what is an topic sentence in an essay

What is a Topic Sentence? (Definition, Examples, How to Use)

Topic sentence

What is a topic sentence ? A topic sentence , the first sentence of a paragraph, presents the main concept discussed in the paragraph. It must contain sufficient information to support numerous examples and subtopics without being too broad to obscure the essay’s intended purpose. The remaining sentences in the paragraph will act as supporting statements, providing evidence and examples for the main idea.

Topic sentence

Importance of topic sentences

In essays or articles , where subjects can shift from one paragraph to another, a topic phrase is particularly crucial. The topic sentences, superficially, may seem to serve the purpose of only acting like the initial or introductory sentence of a paragraph. But it has numerous other purposes that make it an important part of essays.

  • Topic sentences link paragraphs together to improve the sentence flow and make reading easier. When topic sentences are not used, switching between paragraphs can feel abrupt and jarring to the reader. Authors can maintain the rhythm of their writing using topic sentences and facilitate smooth transitions.
  • Topic sentences show the reader a sample of what to expect from the paragraph. The readers can determine from the topic sentence whether the paragraph will comprise a narrative, a list, anecdotal evidence, statistical data, persuasive opinions, or some other form of evidence.
  • If two conflicting viewpoints are presented in a single paragraph, authors can use more than one topic sentence to inform the readers about the changes in the main concept. For example, paragraphs that “compare and contrast” require more than one topic sentence. In these kinds of paragraphs, authors can start with a topic sentence introducing the first idea and follow it up with proof or evidence supporting the idea. Then they can introduce the second topic sentence conveying the opposing viewpoint, followed by proof or evidence supporting it.

Topic sentence

Different types of topic sentences

The different types of topic sentences include:

Simple statement

This topic sentence is used by authors to make a general observation or statement and then elaborate on it in the body of the paragraph.

New studies are emerging indicating the link between climate change and the emergence of numerous new virus strains.

Interrogative or question

This is used by writers in less formal settings. Authors can start a paragraph using implicit or explicit questions related to the topic of discussion to engage the readers.

How many nations are ready to adapt to rising sea levels?

Complex topic sentences are used when the author is discussing a complicated concept that encompasses multiple ideas. Such topic sentences cover more than a single core idea.

Although many people believe that a mother bird will reject its chick if it is touched by humans, the truth is that birds do not abandon their babies after humans touch them.

Authors can use their topic sentences to make explicit demands or pleas to their readers. This will be helpful in breaking the monotony of the essay.

Let’s look at the data from the latest research.

Purely transitional

Though topic sentences are generally responsible for facilitating a smooth transition between paragraphs, occasionally they are purely transitional. These function best when the main topic shifts abruptly by highlighting the switch.

But not everybody agrees.

Pivot sentences are not found at the beginning of a paragraph but rather in the middle, indicating a change in the topic. Conjunctive adverbs like however, furthermore, and meanwhile are frequently used with them.

However, the undisputed king of tennis, Roger Federer, was dethroned in 2008 at Wimbledon.

How to create good topic sentences

A good topic sentence can be created using some simple steps:

1. Determine the key point of your essay

Writers should first form an understanding of the topic of the essay and then create topic sentences to attract the attention of readers. Constructing a good thesis statement can assist the writer in forming better topic sentences.

2. Have an outline for the essay

The author should form a plan or roadmap beforehand on the topics they want to discuss in a paragraph and the evidence they want to use as supporting statements.

3. Be coherent and clear

Writers should make their topic sentences clear and comprehensible so that the reader can form a clear understanding of what to expect in the paragraph.

4. Share opinions

It is advisable to share the opinion or viewpoint of the author in the topic sentence to attract the attention of the reader. Authors should also refrain from writing obvious facts in the topic sentences.

5. Use specific wordings

The topic sentences ought to be precise enough so that the authors can use a few sentences in the paragraph to support them.

6. Transitions should be added between paragraphs

To give the essay or paper a throughline, authors can create topic sentences that refer to the prior paragraph. A topic sentence can make a reference to the preceding paragraph while introducing the next part by using transitional words.

7. Use new, relevant information

Instead of using an obvious fact that everybody knows as the topic sentence, authors can give new information. It is also important to present them in an interesting way.

8. Create a compound or complex topic statement

Compound or complex topic statements feel advanced and stronger. Authors can create such topic statements to add a high level of sophistication to their text.

Many beginner writers and students confuse thesis statements with topic sentences. In essence, thesis statements establish the major idea discussed in the entire essay or paper, as opposed to topic sentences, which introduce the central concept of a paragraph.

Both of these sentences are responsible for giving the readers a sample of what to expect, but in entirely different capacities. Suppose a person is writing a thesis about the different compounds present in coffee and the health benefits it offers.

The thesis statement will be a generalized statement indicating that there are numerous compounds in coffee that benefit the health of humans. But the topic sentence of each paragraph will introduce any single health benefit or compound present in the coffee.

Topic sentences are typically found at the beginning of a paragraph. But this does not mean that they cannot be placed elsewhere in the paragraph. In some cases, when the details discussed can be summarized into a general statement, topic sentences can be included at the end.

Similarly, in some paragraphs where multiple concepts are discussed, topic sentences may be used in the middle of the paragraph. The placement depends on the number of topics being discussed and the way they are discussed.

  • Merriam Webster – topic sentence – Definition
  • Wikipedia – Topic sentence
  • wikiHow – How to Write a Good Topic Sentence
  • Scribbr – How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose

Inside this article

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Fact checked: Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. Learn more.

what is an topic sentence in an essay

About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

Core lessons

  • Abstract Noun
  • Accusative Case
  • Active Sentence
  • Alliteration
  • Adjective Clause
  • Adjective Phrase
  • Adverbial Clause
  • Appositive Phrase
  • Body Paragraph
  • Compound Adjective
  • Complex Sentence
  • Compound Words
  • Compound Predicate
  • Common Noun
  • Comparative Adjective
  • Comparative and Superlative
  • Compound Noun
  • Compound Subject
  • Compound Sentence
  • Copular Verb
  • Collective Noun
  • Colloquialism
  • Conciseness
  • Conditional
  • Concrete Noun
  • Conjunction
  • Conjugation
  • Conditional Sentence
  • Comma Splice
  • Correlative Conjunction
  • Coordinating Conjunction
  • Coordinate Adjective
  • Cumulative Adjective
  • Dative Case
  • Declarative Statement
  • Direct Object Pronoun
  • Direct Object
  • Dangling Modifier
  • Demonstrative Pronoun
  • Demonstrative Adjective
  • Direct Characterization
  • Definite Article
  • Doublespeak
  • Equivocation Fallacy
  • Future Perfect Progressive
  • Future Simple
  • Future Perfect Continuous
  • Future Perfect
  • First Conditional
  • Gerund Phrase
  • Genitive Case
  • Helping Verb
  • Irregular Adjective
  • Irregular Verb
  • Imperative Sentence
  • Indefinite Article
  • Intransitive Verb
  • Introductory Phrase
  • Indefinite Pronoun
  • Indirect Characterization
  • Interrogative Sentence
  • Intensive Pronoun
  • Inanimate Object
  • Indefinite Tense
  • Infinitive Phrase
  • Interjection
  • Intensifier
  • Indicative Mood
  • Juxtaposition
  • Linking Verb
  • Misplaced Modifier
  • Nominative Case
  • Noun Adjective
  • Object Pronoun
  • Object Complement
  • Order of Adjectives
  • Parallelism
  • Prepositional Phrase
  • Past Simple Tense
  • Past Continuous Tense
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • Past Progressive Tense
  • Present Simple Tense
  • Present Perfect Tense
  • Personal Pronoun
  • Personification
  • Persuasive Writing
  • Parallel Structure
  • Phrasal Verb
  • Predicate Adjective
  • Predicate Nominative
  • Phonetic Language
  • Plural Noun
  • Punctuation
  • Punctuation Marks
  • Preposition
  • Preposition of Place
  • Parts of Speech
  • Possessive Adjective
  • Possessive Determiner
  • Possessive Case
  • Possessive Noun
  • Proper Adjective
  • Proper Noun
  • Present Participle
  • Quotation Marks
  • Relative Pronoun
  • Reflexive Pronoun
  • Reciprocal Pronoun
  • Subordinating Conjunction
  • Simple Future Tense
  • Stative Verb
  • Subjunctive
  • Subject Complement
  • Subject of a Sentence
  • Sentence Variety
  • Second Conditional
  • Superlative Adjective
  • Slash Symbol
  • Topic Sentence
  • Types of Nouns
  • Types of Sentences
  • Uncountable Noun
  • Vowels and Consonants

Popular lessons

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Stay awhile. Your weekly dose of grammar and English fun.

what is an topic sentence in an essay

The world's best online resource for learning English. Understand words, phrases, slang terms, and all other variations of the English language.

  • Abbreviations
  • Editorial Policy

What are your chances of acceptance?

Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.

Duke University

Your chancing factors


what is an topic sentence in an essay

How to Write a Strong Topic Sentence + Examples

Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications.

See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.

Show me what areas I need to improve

What’s Covered:

  • What Is a Topic Sentence?
  • 5 Steps to Writing a Good Topic Sentence

Elements of a Good Topic Sentence

Common pitfalls to avoid.

  • Where To Get Your Essay Edited For Free

Crafting the perfect essay takes time and dedication. There are so many elements you have to worry about, such as tone, purpose, and correct spelling and grammar. Writing a strong topic sentences is another critical part in writing a cohesive essay. 

Without a strong topic sentence, you risk losing your reader and perhaps part of your grade. If it’s a college admissions essay, then you need it to be as strong as possible to back up your application. Learn about what steps you should take to write a strong topic sentence.

What Is a Topic Sentence? 

