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- How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose
How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose
Published on July 21, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 5, 2023.
Every paragraph in your paper needs a topic sentence . The topic sentence expresses what the paragraph is about. It should include two key things:
- The topic of the paragraph
- The central point of the paragraph.
After the topic sentence, you expand on the point zwith evidence and examples.
To build a well-structured argument, you can also use your topic sentences to transition smoothly between paragraphs and show the connections between your points.
Table of contents
Writing strong topic sentences, topic sentences as transitions between paragraphs, topic sentences that introduce more than one paragraph, where does the topic sentence go, frequently asked questions about topic sentences.
Topic sentences aren’t the first or the last thing you write—you’ll develop them throughout the writing process. To make sure every topic sentence and paragraph serves your argument, follow these steps.
Step 1: Write a thesis statement
The first step to developing your topic sentences is to make sure you have a strong thesis statement . The thesis statement sums up the purpose and argument of the whole paper.
Thesis statement example
Food is an increasingly urgent environmental issue, and to reduce humans’ impact on the planet, it is necessary to change global patterns of food production and consumption.
Step 2: Make an essay outline and draft topic sentences
Next, you should make an outline of your essay’s structure , planning what you want to say in each paragraph and what evidence you’ll use.
At this stage, you can draft a topic sentence that sums up the main point you want to make in each paragraph. The topic sentences should be more specific than the thesis statement, but always clearly related to it.
Topic sentence example
Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has a significant environmental impact .
Step 3: Expand with evidence
The rest of the paragraph should flow logically from the topic sentence, expanding on the point with evidence, examples, or argumentation. This helps keep your paragraphs focused: everything you write should relate to the central idea expressed in the topic sentence.
In our example, you might mention specific research studies and statistics that support your point about the overall impact of the meat industry.
Step 4: Refine your topic sentences
Topic sentences usually start out as simple statements. But it’s important to revise them as you write, making sure they match the content of each paragraph.
A good topic sentence is specific enough to give a clear sense of what to expect from the paragraph, but general enough that it doesn’t give everything away. You can think of it like a signpost: it should tell the reader which direction your argument is going in.
To make your writing stronger and ensure the connections between your paragraphs are clear and logical, you can also use topic sentences to create smooth transitions. To improve sentence flow even more, you can also utilize the paraphrase tool .
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As you write each topic sentence, ask yourself: how does this point relate to what you wrote in the preceding paragraph? It’s often helpful to use transition words in your topic sentences to show the connections between your ideas.
Emphasize and expand
If the paragraph goes into more detail or gives another example to make the same point, the topic sentence can use words that imply emphasis or similarity (for example, furthermore , indeed , in fact , also ).
Indeed , cattle farming alone is responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.
Summarize and anticipate
If the paragraph turns to a different aspect of the same subject, the topic sentence can briefly sum up the previous paragraph and anticipate the new information that will appear in this one.
While beef clearly has the most dramatic footprint, other animal products also have serious impacts in terms of emissions, water and land use.
Compare and contrast
If the paragraph makes a comparison or introduces contrasting information, the topic sentence can use words that highlight difference or conflict (for example, in contrast , however , yet , on the other hand ).
However , the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.
You can also imply contrast or complicate your argument by formulating the topic sentence as a question.
Is veganism the only solution, or are there more sustainable ways of producing meat and dairy?
Sometimes you can use a topic sentence to introduce several paragraphs at once.
All of the examples above address the environmental impact of meat-eating versus veganism. Together, they make up one coherent part of a larger argument, so the first paragraph could use a topic sentence to introduce the whole section.
In countries with high levels of meat consumption, a move towards plant-based diets is the most obvious route to making food more sustainable. Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has significant environmental impacts.
The topic sentence usually goes at the very start of a paragraph, but sometimes it can come later to indicate a change of direction in the paragraph’s argument.
Given this evidence of the meat industry’s impact on the planet, veganism seems like the only environmentally responsible option for consumers. However, the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.
In this example, the first sentence summarizes the main point that has been made so far. Then the topic sentence indicates that this paragraph will address evidence that complicates or contradicts that point.
In more advanced or creative forms of academic writing , you can play with the placement of topic sentences to build suspense and give your arguments more force. But if in doubt, to keep your research paper clear and focused, the easiest method is to place the topic sentence at the start of the paragraph.
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A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.
Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.
In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.
The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .
However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.
Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :
- Research has shown that the meat industry has severe environmental impacts.
- However, many plant-based foods are also produced in environmentally damaging ways.
- It’s important to consider not only what type of diet we eat, but where our food comes from and how it is produced.
Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.
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9.2 Writing Body Paragraphs
- Select primary support related to your thesis.
- Support your topic sentences.
If your thesis gives the reader a roadmap to your essay, then body paragraphs should closely follow that map. The reader should be able to predict what follows your introductory paragraph by simply reading the thesis statement.
The body paragraphs present the evidence you have gathered to confirm your thesis. Before you begin to support your thesis in the body, you must find information from a variety of sources that support and give credit to what you are trying to prove.
Select Primary Support for Your Thesis
Without primary support, your argument is not likely to be convincing. Primary support can be described as the major points you choose to expand on your thesis. It is the most important information you select to argue for your point of view. Each point you choose will be incorporated into the topic sentence for each body paragraph you write. Your primary supporting points are further supported by supporting details within the paragraphs.
Remember that a worthy argument is backed by examples. In order to construct a valid argument, good writers conduct lots of background research and take careful notes. They also talk to people knowledgeable about a topic in order to understand its implications before writing about it.
Identify the Characteristics of Good Primary Support
In order to fulfill the requirements of good primary support, the information you choose must meet the following standards:
- Be specific. The main points you make about your thesis and the examples you use to expand on those points need to be specific. Use specific examples to provide the evidence and to build upon your general ideas. These types of examples give your reader something narrow to focus on, and if used properly, they leave little doubt about your claim. General examples, while they convey the necessary information, are not nearly as compelling or useful in writing because they are too obvious and typical.
- Be relevant to the thesis. Primary support is considered strong when it relates directly to the thesis. Primary support should show, explain, or prove your main argument without delving into irrelevant details. When faced with lots of information that could be used to prove your thesis, you may think you need to include it all in your body paragraphs. But effective writers resist the temptation to lose focus. Choose your examples wisely by making sure they directly connect to your thesis.
- Be detailed. Remember that your thesis, while specific, should not be very detailed. The body paragraphs are where you develop the discussion that a thorough essay requires. Using detailed support shows readers that you have considered all the facts and chosen only the most precise details to enhance your point of view.
Prewrite to Identify Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement
Recall that when you prewrite you essentially make a list of examples or reasons why you support your stance. Stemming from each point, you further provide details to support those reasons. After prewriting, you are then able to look back at the information and choose the most compelling pieces you will use in your body paragraphs.
Choose one of the following working thesis statements. On a separate sheet of paper, write for at least five minutes using one of the prewriting techniques you learned in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .
- Unleashed dogs on city streets are a dangerous nuisance.
- Students cheat for many different reasons.
- Drug use among teens and young adults is a problem.
- The most important change that should occur at my college or university is ____________________________________________.
Select the Most Effective Primary Supporting Points for a Thesis Statement
After you have prewritten about your working thesis statement, you may have generated a lot of information, which may be edited out later. Remember that your primary support must be relevant to your thesis. Remind yourself of your main argument, and delete any ideas that do not directly relate to it. Omitting unrelated ideas ensures that you will use only the most convincing information in your body paragraphs. Choose at least three of only the most compelling points. These will serve as the topic sentences for your body paragraphs.
Refer to the previous exercise and select three of your most compelling reasons to support the thesis statement. Remember that the points you choose must be specific and relevant to the thesis. The statements you choose will be your primary support points, and you will later incorporate them into the topic sentences for the body paragraphs.
Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.
When you support your thesis, you are revealing evidence. Evidence includes anything that can help support your stance. The following are the kinds of evidence you will encounter as you conduct your research:
- Facts. Facts are the best kind of evidence to use because they often cannot be disputed. They can support your stance by providing background information on or a solid foundation for your point of view. However, some facts may still need explanation. For example, the sentence “The most populated state in the United States is California” is a pure fact, but it may require some explanation to make it relevant to your specific argument.
- Judgments. Judgments are conclusions drawn from the given facts. Judgments are more credible than opinions because they are founded upon careful reasoning and examination of a topic.
