Just like a thesis, topic sentences are key elements in college essays.
Topic Sentences – Points on the Roadmap
Here’s the thesis sentence example from the page on Thesis Sentences, which compared a thesis and topic sentences to towns on a map, on your way to your final destination:
You and your passengers have all agreed to go to Moab, and they trust you as the driver to take them there. (You should arrive in Moab without delays or detours.)
Anne Lamott is effective in helping her readers know they don’t have to write perfect drafts. (By the end of the essay, readers should see that Anne Lamott is effective.)
MAPPED ROUTE (Outline):
OUTLINE (Mapped Route):
Think of each point in your outline as a town on the map. You’ll give your readers a topic sentence, or point sentence, about each of the “towns” listed in the thesis. On your way to Moab you might say to your passenger as you approach Helper, “We’re coming up on Helper. It used to be where the railroad would add an extra engine to help the coal trains make it up the mountain.”
Use topic sentences to signal your discussion of each point in the thesis. The passenger knows to mentally check off one of the points on the map. Topic sentences are signals in the body of the paper to the reader that you are keeping your promise to discuss what’s in the thesis or to help lead the reader logically through your thoughts.
Then you’d give several specific examples from the text and explain (analyze) why they are examples of credibility or ethos. One way to organize your essay is to give each specific example its own paragraph.
Again, in this section of the analysis, you’d give several specific examples from the text and explain why they are effective examples of pathos or emotion.
Here, as you discuss the last portion of the thesis, you’ll also give several specific examples and quotes from the text and explain why they are appeals to logic or logos.
Notice that each of these sentences mirrors and explains the ideas in the thesis statement.
More About Topic Sentences
As you can see, while you have only one thesis/main idea in an essay, you will have multiple topic sentence ideas, one for each idea you extract from the main thesis idea or assertion.Topic sentences have a topic and an angle, just like thesis sentences. But the angle of topic sentences usually is smaller in range than that of the thesis sentence. Very often the topic remains the same from thesis to topic sentence, while the angle shifts as the writer brings in various types of ideas and research to support the angle in the thesis.
Look at the example in the box below. You’ll see that the topic, “messiness,” remains the same throughout the thesis and topic sentences. However, the thesis’ angle is more inclusive, while the topic sentences each make an assertion on a smaller scale about just one aspect of messiness—one of the four qualities of mind.
Thesis: Although my husband defines “messy” differently than I do, we both agree that “messiness” resides in four qualities of mind, which we both–unfortunately–seem to share.
- topic = messiness; thesis sentence
- angle = four qualities constitute messiness
- First and foremost, messiness results from a mind that does not always think in a linear fashion.
- Messiness also results from spontaneity and flexibility, characteristics which we both have.
- A tendency to think we can handle more than we actually can also contributes to messiness.
- Finally, lack of caring about what “should be,” along with an upbringing that fostered independent thinking, is a big factor in our messiness.
Compare thesis and topic sentences in this way: The thesis sentence offers the main idea or insight for the whole essay; a topic sentence offers the main idea or insight for a section of the essay. To use another metaphor, a thesis sentence illuminates the whole space; a topic sentence illuminates one portion of the space.
Topic sentences are key pieces of an essay because they act as signposts that present and link ideas. They establish the main point for each unit of support. They situate each unit of support within the sequence of the essay’s argument, showing the linkages among the essay’s main supporting ideas. They provide unity to a paragraph or unit of support, to make it clear how all of the supporting ideas, details, examples, and evidence in that unit relate. Topic sentences also help your reader transition from a prior to a new point and unit of support. If you look at just the thesis and topic sentences of an essay, you should see the essay’s complete conceptual or idea structure.
The following brief video provides a simple way of explaining an important concept about topic sentences, that they link supporting ideas and examples to the thesis throughout an essay and create a logical flow of ideas within an essay.
Write topic sentences that would be appropriate to support each sample thesis below (answers will vary).
- Successful brand marketing relies on a number of factors, including a clear purpose, a focused customer base, creative messaging, and most of all, a public willing to accept the message, which needs to address current public sentiment.
- First of all, successful brand marketing relies on the brand itself identifying and articulating a clear purpose.
- In order to successfully establish and market a product by its brand, the company needs to identify a clear, focused customer base.
- Creative messaging is a third aspect of brand marketing; the brand’s message needs to be able to capture the interest of the customer base by appealing to their needs.
- Finally, most brands will not succeed if their purpose and message contradict current public sentiment.
- The use of fat has fallen out of favor in a health-conscious society; however, there are scientific reasons to use fat in baking as well as to include fats in a human diet, reasons we should be teaching in school so that students can make informed food choices.
- The main reason to use fat in baking relates to the texture of baked goods, since fat tenderizes and leavens them. (note that you might go on to have additional topic sentences here, one for tenderize and one for leaven, if you had detailed support for both of these concepts)
- Fat is also a crucial component of the human diet, since it helps you absorb certain nutrients, supports certain hormones, and works to provide both energy and insulation. (note that again, you might go on to have additional topic sentences for each of these items, depending on your support)