People often confuse a topic sentence with a thesis statement. A thesis statement is typically at the end of your opening paragraph, that dictates the main argument you’ll be making in your essay. 

Throughout your essay, you’ll have multiple topic sentences, as each paragraph should start off with one. This beginning sentence is used to direct the topic of the paragraph and outline the flow of the following sentences. It’s used to help guide your reader and to continue to keep them hooked on your overall essay. Without topic sentences, your essay will be unorganized, lack transitions, and sound very choppy. To write a good topic sentence, there are several steps to take.

Writing a Good Topic Sentence: 5 Steps

Step 1: decide what you’re going to write about..

When you see the essay prompt, you’ll have some time to think through what you want to say and why. You have to decide if it’s a persuasive essay, informative, narrative, or descriptive. Determine your purpose for writing the essay after reading through the prompt. Whether it’s an assignment for school or if it’s to get into college, you need to make sure you have that purpose clearly outlined. 

Step 2: Create a thesis statement.

One of the first things you need to do is create a thesis statement. This is typically a sentence with three points that you’ll back up throughout your essay. 

For example: The Office became a cultural phenomenon because it spurred the careers of many of today’s successful movie stars, it talked about situations that most American workers can relate to, and even 15 years later, offers funny, relevant content that helps to break down prejudices. 

You then use that thesis statement to create an essay around the points you want to make. 

Step 3: Make your essay outline.

Once you have the points you want to make within your thesis statement hammered out, make an outline for your essay. This is where you’ll start to create your topic sentence for each paragraph. You want to clearly state the main idea of that paragraph in the very first sentence. From there, you back up that main idea with facts and reputable sources. Make sure your topic sentence is clear, but does not just announce your topic. 

For example, do not write something like: “In this paragraph, I will discuss why it’s bad that poachers are killing giraffes.”

Instead, write something that clearly states your idea with a reasonable opinion and that gives direction to the paragraph: “Giraffes are a key part of the African ecosystem, so it’s important to enforce regulations against the poachers who are killing them for their body parts.” 

You’d then follow that up with reasons why giraffes are a key part of the African ecosystem and how poachers are destroying their population.

Step 4: Begin writing your essay.

Once you have your thesis statement and you’ve created an outline with supporting paragraphs and their topic sentences, you can begin writing your essay. It’s important to make that outline before just jumping in–a disorganized essay can spell disaster for you as you continue to write, and could result in a poor grade. Many times, teachers will even require you to turn in your outline as part of your overall essay grade. 

Step 5: Proofread and check your resources.

After you’ve written the essay, go back through it with a fine tooth comb. Read through each topic sentence and the paragraphs that follow to ensure that you’ve written clear, solid topic sentences throughout and that the paragraphs with them make sense. During the proofreading phase, you also need to recheck the sources you’re using. Make sure each source is reputable. In other words, do not use sites like Wikipedia where anyone can go in and edit an article to add misinformation. Use sites that:

  • Are actual reputable news sources, such as the New York Times , CNN, CBS News
  • Have domain names that end in .edu or .gov
  • Come from an encyclopedia, such as Encyclopedia Britannica

Using sites that are not reputable could jeopardize the validity of your argument. 

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

Now that you know the steps to set yourself up for success when writing a topic sentence, there are certain elements that go into a quality first sentence. Always make sure that your topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph. You don’t want to make your reader hunt for the point you’re trying to make. Check out some key elements of a good topic sentence:

Make sure your topic sentence isn’t too vague.

You need a topic sentence that has some specifics to it. It also needs to hook in your reader in some way with an opinion. A vague sentence makes it harder to write a paragraph that can clearly backs up your thoughts. For example:

DON’T: “In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley seems like a nice guy.”

DO: “When Mr. Bingley is first introduced, he comes across as a kind person because he speaks to everyone and doesn’t immediately pass judgment.”

Choose a reasonable opinion.

Your topic sentence should clearly outline whatever point you’re trying to make in the paragraph, but you want to pick a reasonable opinion that you can easily reinforce with facts and statistics. Here’s an example of what you should and should not do:

DON’T: “It’s obvious that Mr. Bingley was a total loser with no backbone.”

DO: “Mr. Bingley could have shown more confidence in his choices and stood up to Mr. Darcy when he found himself in love with Jane Bennet.”

You can then back that up with facts, saying that he was a wealthy Englishman and thus one of the key players in society at the time, which should have given him more confidence. If he’d been more confident, perhaps he would not have left and devastated Jane.

Use your topic sentence as a transition.

Along with telling the reader the point of your next paragraph, your topic sentence should also serve as a transition from the previous paragraph. Without a transition, the essay can feel like it’s choppy and disjointed. For example:

DON’T: “Mr. Bingley is a good man and here’s why.”

DO: “Although Mr. Bingley did break Jane’s heart by leaving, he ended up redeeming himself by returning to Netherfield Hall.”

Keep your topic sentence short.

A long, drawn-out topic sentence can risk losing your reader. Many times, it’s hard to determine the point of a sentence when it goes on for too long. You want a clear, concise sentence that draws in the reader but also leaves some room for you to expand on it in the following paragraph.

DON’T: “Throughout the novel of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley was often quite different from Mr. Darcy as he would treat all people in a friendly manner, considering them all his friends and acquaintances, even agreeing to throw a ball after Elizabeth’s sisters rudely demanded he do so and was gracious to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet as well despite their manners.”

DO: “Overall, Mr. Bingley served as a foil to Mr. Darcy throughout the story by treating everyone around him equally with dignity and grace.”

Writing an essay can be overwhelming at times, but so long as you avoid some of these common pitfalls, it can be easier to get it done on time. 

Don’t wait until the last minute.

If your teacher assigns you an essay or tells you that you have an essay test coming up, don’t wait until the day before to do anything about it. You have to plan or study and you need to give yourself time to do that. If you know it takes you a while to write something, then start planning it as soon as you get the assignment.

Don’t forget to write an outline.

Along with planning, make sure you have that outline written up and planned out well. It will serve as your guideline for writing the essay. Without it, you’ll face the risk of a disorganized essay that does not clearly illustrate your point.

Ask for help if you need it.

This may be the most important pitfall to avoid. If you get in over your head while writing, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a friend to review the essay or ask your teacher for guidance. 

Where to Get Your Essay Edited for Free

Once you’ve finished your essay, you may want additional input. There are tools out there to help, but CollegeVine’s free peer essay review tool can provide you with actionable feedback from students just like you. CollegeVine’s tool has helped many students and may be able to help you, too! Asking for peer feedback can help to refine your essay and it never hurts to have an extra set of eyes read through what you’ve written. Check out the free tool today!

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Writing Topic Sentences — Purpose, Structure, and Examples

Daniel Bal

What is a topic sentence?

A topic sentence in academic writing identifies how a body paragraph relates to the overall purpose of an essay stated in the thesis statement . Topic sentences are usually at the beginning of a paragraph and identify the paragraph’s controlling idea.

While an essay’s thesis statement identifies the point of the essay in its entirety, the topic sentence has a much narrower focus, as it relates only to the paragraph in which it is located.

Topic sentence vs. thesis statement

What is the purpose of a topic sentence?

The purpose of a topic sentence is to inform the reader of the main idea of the paragraph and how it connects to the overall objective of the essay. An effective topic sentence accomplishes one or more of the following:

Makes a claim

Supports other claims made in the paper

Identifies the purpose of the rest of the paragraph

Relates the paragraph to the purpose of the paper

Precedes information that defends a claim

Purposes of a topic sentence

How to write a topic sentence

To write a topic sentence, incorporate the following guidelines:

Determine the thesis of the essay.

Identify the main supports that help prove the thesis.

Use each main support to structure a topic sentence for each paragraph.

Compose a sentence that answers the following questions:

What will the paragraph prove?

How does the paragraph connect to the thesis?

How to write a topic sentence

Where is the topic sentence in a paragraph?

Topic sentences can be placed at the beginning or end of a paragraph.

Although it does not need to be the first sentence, the topic sentence should be placed at the beginning of the paragraph so the reader can quickly identify the purpose of the paragraph.

While not a common placement for a topic sentence, some writers use topic sentences at the end of a paragraph. Writers who choose this method want the reader to deduce the main point of the paragraph by presenting the evidence first.

Topic sentence examples

The following list identifies topic sentences based on the provided thesis statements for five-paragraph essays:

Thesis Statement: Capital punishment should be banned because it is inhumane, unconstitutional, and ineffective at deterring crime.

Support Paragraph 1 Topic Sentence: The inhumane nature of the death penalty proves it should be abolished.

Support Paragraph 2 Topic Sentence: Capital punishment should be outlawed because it violates the Constitution.

Support Paragraph 3 Topic Sentence: Because the death penalty does not effectively deter criminal behavior, states should not continue to use it.

Thesis Statement: College athletes should be financially compensated because they sacrifice their minds and bodies, cannot hold an outside job, and increase the school’s revenue.

Support Paragraph 1 Topic Sentence: Student athletes should be paid for their performance because of sports’ impact on their minds and bodies.

Support Paragraph 2 Topic Sentence: Because most college athletes cannot play their sport and hold a job, colleges should give them a living wage.

Support Paragraph 3 Topic Sentence: Student-athletes’ ability to increase their college’s revenue proves they should be awarded financial compensation.

Example topic sentences

Thesis Statement: Using alternative energy sources can help lessen the impact of global climate change.

Support Paragraph 1 Topic Sentence: Through the widespread use of solar power, countries can limit the environmental impact of other energy sources.

Support Paragraph 2 Topic Sentence: Utilizing more wind turbines as a power source can help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Support Paragraph 3 Topic Sentence: Using geothermal power will effectively decrease the world's reliance on fossil fuels.