- Testimony. Testimony consists of direct quotations from either an eyewitness or an expert witness. An eyewitness is someone who has direct experience with a subject; he adds authenticity to an argument based on facts. An expert witness is a person who has extensive experience with a topic. This person studies the facts and provides commentary based on either facts or judgments, or both. An expert witness adds authority and credibility to an argument.
- Personal observation. Personal observation is similar to testimony, but personal observation consists of your testimony. It reflects what you know to be true because you have experiences and have formed either opinions or judgments about them. For instance, if you are one of five children and your thesis states that being part of a large family is beneficial to a child’s social development, you could use your own experience to support your thesis.
Writing at Work
In any job where you devise a plan, you will need to support the steps that you lay out. This is an area in which you would incorporate primary support into your writing. Choosing only the most specific and relevant information to expand upon the steps will ensure that your plan appears well-thought-out and precise.
You can consult a vast pool of resources to gather support for your stance. Citing relevant information from reliable sources ensures that your reader will take you seriously and consider your assertions. Use any of the following sources for your essay: newspapers or news organization websites, magazines, encyclopedias, and scholarly journals, which are periodicals that address topics in a specialized field.
Choose Supporting Topic Sentences
Each body paragraph contains a topic sentence that states one aspect of your thesis and then expands upon it. Like the thesis statement, each topic sentence should be specific and supported by concrete details, facts, or explanations.
Each body paragraph should comprise the following elements.
topic sentence + supporting details (examples, reasons, or arguments)
As you read in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” , topic sentences indicate the location and main points of the basic arguments of your essay. These sentences are vital to writing your body paragraphs because they always refer back to and support your thesis statement. Topic sentences are linked to the ideas you have introduced in your thesis, thus reminding readers what your essay is about. A paragraph without a clearly identified topic sentence may be unclear and scattered, just like an essay without a thesis statement.
Unless your teacher instructs otherwise, you should include at least three body paragraphs in your essay. A five-paragraph essay, including the introduction and conclusion, is commonly the standard for exams and essay assignments.
Consider the following the thesis statement:
Author J.D. Salinger relied primarily on his personal life and belief system as the foundation for the themes in the majority of his works.
The following topic sentence is a primary support point for the thesis. The topic sentence states exactly what the controlling idea of the paragraph is. Later, you will see the writer immediately provide support for the sentence.
Salinger, a World War II veteran, suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, a disorder that influenced themes in many of his works.
In Note 9.19 “Exercise 2” , you chose three of your most convincing points to support the thesis statement you selected from the list. Take each point and incorporate it into a topic sentence for each body paragraph.
Supporting point 1: ____________________________________________
Topic sentence: ____________________________________________
Supporting point 2: ____________________________________________
Supporting point 3: ____________________________________________
Draft Supporting Detail Sentences for Each Primary Support Sentence
After deciding which primary support points you will use as your topic sentences, you must add details to clarify and demonstrate each of those points. These supporting details provide examples, facts, or evidence that support the topic sentence.
The writer drafts possible supporting detail sentences for each primary support sentence based on the thesis statement:
Thesis statement: Unleashed dogs on city streets are a dangerous nuisance.
Supporting point 1: Dogs can scare cyclists and pedestrians.
- Cyclists are forced to zigzag on the road.
- School children panic and turn wildly on their bikes.
- People who are walking at night freeze in fear.
Supporting point 2:
Loose dogs are traffic hazards.
- Dogs in the street make people swerve their cars.
- To avoid dogs, drivers run into other cars or pedestrians.
- Children coaxing dogs across busy streets create danger.
Supporting point 3: Unleashed dogs damage gardens.
- They step on flowers and vegetables.
- They destroy hedges by urinating on them.
- They mess up lawns by digging holes.
The following paragraph contains supporting detail sentences for the primary support sentence (the topic sentence), which is underlined.
Salinger, a World War II veteran, suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, a disorder that influenced the themes in many of his works. He did not hide his mental anguish over the horrors of war and once told his daughter, “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose, no matter how long you live.” His short story “A Perfect Day for a Bananafish” details a day in the life of a WWII veteran who was recently released from an army hospital for psychiatric problems. The man acts questionably with a little girl he meets on the beach before he returns to his hotel room and commits suicide. Another short story, “For Esmé – with Love and Squalor,” is narrated by a traumatized soldier who sparks an unusual relationship with a young girl he meets before he departs to partake in D-Day. Finally, in Salinger’s only novel, The Catcher in the Rye , he continues with the theme of posttraumatic stress, though not directly related to war. From a rest home for the mentally ill, sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield narrates the story of his nervous breakdown following the death of his younger brother.
Using the three topic sentences you composed for the thesis statement in Note 9.18 “Exercise 1” , draft at least three supporting details for each point.
Thesis statement: ____________________________________________
Primary supporting point 1: ____________________________________________
Supporting details: ____________________________________________
Primary supporting point 2: ____________________________________________
Primary supporting point 3: ____________________________________________
You have the option of writing your topic sentences in one of three ways. You can state it at the beginning of the body paragraph, or at the end of the paragraph, or you do not have to write it at all. This is called an implied topic sentence. An implied topic sentence lets readers form the main idea for themselves. For beginning writers, it is best to not use implied topic sentences because it makes it harder to focus your writing. Your instructor may also want to clearly identify the sentences that support your thesis. For more information on the placement of thesis statements and implied topic statements, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .
Print out the first draft of your essay and use a highlighter to mark your topic sentences in the body paragraphs. Make sure they are clearly stated and accurately present your paragraphs, as well as accurately reflect your thesis. If your topic sentence contains information that does not exist in the rest of the paragraph, rewrite it to more accurately match the rest of the paragraph.
- Your body paragraphs should closely follow the path set forth by your thesis statement.
- Strong body paragraphs contain evidence that supports your thesis.
- Primary support comprises the most important points you use to support your thesis.
- Strong primary support is specific, detailed, and relevant to the thesis.
- Prewriting helps you determine your most compelling primary support.
- Evidence includes facts, judgments, testimony, and personal observation.
- Reliable sources may include newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books, encyclopedias, and firsthand testimony.
- A topic sentence presents one point of your thesis statement while the information in the rest of the paragraph supports that point.
- A body paragraph comprises a topic sentence plus supporting details.
Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
Practice in Supporting a Topic Sentence with Specific Details
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A topic sentence contains the main idea upon which a paragraph is developed. Often it appears at (or near) the beginning of a paragraph, introducing the main idea and suggesting the direction that the paragraph will take. What follows a topic sentence are a number of supporting sentences that develop the main idea with specific details .
Here is an effective topic sentence for a descriptive paragraph:
My most valuable possession is an old, slightly warped, blond guitar—the first instrument that I ever taught myself how to play.
This sentence not only identifies the prized belonging ("an old, slightly warped, blond guitar") but also suggests why the writer values it ("the first instrument that I ever taught myself how to play"). Some of the sentences below support this topic sentence with specific descriptive details. Others, however, offer information that would be inappropriate in a unified descriptive paragraph. Read the sentences carefully, and then pick out only those that support the topic sentence with precise descriptive details. When you're done, compare your responses with the suggested answers below:
- It is a Madeira folk guitar, all scuffed and scratched and finger-printed.
- My grandparents gave it to me on my thirteenth birthday.
- I think they bought it at the Music Lovers Shop in Rochester where they used to live.
- At the top is a bramble of copper-wound strings, each one hooked through the eye of a silver tuning key.
- Although copper strings are much harder on the fingers than nylon strings, they sound much better than the nylon ones.
- The strings are stretched down a long slim neck.
- The frets on the neck are tarnished, and the wood has been worn down by years of fingers pressing chords.
- It was three months before I could even tune the guitar properly, and another few months before I could manage the basic chords.
- You have to be very patient when first learning how to play the guitar.
- You should set aside a certain time each day for practice.
- The body of the Madeira is shaped like an enormous yellow pear, one that has been slightly damaged in shipping.
- A guitar can be awkward to hold, particularly if it seems bigger than you are, but you need to learn how to hold it properly if you're ever going to play it right.
- I usually play sitting down because it's more comfortable that way.
- The blond wood has been chipped and gouged to gray, particularly where the pick guard fell off years ago.
- I have a Gibson now and hardly ever play the Madeira any more.
