Topic Sentences: Fact Sheet and Examples
[A student sent me this explanation he found on the internet. Other students have told me the explanation was useful. My comments are in red.]
A topic sentence "brings to the paragraph not only order but also unity," and it "announces the topic and an attitude toward it" (Hall 198). As Rise B. Axelrod notes, [My favorite definition:] "A topic sentence lets readers know the focus of a paragraph in simple and direct terms" (406). Sometimes we say that the topic sentence embodies the paragraph's organizing idea or its controlling idea.
A topic sentence performs at least some of the following functions:
1. Announces the topic: "A polar bear ...view middle of the document...
Be sure that the topics are explained in the same order as the topic sentence presents them.]
Position of Topic Sentences
Topic sentences usually occur at the beginning or end of a paragraph. One reason has to do with emphasis: the paragraph's most emphatic spots are its beginning and its end. Much less frequently, topic sentences may appear in the middle of the paragraph or may simply be implied.
At the paragraph's beginning:
Topic sentences appear most frequently as the first sentence in a paragraph. This position helps readers become oriented immediately to the paragraph's topic and facilitates communication (e.g., an estimated 95% of paragraphs in professional/technical writing begin with their topic sentences) [Now you know why I had to scramble the sentences in each paragraph. Otherwise, you could have earned an A just by picking every first sentence.]
A midwinter vacation at Club Tropic has its good points and bad points. The beaches are clean and uncrowded. The surrounding countryside is lush and soothing to winter-weary eyes. Furthermore, being able to take sailing and scuba diving lessons, while friends back home shovel snow, makes the outdoor activities extra-enjoyable. On the other hand, several features of Club Tropic are substandard. The food is poor, and, because the club is isolated, eating elsewhere is impossible. Security could also be better, as thefts from several guests' rooms indicated. So for some vacationers, nice scenery and fun activities may not be enough to offset the possibility of poor service and lax security. (Leggett, 376)
At the paragraph's end:
If the topic sentence is not the first sentence in the paragraph, it is often the last sentence in the paragraph, summarizing or generalizing the paragraph's information.
Beginning at breakfast with flying globs of oatmeal, spilled juice, and toast that always lands jelly-side down, a day with small children grows into a nightmare of frantic activity, punctuated with shrieks, cries, and hyena-style laughs. The very act of playing turns the house into a disaster area: blankets and sheets that are thrown over tables and chairs to form caves, miniature cars and trucks that race endlessly up and down hallways, and a cat that becomes a caged tiger, imprisoned under the laundry basket. After supper, with more spilled milk, uneaten vegetables and tidbits fed to the cat under the table, it's finally time for bed. But before they fall blissfully asleep, the children still have time to knock over one more bedtime glass of water, jump on the beds until the springs...