What Is a Topic Sentence?

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

A topic sentence is a  sentence , sometimes at the beginning of a paragraph , that states or suggests the main idea (or topic ) of a paragraph.

Not all paragraphs begin with topic sentences. In some, the topic sentence appears in the middle or at the end. In others, the topic sentence is implied or absent altogether.

Examples and Observations

  • " Salva and the other boys made cows out of clay. The more cows you made, the richer you were. But they had to be fine, healthy animals. It took time to make a lump of clay look like a good cow. The boys would challenge each other to see who could make the most and best cows." (Linda Sue Park, A Long Walk to Water . Clarion, 2010)
  • " Momma bought two bolts of cloth each year for winter and summer clothes. She made my school dresses, underslips, bloomers, handkerchiefs, Bailey's shirts, shorts, her aprons, house dresses and waists from the rolls shipped to Stamps by Sears and Roebuck. . . ." (Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings . Random House, 1969)
  • " You discover what it is like to be hungry. With bread and margarine in your belly, you go out and look into the shop windows. Everywhere there is food insulting you in huge, wasteful piles; whole dead pigs, baskets of hot loaves, great yellow blocks of butter, strings of sausages, mountains of potatoes, vast Gruyère cheeses like grindstones. A snivelling self-pity comes over you at the sight of so much food. You plan to grab a loaf and run, swallowing it before they catch you; and you refrain, from pure funk." (George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London . Victor Gollancz, 1933)
  • " The flavor that salt imparts to food is just one of the attributes that manufacturers rely on. For them, salt is nothing less than a miracle worker in processed foods. It makes sugar taste sweeter. It adds crunch to crackers and frozen waffles. It delays spoilage so that the products can sit longer on the shelf. And, just as importantly, it masks the otherwise bitter or dull taste that hounds so many processed foods before salt is added." (Michael Moss, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us . Random House, 2013)
  • " The very idea of retirement is a relatively new invention. For most of human history, people worked until they died or were too infirm to lift a finger (at which point they died pretty fast anyway). It was the German statesman Otto von Bismarck who first floated the concept, in 1883, when he proposed that his unemployed countrymen over the age of 65 be given a pension. This move was designed to fend off Marxist agitation—and to do so on the cheap, since few Germans survived to that ripe old age." (Jessica Bruder, "The End of Retirement." Harper's , August 2014)
  • " Grandma's room I regarded as a dark den of primitive rites and practices. On Friday evenings whoever was home gathered at her door while she lit her Sabbath candles. . . ."  (E.L. Doctorow, World's Fair . Random House, 1985)
  • " Genealogy is an ancient human preoccupation. The God of Hebrew Scripture promised Abraham descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. The apostles Matthew and Luke claim that Abraham's lineage went on to include King David and eventually Jesus, though the specifics of their accounts are contradictory. Muslims trace Mohammed's line back through Abraham, to Adam and Eve." (Maud Newton, "America's Ancestry Craze." Harper's , June 2014)
  • " O nce, in a restaurant in Italy with my family, I occasioned enormous merriment, as a nineteenth-century humorist would have put it, by confusing two Italian words. I thought I had, very suavely, ordered for dessert fragoline —those lovely little wild strawberries. Instead, I seem to have asked for fagiolini —green beans. The waiter ceremoniously brought me a plate of green beans with my coffee, along with the flan and the gelato for the kids. The significant insight the mistake provided—arriving mere microseconds after the laughter of those kids, who for some reason still bring up the occasion, often—was about the arbitrary nature of language: the single 'r' rolled right makes one a master of the trattoria, an 'r' unrolled the family fool. . . ." (Adam Gopnik, "Word Magic." The New Yorker , May 26, 2014)
  • " In seventeenth-century Europe, the transformation of man into soldier took on a new form, more concerted and disciplined, and far less pleasant, than wine. New recruits and even seasoned veterans were endlessly drilled, hour after hour, until each man began to feel himself part of a single, giant fighting machine. . . ." (Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War . Henry Holt and Company, 1997)
  • " What is the appeal of train travel? Ask almost any foamer, and he or she will invariably answer, 'The romance of it!' But just what this means, they cannot really say. It's tempting to think that we are simply equating romance with pleasure, with the superior comfort of a train, especially seated up high in the observation cars. . . ." (Kevin Baker, "21st Century Limited: The Lost Glory of America's Railroads." Harper's , July 2014)
  • " Because science fiction spans the spectrum from the plausible to the fanciful, its relationship with science has been both nurturing and contentious. For every author who meticulously examines the latest developments in physics or computing, there are other authors who invent 'impossible' technology to serve as a plot device (like Le Guin’s faster-than-light communicator, the ansible) or to enable social commentary, the way H. G. Wells uses his time machine to take the reader to the far future to witness the calamitous destiny of the human race." (Eileen Gunn, "Brave New Words." Smithsonian , May 2014)
  • " I passed all the other courses that I took at my university, but I could never pass botany. . . ." (James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times . Harper & Row, 1933)
  • " What is there about this wonderful woman? From next door, she comes striding, down the lawn, beneath the clothesline, laden with cookies she has just baked, or with baby togs she no longer needs, and one's heart goes out. Pops out. The clothesline, the rusted swing set, the limbs of the dying elm, the lilacs past bloom are lit up like rods of neon by her casual washday energy and cheer, a cheer one has done nothing to infuse." (John Updike, "One's Neighbor's Wife." Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism . Knopf, 1983)
  • " Television. Why do I watch it? The parade of politicians every evening: I have only to see the heavy, blank faces so familiar since childhood to feel gloom and nausea. . . ." (J.M. Coetzee, Age of Iron . Random House, 1990)
  • " Anyone who has made the coast-to-coast journey across America, whether by train or by car, has probably passed through Garden City, but it is reasonable to assume that few travelers remember the event. It seems just another fair-sized town in the middle--almost the exact middle--of the continental United States. . . ." (Truman Capote, In Cold Blood . Random House, 1966)
  • " Rodeo, like baseball, is an American sport and has been around almost as long. . . ." (Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces . Viking Penguin, 1985)
  • " What a piece of work is a book! I am not talking about writing or printing. I am talking about the codex we may leaf through, that may be put away on a shelf for whole centuries and will remain there, unchanged and handy. . . ." (William Golding, A Moving Target . Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1982)

Characteristics of an Effective Topic Sentence

  • "A good topic sentence is concise and emphatic . It is no longer than the idea requires, and it stresses the important word or phrase. Here, for instance, is the topic sentence which opens a paragraph about the collapse of the stock market in 1929: "The Bull Market was dead."(Frederick Lewis Allen) Notice several things. (1) Allen's sentence is brief . Not all topics can be explained in six words, but whether they take six or sixty, they should be phrased in no more words than are absolutely necessary. (2) The sentence is clear and strong: you understand exactly what Allen means. (3) It places the keyword—'dead'—at the end, where it gets heavy stress and leads naturally into what will follow. . . . (4) The sentence stands first in the paragraph. This is where topic sentences generally belong: at or near the beginning." (Thomas S. Kane, The New Oxford Guide to Writing . Oxford Univ. Press, 1988)

Positioning a Topic Sentence

"If you want readers to see your point immediately, open with the topic sentence . This strategy can be particularly useful in letters of application or in argumentative writing. . . . "When specific details lead up to a generalization, putting the topic sentence at the end of the paragraph makes sense. . . . "Occasionally a paragraph's main idea is so obvious that it does not need to be stated explicitly in a topic sentence." (Andrea Lunsford, The St. Martin's Handbook . Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008)

Guidelines for Composing Topic Sentences

"The topic sentence is the most important sentence in your paragraph. Carefully worded and restricted, it helps you generate and control your information. An effective topic sentence also helps readers grasp your main idea quickly. As you draft your paragraphs, pay close attention to the following three guidelines:

  • Make sure you provide a topic sentence. . . .
  • Put your topic sentence first.
  • Be sure your topic sentence is focused. If restricted, a topic sentence discusses only one central idea. A broad or unrestricted topic sentence leads to a shaky, incomplete paragraph for two reasons:
  • The paragraph will not contain enough information to support the topic sentence .
  • A broad topic sentence will not summarize or forecast specific information in the paragraph."

(Philip C. Kolin, Successful Writing at Work , 9th ed. Wadsworth, 2010)

Testing for Topic Sentences

"When testing your article for topic sentences , you should be able to look at each paragraph and say what the topic sentence is. Having said it, look at all the other sentences in the paragraph and test them to make sure they support it. . . .

"If you find that you have come up with the same topic sentence more than once, you have two paragraphs doing the same work. Cut one of them out.

"If you find a paragraph that has several sentences that don't support the topic sentence, see if all the outlaw sentences support some other topic sentence and turn the one paragraph into two." (Gary Provost, "How to Test Your Articles for the 8 Essentials of Nonfiction." Handbook of Magazine Article Writing , ed. by Jean M. Fredette. Writer's Digest Books, 1988)

Frequency of Topic Sentences

"Teachers and textbook writers should exercise caution in making statements about the frequency with which contemporary professional writers use simple or even explicit topic sentences in expository paragraphs. It is abundantly clear that students should not be told that professional writers usually begin their paragraphs with topic sentences."  (Richard Braddock, "The Frequency and Placement of Topic Sentences in Expository Prose." Research in the Teaching of English . Winter 1974)

  • How to Write a Good Descriptive Paragraph
  • Unity in Composition
  • Paragraph Writing
  • How to Teach Topic Sentences Using Models
  • Practice in Supporting a Topic Sentence with Specific Details
  • Practice Composing Effective Topic Sentences
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • Definition and Examples of Body Paragraphs in Composition
  • How to Write a Descriptive Paragraph
  • Best Practices for the Most Effective Use of Paragraphs
  • How to Structure an Essay
  • Definition and Examples of Paragraphing in Essays
  • Supporting Detail in Composition and Speech
  • Writers on Writing: The Art of Paragraphing
  • Understanding Organization in Composition and Speech
  • Writing Home
  • Writing Advice Home

Using Topic Sentences

  • Printable PDF Version
  • Fair-Use Policy

What is a topic sentence?