The following sentences support the topic sentence with precise descriptive details:
1. It is a Madeira folk guitar, all scuffed and scratched and finger-printed.
4. At the top is a bramble of copper-wound strings, each one hooked through the eye of a silver tuning key.
6. The strings are stretched down a long slim neck.
7. The frets on the neck are tarnished, and the wood has been worn down by years of fingers pressing chords.
11. The body of the Madeira is shaped like an enormous yellow pear, one that has been slightly damaged in shipping.
14. The blond wood has been chipped and gouged to gray, particularly where the pick guard fell off years ago.
- 5 Examples of How to Write a Good Descriptive Paragraph
- What Is a Topic Sentence?
- How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph
- How to Teach Topic Sentences Using Models
- Paragraph Writing
- Supporting Detail in Composition and Speech
- Understanding General-to-Specific Order in Composition
- How to Structure an Essay
- Best Practices for the Most Effective Use of Paragraphs
- Outlines for Every Type of Writing Composition
- What Is Expository Writing?
- Definition and Examples of Body Paragraphs in Composition
- How to Help Your 4th Grader Write a Biography
- Unity in Composition
- How to Find the Main Idea
- detail (composition)
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What are supporting details in a body paragraph?
This is the first of three chapters about Supporting Details . To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Review the various body-paragraph elements which are useful in academic essays
– Explore the importance of supporting details
– Introduce the various types of supporting details, such as evidence, examples and explanations
Chapter 1: What are supporting details in a body paragraph?
Chapter 2: How can I add evidence, examples and explanation?
Chapter 3: Why are implications important in body support?
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The body of an essay is its most important section, and the trickiest part to get right. While the introduction and the conclusion can follow a fairly straightforward pattern, for the body section there is more variation in a how a student can structure their writing to create an effective essay. Thankfully, whether you’re writing a compare and contrast , evaluative or problem-solution essay, there are still a number of key body-paragraph elements you should try to include to help guarantee high grades – and the most important of these are called supporting details .
In this short three-chapter reader, we explore the concept of supporting details (Chapter 1), the different types of supporting detail on offer (Chapter 2) and why providing implications in your support is so important (Chapter 3). For a more general introduction to body sections, students may wish to first visit our short reader about body paragraphs .
There are three key essay elements within a body paragraph that students should make sure they’ve included before submitting their assignment . These are topic sentences , supporting details and summary-transition sentences . An example of each element is provided for you below, taken from our example problem-solution essay about air pollution. Read these excerpts carefully and see if you can guess the purpose of each element:
Were you able to determine the following purpose for each element?
Topic Sentence = inform the reader of the main idea of the paragraph (which should connect with the introductory thesis, i.e., the focus of the whole essay)
Supporting detail = provide support for the main idea(s) stated in the topic sentence, usually by using evidence (facts and statistics), examples and explanations
Summary-transition sentence = remind the reader of the main idea being explored in the paragraph, summarise the key arguments or findings, or transition (move smoothly) from the main idea of this paragraph to the main idea of the next
The Importance of Supporting Details
Where topic and summary sentences take up only about 20% of a body paragraph, the remaining 80% of that paragraph should be dedicated to an exploration of the topic-sentence’s main idea(s). This is done through the inclusion of a variety of convincing and related supporting details. Because the key aim of an academic essay is to be persuasive, logical and concise , persuading your reader of your opinion or stance will require the inclusion and explanation of a number of sources and source-based experiments and examples in the form of supporting details.
Whenever you include statistics or facts, or case studies or historical events, or when you explain or contextualise such evidence, each of these sentences forms part of a supporting detail, and without such details your essay would have very little substance. That essay would not convince your reader of your viewpoint, and it would not receive a high grade.
Supporting details have a few dif ferent elements that students are encouraged to include, namely evidence, examples, explanation and implications. However, depending on the essay type being written, sentences which are dedicated to providing solutions to problems or to describing the effects caused by a particular situation may also be required.
To see examples of these elements, let’s look at the first body paragraph of an example evaluative essay which answers the question “Global warming is a relatively new phenomenon that may be providing more advantages than disadvantages for the future of healthy ecosystems on this planet. Discuss.”
By studying this table carefully, you should be able to see how a body paragraph may have multiple supporting details (this paragraph has two) and how each supporting detail may be comprised of a number of elements, such as evidence, examples and explanation. For a closer look at how these supporting-detail elements function, and for guidance on how to include them in your own academic essay, continue reading on to Chapter 2 of this short reader.
To reference this reader:
Academic Marker (2022) Supporting Details . Available at: https://academicmarker.com/essay-writing/body-paragraphs/supporting-details/ (Accessed: Date Month Year).
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Once you’ve completed all three chapters in this short reader about Supporting Details , you might then wish to download our Chapter Worksheets to check your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks .
Chapter 1 explores the topic: What are supporting details in a body paragraph? Our Chapter 1 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.
Chapter 2 explores the topic: How can I add evidence, examples and explanation? Our Chapter 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.
Chapter 3 explores the topic: Why are implications important in body support? Our Chapter 3 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button.
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Topic Sentence and Paragraph
What is a paragraph.
A paragraph is a group of sentences that convey an idea. Each sentence works together as part of a unit to create an overall thought or impression. A paragraph is the smallest unit or cluster of sentences in which one idea can be developed adequately. Paragraphs can stand alone or function as part of an essay, but each paragraph covers only one main idea .
The most important sentence in your paragraph is the topic sentence , which clearly states the subject of the whole paragraph. The topic sentence is usually the first sentence of the paragraph because it gives an overview of the sentences to follow. The supporting sentences after the topic sentence help to develop the main idea. These sentences give specific details related to the topic sentence. A final or concluding sentence often restates or summarizes the main idea of the topic sentence.
An effective parapraph contains:
- a topic sentence that states the main point of the paragraph
- supporting sentences with details and specific examples as proof of your point
- logical, coherent thoughts that are developed in order from one sentence to the next
- a concluding idea that wraps up the point of the paragraph
Below is a paragraph model. It contains a topic sentence with concrete details and examples in the supporting sentences. Notice how the writer sums up the point of the paragraph with a concluding sentence .
Also, because this is academic writing, the writer indents the first line five spaces to mark the beginning of a paragraph. This practice is not always followed in commercial or instructive writing, or in business letters or memos.
My First Day
My first day of college was a disaster. First, I went to the wrong classroom for math. I was sitting in the class, surrounded by people taking notes and paying attention to how to do equations, which would have been okay if I was supposed to be in an algebra class. In reality, I was supposed to be in geometry, and when I discovered my error, I had already missed the first twenty minutes of a one-hour class. When I got to the correct class, all twenty-five students turned and looked at me as the teacher said, "You're late." That would have been bad enough, but in my next class my history teacher spoke so fast I could not follow most of what they said. The only thing I did hear was that we were having a quiz tomorrow over today’s lecture. My day seemed to be going better during botany class, that is, until we visited the lab. I had a sneezing fit because of one of the plants in the lab and had to leave the room. When I finally finished my classes for the day, I discovered I had locked my keys in the car and had to wait for my brother to bring another set. My first day of school was so bad that I know the rest will have to be better.
In the above paragraph, the topic sentence appears in bold and the concluding sentence in italics. The sentences in between support and develop the topic sentence by giving specific examples and details. These examples are the writer’s “proof” of their bad first day of school.
Effective Topic Sentences
An effective topic sentence:
- informs the reader of the subject that will be discussed in the paragraph
- asserts the writer’s point of view or attitude
- intrigues the reader to continue reading
- creates a sense of action
- is not vague, rambling, too narrow or too broad
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- Supporting Paragraphs
"A paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that develops a main idea. Paragraphs serve as the primary building blocks of essays, reports, memos, and other forms of written composition" (Hult and Huckin, The New Century Handbook , 103).
In essence, paragraphs control the design and structure of the written composition. Paragraphs in the middle of your composition develop the thesis statement and provide transition ideas between supporting details.
Paragraphs should be " unified, coherent, and adequately developed , while flowing from one to the next as smoothly as possible" (Hult and Huckin, The New Century Handbook , 103).
Rule to Remember
Make sure all your paragraphs are unified, coherent, and adequately developed.
"A unified paragraph focuses on and develops a single main idea . This idea is typically captured in a single sentence, called a topic sentence . The other sentences in the paragraph, the supporting sentences , should elaborate on the topic sentence in a logical fashion (Hult and Huckin, The New Century Handbook , 104).
