How to Write a Great Topic Sentence

Updated on April 11, 2017
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

What is a Topic Sentence?

1. Summarizes the main idea of a paragraph

2. Often is the first sentence (but not always).

3. Tells the reader the most important thing to understand.

How can watching violence affect the way children play with toys?
How can watching violence affect the way children play with toys? | Source

Start With Thesis

Your topic sentences summarize each paragraph in the essay. The thesis summarizes the main idea of the whole essay. So you need to have a thesis before you can write your topic sentences. Here is how to start:

Step 1: Start With a Question: Using one of my lists of topic ideas, your instructor's prompt or your own thinking and reading, decide the question you want your paper to answer. This will be your thesis question.

Step 2: Decide on an Answer: Your thesis is the answer to that question. I tell my students to think of the thesis answer as what you want your reader to know, think, do or believe after reading your essay.

Example:: Why is there an increase in violence among young people?

Thesis Answer: Watching violent images has led to an increase in kids acting out violently.

Finding Topic Sentence Ideas

Now that you have your thesis question and answer, you are ready to write your topic sentences. These topic sentences are the main reasons someone should believe your thesis statement.

Step 3: Make a List

Think about reasons people should believe your thesis. For a typical 5 paragraph essay, you will need at least 3 reasons or one reason with three different parts. However, it is usually best to get as many ideas as you can, then you can choose the best ideas from the list. So to find topic sentence ideas write down as many reasons as you can think of for people to believe your thesis answer.

Example topic reasons:

  1. Young people can't always tell between fiction and reality.
  2. Kids become obsessed characters in video games and movies and sometimes act out what they see.
  3. Parents don't monitor what their kids watch.
  4. Television and video games have become increasingly violent.
  5. Watching violence desensitizes us to it.
  6. Bullying and violence among school children seems to be increasingly on the rise, as are school shootings.

We are responsible for children's violence if we do nothing to stop it.
We are responsible for children's violence if we do nothing to stop it. | Source

Organizing Your Paper

Step 4: Put Topic Ideas in Order.

Look at your topic ideas and decide on the best way to order them. Does one idea lead to the next? Is one idea really your best one? Usually, you should put your best argument last. As you put your thoughts in order, you may find there are some topic ideas you need to add or ones you don't use, as I did in this example.

Example ordering of topic ideas:

  1. Bullying and violence among school children seem to be increasingly on the rise, as are school shootings.
  2. Because of new technology, young people have access to a lot more screen time than people of an earlier generation.
  3. Young people can't always tell between fiction and reality.
  4. Watching violence desensitizes us to it.
  5. Kids become obsessed characters in video games and movies and sometimes act out what they see.
  6. Conclusion idea: We need to limit the violence children see on media.

Easy Transition List

However
In spite of
In the first place (second etc.)
Although
Consequently
Nevertheless
Because
On the one hand...On the other hand
In spite of
Even though
Sometimes
Finally
Oftentimes
Unfortunately
Therefore
Furthermore
Additionally
Moreover

Writing Great Topic Sentences

Step 4: Use Transition Words

Transition Words. Transition words, linking phrases, and questions show the connections between your ideas. Re-writing your topic sentences with transition words will make your whole essay more connected. I tell students that using transition words is the easiest way to bump up their essay grade.

An example of topic sentences using transition words and phrases:

Introduction idea: Recently, as we have all heard on the news, bullying and violence among school children seems to be increasingly on the rise, along with school shootings.

Thesis: Why is there an increase in violence? I believe it must be because children are watching more violent images at earlier ages

  1. As a matter of fact, because of new technology, young people have access to a lot more screen time than people of an earlier generation.
  2. Unfortunately, young people can't always tell between fiction and reality.
  3. In addition, watching violence desensitizes us to it.
  4. In consequence, some kids become obsessed with characters in video games and movies and sometimes act out what they see

Conclusion idea: Do we really care about our children? If we do, we need to limit the amount of violence children see on media.

How has new technology changed the way children view images?
How has new technology changed the way children view images? | Source

Step 6: Check Your Logic.

Re-read your thesis and topic sentences. Ask yourself:

  • Does this argument make sense?
  • Is there any logical step missing?
  • Does it sound convincing?

Step 7: Talk Out Your Essay

At this point, it is a really good idea to talk out your essay to someone else, or even to yourself. You might want to record yourself as you talk through your ideas, or ask someone to write down what you say. Often this is the place where you may want to make some changes or add some information.

Step 8: Share Your Ideas

As you talk about your essay with someone else, they are often able to give you ideas of how to make it better. In my class, we do this in peer editing groups, but you really don't need your instructor to schedule this for you. Find a friend, a parent or your next door neighbor and tell them your ideas. See what they think and ask them if they know any evidence to support your ideas or any arguments you need to refute.

Step 9: Re-write Your Thesis as a Road Map

way to write a really strong thesis sentence is to add in a short summary of your topic ideas. That technique is often called a "Road Map." Usually, it is hard to write this until you've worked out your topic sentences, so often it is best to re-write your after you have done all of the 8 steps.