A topic sentence states the main point of a paragraph: it serves as a mini-thesis for the paragraph. You might think of it as a signpost for your readers—or a headline—something that alerts them to the most important, interpretive points in your essay. When read in sequence, your essay’s topic sentences will provide a sketch of the essay’s argument. Thus topics sentences help protect your readers from confusion by guiding them through the argument. But topic sentences can also help you to improve your essay by making it easier for you to recognize gaps or weaknesses in your argument.

Where do topic sentences go?

Topic sentences usually appear at the very beginning of paragraphs. In the following example from Anatomy of Criticism , Northrop Frye establishes the figure of the tragic hero as someone more than human, but less than divine. He backs up his claim with examples of characters from literature, religion and mythology whose tragic stature is a function of their ability to mediate between their fellow human beings and a power that transcends the merely human:

The tragic hero is typically on top of the wheel of fortune, half-way between human society on the ground and the something greater in the sky. Prometheus, Adam, and Christ hang between heaven and earth, between a world of paradisal freedom and a world of bondage. Tragic heroes are so much the highest points in their human landscape that they seem the inevitable conductors of the power about them, great trees more likely to be struck by lightning than a clump of grass. Conductors may of course be instruments as well as victims of the divine lightning: Milton’s Samson destroys the Philistine temple with himself, and Hamlet nearly exterminates the Danish court in his own fall.

The structure of Frye’s paragraph is simple yet powerful: the topic sentence makes an abstract point, and the rest of the paragraph elaborates on that point using concrete examples as evidence.

Does a topic sentence have to be at the beginning of a paragraph?

No, though this is usually the most logical place for it. Sometimes a transitional sentence or two will come before a topic sentence:

We found in comedy that the term bomolochos or buffoon need not be restricted to farce, but could be extended to cover comic characters who are primarily entertainers, with the function of increasing or focusing the comic mood. The corresponding contrasting type is the suppliant, the character, often female, who presents a picture of unmitigated helplessness and destitution. Such a figure is pathetic, and pathos, though it seems a gentler and more relaxed mood than tragedy, is even more terrifying. Its basis is the exclusion of an individual from the group; hence it attacks the deepest fear in ourselves that we possess—a fear much deeper than the relatively cosy and sociable bogey of hell. In the suppliant pity and terror are brought to the highest possible pitch of intensity, and the awful consequences of rejecting the suppliant for all concerned is a central theme of Greek tragedy.

The context for this passage is an extended discussion of the characteristics of tragedy. In this paragraph, Frye begins by drawing a parallel between the figure of the buffoon in comedy and that of the suppliant in tragedy. His discussion of the buffoon occurred in a earlier section of the chapter, a section devoted to comedy. The first sentence of the current paragraph is transitional: it prepares the way for the topic sentence. The delayed topic sentence contributes to the coherence of Frye’s discussion by drawing an explicit connection between key ideas in the book. In essays, the connection is usually between the last paragraph and the current one.

Sometimes writers save a topic sentence for the end of a paragraph. You may, for example, occasionally find that giving away your point at the beginning of a paragraph does not allow you to build your argument toward an effective climax.

How do I come up with a topic sentence? And what makes a good one?

Ask yourself what’s going on in your paragraph. Why have you chosen to include the information you have? Why is the paragraph important in the context of your argument? What point are you trying to make?

Relating your topic sentences to your thesis can help strengthen the coherence of your essay. If you include a thesis statement in your introduction, then think of incorporating a keyword from that statement into the topic sentence. But you need not be overly explicit when you echo the thesis statement. Better to be subtle rather than heavy-handed. Do not forget that your topic sentence should do more than just establish a connection between your paragraph and your thesis. Use a topic sentence to show how your paragraph contributes to the development of your argument by moving it that one extra step forward. If your topic sentence merely restates your thesis, then either your paragraph is redundant or your topic sentence needs to be reformulated. If several of your topic sentences restate your thesis, even if they do so in different words, then your essay is probably repetitive.

Does every paragraph need one?

No, but most do. Sometimes a paragraph helps to develop the same point as in the previous paragraph, and so a new topic sentence would be redundant. And sometimes the evidence in your paragraph makes your point so effectively that your topic sentence can remain implicit. But if you are in doubt, it’s best to use one.

what is an topic sentence in an essay

  • Walden University
  • Faculty Portal

Paragraphs: Topic Sentences

Topic sentences video playlist.

Note that these videos were created while APA 6 was the style guide edition in use. There may be some examples of writing that have not been updated to APA 7 guidelines.

  • Academic Paragraphs: Introduction to Paragraphs and the MEAL Plan (video transcript)
  • Academic Paragraphs: Examples of the MEAL Plan (video transcript)

The best way to understand the role of the topic sentence in paragraph development is to imagine that any given paragraph is a miniature essay that has its own thesis, support, and conclusion. The parts of a paragraph easily correspond to the parts of an essay:

Just as an effective essay starts off with an introduction that presents the paper's thesis statement and indicates the specific claim or argument that the essay will develop, each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that indicates the focus of that paragraph, alerting the reader to the particular subtopic that the paragraph will provide evidence to support.

A strong topic sentence should be placed at or near the beginning of a paragraph. In addition, this sentence should focus on a specific issue, avoid the use of direct quotations, and leave room for support and analysis within the body of the paragraph. Read on to learn more about creating an effective topic sentence.

The topic sentence does not have to be the first sentence in the paragraph; however, it should come early in the paragraph in order to orient the reader to the paragraph's focus right away. Occasionally a writer may place a transition sentence before the topic sentence, to create continuity between topics.

Topic Sentence to begin paragraph:

In the novel Sula , Morrison uses the physical bonds of female friendship to propel her characters into self-awareness.

Transition Sentence + Topic Sentence to begin paragraph:

However, Morrison does not only use the emotional and spiritual bonds between her female characters to initiate their coming-of-age. In addition, the author uses the physical bonds of female friendship to propel her adolescent protagonists into self-awareness.


Your topic sentence should be more narrowly focused than your thesis sentence, and you will want to make sure the claim you are making can be supported, argued, and analyzed within the body of your paragraph.

Example: In the novel Sula , Morrison uses the physical bonds of female friendship to propel her characters into self-awareness.

In this topic sentence, the essayist is arguing that physical bonds of friendship, specifically, make the female characters more self-aware. Because this idea can be refuted or supported by readers (based on how successfully the essayist persuades his or her readers with examples and analysis from the novel), and because the claim is narrow enough to address within a single paragraph, the above sentence is a successful topic sentence.

Direct Quotations (Are Best Avoided)

Although it might be tempting to begin a paragraph with a compelling quotation, as a general rule, topic sentences should state the main idea of the paragraph in your own words. Direct quotations have a place later in the paragraph, where they may be incorporated to support the topic sentence.

Needs Improvement: As Morrison (1982) conveyed, the girls' "friendship let them use each other to grow on…they found in each other's eyes the intimacy they were looking for" (p. 52).
Better: In the novel Sula , Morrison uses the physical bonds of female friendship to propel her characters into self-awareness. Pointing to the connection of eyes meeting and bodies growing together, Morrison makes coming-of-age an interactive physical process between the adolescent protagonists. Specifically, Morrison describes how Sula and Nel have used "each other to grow on…they found in each other's eyes the intimacy they were looking for" (p. 52).

In this second paragraph, the topic sentence appears first, immediately orienting readers to the main focus (or topic) of the paragraph. The quotation is used later in the paragraph as a form of evidence or support for the topic sentence.

If you are finding it challenging to create effective topic sentences, you might consider outlining before beginning to write a paper. The points and subpoints of an outline can then become the topic sentences for the paper's paragraphs.

Additionally, because the topic sentence functions similarly at the paragraph level to the thesis at the essay level, you may also find it helpful to check out our thesis statement construction information. Our resource on paragraphs has helpful information about the scope of a paragraph, as well.

Related Resources


  • Previous Page: Length and Scope
  • Next Page: Organization (MEAL Plan)
  • Office of Student Disability Services

Walden Resources


  • Academic Residencies
  • Academic Skills
  • Career Planning and Development
  • Customer Care Team
  • Field Experience
  • Military Services
  • Student Success Advising
  • Writing Skills

Centers and Offices

  • Center for Social Change
  • Office of Academic Support and Instructional Services
  • Office of Degree Acceleration
  • Office of Research and Doctoral Services
  • Office of Student Affairs

Student Resources

  • Doctoral Writing Assessment
  • Form & Style Review
  • Quick Answers
  • ScholarWorks
  • SKIL Courses and Workshops
  • Walden Bookstore
  • Walden Catalog & Student Handbook
  • Student Safety/Title IX
  • Legal & Consumer Information
  • Website Terms and Conditions
  • Cookie Policy
  • Accessibility
  • Accreditation
  • State Authorization
  • Net Price Calculator
  • Contact Walden

Walden University is a member of Adtalem Global Education, Inc. www.adtalem.com Walden University is certified to operate by SCHEV © 2024 Walden University LLC. All rights reserved.

  • Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Search

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Indiana University Bloomington Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington

Open Search

  • Mission, Vision, and Inclusive Language Statement
  • Locations & Hours
  • Undergraduate Employment
  • Graduate Employment
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Newsletter Archive
  • Support WTS
  • Schedule an Appointment
  • Online Tutoring
  • Before your Appointment
  • WTS Policies
  • Group Tutoring
  • Students Referred by Instructors
  • Paid External Editing Services
  • Writing Guides
  • Scholarly Write-in
  • Dissertation Writing Groups
  • Journal Article Writing Groups
  • Early Career Graduate Student Writing Workshop
  • Workshops for Graduate Students
  • Teaching Resources
  • Syllabus Information
  • Course-specific Tutoring
  • Nominate a Peer Tutor
  • Tutoring Feedback
  • Schedule Appointment
  • Campus Writing Program

Writing Tutorial Services

Paragraphs & topic sentences.

A paragraph is a series of sentences that are organized and coherent, and are all related to a single topic. Almost every piece of writing you do that is longer than a few sentences should be organized into paragraphs. This is because paragraphs show a reader where the subdivisions of an essay begin and end, and thus help the reader see the organization of the essay and grasp its main points.

Paragraphs can contain many different kinds of information. A paragraph could contain a series of brief examples or a single long illustration of a general point. It might describe a place, character, or process; narrate a series of events; compare or contrast two or more things; classify items into categories; or describe causes and effects. Regardless of the kind of information they contain, all paragraphs share certain characteristics. One of the most important of these is a topic sentence.


A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay’s thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the reader of the subject to be discussed and how the paragraph will discuss it. Readers generally look to the first few sentences in a paragraph to determine the subject and perspective of the paragraph. That’s why it’s often best to put the topic sentence at the very beginning of the paragraph. In some cases, however, it’s more effective to place another sentence before the topic sentence—for example, a sentence linking the current paragraph to the previous one, or one providing background information.

Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of your paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.


Most paragraphs in an essay have a three-part structure—introduction, body, and conclusion. You can see this structure in paragraphs whether they are narrating, describing, comparing, contrasting, or analyzing information. Each part of the paragraph plays an important role in communicating your meaning to your reader.

Introduction : the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.

Body : follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.

Conclusion : the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph’s controlling idea.

The following paragraph illustrates this pattern of organization. In this paragraph the topic sentence and concluding sentence (CAPITALIZED) both help the reader keep the paragraph’s main point in mind.

SCIENTISTS HAVE LEARNED TO SUPPLEMENT THE SENSE OF SIGHT IN NUMEROUS WAYS. In front of the tiny pupil of the eye they put , on Mount Palomar, a great monocle 200 inches in diameter, and with it see 2000 times farther into the depths of space. Or they look through a small pair of lenses arranged as a microscope into a drop of water or blood, and magnify by as much as 2000 diameters the living creatures there, many of which are among man’s most dangerous enemies. Or , if we want to see distant happenings on earth, they use some of the previously wasted electromagnetic waves to carry television images which they re-create as light by whipping tiny crystals on a screen with electrons in a vacuum. Or they can bring happenings of long ago and far away as colored motion pictures, by arranging silver atoms and color-absorbing molecules to force light waves into the patterns of original reality. Or if we want to see into the center of a steel casting or the chest of an injured child, they send the information on a beam of penetrating short-wave X rays, and then convert it back into images we can see on a screen or photograph. THUS ALMOST EVERY TYPE OF ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION YET DISCOVERED HAS BEEN USED TO EXTEND OUR SENSE OF SIGHT IN SOME WAY. George Harrison, “Faith and the Scientist”

In a coherent paragraph, each sentence relates clearly to the topic sentence or controlling idea, but there is more to coherence than this. If a paragraph is coherent, each sentence flows smoothly into the next without obvious shifts or jumps. A coherent paragraph also highlights the ties between old information and new information to make the structure of ideas or arguments clear to the reader.

Along with the smooth flow of sentences, a paragraph’s coherence may also be related to its length. If you have written a very long paragraph, one that fills a double-spaced typed page, for example, you should check it carefully to see if it should start a new paragraph where the original paragraph wanders from its controlling idea. On the other hand, if a paragraph is very short (only one or two sentences, perhaps), you may need to develop its controlling idea more thoroughly, or combine it with another paragraph.

A number of other techniques that you can use to establish coherence in paragraphs are described below.

Repeat key words or phrases. Particularly in paragraphs in which you define or identify an important idea or theory, be consistent in how you refer to it. This consistency and repetition will bind the paragraph together and help your reader understand your definition or description.

Create parallel structures. Parallel structures are created by constructing two or more phrases or sentences that have the same grammatical structure and use the same parts of speech. By creating parallel structures you make your sentences clearer and easier to read. In addition, repeating a pattern in a series of consecutive sentences helps your reader see the connections between ideas. In the paragraph above about scientists and the sense of sight, several sentences in the body of the paragraph have been constructed in a parallel way. The parallel structures (which have been emphasized ) help the reader see that the paragraph is organized as a set of examples of a general statement.

Be consistent in point of view, verb tense, and number. Consistency in point of view, verb tense, and number is a subtle but important aspect of coherence. If you shift from the more personal "you" to the impersonal “one,” from past to present tense, or from “a man” to “they,” for example, you make your paragraph less coherent. Such inconsistencies can also confuse your reader and make your argument more difficult to follow.

Use transition words or phrases between sentences and between paragraphs. Transitional expressions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand. The following paragraph shows how carefully chosen transitions (CAPITALIZED) lead the reader smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of the paragraph.

I don’t wish to deny that the flattened, minuscule head of the large-bodied "stegosaurus" houses little brain from our subjective, top-heavy perspective, BUT I do wish to assert that we should not expect more of the beast. FIRST OF ALL, large animals have relatively smaller brains than related, small animals. The correlation of brain size with body size among kindred animals (all reptiles, all mammals, FOR EXAMPLE) is remarkably regular. AS we move from small to large animals, from mice to elephants or small lizards to Komodo dragons, brain size increases, BUT not so fast as body size. IN OTHER WORDS, bodies grow faster than brains, AND large animals have low ratios of brain weight to body weight. IN FACT, brains grow only about two-thirds as fast as bodies. SINCE we have no reason to believe that large animals are consistently stupider than their smaller relatives, we must conclude that large animals require relatively less brain to do as well as smaller animals. IF we do not recognize this relationship, we are likely to underestimate the mental power of very large animals, dinosaurs in particular. Stephen Jay Gould, “Were Dinosaurs Dumb?”


(modified from Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference )

Produced by Writing Tutorial Services, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

Writing Tutorial Services social media channels

Essay Writing Guide

What Is A Topic Sentence

Last updated on: Jun 13, 2023

What is a Topic Sentence - An Easy Guide with Writing Steps & Examples

By: Nova A.

11 min read

Reviewed By: Melisa C.

Published on: Mar 12, 2019

What is a Topic Sentence

A topic sentence is the opening sentence at the beginning of each paragraph. These sentences tell the readers about the main idea that will be discussed in that paragraph. 

It is most important part of a body paragraph, and knowing how to write a good topic sentence is essential for writing an essay . However, writing an effective topic sentence could be tough. 

If you find it difficult to write clear and engaging topic sentences, you are not alone. But don’t worry! 

This blog will help you understand topic sentences better with examples. Also, you’ll get step-by-step guide and tips for writing more effective topic sentences. 

So let’s dive in!

What is a Topic Sentence

On this Page

What is a Topic Sentence in a Paragraph?

A topic sentence is the opening sentence of the body paragraphs of your essay. It introduces the main idea of that paragraph.

So what is the purpose of a topic sentence? 

It serves as a guidepost, indicating the main purpose and point of the paragraph. Essentially, it is a concise and direct statement that captures the essence of what you want to convey.

A topic sentence is defined by the following characteristics:

  • It is the first sentence of a paragraph
  • It indicates the main idea of the paragraph
  • Acts as a signpost and transition sentence, ensuring clarity and cohesiveness of an essay.

Why are Topic Sentences Important? 

Topic sentences are an essential component of body paragraphs , especially in academic writing which is more formal. Here’s why good these sentences are necessary for an essay:

  • They help maintain the organization and coherence of the essay. 

Topic sentences act as a roadmap for your essay, providing a clear path for your readers to follow. They establish the main ideas or arguments of each paragraph, allowing your essay to flow logically and coherently. 

By presenting a central focus in each paragraph, they help you maintain a strong sense of organization. Also, they prevent your essay from becoming a jumbled collection of random thoughts.

  • They enhance clarity and readability.

Well-crafted topic sentences promote clarity and conciseness in your writing by summarizing the main idea in a concise manner.

Moreover, they serve as signposts that signal the beginning of a particular discussion. This creates a smooth reading experience and reduces the chances of confusion.

  • They help the reader skim through the essay.

These sentences provide readers with a preview of what each paragraph will discuss. This helps them grasp the main point before delving into the rest of the paragraph.

They also enable the readers to quickly grasp the content of a paragraph. This makes it easier for them to skim through the main ideas of the essay without reading it word-by-word.

Topic Sentence vs Thesis Statement: Main Differences

Topic sentences are similar to thesis statements as they fulfill a similar purpose: they show the reader what the paragraph or essay is about. 

However, a thesis statement is written at the end of the essay introduction, and it presents the main idea of the entire paper or essay. Whereas, a topic sentence presents the main idea of a specific paragraph, and is the first sentence of that paragraph.

Here are the major differences between topic sentences and thesis statements:

Difference between a Topic Sentence and a Thesis Statement

How to Write a Topic Sentence? Here are 4 Simple Steps 

If you think about it, writing such a sentence seems like a simple task. All you have to do is write one line about the idea you’ll discuss, and you’re done. 

Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. You need to follow some conditions to write good opening lines for your body paragraphs. 

Here are the steps to write engaging topic sentences:

1. Develop your Thesis Statement 

Writing a specific and self-defining thesis statement is the first step in writing an essay. A thesis statement is necessary as it lays out the main points or structure of your entire essay. 

