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TopicSentences

Themainpoint(claim)ofaparagraphisoftenindicatedinasinglesentencecalledthetopicsentence:

Atopicsentenceislikeathesisinthatyoucanalsoaskyourself:CanIdisagree?Youwantto
beabletoanswerYEStoshowthatthereisanarguableclaimthatneedstobeproven.

A strong topic sentence connects back to your overall thesis and connects forward to the
specificsupportingpointyouaremakingintheparagraphtoproveandillustrateyourthesis.

Astrongtopicsentencefocuseseachparagrapharoundonemainpoint.

Inpublishedwritingyoullsometimesfindtopicsentencesinthemiddleorevenattheendof
aparagraph,butplacingyourtopicsentencesatthebeginningofeachofyourparagraphsis
useful

Astrongtopicsentencehelpsyourreadertoseewhereyouareheadedwithyourideasina
particularparagraph;topicssentenceshelpyourreaderformamentalmapofyouressay.

Astrongtopicsentenceoftencontainstransitionalwordsandphrasesthatlogicallymovethe
readerfromoneparagraphtothenext.

In expository prosewriting that informs, explains or analyzesthe main point (claim) of a


paragraph is often indicated in a single sentence called the topic sentence. While it is true that in
published writing youll sometimes find topic sentences in the middle or even at the end of a
paragraph, placing your topic sentences at the beginning of each of your paragraphs is useful
because:

Astrongtopicsentencecanhelpyou,thewritertofocuseachparagrapharoundonemainpoint.

Astrongtopicsentencecanhelpyourreadertoseewhereyouareheadedwithyourideasina
particularparagraph;topicssentenceshelpyourreaderformamentalmapofyouressay.

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Whatdifferentiatesastrongtopicsentencefromaweakone?

Thechartbelowpointsoutsomeofthemaindifferencesbetweenatopicsentencethatisgenuinely
helpfultoyouandyourreaders,andonewhichisnot:

Aweaktopicsentence: Astrongtopicsentence:

Doesntfityourparagraphthatis,it Fitsyourparagraph,accuratelyreflecting
misleadsyourreaderintothinkingyouwillbe whatyouveactuallywritten
writingaboutonething,buttheparagraph
itselfisaboutsomethingelse

Issogeneralthatyourreadercantforma Isspecificenoughthatyourreadercan
clearimageaboutwhatistocome predictwhatyouwillcoverinthatparagraph

Simplystatesafact,apieceofinformation Likeathesisstatement,itsetsupthe
thatcanbeconfirmedwithobservationor controllingideaoftheparagraph,clearly
referencetoreputablesources.Yourreaderis indicatingthepointorclaimthewriterwill
leftwondering,Whatisthepointofthis illustrate,describe,explain,analyzeinthe
paragraph?Whatisthewritertryingtoprove bodyoftheparagraph
withthispieceofinformation?

Doesnotseemclearlyrelatedtoyourthesis Helpsyourreaderseehowthisparagraph
relatestoandadvances/supportsyourthesis

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Someguidelinesforwritingstrongtopicsentences:

Atopicsentencemustpredictorpromisewhatfollows,soitcannotbeaquestion.Toorientthe
reader,youmayuseaquestionasthefirstsentence,withthetopicsentenceastheanswertothat
question.

Weak: Shouldschoolsprovidefreecomputersfortheirstudents?

Strong: Schoolsmustprovidefreecomputersfortheirstudentstoassistthemintheirstudies
andpreparethemfortheirfuturecareers.

PhrasessuchasIthinkorinmyopinionmaymuddleorweakentopicsentences.Yourwriting
isalwaysyouropinion,soyoudontneedthesephrasesunlesstheyarecentraltotheideathatyou
aretryingtoconvey.

Weak: Ithinkthatitisimportantforeverywomantocarrypepperspray.

Strong: As violent criminals take over the city streets, women must carry pepper spray to
protectthemselves.

The topic sentence should provide clear relationships among all of its elements so that it can
provideaframeworkforunderstandingtherestoftheparagraph.

Weak: Historiansrecordonlydrystatistics;weshouldreadnovels.

Strong: Accuratehistoricalnovelsgiveusadeeperunderstandingofthepastthandothedry
collectionsoffactsandstatisticsthatpassforhistorytexts.