Often, as you re-write, you may find it alters your ideas a bit more and helps you to see the relationships between cause and effect. That is what happened when I wrote my example. I started to think more about why there is a difference now in how children watch violent images on media such as phones and tablets, so I wanted to emphasize the new technology. See my example below.

Why is there an increase in violence among young people? Watching violent images has led to an increase in kids acting out violently because: new technology makes images more available; children can't tell the difference between fiction and fact; people who watch violence become desensitized; and unfortunately, a child's natural bent to act out fantasies causes some children to repeat the violence they see on the screen.

Topic Sentence vs. Thesis

A Thesis Statement could be called the topic Sentence of your whole essay. Usually, you will want to write your thesis statement before writing your topic sentences.

When you've written both, you have the outline. So after doing all 9 steps, you should find writing the paper easy. All you will have left to do is to fill in will be the details and examples.

 
Thesis Statement
Topic Sentence
How many?
Just one per essay.
Several in an essay, one in every paragraph.
Where?
Usually at the beginning of the essay, after the introduction idea.
Throughout the essay, one in each paragraph. Usually at the beginning of the paragraph.
What?
Explains your main idea: what you want the reader to think, do or believe.
Explains the main idea of that paragraph.
Connection?
Thesis statement sometimes has a "roadmap" which tells the reader what the topic sentences will be about.
Topic sentences give the reasons or parts of the thesis statement.
Remember!
Make the thesis clear, specific and convincing for your audience.
Put topic ideas in a logical order, and put them from least to most important.

Final Tips

  1. Use transition words to show connections between your ideas (however, in addition, moreover).
  2. Make interesting arguments that aren't obvious.
  3. Make your writing colorful and fun to read. Use vivid verbs, adverbs, and adjectives.
  4. Put your most interesting idea as your last topic sentence.
  5. Try occasionally using a question and answer format for your topic sentence.

Children and Violence Poll

Do you feel that watching violence on media makes children act out violently?

See results

What is the Optimal Media Exposure for Children?

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Sierra 

        2 weeks ago

        Amazing website, 10/10!

      • profile image

        Saber 

        2 years ago

        Very useful topic that one written in sample English to enable readers understand topic easy and that topic had an important deails .

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        I have found that many students improve greatly when they start reading their papers aloud. You can also help yourself get started in writing by talking out your ideas with other people, or even to yourself! You can record your ideas on your phone as you are walking somewhere, or waiting for a class to start.

      • profile image

        Gabrielle Chaney 

        3 years ago

        Hello my name is Gabrielle and I will be attending the English 1302 class this semester. I would also like to comment on this articles atop of me. I felt it was beneficial to me because I am not the best and make topic sentences flow or thesis writing. However, the tips in the article regarding word choice and usage, leadership, and editing go hand and hand. The idea of recording myself talk or reading through my draft was a great idea and it also helps with speaking. Also the step by step process allowed me think of what I am going to say in my paper that relates to the thesis and answers the question.

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        Thanks Glenn! I wrote this article up last year based on some discussions I was having with my class. I'd wanted something to explain how to write a topic sentence since I was noticing that some of my students would write all around the topic but never state the main point clearly. Like many of my students, when I was in college, I had a tendency to just start writing without thinking too much ahead. However, I've come to realize over my years of teaching that students who plan ahead end up finishing their work more quickly and easily!

      • Glenn Stok profile image

        Glenn Stok 

        3 years ago from Long Island, NY

        I thought I left a comment here a month ago. This is well written with clear guidance showing how to use Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences. I can see how proper use of this idea helps assure that one's article is logical and makes sense.

      • imake profile image

        imake 

        3 years ago

        Great article and very catchy article image, literally. :)

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        Thanks so much Paul--I appreciate knowing that this was helpful in teaching EFL. I have done that in the past, and I know you've read some of my articles on learning Mandarin. I hope after my retirement to teach in English in China or other countries. Even at my University now, I have several foreign language students each semester and have found that those students really do need some of these basic instructions.

      • Paul Kuehn profile image

        Paul Richard Kuehn 

        3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

        This is an awesome and very useful hub. After reading it, I can readily understand why it was chosen as hub of the day. Congratulations! When I taught EFL in Thailand before retiring last year, I followed many of your principles when my students were writing thesis statements and topic sentences. Voted up and sharing with HP followers.

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        Glenis--Thank you for saying my article would have helped you on your finals. I've developed my ideas from years of trying to find better ways to explain to students how writing works and I focus on beginning college writing, but I'm glad to know that it would be helpful in a literature class also.

      • Glenis Rix profile image

        GlenR 

        3 years ago from UK

        An excellent hub - how I wish that I had read it a few weeks ago before sitting my English Lit. finals!

      • Simarpreet Singh profile image

        Simarpreet Singh 

        3 years ago from Amritsar , INDIA

        Beautiful hub. .congrats!