Having a thesis statement helps you figure out what your body paragraphs will be about. This, in turn, helps you identify each paragraphs controlling idea and craft a topic sentence.

2. Identify the Controlling Ideas of Your Body Paragraphs

Once you have a thesis statement for your essay, identify the main idea or central theme of the paragraphs.

Ask yourself, "What is the key point I want to convey in this paragraph?" This will serve as the focus and topic of your paragraph. Moreover, identifying your main points will also help you make an essay outline.

Here’s an example of how you can identify the main ideas of your body paragraphs:

3. Write your Topic Sentence

Now that you know the main idea of each paragraph, you should attempt to write your topic sentences. It is not necessary that you get the sentences right the first time. Try different variations and see which of the sentences explains the paragraph idea in a better way. 

Ensure that your topic sentence relates directly to your thesis statement or the main argument of your essay. The topic sentence should support and reinforce the overall message you want to convey in your writing.

The example below shows topic sentences based on the main ideas identified in step 2:

4. Revise and Make your Topic Sentences Better

A strong topic sentence should be clear, concise, and directly related to your thesis statement. They should also be logically connected to the previous paragraph. It is important that you revise, make them better, and rewrite the sentences as you progress with the paper. 

Make sure that they reflect the main theme of the paragraph and are according to the paragraph’s content. Use appropriate transition words for essays when transitioning from one paragraph to another.

Read on to learn about different types of topic sentences. They will help you to write, rewrite, and revise your opening sentences in the best ways.

What are the Different Types of Topic Sentences?

Here are some common types of topic sentences you can incorporate in your essay.


  • Statement of Fact or Information

This type of topic sentence presents a straightforward statement of fact or information that sets the stage for the paragraph. It provides essential background knowledge or introduces a key concept. 

  • Hook or Shocker  

This kind of sentence presents a shocking statement of fact about the paragraph’s key idea. This type of topic sentence aims to grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read more. 

  • Illustration or Example

An illustration or example topic sentence provides a specific instance or anecdote to support the main idea of the paragraph. It helps to clarify and reinforce your argument by providing concrete evidence or a real-life scenario. 

  • Question or Thought-Provoking Statement  

A topic sentence in the form of a question or thought-provoking statement engages readers by encouraging them to seek an answer. It stimulates curiosity and anticipation for what follows in the paragraph. 

You can also watch this video that explains topic sentences in a simple way: 

Topic Sentence Examples

‘What is a topic sentence example?’

Check out some helpful and effective topic sentence examples to help you get started.

  • Professional baking is a lot more than mixing some flour, eggs, and sugar into a bowl and putting it into the oven; it requires precision, attention to detail, and dedication to the craft.
  • Writing is a thorough and time-consuming process, but with some dedicated practice, you can become a better writer.
  • Learning a foreign language opens doors to several new opportunities that are not only available when a person is familiar with his mother tongue. 
  • Home remodeling is an exciting project, but without proper designer skills and taste, it could turn into a disaster.
  • Several human activities are the main reasons behind global environmental pollution, and excess usage of plastic is one such cause.

Helpful Tips for Writing Better Topic Sentences 

You’ve read some great examples, but how can you write similarly effective topic sentences yourself? Here are some amazing tips to help you out.

  • Be Clear and Concise: Focus on expressing the main idea of the paragraph in a concise and direct manner. Avoid unnecessary details or convoluted language that may confuse your readers.
  • Consider the Paragraph's Focus: Avoid including multiple ideas or concepts within a single topic sentence. Instead, focus on one central point for each paragraph.
  • Vary Your Sentence Structure: To maintain reader interest and engagement, vary the structure of your topic sentences. Experiment with different types, such as simple sentences, rhetorical questions, or even shocking facts.
  • Use Strong and Descriptive Language: Choose powerful and descriptive words that accurately capture the essence of your main idea. Avoid vague or generic language that lacks impact. Instead, opt for words that evoke emotions or create vivid imagery.
  • Seek Feedback: Consider sharing your writing with others and seeking feedback on your paragraphs. Ask for input on clarity, coherence, transitions, and overall effectiveness.

A great topic sentence directs the reader about the main content of the paragraph. It is brief and engages the reader. 

Remember, mastering the art of writing effective topic sentences takes practice and refinement. As you develop your writing skills, focus on crafting clear and engaging topic sentences that align with your thesis statement.

However, we understand that writing essays can still be challenging, especially when faced with tight deadlines or complex assignments.

That's where 5staressays.com comes in! 

If you’re short on time or lack good writing skills, you can team up with a professional essay writer. Our ‘ write my essay ’ service works with professional and subject-expert writers that help you write engaging and A-worthy essays. 

So contact us and get quality papers at the most pocket-friendly rates!

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the topic sentence located in your essay.

Topic sentences come at the beginning of body paragraphs. They are the first sentence of a paragraph and introduces the main idea of that paragraph. 

Can a topic sentence be a question?

Yes, a topic sentence could be a question. You can use a rhetorical question or an interrogative sentence to engage your reader and encourage them to read on.

How long is a topic sentence?

It depends on the depth of the idea. Usually, it is just one sentence, but in some cases, it could be composed of two sentences. However, the first few lines of the paragraph should be able to present its main idea effectively.

Nova A.

Law, Marketing

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

Was This Blog Helpful?

Keep reading.

  • How to Write an Essay - A Complete Guide with Examples

What is a Topic Sentence

  • The Art of Effective Writing: Thesis Statements Examples and Tips

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Writing a 500 Word Essay - Easy Guide

What is a Topic Sentence

  • A Complete Essay Outline - Guidelines and Format

What is a Topic Sentence

  • 220 Best Transition Words for Essays

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Essay Format: Detailed Writing Tips & Examples

What is a Topic Sentence

  • How to Write a Conclusion - Examples & Tips

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Essay Topics: 100+ Best Essay Topics for your Guidance

What is a Topic Sentence

  • How to Title an Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide for Effective Titles

What is a Topic Sentence

  • How to Write a Perfect 1000 Word Essay

What is a Topic Sentence

  • How To Make An Essay Longer - Easy Guide For Beginners

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Learn How to Start an Essay Effectively with Easy Guidelines

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Types of Sentences With Examples

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Hook Examples: How to Start Your Essay Effectively

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Essay Writing Tips - Essential Do’s and Don’ts to Craft Better Essays

What is a Topic Sentence

  • How To Write A Thesis Statement - A Step by Step Guide

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Art Topics - 200+ Brilliant Ideas to Begin With

What is a Topic Sentence

  • Writing Conventions and Tips for College Students

What is a Topic Sentence

People Also Read

  • autobiography writing
  • how to write a hypothesis
  • press release example
  • essay writing tips
  • scholarship essay writing

Burdened With Assignments?

Bottom Slider


  • Homework Services: Essay Topics Generator

© 2024 - All rights reserved

Facebook Social Icon

  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Education and Communications
  • English Grammar

How to Write a Good Topic Sentence

Last Updated: May 10, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,249,899 times.

Perfecting the skill of writing topic sentences is essential to successful writing. A topic sentence usually comes at the beginning of a paragraph and lets your reader know what to expect from each paragraph. Think of it as the preview for a movie or a headline in a newspaper, highlighting the “main point” that’s to come in that paragraph. [1] X Research source Make sure your topic sentences are up to par, and the rest of your writing will feel like a breeze.

Writing a Successful Topic Sentence

Step 1 State your main idea clearly.

  • Keep in mind that this is not an invitation to simply announce your topic. “Today I’m going to discuss the benefits of gardening” is not an effective topic sentence. You should be able to make your intentions clear without stating them explicitly.
  • The topic sentence in this example states a clear direction (“health benefits of gardening”) that you can then elaborate on in your paragraph.

Step 2 Balance the topic sentence between specifics and general ideas.

  • Don’t write too vague or general an idea or you will never be able to discuss it in a single paragraph. This is too general: “The United States suffered a lot during the Civil War.”
  • Don’t write too narrow of a statement. There’s nothing much to talk about then, because it’s probably a fact. This is too narrow: “Christmas trees are either cedars or firs."
  • Instead, aim for a good balance: “Sherman’s destruction in the South during the Civil War also caused incredible suffering.” This is big enough to relate to the broader idea of an essay, but not so narrow that there’s nothing left to discuss.

Step 3 Hook your reader.

  • Describe a character. This can be a physical or emotional description.
  • Use dialogue. If there is a relevant conversation that will attract your reader’s attention, consider using part of it to start your paragraph.
  • Portray an emotion. Use the opening sentence to portray an emotion to your reader.
  • Use detail. While you don’t want to write a run on sentence by creating too much detail, it’s a good idea to create interest using sensory language in your topic sentence.
  • Avoid rhetorical questions. While you want your reader to formulate questions in his or her mind, you do not want to formulate the questions yourself.

Step 4 Keep it short and sweet.

  • Avoid presenting only facts in your topic sentence. While facts may be interesting, they do not introduce the reader to your paragraph nor do they draw the reader in. If you wish to include a fact, also include your own input. For example, instead of writing “All dogs need food,” try “All dogs need regular care, including healthy food, and children are the best ones to do it.” Alternatively, save your facts to use as evidence in the body of your paragraph.

Step 6 Use the topic sentence as a transition.

  • Using transitional elements, such as “In addition” or “In contrast,” is a good way to show the relationship between your ideas.
  • For example: “Although gardening has many health benefits, people still need to exercise caution when outside.” This topic sentence establishes a connection to the main idea of the previous paragraph (“health benefits of gardening”) and points to the direction of the new paragraph (“things to be cautious of”).

Planning Your Topic Sentences

Step 1  Write an...

  • You don’t have to write a formal outline using Roman numerals and the like. Even a loose, idea-based outline can help you know what you want to discuss.

