Writing Advice

How to Write Topic Sentences


Strong topic sentences are an essential yet often overlooked component of good academic writing. Students that neglect them end up with sloppy and misleading topic sentences that critically undermine the focus and cohesion of their paper.  Ultimately this will drastically reduce the student’s chances of getting the grade they want.

But what is the purpose of a topic sentence? Dorothy Turner, from Ottowa University, explains the role of topic sentences succinctly: “Topic sentences often act like tiny thesis statements. Like a thesis statement, a topic sentence makes a claim of some sort. As the thesis statement is the unifying force in the essay, so the topic sentence must be the unifying force in the paragraph. Further, as is the case with the thesis statement, when the topic sentence makes a claim, the paragraph which follows must expand, describe, or prove it in some way. Topic sentences make a point and give reasons or examples to support it.” Turner’s explanation covers the fundamentals but it can be tricky turning theory into practice.

Fortunately there is a wealth of resources available that address how to write topic sentences. For example, Harvard provides a typically detailed breakdown of the different types of topic sentences and the roles they fulfill. Meanwhile the Online Purdue Writing Lab provides an explanation along with a wealth of practice exercises. If you want even more practice, you can find more exercises courtesy of Monash University here.  Finally Ottowa University has an array of excellent writing resources, one of which is this detailed break-down of how a topic sentence relates to the rest of the paragraph and the thesis.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, if you think you need more just Google it.


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