2.2: Topic Sentences
This resource was written by Jaclyn M. Wells.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .
This resource covers methods of composing topic sentences for the paragraphs in your GED essay.
Topic sentences are sort of like thesis statements for your body paragraphs. A clear topic sentence will establish the main idea of the paragraph so that the reader understands what each body paragraph is about. The topic sentence does not need to be the very first sentence of the paragraph, but it should be near the beginning.
When writing the topic sentence for a body paragraph, consider the main idea of the paragraph. If you have already chosen the subpoints for your essay, it will make it even easier, since the each body paragraphs will focus on one subpoint. Our example writer’s topic sentences may sound something like the sentences below:
- Topic Sentence for Body Paragraph 1: The first step I will take to getting a better job is to finish school.
- Topic Sentence for Body Paragraph 2: Next, I will work toward getting a better job by preparing a resume.
- Topic Sentence for Body Paragraph 3: The final step I plan to take to get a better job is to search for jobs.
You will notice that each of these sentences uses key words—“first, next, and final”—to transition between each paragraph. This is a very smart thing to do when writing your topic sentences, because words like these help your reader follow your points and connect them to one another. For more examples of transition words and phrases, see Lesson 4 on word choice.
Now you try! Write three topic sentences that correspond to the three subpoints you have chosen in response to the sample essay topic. Remember to keep the sentences clear and focused on the main idea of each body paragraph.
For more information about organizing your essay, please visit these Purdue OWL resources:
To practice responding to a writing prompt, please use the CWEST GED Essay Game.
A topic sentence is the most important sentence in a paragraph. Sometimes referred to as a focus sentence, the topic sentence helps organize the paragraph by summarizing the information in the paragraph. In formal writing, the topic sentence is usually the first sentence in a paragraph (although it doesn't have to be).
Purpose of the Topic Sentence
A topic sentence essentially tells readers what the rest of the paragraph is about. All sentences after it have to give more information about that sentence, prove it by offering facts about it, or describe it in more detail. For example, if the topic sentence concerns the types of endangered species that live in the ocean, then every sentence after that needs to expound on that subject.
Topic sentences also need to relate back to the thesis of the essay. The thesis statement is like a road map that will tell the reader or listener where you are going with this information or how you are treating it.
Topic Sentences and Controlling Ideas
Every topic sentence will have a topic and a controlling idea. The controlling idea shows the direction the paragraph will take.
Here are some examples:
- Topic Sentence: There are many reasons why pollution in ABC Town is the worst in the world.
- The topic is “pollution in ABC Town is the worst in the world” and the controlling idea is “many reasons.”
- Topic Sentence: To be an effective CEO requires certain characteristics.
- The topic is “To be an effective CEO” and the controlling idea is "certain characteristics."
- Topic Sentence: There are many possible contributing factors to global warming.
- The topic is "global warming" and the controlling idea is "contributing factors."
- Topic Sentence: Fortune hunters encounter many difficulties when exploring a shipwreck.
- The topic is “exploring a shipwreck” and the controlling idea is “many difficulties.”
- Topic Sentence: Dogs make wonderful pets because they help you to live longer.
- The topic is "dogs make wonderful pets" and the controlling idea is "because they help you to live longer."
- Topic Sentence: Crime in poverty-stricken areas occurs as a result of a systemic discrimination.
- The topic is "crime in poverty stricken areas" and the controlling idea is "systemic discrimination."
- Topic Sentence: Teen pregnancy may be prevented by improved education.
- The topic is "teen pregnancy may be prevented" and the controlling idea is "improved education."
- Topic Sentence: Cooking requires a number of different skills.
- The topic is "cooking" and the controlling idea is "many different skills."
- Topic Sentence: It is important to be ready before buying a house.
- The topic is "buying a house" and the controlling idea is it's "important to be ready."
- Topic Sentence: Graduating from high school is important for many different reasons.
- The topic is "graduating from high school" and the controlling idea is "many different reasons."
- Topic Sentence: Having a first child is difficult because of the significant adjustments in your life.
- The topic is "having a first child" and the controlling idea is "significant adjustments in your life."
- Topic Sentence: Remodeling a kitchen successfully requires research and a good eye.
- The topic is "remodeling a kitchen" and the controlling idea is "requires research and a good eye."
A carefully thought out topic sentence has two functions. First, it helps you, the author, to stay focused. Second, a clearly stated topic and controlling idea will give readers the tools they need to clearly understand what you have to say.
Remember that topic sentences set the tone for the paragraph and should relate back to the thesis or the main idea of the paper.