Three Qualities of a Good Topic Sentence

Topic sentences explain the point of a paragraph.
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A topic sentence, also known as a focus statement, is the part of a paragraph that tells the reader what your paragraph's main point is. In essay writing, it is essentially a miniature thesis statement for each paragraph. It can summarize a point, introduce a topic or suggest an interpretation, and sometimes, a topic sentence can do all of these things.

1 Specific and Narrow

A paragraph is usually only five to seven sentences long, which means it cannot cover a huge amount of information. For a topic sentence to perform its function well, it must be specific and narrow. If your essay is about the environment and your paragraph is about greenhouse gases, your topic sentence could be something such as "Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are responsible for retaining heat on the Earth." This sentence makes a specific point which can then be supported in the paragraph.

2 Supportable

Supporting a topic sentence is the job of the rest of the paragraph. If your topic sentence either needs no support or cannot be supported by evidence, seriously consider revising that sentence. Support can come in many forms: statistics, quotations from literature for an English paper, references to articles and documents for a research paper, or simply logical arguments that convince your reader to agree with you. Because a topic sentence needs to be supported, it is usually located at the beginning or end of a paragraph.

3 Provides Answers

Whatever type of essay you're writing, there's some sort of question or prompt that must be addressed. Whether it's as simple as "What's the best dog park in Missouri?" or as complex as "Discuss the various causes of economic inequality in America and provide solutions that can be enacted on the local, state and federal level," there is always a specific point you are being asked to cover. Your topic sentence should always help you address that point.

4 Introductions

In many types of papers, including five-paragraph essays, there is a clear connection between topic sentences and the content of the introduction. Depending on how the introduction is constructed, you might notice that the points made in that opening are simply rephrased later on as topic sentences. In writing your own essay, think about using this connection to your advantage. If you already have an introduction written, consider basing your topic sentences on the points you raise in it and use them in your paragraphs as topic sentences.

Amber Hathaway is an English teacher in the Boston area. She has earned bachelor and masters degrees in English education, and is currently licensed to teach ELA in grades 8-12. She specializes in curriculum development and program design.