Sample Thesis Statement And Topic Sentences For Essays

Though not every paragraph must contain a clear topic sentence, it’s a good idea if beginning writers practice organizing their thoughts by placing topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. 

What is a topic sentence?  Topic sentences are exactly what they sound like—sentences that announce and summarize a topic for your reader. 

But I thought that’s what a thesis statement was for…?  Thesis statements let the reader know what the purpose of your entire essay will be—they focus on your main idea.  On the other hand, topic sentences let the reader know what will be discussed in a particular paragraph or section of your essay.

Here’s an example to illustrate the difference between the two:

Thesis Statement:  The important link between Civil Rights era music and today’s conception of the R & B genre has been overlooked in today’s music history courses.

Topic Sentence:  The Music History curriculum at top music colleges and universities such as Berkeley, Cornell, and Columbia do not offer courses that focus on the R & B genre.

Notice the key differences between the two types of sentences:  the thesis statement tells us what idea the whole paper will prove or discuss, while the topic sentence is a sub-section of that thesis.  The topic sentence provides us with one reason why readers should agree that music history programs are overlooking an important part of music’s development over the years. 

Example:

Let's say you intend to argue that music history courses shouldn’t forget about the musical developments that occurred during the Civil Rights era in the U.S., especially when they discuss R & B music. 

Then, imagine that you’ve developed a list of reasons why others should agree with you. Don’t worry about researching the topic if you don’t know much about this type of music!  Remember, the topic sentence simply introduces the information—the facts and details wouldn’t be explained until later in the paragraph. 

  • Use of anger/outrage in lyrics 
  • Use of subtext/hidden meanings
  • Artists who gained popularity during this time period

Sample Topic Sentences for the Following Thesis Statement:

Thesis Statement:  The important link between Civil Rights era music and today’s conception of the R & B genre has been overlooked in today’s music history courses.

Topic: Use of anger/outrage in lyrics
Sample Topic Sentence: The turmoil of the Civil Rights era led popular musical artists and lyricists to incorporate explosive and highly personal lyrics into their songs, very much like the explicit lyrics we’ve come to expect from Eminem and Kid Rock today.

Topic: Use of subtext/hidden meanings
Sample Topic Sentence: Music history classes discuss the various ways that music helps bring communities of people together; however, they often overlook the ways that the hidden meanings in songs like “The Backstabbers” by the O’Jays (1972) helped to maintain continued support of the Civil Rights Movement in the African American community.   

Topic: Artists who gained popularity during this time period
Sample Topic Sentence: Many of the influential artists whose work is discussed in music history classes—such as Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, and Sam Cooke—first emerged from the Civil Rights Movement.

Topic Sentences

Since body paragraphs for an essay should be centered around one main idea that relates the thesis, creating a clear topic sentence is helpful for both the writer and the reader. For the writer, a topic sentence makes it easier to stay on topic and develop the main idea without getting off track. For the reader, topic sentences announce what the paragraph will be about and demonstrate how different paragraphs and ideas are connected to each other. 

A topic sentence generally appears early in a body paragraph (often the first or second sentence) and controls the paragraph. A topic sentence is like a mini thesis sentence for each paragraph and serves to unify the contents of the paragraph. Everything that follows in the paragraph needs to relate to the topic sentence. Not all essays call for explicit topic sentences, but most beginning writers should learn how to write effective topic sentences early on in order to achieve paragraph unity.

It is also important that all topic sentences relate to the thesis statement. This allows for the essay to have greater unity and focus.

Examples of Topic Sentences:
Let’s use the following thesis statement as an example to see how topic sentences work: In order to succeed in the classroom, college students need to utilize the resources available to them throughout their academic careers.

Because this thesis statement is clear, we know that the essay will be about the various resources that college students need to use to succeed. Thus, each one of these resources becomes a main point that will be written about in the essay, and, in turn, each of these needs a topic sentence. Here are some examples of topic sentences that can be used for this essay:

One important resource that all college students should utilize for success is tutorial services.

Another important resource for student success is frequent use of the library.

In addition to using tutoring services and the library, college students should consult with their advisor on a regular basis to monitor success and make necessary changes when needed. 

Notice how these topic sentences not only help the reader know what will be written about in each paragraph, they also help the writer organize the main ideas of the essay. If a writer creates clear topic sentences early in the writing process, he/she can use these to organize the essay and create unity in each of the paragraphs. 

As writers become more advanced, topic sentences are not always needed. However, all beginning college level writers should know how to create and use them when constructing an essay.

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