Atopicsentenceneedstobeclearandspecific,sothatitcanpredictandsummarizetherestofthe
paragraphforthereader.

Weak: Publictransitisterrible.

Strong: Incapable of providing reliable, comfortable service, the San Francisco Municipal
TransitSystemisfailingitsridership.

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PRACTICETOPICSENTENCEORSUPPORTINGCLAIM?:

Readthesentencesbelow,anddeterminewhicharepoints/claimsthatwouldmakegoodtopic
sentencesandwhicharefactsthatwouldworkbetterassupportinginformation:

SampleSentence Thiswouldworkbetteras

1. Preservinglocalfoodtraditionsisanimportantcomponentof TopicSentence
maintainingculturaldiversityevenasworldfoodproductionbecomes SupportingInfo.
moreindustrializedandstandardized.

2. ThelocavoresareaSanFranciscobasedgroupthatchallengespeople TopicSentence
totryandeatfoodgrownandproducedwithina100mileradiusoftheir SupportingInfo.
homes.

3. Eatinglocal,seasonalproduceisbetternotonlyfortheenvironment, TopicSentence
butalsoforyourtastebuds. SupportingInfo.

4. AliceWalkersrestaurantChezPanissefirstopenedinBerkeley, TopicSentence
Californiain1971. SupportingInfo.

5. AliceWaterswritesthatfoodistheonecentralthingabouthuman TopicSentence
experiencewhichcanopenupbothoursensesandourconsciencesto SupportingInfo.
ourplaceintheworld.

6. JoiningaCSA(CommunitySupportedAgriculture)programisaneasy, TopicSentence
costeffectivewaytoenjoyseasonalproducefromlocalfarms. SupportingInfo.

7. Thepopularityoforganicfoodisagoodindicationofthesignificant TopicSentence
changesthataretakingplaceintheAmericandiet. SupportingInfo.

8. Formerweedsnowconsidereddelicaciesincludedandelions,ramps TopicSentence
(wildleeks),andfiddleheadferns. SupportingInfo.

9. TheCSAthatIbelongto,EatwellFarms,islocatedinWinters,CAandis TopicSentence
renownedfortheirheirloomtomatoes. SupportingInfo.

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PRACTICECHOOSINGTHEBESTTOPICSENTENCE

Thetopicsentenceoftheparagraphsbelowhasbeenremoved.Readthemcarefullyandthenchoose
thebesttopicsentenceamongthefourchoicesbelow.Bepreparedtoexplainyourchoice.

Paragraph1:
__________________________________________________________________________________________.

Thisbeliefisespeciallycommonamongweightlifterswhooftenconsumelargequantitiesofhighprotein
foodsanddietarysupplements,thinkingitwillimprovetheirathleticperformance.Likeweightlifters,football
playersconsumetoomuchprotein,expectingittoproduceadditionalmuscleenergy.Althoughitistruethat
musclescontainmoreproteinthanothertissues,thereisnoevidencethatahighproteindietactually
constructsmoremuscletissuethananormaldiet.Nutritionistspointoutthatmusclecellsgrownotfrom
excessproteinbutfromexercise:whenamuscleisused,itpullsinproteinforitsconsumption.Thisishowa
musclegrowsandstrengthens.Ifathleteswanttoincreasetheirmusclemass,thentheymustexercisein
additiontofollowingawellbalanced,normaldiet.

1. Manyathleteshavefalseideasregardingpropernutrition.
2. Mybrother,aweightlifter,isanexampleofsomeonewhoconsumesalotofproteinbecausehethinksit
willmakehimbulky.
3. Manyathletesfalselybelievethatproteinimprovesathleticperformancebyincreasingmusclemass.
4. Thepublicisoftenconfusedbytheseeminglyconflictingadvicenutritionistsgiveusaboutourhealth.

Paragraph2:
__________________________________________________________________________________________.