Step 2 Understand the connection...

  • A topic sentence, unlike a thesis statement, doesn’t have to present an argument. It can present a “preview” of what the paragraph will argue or discuss.

Step 3 Look at some examples.

  • For example, a topic sentence could look like this: “In addition, increasing funding for public roads in Jackson County will improve local residents’ quality of life.” The rest of the sentences in this paragraph would relate to the main idea of public roads and how they will help benefit local residents.
  • This is not as successful a topic sentence: “Increased funding for public roads in Jackson County has decreased traffic by 20%.” While this is probably an interesting fact for your argument, it’s too narrow for a topic sentence. The topic sentence has to direct the whole paragraph.

Avoiding Common Problems

Step 1 Avoid introducing yourself.

  • Unless it is an opinion piece, avoid using ‘I’ in your topic sentences.

Step 2 Make sure your wording is clear.

  • Rather than stating something like “In the story, Amelia did many good things such as help out her friends, talk to her parents, and support her team at school” say something like “As a result of the many activities Amelia participated in, she was recognized for her positive influence on the community.”

Step 4 Avoid starting with a quote.

Sample Topic Sentences

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Avoid using words like you or we because it implies you know the reader, which you don’t. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • In formal writing, avoid contractions such as “don’t,” “can’t,” and “isn’t.” Also avoid other common contractions like “would’ve” and “could’ve” which are commonly used. Instead type them out to look like “do not,” “can not”, “is not”, “would have”, and “could have.” Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Type out all numbers under a ten. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

what is an topic sentence in an essay

You Might Also Like

Improve Your Writing Skills

  • ↑ http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/planning-and-organizing/topic-sentences
  • ↑ https://wts.indiana.edu/writing-guides/paragraphs-and-topic-sentences.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/paragraphs_and_paragraphing/index.html
  • ↑ https://stlcc.edu/student-support/academic-success-and-tutoring/writing-center/writing-resources/topic-sentence-paragraph.aspx
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/paragraphs/topicsentences
  • ↑ https://www.rit.edu/ntid/sea/processes/paragraph/process/sentence
  • ↑ https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/writingprocess/outlining
  • ↑ https://www.touro.edu/departments/writing-center/tutorials/topic-sentence/
  • ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/2/57/
  • ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/paragraphs/

About This Article

Megan Morgan, PhD

If you’re trying to write a good topic sentence, start by clearly stating your main idea, which should include the topic and the position you’re taking on it. Aim to write a sentence that’s broad enough for discussion but narrow enough to be covered in a single paragraph. If you can, start with a hook, like a detail, character, or emotion that would draw in your readers. For more advice from our reviewer on writing a good topic sentence, like how to make it effective while keeping it short and sweet, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Besamim Shemesh

Besamim Shemesh

Apr 27, 2020

Did this article help you?

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Feb 28, 2017

Richard Lefevre

Richard Lefevre

May 1, 2017

Halie Burke

Halie Burke

Apr 19, 2017

Anne Korzyniowski

Anne Korzyniowski

Oct 5, 2017

Do I Have a Dirty Mind Quiz

Featured Articles

Talk to a Shy Girl

Trending Articles

What Does “If They Wanted to, They Would” Mean and Is It True?

Watch Articles

Clean Silver Jewelry with Vinegar

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Get all the best how-tos!

Sign up for wikiHow's weekly email newsletter

How To Write An Essay

Topic Sentence

Barbara P

Learn How to Write a Topic Sentence that Stands Out

Published on: Jan 13, 2021

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

topic sentence

People also read

How To Write An Essay - "The Secret To Craft an A+ Essay"

Learn How to Title an Essay Like a Professional Writer

How to Write an Essay Outline Like a Pro

Essay Format - An Easy Guide & Examples

What is a Thesis Statement, and How is it Written? - Know Here

Arguable and Strong Thesis Statement Examples for Your Essay

200+ Creative Hook Examples: Ready, Set, Hook

A Guide to Writing a 1000 Word Essay for School or College

All You Need to Know About a 500-word Essay

Different Types of Essay: Definition With Best Examples

Writing an Essay Introduction - Step by Step Guide

Transition Words for Essays - An Ultimate List

Jumpstart Your Writing with These Proven Strategies on How to Start an Essay

A Guide to Crafting an Impactful Conclusion for Your Essay

Amazing Essay Topics & Ideas for Your Next Project (2024)

Explore the Different Types of Sentences with Examples

Share this article

As a student, you have probably heard the term "topic sentence" thrown around a lot in your English or writing classes. But do you really understand what it means and how important it is for effective writing?

Well, many students struggle with crafting strong topic sentences that effectively convey their ideas. They may find themselves unsure of how to make their topic sentence stand out in a sea of other ideas.

In this blog, we will explore the art of writing a great topic sentence, with examples and tips to help you enhance your skills. By the end of this blog, you will have a better understanding of how to craft a topic sentence that will make your writing clear, concise, and engaging.

So let’s get started!

On This Page On This Page -->

What is a Topic Sentence?

A topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph in an essay that introduces the main idea or topic of that paragraph. It serves as a roadmap for the reader, letting them know what to expect in the upcoming paragraph. 

Purpose of Topic Sentence

The purpose of a topic sentence is to clearly and concisely convey the main point of the paragraph to the reader. 

It helps to guide the reader through the essay, making it easier for them to follow the overall argument or narrative.

Features of a Good Topic Sentence

A good topic sentence has a few key features. Let’s take a look: 

  • Expresses the main idea of the paragraph or essay clearly and concisely.
  • Is specific and focused , avoiding vague or overly general statements.
  • Introduces the main point and is typically located at the beginning of the paragraph or essay.
  • Presents a claim or position that is arguable or debatable, which the rest of the paragraph or essay will support.
  • Can be a complete sentence or a concise phrase that effectively conveys the main idea.
  • Is relevant to the thesis statement and overall topic of the essay.
  • Engages the reader by creating interest and highlighting the significance of the topic.
  • Is well-written and avoids grammar and spelling errors.
  • Provides a roadmap for the rest of the paragraph or essay by indicating what will be covered.
  • Encourages coherence and unity in the writing by linking the paragraph or essay to the broader topic.

Order Essay

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

Types of Topic Sentences

There are several different types of topic sentences that can be used in writing to introduce the reader through a paragraph or essay.

Simple Statement Topic Sentence This is the most common type of topic sentence, which straightforwardly states the main point or idea of the paragraph or essay.

Example: The rise of social media has revolutionized the way people communicate with each other.

Complex Topic Sentence This type of topic sentence is more nuanced and may require some explanation or elaboration to fully understand.

Example: While the rise of social media has had many positive effects on communication, it has also led to concerns about privacy and online harassment.

Pivot Topic Sentence A pivot topic sentence begins by connecting the current paragraph or idea to the previous one, before pivoting to introduce a new point or idea.

Example: Building on the idea of social media's impact on communication, it is important to consider how it has also affected business and marketing strategies.

Question Topic Sentence A question topic sentence poses a question that the rest of the paragraph or essay will answer or explore.

Example: How has social media changed the way businesses interact with customers and advertise their products?

Command Topic Sentence This type of topic sentence gives a directive or instruction, often used in persuasive or argumentative essays.

Example: Support local businesses by shopping at independently owned stores instead of large chains.

How to Write a Topic Sentence?

Here are a few instructions to help you write a good topic sentence. 

Step#1 Clearly State The Main Idea

A topic sentence is the first paragraph of the paragraph. It must clearly explain the particular subject that would be discussed in the paragraph. This should be stated in very clear language so that the reader can easily understand the idea. 

Also, it should include a bit of your personal opinion and also the main idea. 

Step#2 Hook Your Reader

Grab your reader's attention with an intriguing topic sentence. It would excite and make the reader curious about the content and convince them to read the particular part. 

Look out for some amazing hook examples and see what fits your essay type. 

Use a meaningful and relevant question or a fact as a topic sentence of the paragraph. Make sure that you have identified your audience and are developing everything accordingly. 

Step#3 Keep It Short and Precise

The paragraph topic sentence must be expressive enough that a reader understands your point of view effortlessly. This is only possible if you keep everything to the point, short, and meaningful. 

Choose the words in such a way that they help you express your idea in an ideal way. Avoid using complex sentences and use independent clauses.  

A topic sentence acts as a link between a paragraph and the main thesis statement. It should be specific and connected to the overall essay. Keeping it short and precise helps maintain the paragraph's flow and its relevance to the rest of the writing.

Step#4 Give A Reasonable Opinion

The body paragraph explains a topic sentence. This is why it is important that you should write this sentence in such a way that it can be explained in the paragraph.  If you are mentioning a fact in the topic statement, make sure that you have authentic evidence to support it. 

While the topic sentence is an integral part of the paragraph, it should stand out and possess a distinctiveness that sets it apart from the other sentences. This can be achieved by employing transition words and establishing connections between sentences.

Step#5 Use The Topic Sentence As A Transition

The topic sentences that serve as transition sentences can be considered a guide for the readers. This way, they can help the reader to move through the essay in a flow. 

Write this sentence in such a way that it creates a gateway between the previous paragraph and the rest of the essay. Moreover, it will also help keep the essay organized, and the reader understands the point of a paragraph.

Step#6 Look For Some Good Examples

Examples can help you learn a thing in a better way. If you are new to writing topic sentences, it can help to look at some examples. Find some great examples of topic sentences relevant to your essay topic.