The supporting sentences, also called the body of the paragraph , are used to support, explain, illustrate, or provide evidence for the idea expressed in the topic sentence.
The main characteristics of a well-written paragraph
Introduce a topic sentence in your paragraph and then let the rest of the sentences build details to support it.
A paragraph should not introduce any other evidence or provide information that does not support the main idea; otherwise, the paragraph will lack unity and coherence.
Find logical subdivisions in your argument and organize them into unified paragraphs.
It is common to start a paragraph with a topic sentence and then let the rest of the sentences build details to support it. However, this is not by any means the only or the best pattern. The topic sentence can appear in any part of the paragraph or sometimes it can be implied.
Topic sentences at the beginning of a paragraph
In the following two paragraphs, the topic sentence appears at the beginning:
The environment the teacher creates in the classroom plays one of the most crucial roles in successful learning . This is true of any setting, whether the teaching occurs in a long academic program or in a tutoring situation. The teacher is a role model, a person students can trust, a guide, and a mentor. It is the responsibility of the teacher to create a low-anxiety environment in order to allow the students to enjoy the learning process. A good teacher tries to find out what works best with a particular learner or a group of learners and goes from there. What needs to come first in any learning situation is not a specific aspect or principle of methodology but the learners themselves.
From a Teaching Practicum Reflection Paper
Online education has become more popular than other forms of distance education because it offers learners a great deal of flexibility . Students have the freedom to work at their own pace, time, and chosen location. The flexibility of online learning makes it a very powerful tool that enhances learning, provides motivation for self-directed study, and, at the same time, increases convenience for learners with effective use of place and time. Online education is an excellent solution for those who consider learning to be a lifelong process. For adult learners, it provides the possibility to manage work, family, and other activities while still being able to take classes.
From a student research paper on Advantages and Limitations of Web-Based Instruction
"A topic sentence should, if possible, do four things: (1) provide a transition from a the preceding paragraph, (2) introduce the topic of the paragraph, (3) make a main point about this topic, and (4) suggest how the rest of the paragraph will develop this point" (Hult and Huckin, The New Century Handbook , 104).
Suggestions for writing paragraphs
- Avoid paragraphs that are either too long or too short
- Develop a single idea in a paragraph
- Use different patterns of paragraph development (narration, description, definition, example, comparison and contrast, analogy, cause and effect, or process)
- Provide transitions between paragraphs to make your writing flow smoothly (refer to the section on Transitions )
Audience also affects the choice of language, vocabulary, and sentence structures.
Reasons to start a new paragraph
- Introduce a new idea
- Emphasize an idea
- Introduce a logical pause
- Introduce a subtopic
- Conclude the composition
(Lunsford, The Everyday Writer , 48)
- Reading the Assignment
- Addressing the Audience
- Thesis Statement
- Revision Process
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Topic Sentences & Paragraph Development
- Joseph M. Moxley
A topic sentence summarizes the main idea or the purpose of a paragraph.
In an essay, topic sentences serve an organizational purpose similar to a thesis statement but on a smaller scale; a topic sentence helps guide the organization of a single paragraph while a thesis statement guides the organization of the entire essay. A topic sentence may be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a paragraph depending upon the way the writer chooses to organize the paragraph.
What are the functions of a topic sentence?
A topic sentence functions in several important ways:
- It informs the reader of the paragraph’s direction
The topic sentence announces the direction of the paragraph’s conversation. With the help of an effective topic sentence, readers will better understand what the paragraph will be about.
- It guides the reader through the major points that support the thesis statement
Since each paragraph—or a group of paragraphs—elaborates on a part of the thesis statement, a topic sentence can help clarify the relationship between the paragraph and the thesis statement. Clearly worded topic sentences may help readers find the paper’s position or argument more convincing.
- It places boundaries on the paragraph’s content
The body of the paragraph provides support for the topic sentence. The paragraph should only include evidence and details that relate directly to the boundary established by the topic sentence.
Let’s look at an example:
Topic sentence: Specially trained dogs provide valuable services for various law enforcement agencies.
Details within the paragraph:
- Drug Enforcement Administration officers use dogs to find various types of drugs.
- Some dogs are trained to search for and locate bombs and other weapons for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
- Police dogs can be used to track missing people or fugitives.
- Cadaver dogs are trained to ignore the scent of live humans and search for human remains.
When the topic sentence prefaces the sentences with supporting details, the purpose of the paragraph is clearer to the reader. Together, the topic sentence and the body sentences create a well-organized and easy to follow paragraph:
Specially trained dogs provide valuable services for various law enforcement agencies. The Drug Enforcement Administration trains dogs to find even trace amounts of various types of illegal substances. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms uses dogs to search for and locate bombs and other weapons, especially at large public events or arenas. Additionally, several local and federal agencies use dogs to track missing people or fugitives who may be found in a specific, localized area. Cadaver dogs, similarly, are trained to ignore the scent of live humans and search for human remains. These dogs are valuable assets to our country’s law enforcement organizations.
Where should the topic sentence be placed within a paragraph?
Your instructor may have guidelines for you about where to place topic sentences. If it is up to you, the topic sentence may appear:
- At the beginning. In many writing situations, the author places the topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. Readers often expect cues related to the paragraph’s focus, claim, and main idea. In this position, the topic sentence makes an initial point and the remainder of the paragraph provides relevant supporting details.
- In the middle. In a few writing situations, the author may use the first sentence (or two) in a paragraph to act as a transition between paragraphs. The topic sentence that follows the transitional sentence(s) summarizes the paragraph’s main idea and helps provide unity to its content. In this position, the topic sentence links the supporting details presented before and after it.
- At the end. In some writing situations, the author may place the topic sentence at the end of the paragraph. Groundwork laid at the beginning of the paragraph can be built upon until it culminates at the end. Or, in a long or complex paragraph, the author may choose to restate the topic sentence in the form of a concluding sentence to remind the reader of the paragraph’s main point.
When might a topic sentence be unnecessary?
If they are not required by an instructor, there are a few instances when a topic sentence might be unnecessary, including when:
- The train of thought continues from the previous paragraph. Writers may find they have a lot to say about a sub-point in their essay and the number of supporting details could result in unwieldy paragraph length. When a previously developed idea spills into a new paragraph, a topic sentence may not be needed for the resulting new paragraph.
- The paragraph narrates a series of events. Writers may become narrators in some settings; hence, this transmission of events or experiences may speak for itself and a topic sentence could get in the way.
- The main idea of the paragraph is obvious Writers may sometimes present reliable, convincing evidence in such a way that the point of the paragraph is obvious and a topic sentence becomes unnecessary.
When during writing should the topic sentence be identified?
Because writing is a thoughtful, constructive process, writers may not always know what form their thoughts will take until they make it onto the page. This process involves a developmental progression that usually includes several drafts. Writers may identify topic sentences at different points during the writing process. Sometimes writers know right away what the topic sentence looks like and where it fits within the paragraph. Other times, they need to look at earlier drafts and analyze the main point of the paragraph. Then, a decision can be reached whether or not a topic sentence is necessary and, if so, where it should be placed.
How do I write or revise a topic sentence?
When writing or revising a topic sentence, consider whether the topic sentence:
- concisely summarizes the main idea or purpose of the paragraph?
- effectively guides the organization of the paragraph’s ideas?
- clearly announces the direction of the paragraph’s conversation?
- actively supports the relationship between the paragraph’s ideas and the essay’s thesis statement?
- adequately prepares the way for the content of the paragraph?
- firmly establishes boundaries for the supporting details and evidence presented in the paragraph?
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Let’s talk about supporting details and how they can help strengthen your writing. A paragraph usually starts with the main idea—also called the topic sentence—and the rest of the paragraph gives specific details to support and develop that point. Today, we’ll be talking about those details, called supporting details.
Supporting Details Definition
Think of it this way: If you’re building a table then you need a flat surface for the tabletop, this is like your main point or topic sentence. If that flat surface doesn’t have any legs to stand on, though, it’s no good as a table! The supporting details are like the legs of the table, propping up the topic sentence.
Types of Supporting Details
There are six main types of supporting details: descriptions, vocabulary, proof, voices, explanation, and importance.
Description is fairly self-explanatory: the writer can use the five senses, comparison, and metaphors to help paint a vivid picture for the reader.
