Checking the Relevance of Topic Sentences
Topic sentences are like miniature thesis statements. They give the reader a summary of the contents of the paragraphs they introduce. Well-written topic sentences guide the reader from the paper’s thesis statement to the smaller subjects contained within the scope of the paper. At the same time, they link back to the thesis or to the preceding paragraph. For that reason, it is well worth your time and effort to make sure your topic sentences are solid and function as they are supposed to.
One strategy you can use when you are making global revisions is to ensure that the topic sentence of each paragraph in the paper relates directly back to the paper’s thesis statement or to the preceding paragraph. In most cases, the first or second sentence in a paragraph will be that paragraph’s topic sentence, so it’s a logical place for this kind of connection to occur. This sentence should consist of your own words and not those from a borrowed source.
You should look at the information contained in each topic sentence and ask yourself
- Is this information related to my thesis statement in any way?
- If so, how is it related? If not, is it directly related to the previous paragraph? Have I let my reader know how it is related?
- Will the reader be able to tell that this topic sentence and paragraph are applicable to my subject as a whole and how it is applicable?
Here is an example in which a paper’s thesis statement and the beginning of one
of its body paragraphs are provided:
Scholars of communication should be informed that vast differences exist between low-context and high-context cultures.
Beginning of a body paragraph:
One major distinction between low-context and high-context cultures is that many of the people who live in high-context cultures place a very strong emphasis on the protection of their families’ honor.
Notice how the subject matter in the topic sentence from the body paragraph is linked directly to that of the thesis statement and how the writer has told us how they relate. Basically, the reader should be able to delve into each paragraph and understand, by means of the topic sentence, how it fits in with the rest of the paper.
Copyright 2006 by the Student Success Center and the University of Houston-Victoria.
Created 2006 by Kelli Trungale.
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