Latelyparentsandcriticsacrossthecountryhavebeenmakingabiggerfussaboutthenumberandcontentof
commercialsaimedatchildren,anditseemsasthoughthemediahasbecomeascapegoatforadultswhohave
setquestionablehealthguidelinesfortheirchildren.Itisbothlogicalandfactualtostatethatparentsarethe
numberoneauthorityformosteverythingintheirchildslife,whichofcourseincludesfoodchoices.Recent
studiesfromtheInstituteofMedicinefoundthattheeasiestandmostreliablemeasureofunderstandinga
childshealthanddietistolookatthehealthanddietoftheparents.Itisverylikelythatachildsobesitydid
notcomefromthemedia,butfrombehaviorswithinthefamily.Evenifadvertisementsbecamerestrictedor
morelimited,ifparentsdonotenforcehealthydietsorteachnutrition,thechildrenwillhavelearnednothing.
TimothyJ.MurisofTheWallStreetJournalrealizesthatwithoutaddressingtheissuesofparentalcontrol,the
banonchildfoodadvertisementsareappealingonthesurface,butultimatelyuseless.

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1. Despiteincreasingratesofchildhoodobesity,weshouldnotbanjunkfoodadsaimedatchildren.
2. AccordingtoAndrewMartinoftheChicagoTribune,theratesofobesityamong6to11yearoldsmore
thantriplingduringthelastthreedecades,doublingforchildrenages2to5andincreasingevenmorefor
adolescents12to19yearsold.
3. Thestaggeringfiguresregardingchildhoodobesityalonearealarmingenoughtogenerateastir.
4. Althoughjunkfoodadvertisementsarebeingblamedforchildrenspoordietaryhabits,regulatingthese
adswouldnotaddresstherealsourceoftheproblem:lackofparentalguidance.

PRACTICECREATINGYOUROWNTOPICSENTENCE:
Nowtrycreatingyourowntopicsentencesforthefollowingparagraphs:

1)
__________________________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________________________.
FamousinventorThomasEdison,forinstance,didsopoorlyinhisfirstyearsofschoolthathisteacherswarned
hisparentsthathe'dneverbeasuccessatanything.Similarly,HenryFord,thefatheroftheautoindustry,had
troubleinschoolwithbothreadingandwriting.ButperhapsthebestexampleisAlbertEinstein,whose
parentsandteacherssuspectedthathewasretardedbecauseherespondedtoquestionssoslowlyandina
stutteringvoice.Einstein'shighschoolrecordwaspoorineverythingbutmath,andhefailedhiscollege
entranceexamsthefirsttime.Evenoutofschoolthemanhadtroubleholdingajobuntilheannouncedthe
theoryofrelativity.

2)EatingdisordersafflictasmanyasfivetotenmillionwomenandonemillionmenintheUnitesStates.But
why?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

YounggirlsnotonlyplaywithBarbiedollsthatdisplayimpossible,evencomical,proportions,buttheyarealso
bombardedwithimagesofsupermodels.Theseimagesleaveanindeliblementalimprintofwhatsociety
believesafemalebodyshouldlooklike.CarriKirby,aUniversityofNebraskamentalhealthcounselor,adds

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thatthereisahaloeffecttobodyimageaswell:Weimmediatelyidentifyphysicalattractivenesstomean
successandhappiness.

3)FromDeborahBlumsWhatstheDifferencebetweenBoysandGirls?

__________________________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Boys tend to gather in large, competitive groups. They play games that have clear winners and losers and
blusterthroughthem,boastingabouttheirskill.Girls,earlyon,gatherinsmallgroups,playingtheatricalgames
that dont feature hierarchy or winners. One study of children aged three to four found they were already
resolvingconflictinseparatewaysboysresortingtothreats,girlsnegotiatingverballyandoftenreachinga
compromise.

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TopicSentencesAnswerKey

PRACTICETOPICSENTENCEORSUPPORTINGCLAIM?:

SampleSentence Thiswouldworkbetteras

1 TopicSentence

2 SupportingInfo.

3 TopicSentence

4 SupportingInfo.

5 SupportingInfo.

6 TopicSentence

7 TopicSentence

8 SupportingInfo.

9 SupportingInfo.

PRACTICECHOOSINGTHEBESTTOPICSENTENCE:
Paragraph1:Manyathletesfalselybelievethatproteinimprovesathleticperformancebyincreasingmuscle
mass(choice#3).

Paragraph2:Althoughjunkfoodadvertisementsarebeingblamedforchildrenspoordietaryhabits,
regulatingtheseadswouldnotaddresstherealsourceoftheproblem:lackofparentalguidance(choice#4).

PRACTICECREATINGYOUROWNTOPICSENTENCE:

Answerswillvary