How to Write a Topic Sentence for an Analysis Paper

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Every paragraph in an analysis essay has a topic sentence -- usually the first sentence -- to guide readers through the paper. Every topic sentence must support your thesis. An analysis paper examines the themes, characters, setting, plot and mood of a work of art, such as a book, publication or poem, so you must create topic sentences that introduce your ideas, interpretations and critical assessments.

1 The Main Point

Create a topic sentence for each paragraph that identifies a main argument or viewpoint, recommends the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.

The goal is to create a concise leading statement that explains what the paragraph is about. You might revise or update your topic sentence after you've written the entire paragraph to ensure that it successfully supports your line of reasoning. For example, if your analysis is about the role the three witches play in William Shakespeare's "Macbeth," your topic sentence might say, "Lady Macbeth believes the witches' prophesies and helps orchestrate Macbeth's rise to power."

2 Balance Between General and Specific Ideas

Make sure your topic sentence isn't so general that readers can't grasp your angle or so specific that there's no room for evidence to support your viewpoints. The topic sentence should present the main idea or purpose without divulging specific details, according to Purdue University.

For example, if you're writing a literary analysis on the protagonist Nick Dunne in the novel "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn, the topic sentence "Nick learns hard lessons from his experiences" is too vague. However, "Nick finds expensive items in his sister's shed that were purchased with fraudulent credit cards" is too specific. The topic sentence "Nick struggles to overcome his trust issues because his friends and family aren't always trustworthy" works best.

3 Support for the Thesis

Craft your topic sentences to support your thesis. Each topic sentence should discuss a particular element of your thesis and explain why the thesis is credible, suggests the Newton Community School District in Iowa. Avoid topic sentences that stray from your central idea even if you think they're funny, interesting or insightful. Effective topic sentences stay on task and help ensure that your analysis paper is well-structured, logical and focused.

4 Link to the Previous Paragraph

Develop topic sentences that directly link to the previous paragraph to make your analysis more fluid. The goal is to use topic sentences to show progression, according to Washington State University. Some topic sentences should include obvious transitional words or phrases, such as "Similar to," "In conjunction with," "As a result of," "In comparison to" or "Secondly." These links help readers understand how your topic sentences relate to one another and to the big picture -- your thesis. Effective topic sentences create flow from one topic, argument or opinion to the next.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.