      • frozenink profile image

        frozenink 

        3 years ago

        Congrats on Hub of the Day. This is really a very useful Hub, and it is written in neat details. I have learnt most of it in my study years, but I still learn something out from this.

      • greatstuff profile image

        Mazlan 

        3 years ago from Malaysia

        Congrats on the HOTD! This is an excellent and useful article and I am sure all of us here at HP will use your advice :-)

      • Barack James profile image

        Barack James 

        3 years ago from Green City in the Sun

        Very useful and informative hub indeed, voted up!

      • Glenn Stok profile image

        Glenn Stok 

        3 years ago from Long Island, NY

        Congratulations on your Hub of the Day! This is well written with clear guidance showing how to use Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences. I can see how proper use of this in an orderly fashion helps assure that one's article is logical and that it makes sense.

      • Thelma Alberts profile image

        Thelma Alberts 

        3 years ago from Germany

        Congratulations on the HOTD! A very useful article. Thanks for sharing. Well done!

      • Jaime Garza profile image

        Jaime Garza 

        3 years ago from Bellevue, OH

        Love the article. I always like to use the sandwich approach to writing with my kids.

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        Thanks Venkatachari--I wonder whether this concern about violence in the media is true in your country as much as it is in the United States. I worry that my country has exported movies and other media which induces violence to other countries.

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        Thanks Peggy. I've found that if students understand how to write a thesis and topic sentences in an easy way, they can then usually write their essays much more efficiently because they aren't searching around for things to say. Instead, it is more like filling in the blanks and expanding on their main points.

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        RTalloni--I have found that the topic of Media and Children is one that constantly interests my students. I've seen a lot of changes in the 20 plus years I've been teaching, yet the concern my students have about the way they and their peers have been influenced by media remains the same. These days, the biggest concern they have is how media is changing their ability to talk face to face.

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Congrats on HOTD! This was an excellent hub article about essay writing and topic sentences. Very useful to others and voted up!

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        Thanks DH--I appreciate your comment. I've found that the question and answer method has worked the best of all the ways I've tried to help people understand the basic format of an essay.

      • Dressage Husband profile image

        Stephen J Parkin 

        3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

        It is a long time since I had an English teacher and I must say you made this clear and easy to follow. I did write business reports for 30 years and this method of organizing your major thesis points is definitely the most effective way of presenting them in practice too!

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        3 years ago from the short journey

        Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for sharing the really useful knowledge you offer your students. Thanks for including Dimitri Christakis' interesting Media and Children. Much for good stuff in this post. :)

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        3 years ago from Houston, Texas

        This is an excellent tutorial regarding how to use topic sentences effectively. Congratulations on your Hub of the Day!

      • sallybea profile image

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        3 years ago from Norfolk

        VirginiaLynne

        Well deserved HOTD. Congratulations. This is a really excellent article with a very striking first image to show it off. Very well done.

      • Simarpreet Singh profile image

        Simarpreet Singh 

        3 years ago from Amritsar , INDIA

        Beautiful article ...

      • Venkatachari M profile image

        Venkatachari M 

        3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

        Awesome hub. You have discussed here a very important and useful topic that focuses on both increase among violence in children and the art of writing niche content or thesis works.

        Voted up, awesome and useful. Sharing on G+

      • missolive profile image

        Marisa Hammond Olivares 

        3 years ago from Texas

        VirginiaLynne, this is very useful and informative. Your Thesis vs. Topic and Transition Words table is a great addition. Thank you

        sharing

      • infoweekly profile image

        infoweekly 

        3 years ago from South Africa

        Where was this when I was in school? lol really great article, very helpful. I'm defiantly going to use the "Easy Transition Words and Phrases List" soon

      • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

        Virginia Kearney 

        3 years ago from United States

        I teach college English at a major private University and while most of my students are really above average writers, I find that the testing systems in high school have made them very good at timed writing, and poorer at more developed essays. I developed this to help them understand how to write a topic sentence clearly and specifically.

      • DeborahNeyens profile image

        Deborah Neyens 

        3 years ago from Iowa

        This is great advice. I teach a college-level business communications class, and I find students have such a hard time with writing good paragraphs and topic sentences. I tell them one topic per paragraph and start it with a topic sentence.

      • teaches12345 profile image

        Dianna Mendez 

        3 years ago

        Excellent teaching on this important part of writing! Well done! On your poll, I believe violence affects young children negatively for life.

      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        3 years ago from Philippines

        Very useful article on how to understand a topic sentence, and how to write an essay. The video was a great example of using a topic sentence and using the most striking point as the last point. It was also a very good choice of a video.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Great job of illustrating thesis. I learned or relearned a lot here, plus the subject was interesting. Thank you

      • chef-de-jour profile image

        Andrew Spacey 

        3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

        What a useful article, full of logical, easy to follow steps for those students or writers who need initial guidance and advice on essay writing. Votes up and a share.

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