Vocabulary helps with clarification. For example, if you have a topic sentence that relies on the word pulchritudinous , it might help to include a definition of the word so the reader doesn’t get sidetracked. ( Pulchritudinous means “beautiful,” by the way.)
Proof is often made up of facts , statistics, and dates that are hard evidence for your main point
“Voices” are expert quotes, individual opinions, or different perspectives that can be considered “soft proof.”
Explanation is restating the main point more simply, and “importance” is answering the question “so what?” after a fact or a quote.
Supporting Details Examples
Let’s take a look at a quick example.
Being a celebrity is often difficult. First of all, celebrities have to look flawless all the time. Perez Hilton once said celebrities have to sacrifice their private lives when they choose to enter the spotlight. Think about the gossip rags you’ve seen with unflattering paparazzi photos of the private moments of the stars’ lives. This obsession can sometimes lead to stalking, threatening letters, and even physical attacks.
Okay, so our main point is that first sentence: being a celebrity is difficult. The supporting details follow. You can see a voice is presented, that of Perez Hilton, a descriptive explanation, directing you to think about the paparazzi photos, and two simply descriptive phrases. This paragraph would be even stronger with a testimonial about a real-life story of a celebrity facing danger because of their place in the public image—that would be a proof-based supporting detail.
When you’re writing supporting details, it’s important not to stray too far from your original point. Remember, every paragraph in a written work is pointing back in some way to your overall thesis, and every sentence in the paragraph is pointing to the main point of that paragraph.
If you have a main point about, say, how dogs are man’s best friend, you wouldn’t want to use an example of how disloyal cats are in that paragraph. Save that point for another paragraph—stay focused on facts about dogs in the supporting paragraph about dogs. If you get off track from your main point, your reader might get confused and lose interest.
A common mistake in writing a paper is not providing enough specific details. The more specific, the better. A vague detail is like a thin table leg, it will make your entire point wobbly. Often vague details come when you’re pressed for time or don’t want to research a topic fully—take the time to make your paper worth reading. Let’s look at an example to further prove this point. You could write something like this:
I felt like I was sick. By the time I got home, it was worse. The symptoms kept developing, one after the other.
Okay. You know in general what’s happening. But think how much more convincing the following sentence would be:
I was sick at my desk when I felt the tickle in my throat and started to cough. By the time I got home, the room seemed to be swimming around me, and I found I had a fever of 102. I crawled into bed, shivering.
That’s a little more vivid, isn’t it? The details are strong and vibrant, not generic and vague. It makes the writer’s point much more clearly.
So let’s look back on what we’ve learned. Supporting details help hold up your main point. They should be specific, creative, and focused on the main point of the paragraph. Do this, and your writing will greatly improve.
I hope this video has been helpful and that you feel prepped and empowered. Thanks for watching!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are supporting details.
In a literary text, supporting details are general information that clarifies, supports, or explains the main idea or thesis in greater detail, proving the main idea’s credibility with supporting details and examples from the text in order to better understand the story and what the main idea is.
Where do supporting details usually appear in an essay?
Supporting details most often appear within the body of the essay.
How do I identify the main idea and supporting details?
The first sentence within the first paragraph generally contains the main idea. A thesis statement is often placed at the end of the introductory paragraph, followed by the essential supporting details, which are shared within the body paragraphs.
How do I write supporting details?
Supporting details are the well-researched facts and statements, detailed descriptions, examples, and specific details that lead the reader to comprehend the main idea of a paragraph. Supporting details provide clarification to the reader by explaining, describing, and illustrating the main idea within the text. Comparing and contrasting essays are good ways to write supporting details.
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Main body How to write a good essay paragraph
As the name suggests, the main body is the main part of your essay. It is a collection of paragraphs related to your topic, and in order to understand how to write a good main body, you need to understand how to write good paragraphs. This section will help you understand the three main structural components of any good paragraph: the topic sentence , supporting sentences , and the concluding sentence . An example essay has been given to help you understand all of these, and there is a checklist at the end which you can use for editing your main body.
The topic sentence
The topic sentence is the most important sentence in a paragraph. It is usually the first sentence, though may sometimes also be placed at the end. It indicates what the paragraph is going to discuss, and thus serves as a useful guide both for the writer and the reader; the writer can have a clear idea what information to include (and what information to exclude), while the reader will have a clear idea of what the paragraph will discuss, which will aid in understanding.
The topic sentence comprises two separate parts: the topic of the paragraph, and the controlling idea, which limits the topic to one or two areas that can be discussed fully in one paragraph.
Consider the following topic sentence (from the example essay below):
The most striking advantage of the car is its convenience .
The topic of this short essay is the advantages and disadvantages of cars, as a result of which each paragraph has either the advantages or the disadvantages of cars as its topic. In this case, the topic is the advantage of cars . The controlling idea is convenience , which limits the discussion of advantages of cars to this one idea. This paragraph will therefore give supporting ideas (reasons, facts, etc.) to show why convenience is an advantage of cars.
Here is another topic sentence from the same example essay :
Despite this advantage, cars have many significant disadvantages , the most important of which is the pollution they cause.
The topic of this paragraph is the disadvantage of cars . The controlling idea is pollution . This paragraph will therefore give supporting ideas (reasons, facts, etc.) to show why pollution is a disadvantage of cars.
Here is the final topic sentence from the same example essay :
A further disadvantage is the traffic problems that they cause in many cities and towns of the world.
The topic of this paragraph is again the disadvantage of cars . The controlling idea this time is traffic problems . This paragraph will therefore give supporting ideas (reasons, facts, etc.) to show why traffic congestion is a disadvantage of cars.
The following are key points to remember about the topic sentence:
- it should be a complete sentence
- it should contain both a topic and a controlling idea
- it is the most general statement in the paragraph, because it gives only the main idea with any supporting details
Supporting sentences develop the topic sentence. They are more specific than the topic sentence, giving reasons, examples, facts, statistics, and citations in support of the main idea of the paragraph.
Below is the whole paragraph for the second topic sentence above. The supporting sentences are in bold.
Despite this advantage, cars have many significant disadvantages, the most important of which is the pollution they cause. Almost all cars run either on petrol or diesel fuel, both of which are fossil fuels. Burning these fuels causes the car to emit serious pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide. Not only are these gases harmful for health, causing respiratory disease and other illnesses, they also contribute to global warming, an increasing problem in the modern world. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (2013), transportation in the US accounts for 30% of all carbon dioxide production in that country, with 60% of these emissions coming from cars and small trucks. In short, pollution is a major drawback of cars.
The paragraph above has the following support:
- burning fuels (petrol and diesel) in car engines emits pollutants - fact
- cars emit carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide - examples (of pollutants)
- the pollutants are harmful for health - fact
- the pollutants cause respiratory disease - example (of how they harm our health)
- the pollutants contribute to global warming - fact
- 30% of carbon dioxide in the US comes from transport - statistic
- 60% of the these emissions come from cars and small trucks - statistic
- this information comes from Union of Concerned Scientists (2013) - citation
The concluding sentence
The concluding sentence is an optional component of a paragraph. In other words, it is not absolutely necessary. It most useful for especially long paragraphs, as it will help the reader to remember of the main ideas of the paragraph.
Below is the concluding sentence from the paragraph above:
In short, the harm to our health and to the environment means that pollution from cars is a major drawback.
Here the concluding sentence not only repeats the controlling idea of the topic sentence , that cars cause pollution, but also summarises the information of the paragraph, which is that the pollution from cars is harmful to both our health and the environment.
The following are useful transition signals to use for the concluding sentence:
- In conclusion...
- In summary...
- In brief...
- In short...
- These examples show that...
- This evidence strongly suggests that...
Below is a discussion essay which looks at the advantages and disadvantages of car ownership. This essay is used throughout the essay writing section to help you understand different aspects of essay writing. Here it focuses on topic sentences and controlling ideas (mentioned on this page), the thesis statement and general statements of the introduction, and the summary and final comment of the conclusion. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay.
