Topic Sentences

What is a Topic Sentence?

  • A statement at the beginning of each body paragraph
  • Indicates the topic of the entire paragraph
  • In a short essay, it reflects one of the main points of the thesis statement (link to thesis statement handout)

Main Point + Details

An effective topic sentence expands on a main thesis point by including details and explanation.
It has two organizational purposes:

  • Relate back to the thesis statement
  • Summarize the paragraph

An effective topic sentence is like a mini-thesis statement for each paragraph.

Example Thesis: Health-conscious individuals should consider substituting strawberries for desserts because strawberries are healthy, sweet, and versatile.
Topic of Body Paragraph 1: Strawberries are healthy
Topic of Body Paragraph 2: Strawberries are sweet
Topic of Body Paragraph 3: Strawberries are versatile

Topic Sentence for Body Paragraph 1: Strawberries are a healthy substitute for desserts because they have a much lower carbohydrate count and are rich in nutrients and fiber.

Notice that the topic sentence includes the first main point of the thesis statement, but it expands on the idea with further details. Now the paragraph can elaborate further on these details, and it should relate back to the main argument – that strawberries can be substituted for desserts.

The second body paragraph would start with a topic sentence about the second main point: strawberries are sweet. The third body paragraph would start with a topic sentence about the third main point: strawberries are versatile.


Longer Essays

Not all papers will have a three point thesis statement. If this is the case, the topic sentence may not contain a word-for-word point stated in the thesis statement.

Example Thesis statement: The literary techniques used by Leo Tolstoy in The Death of Ivan Ilych unveil an extraordinary sense of depth within the novella that is imperative to truly understanding Tolstoy’s ideas.

Example Topic Sentence: When Leo Tolstoy employs the technique of symbolism, inanimate objects like Ivan’s golden pocket watch and the drapes on his windows convey hidden meanings that further clarify important themes in the story.


From DBU Writing Center