraph. Just as a thesis statement tells your reader what your paper is about, a topic sentence tells your reader what your paragraph is about.

Topic sentences are the main idea of your paragraph, so they should be more general than specific.

"Gorillas eat bananas, plants, and even caterpillars," would be too specific- this information is more of a detail rather than a main idea.

A better topic sentence could be "Gorillas have a varied diet," or "Gorillas eat many different types of food."

Of course, you don't want your topic sentence to be too general: "There are many trees in the world," doesn't really tell your reader what you're going to talk about. It's too much of a general statement.

 

How do I make one?

Topic sentences should be based upon your thesis statement. If you include your supporting points/subpoints in the thesis statement, those supporting points can each be used to make up one of your topic sentences.

Example: (TS=topic sentence)

Thesis: Higher taxes, fewer job opportunities, and credit cards are all reasons why the middle class is in decline.

TS1: Having to pay more taxes is one of the causes for the decrease in people considered middle class.

TS2: The middle class population is also diminishing because of a lack of jobs.

TS3: Finally, the fact that many people overuse credit cards has contributed to a smaller middle class as well.

The topic sentences above use different wording than what was written in the thesis statement. If possible, try not to make your topic sentences sound exactly like your thesis statement. Notice how the following topic sentences sound a little too similar to the thesis statement (using the thesis from before):

TS1: Higher taxes is one reason way the middle class is in decline.

TS2: Fewer job opportunities is another reason why the middle class is in decline.

TS3: Credit cards are also why the middle class is in decline.

If you already read our page about thesis statements, you know that a specific thesis statement needs 3 things: topic + focus + supporting points. Your topic sentence should follow this same model, but you only will use one of the supporting points.

Therefore, each topic sentence should not only include a supporting point, bu also your topic and wording that suggests your focus (whether you're talking about causes, effects, comparisons, etc).

 

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