Although they were invented almost a hundred years ago, for decades cars were only owned by the rich. Since the 60s and 70s they have become increasingly affordable, and now most families in developed nations, and a growing number in developing countries, own a car. While cars have undoubted advantages , of which their convenience is the most apparent, they have significant drawbacks , most notably pollution and traffic problems . The most striking advantage of the car is its convenience. When travelling long distance, there may be only one choice of bus or train per day, which may be at an unsuitable time. The car, however, allows people to travel at any time they wish, and to almost any destination they choose. Despite this advantage, cars have many significant disadvantages , the most important of which is the pollution they cause. Almost all cars run either on petrol or diesel fuel, both of which are fossil fuels. Burning these fuels causes the car to emit serious pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide. Not only are these gases harmful for health, causing respiratory disease and other illnesses, they also contribute to global warming, an increasing problem in the modern world. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (2013), transportation in the US accounts for 30% of all carbon dioxide production in that country, with 60% of these emissions coming from cars and small trucks. In short, pollution is a major drawback of cars. A further disadvantage is the traffic problems that they cause in many cities and towns of the world. While car ownership is increasing in almost all countries of the world, especially in developing countries, the amount of available roadway in cities is not increasing at an equal pace. This can lead to traffic congestion, in particular during the morning and evening rush hour. In some cities, this congestion can be severe, and delays of several hours can be a common occurrence. Such congestion can also affect those people who travel out of cities at the weekend. Spending hours sitting in an idle car means that this form of transport can in fact be less convenient than trains or aeroplanes or other forms of public transport. In conclusion, while the car is advantageous for its convenience , it has some important disadvantages , in particular the pollution it causes and the rise of traffic jams . If countries can invest in the development of technology for green fuels, and if car owners can think of alternatives such as car sharing, then some of these problems can be lessened. References
Union of Concerned Scientists (2013). Car Emissions and Global Warming. www.ucsusa.org/clean vehicles/why-clean-cars/global-warming/ (Access date: 8 August, 2013)
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Below is a checklist for the main body of an essay. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
Find out how to structure the conclusion of an essay in the next section.
Go back to the previous section about the essay introduction .
Author: Sheldon Smith ‖ Last modified: 26 January 2022.
Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of EAPFoundation.com. He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .
Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.
Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).
Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.
Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).
Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.
Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.
Module 3: Writing Essentials
Paragraph development: supporting claims, learning objectives.
- Analyze the types and uses of evidence and supporting details in paragraphs
Main Ideas in Paragraphs
A paragraph is composed of multiple sentences focused on a single, clearly-defined topic. There should be one main idea per paragraph, so whenever a writer moves on to a new idea, the writer will start a new paragraph. For example, this paragraph defines what a paragraph is, and now we will start a new paragraph to deal with a new idea: how a paragraph is structured.
Paragraphs are actually organized much like how persuasive papers are organized. Just like an essay has a thesis statement followed by a body of supportive evidence, paragraphs have a topic or key sentence followed by several sentences of support or explanation.
After the topic or key sentence introduces the main idea, the remainder of the sentences in a paragraph should support or explain this topic. These additional sentences might detail the author’s position on the topic. They might also provide examples, statistics, or other evidence to support that position. At the end of the paragraph, the author may include some sort of conclusion or a transition that sets up the next idea in the essay.
Using the Thesis to Organize Paragraphs
While your main claim should guide the entire argument, key ideas included in the thesis statement can be used in topic sentences to guide your paragraphs.
Using the sample thesis statement, “Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have been indispensable tools to young activists from Tahrir Square to Wall Street,” the argument might be outlined as follows:
- Introduction: Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have been indispensable tools to young activists from Tahrir Square to Wall Street.
- the Arab Spring
- Occupy Wall Street
- Conclusion: The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements used of social media to organize people and share ideas.
In the outline above, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are used to divide the body of the essay into three main sections, and then those sections are subdivided into Egypt and the United States. Alternately, you could divide the body of the essay into two main sections—one for Egypt and the other for the United States—and then subdivide by Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The resulting outline would look like this:
- Conclusion: The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements used of social media to organize people and share ideas.
With both of these outlines, the writers established a clear progression from the thesis statement and would help the reader to see how each key idea furthers the main claim.
Supporting Ideas and Details
A text’s thesis statement helps guide its overall organization and the development of the topic sentences that will constitute the body paragraphs. Now let’s examine what makes a paragraph work.
First, watch this video and pay close attention to the relationship between a topic or key sentence and supporting details. Using the metaphor of a house, the narrator of the video establishes the difference between major and minor details.
(The video has instrumental guitar for audio, but no spoken words, so can be watched without sound if desired.)
You can view the descriptive transcript for “Supporting Details” here (opens in new window) .
The following image shows a flowchart of a visual relationship between the overall thesis, topic sentences, and supporting ideas:
Figure 2 . The topic is the general subject, the main idea is the primary point made about the subject, and supporting details help develop the main idea. For example, in a paper about the flu shot, the topic is the flu shot, the main idea would be the importance of getting it, and the supporting details would be statistics about its effectiveness and details about how the vaccine prevents the spread of the flu.
Remember, readers often expect the topic or key sentences to be at the beginning of the paragraph. Sometimes the paragraph’s purpose in a larger piece of writing necessitates that its topic sentence occurs elsewhere.
This image shows where a topic sentence might reside in the paragraph, in relation to the rest of the supporting details:
Figure 3 . The topic sentence is often included at the beginning of a paragraph, as shown in the first column. But sometimes the topic sentence is located within the paragraph, or even at both the beginning and end of a paragraph, as shown in the last column, to reinforce or reiterate the key concept.
How does the structure of a body paragraph support a thesis?
Figure 4 . The PIE method consists of first pointing out the main idea, illustrating and explaining that idea.
Many authors use the PIE format to structure their essays.
PIE = point, illustration, explanation
The point furthers a thesis or claim, the illustration provides support for the point, and the explanation tells the audience why the evidence provided furthers the point and/or the thesis.
For example, let’s consider an essay written by a college student, Tareq Hajj. He argues that his university should not use a plus/minus grading scale because the proposed scale does not include a higher weight for A+ scores/. In his argument he makes the point that “Without the A+, students with high grades in the class would be less motivated to work even harder in order to increase their grades.”
He illustrates with a quote from a professor who argues, “‘(students) have less incentive to try’” (Fesheraki, 2013).
Hajj then explains that “not providing [the most motivated students] with additional motivation of a higher grade … is inequitable.”
Through his explanation, Hajj links back to his claim that, “A plus-minus grading scale … should not be used…” because it is “inequitable.” The PIE structure of his paragraph has served to help him support his thesis.
Ever heard the phrase “everyone is entitled to his opinion”? It is indeed true that people are free to believe whatever they wish. However, the mere fact that a person believes something is not an argument in support of a position. If a text’s goal is to communicate a person’s ideas effectively, it must provide valid explanations and sufficient and relevant evidence to convince its audience to accept that position.
What are the types of evidence?
Any text should provide illustrations for each of its points, but it is especially important to provide reliable evidence in an academic argument. This evidence can be based on primary source material or data (the author’s own experience and/or interviews, surveys, polls, experiments, that she may have created and administered). Evidence can also stem from secondary source material or data (books, journals, newspapers, magazines, websites or surveys, experiments, statistics, polls, and other data collected by others).
Let’s say, for example, that you are reading an argument that college instructors should let students use cell phones in class. Primary source material might include a survey the author administered that asks students if policies forbidding cell phone usage actually stops them from using their phones in class. Secondary sources might include articles about the issue of cell phone usage in class from scholarly or academic journals.
How do authors use rhetoric in their writing?
You’ve likely learned in the past about different types of rhetorical techniques that writers use when making claims in their writing. These rhetorical appeals are referred to by their Greek names: logos (the appeal to logic), pathos (the appeal to emotion), and ethos (the appeal to authority).
Figure 5 . Paragraphs consist of supporting evidence to persuade readers about the accuracy of their thesis statement. This evidence is supported by appeals to readers by using logos, ethos, and pathos.
Logical Appeals (Logos)
Authors using logic to support their claims will include a combination of different types of evidence. These include the following:
- established facts
- case studies
- analogies and logical reasoning
- citation of recognized experts on the issue
Ethical Appeals (Ethos)
Writers use their own authority as thinkers and scholars to support their claims. They may draw from different sources as evidence for their claims. These may include the following:
- personal anecdotes based on substantial personal experience
- illustration of deep knowledge on the issue
- testimony of those involved first-hand on the issue
Emotional Appeals (Pathos)
Authors using emotional appeal might support their claims with some of the same kinds of evidence listed above, but they try to invoke an emotional response in their readers. These include the following:
- personal anecdotes that readers may relate to
- compelling narratives
- emotional or stirring testimony of those involved first-hand on the issue
As you can see, there is some overlap on these lists. One technique might work simultaneously on multiple levels for different readers. Regardless of what kind of evidence you use, an effective paragraph will guide the reader with a clear topic sentence that articulates the claim and then uses evidence, illustration, support, and discussion to convince the reader.
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Every paragraph should include a topic sentence that identifies the main idea of the paragraph. A topic sentence also states the point the writer wishes to make about that subject. Generally, the topic sentence appears at the beginning of the paragraph. It is often the paragraph’s very first sentence. A paragraph’s topic sentence must be general enough to express the paragraph’s overall subject. However, it should be specific enough that the reader can understand the paragraph’s main subject and point.
- The topic sentence should identify the main idea and point of the paragraph. To choose an appropriate topic sentence, read the paragraph and think about its main idea and point.
- The supporting details in the paragraph (the sentences other than the topic sentence) will develop or explain the topic sentence. Read all the supporting details in the paragraph and think about the ideas they discuss.
- The topic sentence should not be too general or too specific. When considering the options, look for a topic sentence that is general enough to show the paragraph’s main idea instead of just one of its details. The answer should be specific enough that the reader understands the main idea of the paragraph.
More About the Topic Sentence
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 academic writing, the topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph (although it does not have to be).
Purpose of the Topic Sentence
A topic sentence essentially tells readers about the rest of the paragraph. 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 expands 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.
Examples of a Topic Sentence
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 charactristics."
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 because 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 is 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."
Topic Sentence Exercise
Write a topic sentence for the following paragraph. During the 1990s, I really enjoyed watching Friends on television every Thursday night. I really wanted Rachel’s haircut—I think every girl wanted Rachel’s haircut back then! Rachel’s haircut went really well with the Guess Jeans that were so popular in the 1990s. I remember all the advertisements for Guess and Calvin Klein Jeans that were in each month’s Sassy magazine. I do not think Sassy magazine exists anymore, but it was one of the most popular magazines for young women in the 1990s.
Topic Sentences Exercise Answer
The bold sentence is one possible topic sentence for the example paragraph.
Note: This is just one possible topic sentence—you may have thought of others that are also appropriate.
Thinking about the 1990s brings back fond memories for me about fashion and popular culture. During the 1990s, I really enjoyed watching Friends on television every Thursday night. I really wanted Rachel’s haircut—I think every girl wanted Rachel’s haircut back then! Rachel’s haircut went really well with the Guess Jeans that were so popular in the 1990s. I remember all the advertisements for Guess and Calvin Klein Jeans that were in each month’s Sassy magazine. I do not think Sassy magazine exists anymore, but it was one of the most popular magazines for young women in the 1990s.
*Source: Purdue OWL
How to Write a Paragraph
7 July 2023
Paragraphs are a collection of sentences that supports specific ideas. Basically, a good paragraph presents a unique view and starts with a topic sentence. In this case, a writer makes a single concept evident in the topic sentence. Also, other sentences support the central purpose and help to maintain the scope of a paragraph. Hence, people need to know how to write a paragraph. In turn, organizing points helps to keep the flow of ideas in a paragraph. Particularly, an effective paragraph must contain a subject, supportive evidence, and a transitional sentence.
The first element of a paragraph is the topic statement, which articulates the main idea, following the essay structure . For instance, if people understand how to write a topic sentence , they express the content of the passage to the readers. Along these lines, the topic sentence generalizes the paragraph. Basically, a good sentence should have simple and straightforward ideas. Hence, by covering how to write a paragraph, a writer should start it with a statement that informs the reader about the content of a paragraph. Thus, the paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that presents the central idea to follow the logical order .
How to Write a Paragraph with Evidence
A paragraph should comprise sentences that reinforce the central claim. For instance, supportive sentences in a section improve, explain, and develop the central claim in the passage. In particular, supporting sentences should contain facts, examples, and details that relate to the topic sentence. Besides, one should cite and explain data and cases borrowed from other sources, following the rules of how to write a paragraph. Hence, sufficient and accurate explanation or some details should follow every example presented to support the central claim. As a rule, every paragraph should have at least three supporting sentences. In this case, the paragraph should have an appropriate length and flow. The evidence presented should follow a chronological order. In turn, one must arrange the evidence in an understandable manner. Thus, an effective paragraph should have sufficient proof and accompanying explanations.
The last section of a paragraph is a conclusion that restates the central claim and provides a transition to the next section. For example, a concluding sentence should restate the main idea of a paragraph. Along these lines, the last sentence helps to indicate the importance of the topic, considering how to write a paragraph. Besides, this sentence should provide the reader with a clue of the following section. Basically, the last sentence of a paragraph acts as a transition. In this case, it prepares the audience for the following section. Also, a valid link creates coherence and logical flow in scholarly work. Thus, the concluding sentence should restate the idea presented in the paragraph and provide a link to the next section.
Conclusion on How to Write a Paragraph
In conclusion, if people are familiar with how to write a paragraph, they cover three main sections, namely the topic sentence, supporting evidence, and transitional construction. Firstly, the topic contains the sole concept discoursed in the passage. Then, the supporting sentences give evidence and explanations, which supports the central idea. In this case, it is important to cite any data or evidence obtained from external sources to meet the requirements on how to write a paragraph. Finally, the concluding paragraph should reaffirm the topic and transition to the next part of the paper. Also, it is essential to ensure that ideas in a paragraph have a good flow for different types of essays .
Creative writing prompts, how to write an introduction, literary analysis essay: 4 easy steps for writing a paper, reference list, apa referencing style, mla works cited page example, mla format template, apa format website, turabian citation.
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MAIN IDEA, TOPIC SENTENCE AND SUPPORTING SENTENCE
MAIN IDEA, TOPIC SENTENCE AND SUPPORTING SENTENCE
A main idea is a sentence that states what that essay or article will be about. The main idea sets up the rest of the article and is included in the introduction or first paragraph.
Finding the Main Idea
How Can I Locate the Main Idea?
Once you can find the topic, you are ready to find the main idea. The main idea is the point of the paragraph. It is the most important thought about the topic.
To figure out the main idea, ask yourself this question: What is being said about the person, thing, or idea (the topic)?
The author can locate the main idea in different places within a paragraph. The main idea is usually a sentence, and it is usually the first sentence. The writer then uses the rest of the paragraph to support the main idea.
Let’s use the paragraph below as an example. First find the topic, then look for the main idea.
Summer is a wonderful time to spend at West Beach. It is a beach with light- colored, soft sand. The coastline goes on for a long way and many people enjoy walking along it. Children like to play in the surf and walk along the rocks that are visible at low tide. This is a fun beach for people of all ages.
In this paragraph:
- the topic is West Beach
- the main idea (what the writer is saying about the topic) is that summer is a wonderful time at West Beach
Here is another example:
The movie Apollo 13 was a blockbuster for the summer of 1995. It is an exciting story about space exploration. In the movie, the astronauts get in trouble while they are trying to return to Earth. People in the audience are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens. What makes it even more exciting is that it is a true story.
- the topic is the movie Apollo 13
- the main idea is in the first sentence: Apollo 13 was a blockbuster for the summer of 1995
While the main idea is usually in the first sentence, the next most common placement is in the last sentence of a paragraph. The author gives supporting information first and then makes the point in the last sentence.
Here’s a paragraph we can use as an example. Try to locate the topic and the main idea.
Most teenagers and young adults do not know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. It is a big decision. There are a number of things you can do to narrow the choices. For example you can take an interest test, do some research on your own about a career, try volunteer work in the field in which you are interested, or “job-shadow”, in which you spend a day with a person who is working in a field that interests you. These are just a few helpful ideas as you begin to choose a career.
- the topic is jobs or career choices
- the main idea is a few ideas to help the reader choose a career
Finally, an author might put the main idea in the middle of a paragraph. The author will spend a few sentences introducing the topic, present the main idea, then spend the rest of the paragraph supporting it. This can make the main idea more difficult to find.
See if you can find the topic and main idea in the paragraph below.
The United States seems to be in love with the idea of going out to eat. Because of this, a real variety of restaurants has come about specializing in all kinds of foods. McDonald’s is the king of a subgroup of restaurants called fast-food restaurants. Chances are, no matter where you live, there is a McDonald’s restaurant near you. There are even McDonald’s in the Soviet Union. Now McDonald’s is trying something new. It is called McDonald’s Express and there is a test site in Peabody, Massachusetts. It is part of a Mobil gas station. This allows you to fill up with gas and fill up on food at the same time. What will they think of next?
- the topic is McDonald’s
- the main idea is in the middle of the paragraph, in the third sentence: McDonald’s is the king of fast food
- TOPIC SENTENCE
What is the topic sentence? The topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph.
What does it do? It introduces the main idea of the paragraph.
How do I write one? Summarize the main idea of your paragraph. Indicate to the reader what your paragraph will be about.
There are three reasons why Canada is one of the best countries in the world. First, Canada has an excellent health care system. All Canadians have access to medical services at a reasonable price. Second, Canada has a high standard of education. Students are taught by well-trained teachers and are encouraged to continue studying at university. Finally, Canada’s cities are clean and efficiently managed. Canadian cities have many parks and lots of space for people to live. As a result, Canada is a desirable place to live.
The Topic Sentence (The Oxford English Grammar, and The Elements of Style)
- The Oxford English Grammar defines a topic sentence as “[C]ommonly, though not invariably, the first sentence of a paragraph. It . . . conveys a generalization followed by an example” (the supporting details). I should add here that a topic sentence is probably followed by “an example” which, itself, is explained in further detail. (italics added)
- So, the topic sentence is general; the rest is detail.
- Example: (topic sentence is italicized; remainder of paragraph is detail supporting the topic sentence)
- At times, those who govern also regard particular circumstances as too uncomfortable, too painful, for most people to cope with rationally. [the generalization] They may believe, for instance, that their country must prepare for long-term challenges of great importance, such as a war, an epidemic, or a belt-tightening in the face of future shortages. [detail / examples] Yet they may fear that citizens will be able to respond only to short-range dangers. Deception at such times may seem to the government leaders as the only means of attaining the necessary results. [further detail] (from Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, by Sissela Bok, p. 168.)
- Further explanation from The Elements of Style :
- Ordinarily, . . .a subject requires division into topics, each of which would be dealt with within a paragraph, The object of treating each topic in a paragraph is, of course, to aid the reader. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal to [the reader] that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached. (italics added) .
- This is most true when there are several paragraphs regarding a theme. In those cases, the topic sentence is essential to “signal to the reader” that what follows is a different aspect of the theme .
- At times, those who govern also regard particular circumstances as too uncomfortable, too painful, for most people to cope with rationally.
- [the generalization] They may believe, for instance, that their country must prepare for long-term challenges of great importance, such as a war, an epidemic, or a belt-tightening in the face of future shortages. [detail / examples] Yet they may fear that citizens will be able to respond only to short-range dangers. Deception at such times may seem to the government leaders as the only means of attaining the necessary results. [further detail] (from Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life, by Sissela Bok, p. 168.)
- This is most true when there are several paragraphs regarding a theme. In those cases, the topic sentence is essential to “signal to the reader” that what follows is a different aspect of the theme
Analysing a Topic Sentence
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.
Consider the last paragraph about topic sentences, beginning with the topic sentence itself:
Topic sentences often act like tiny thesis statements.
This is my claim , or the point I will prove in the following paragraph. All the sentences that follow this topic sentence must relate to it in some way.
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.
These two sentences show how the reader can compare thesis statements and topic sentences: they both make a claim and they both provide a focus for the writing which follows.
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.
Using the transitional word “further” to relate this sentence to those preceding it, I expand on my topic sentence by suggesting ways a topic sentence is related to the sentences that follow it.
Topic sentences make a point and give reasons or examples to support it.
Finally, I wrap up the paragraph by stating exactly how topic sentences act rather like tiny thesis statements.
Examples and Observations:
- “ Grandma’s room I regarded as a dark den of primitive rites and practices. On Friday evenings whoever was home gathered at her door while she lit her Sabbath candles. . . .”
- “ In seventeenth-century Europe, the transformation of man into soldier took on a new form, more concerted and disciplined, and far less pleasant, than wine. New recruits and even seasoned veterans were endlessly drilled, hour after hour, until each man began to feel himself part of a single, giant fighting machine. . . .”
- “ I passed all the other courses that I took at my university, but I could never pass botany. . . .”
- “ What is there about this wonderful woman? From next door she comes striding, down the lawn, beneath the clothesline, laden with cookies she has just baked, or with baby togs she no longer needs, and one’s heart goes out. Pops out. The clothesline, the rusted swing set, the limbs of the dying elm, the lilacs past bloom are lit up like rods of neon by her casual washday energy and cheer, a cheer one has done nothing to infuse.”
- “ Television. Why do I watch it? The parade of politicians every evening: I have only to see the heavy, blank faces so familiar since childhood to feel gloom and nausea. . . .”
- unchanged and handy. . . .”
- “Teachers and textbook writers should exercise caution in making statements about the frequency with which contemporary professional writers use simple or even explicit topic sentences in expository paragraphs. It is abundantly clear that students should not be told that professional writers usually begin their paragraphs with topic sentences.”
- Characteristics of an Effective Topic Sentence “A good topic sentence is concise and emphatic . It is no longer than the idea requires, and it stresses the important word or phrase. Here, for instance, is the topic sentence which opens a paragraph about the collapse of the stock market in 1929:
The Bull Market was dead. (Frederick Lewis Allen)
Notice several things. (1) Allen’s sentence is brief . Not all topics can be explained in six words, but whether they take six or sixty, they should be phrased in no more words than are absolutely necessary. (2) The sentence is clear and strong: you understand exactly what Allen means. (3) It places the key word–‘dead’–at the end , where it gets heavy stress and leads naturally into what will follow. . . . (4) The sentence stands first in the paragraph. This is where topic sentences generally belong: at or near the beginning.
Positioning a Topic Sentence “If you want readers to see your point immediately, open with the topic sentence . This strategy can be particularly useful in letters of application or in argumentative writing. . . .
“When specific details lead up to a generalization, putting the topic sentence at the end of the paragraph makes sense. . . .
“Occasionally a paragraph’s main idea is so obvious that it does not need to be stated explicitly in a topic sentence.”
- Make sure you provide a topic sentence. . . .
- Put your topic sentence first. . . .
- Be sure your topic sentence is focused. If restricted, a topic sentence discusses only one central idea. A broad or unrestricted topic sentence leads to a shaky, incomplete paragraph for two reasons:
- The paragraph will not contain enough information to support the topic sentence.
- A broad topic sentence will not summarize or forecast specific information in the paragraph.”
- SUPPORTING SENTENCE
What are supporting sentences? They come after the topic sentence, making up the body of a paragraph.
What do they do? They give details to develop and support the main idea of the paragraph.
How do I write them? You should give supporting facts, details, and examples.
IMPLICIT AND EKSPLICIT
Explicit mean something clearly expressed or observable. Implicit mean implied or expressed indirectly. Something explicit is something that you have seen with your own eyes, and something implicit is something that you can figure out from what you have seen.
If you see a dog in the park, you explicitly know that the dog is in the park today. If you see the same dog in the park often with the same person, you may figure out that the person is the dog’s owner. You don’t know directly that the person is the dog’s owner, but you indirectly that the person is often taking care of the dog, and so, you implicitly know that the person is the dog’s owner.
Explicit knowledge is knowledge that has been articulated, codified, and stored in certain media . It can be readily transmitted to others. The information contained in encyclopedias and textbooks are good examples of explicit knowledge.
The most common forms of explicit knowledge are manuals , documents, procedures, and how-to videos. Knowledge also can be audio-visual. Works of art and product design can be seen as other forms of explicit knowledge where human skills, motives and knowledge are externalized.
Kurniawati, Cicik and Marta Yuliani. Detik – Detik Ujian Nasional SMA/MA. Intan Pariwara
Suparmin and Indra Sudirman. Chaarcter Building Bahasa Inggris SMK X1. Surakarta:Mediatama.
(Philip C. Kolin, Successful Writing at Work , 9th ed. Wadsworth, 2010)
Andrea Lunsford, The St. Martin’s Handbook . Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008
Thomas S. Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing . Oxford Univ. Press, 1988
William Golding, A Moving Target . Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982
Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces . Viking Penguin, 1985
Truman Capote, In Cold Blood . Random House, 1966
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