Difference Between Topic Sentence and Thesis Sentence

Here's a table outlining the differences between a topic sentence and a thesis statement:

Good Topic Sentence Examples

Here are ten examples of good topic sentences:

  •  "Despite the advancements in technology, traditional forms of communication are still essential in today's society."
  • "The theme of power is prevalent throughout Shakespeare's play, Macbeth."
  • "In recent years, there has been a growing concern over the impact of climate change on our planet."
  • "The legalization of marijuana has been a topic of debate for many years." "Education is the key to success in life."
  • "The rise of social media has greatly impacted the way we communicate with one another."
  • "The effects of childhood trauma can have a lasting impact on mental health."
  • "The concept of justice is explored in depth in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird."
  • "Eating a balanced diet is crucial for maintaining good health."
  • "The Industrial Revolution had a profound effect on the world as we know it today."

The Bottom Line!

An opening sentence is crucial to grab your reader's attention and set the tone for your piece of writing. The topic sentence introduces the controlling idea and acts as an important sentence in the essay outline. 

Effective topic sentences are necessary for a well-structured and organized essay. It's an integral part of the writing process that should not be overlooked. 

Make sure to spend time crafting a compelling topic sentence that clearly conveys your main point and guides your readers throughout your essay. You can even take ideas from an AI essay generator to get started.

However, if you find yourself struggling to write a good opening sentence, don't worry! CollegeEssay.org is here to help you with all your writing needs. We have the best online essay writing service providing top-quality essays that are sure to impress your professors.

So, why wait? Contact our essay writing service now and take the first step toward academic success!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is a topic sentence.

A topic sentence can be multiple sentences long. The first sets the context for your ideas, while the second provides more depth on what you are saying beyond just stating it outright.

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!

Get Help

Keep reading

topic sentence

Legal & Policies

  • Privacy Policy
  • Cookies Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Refunds & Cancellations
  • Our Writers
  • Success Stories
  • Our Guarantees
  • Affiliate Program
  • Referral Program
  • AI Essay Writer

Disclaimer: All client orders are completed by our team of highly qualified human writers. The essays and papers provided by us are not to be used for submission but rather as learning models only.

what is an topic sentence in an essay

Topic Sentences

Characteristics of a strong topic sentence.

decorative image

The topic sentence functions two ways: it clearly refers to and supports the essay’s thesis, and it indicates what will follow in the rest of the paragraph. As the unifying sentence for the paragraph, it is the most general sentence, whereas all supporting sentences provide different types of more specific information, such as facts, details, or examples. An effective topic sentence has the following characteristics:

  • A topic sentence has a topic and an angle, extracted from the thesis sentence.

Thesis : Although working for the national parks service may be considered by some to be a “summer job,” careers with the national parks offer mobility within the profession, support for continued learning, and satisfaction in knowing that you are contributing to the preservation and health of the country’s resources.

Weak example #1 : National Parks in the U.S. were created in 1916 under President Woodrow Wilson and currently offer hundreds of summer job opportunities per year.

Explanation : This sentence sticks with the topic, national parks, but does not offer an angle extracted from the ideas in the thesis. An essay should not have topic sentences and units of support that are not planned for in the thesis.

Stronger example : Workers with the national parks are encouraged and, in many cases, required to maintain current knowledge within their fields, which is offered through on-the-job training, attendance at seminars, and tuition assistance for appropriate college courses.

Explanation : Choose any part of the angle in the thesis to create a topic sentence with its own topic and angle.

Weak example #2 : National Parks work has provided me with many benefits.

Explanation : Although the thesis itself deals with benefits, a topic sentence derived from that thesis needs to more carefully extract a specific portion of that that thesis and make a point about that specific portion.

  • A topic sentence provides an accurate indication of what will follow in the rest of the paragraph.

Weak example : First, we need a better way to educate students.

Explanation : The claim is vague because it does not provide enough information about what will follow, and it is too broad to be covered effectively in one paragraph or short unit of support.

Stronger example : Creating a national set of standards for math and English education will improve student learning in many states.

Explanation : The sentence replaces the vague phrase “a better way” and leads readers to expect supporting facts and examples as to why standardizing education in these subjects might improve student learning in many states.

  • A good topic sentence is the most general sentence in the paragraph and thus does not include supporting details.

Weak example : Salaries should be capped in baseball for many reasons, most importantly so we don’t allow the same team to win year after year.

Explanation : This topic sentence includes a supporting detail that should be included later in the paragraph to back up the main point.

Stronger example : Introducing a salary cap would improve the game of baseball for many reasons.

Explanation : This topic sentence omits the additional supporting detail so that it can be expanded upon later in the paragraph, yet the sentence still makes a claim about salary caps – improvement of the game.

  • A good topic sentence is clear and easy to follow.

Weak example : In general, writing an essay, thesis, or other academic or nonacademic document is considerably easier and of much higher quality if you first construct an outline, of which there are many different types.

Explanation : The confusing sentence structure and unnecessary vocabulary bury the main idea, making it difficult for the reader to follow the topic sentence.

Stronger example : Most forms of writing can be improved by first creating an outline.

Explanation : This topic sentence cuts out unnecessary verbiage and simplifies the previous statement, making it easier for the reader to follow. The writer can include examples of what kinds of writing can benefit from outlining in the supporting sentences.

  • Characteristics of a Strong Topic Sentence. Revision and adaptation of pages 29-30, Creating Focused Paragraphs with Topic Sentences, at https://oer.galileo.usg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=english-textbooks. Authored by : Susan Oaks. Provided by : Empire State College, SUNY OER Services. Project : College Writing. License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • Creating Focused Paragraphs with Topic Sentences. Authored by : Kathryn Crowther, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, Kirk Swenson. Provided by : GALILEO Open Learning Materials, University System of Georgia. Located at : https://oer.galileo.usg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1007&context=english-textbooks . Project : Successful College Composition. License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
  • image of traffic sign with arrow and word success. Authored by : geralt. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : https://pixabay.com/en/success-road-sign-traffic-sign-479568/ . License : CC0: No Rights Reserved
  • Our Writers
  • How to Order
  • Assignment Writing Service
  • Report Writing Service
  • Buy Coursework
  • Dissertation Writing Service
  • Research Paper Writing Service
  • All Essay Services
  • Buy Research Paper
  • Buy Term Paper
  • Buy Dissertation
  • Buy Case study
  • Buy Presentation
  • Buy Personal statement

User Icon

Essay Writing Guide

What Is A Topic Sentence

Nova A.

How to Write a Topic Sentence: Purpose, Tips & Examples

topic sentence

People also read

An Easy Guide to Writing an Essay

Learn How to Write An Essay in Simple Steps

A Complete 500 Word Essay Writing Guide

A Catalog of 500+ Essay Topics for Students

Explore Different Types of Essays, their Purpose, and Sub-types

Essay Format: A Basic Guide With Examples

Learn How to Create a Perfect Essay Outline

How to Start an Essay- A Step-by-Step Guide

A Complete Essay Introduction Writing Guide With Examples

Learn How to Write an Essay Hook, With Examples

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Powerful Thesis Statement

20+ Thesis Statement Examples for Different Types of Essays?

Learn How to Write a Conclusion in Simple Steps

Transition Words For Essays - The Ultimate List

4 Types of Sentences - Definition & Examples

Writing Conventions - Definition, Tips & Examples

Essay Writing Problems - 5 Most Paralyzing Problems

How to Make an Essay Longer: 14 Easy Ways

How to Title an Essay - A Detailed Guide

1000 Word Essay - A Simple Guide With Examples

Do your essays and papers lack clarity and cohesion? Are your readers often left wondering what point you're trying to make?

You're not alone!

Many writers struggle with this issue, and it often stems from the absence of a strong foundation in their essay writing : the topic sentence.

In this ultimate guide, we will define what a topic sentence is, provide you with clear examples, and offer valuable tips to help you write effective topic sentences.

Let’s get started.

Arrow Down

  • 1. What is a Topic Sentence In An Essay? 
  • 2. Elements of a Good Topic Sentence
  • 3. How to Write a Topic Sentence - 5 Simple Steps
  • 4. Common Pitfalls in Crafting Topic Sentences

What is a Topic Sentence In An Essay? 

In an essay, a topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph, and it gives us a sneak peek into what the paragraph will talk about. 

It's like a signpost that helps the reader know what's coming up next.

Each topic sentence in a paragraph must have a topic and a controlling idea to show where the information is heading. 

What is the Purpose of a Topic Sentence?

The purpose of a topic sentence is to make your writing clear and organized. Think of it like this: if you're telling a story, you wouldn't jump from one topic to another without letting your friends know, right? That would be confusing!

Similarly, in writing, a topic sentence helps your reader know what to expect in each paragraph. It's like a mini-map for your essay. 

When you read the topic sentence, you instantly get a sense of what the paragraph will discuss.

Here's why topic sentences are important:

  • Guides the Reader : It helps the reader understand what each paragraph is about. It's like a helpful signpost along the reading journey.
  • Keep Your Writing Organized: Just like you wouldn't mix up ingredients when cooking, a topic sentence keeps your ideas in order. It makes sure each paragraph has a clear focus.
  • Connects Your Ideas : Topic sentences connect one paragraph to the next. They create a smooth flow in your essay, like linking train cars together.
  • Helps You Stay on Track : As a writer, a topic sentence helps you stay on topic. It reminds you of what you wanted to say in that paragraph.

Order Essay

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That's our Job!

Where Is The Topic Sentence Placed?

The placement of a topic sentence in a paragraph is crucial for conveying the main idea and guiding the reader's understanding. 

Typically, the topic sentence is positioned at the beginning of a paragraph. This serves as a clear and concise statement that introduces the central theme or point that the rest of the paragraph will discuss and support. 

Elements of a Good Topic Sentence

A good topic sentence possesses several key elements that distinguish it as an effective component of your writing:

  • Clarity : It should be clear and straightforward, leaving no room for ambiguity or confusion about the paragraph's main point.
  • Specificity : A strong topic sentence is precise and specific, focusing on a single aspect of the broader topic to maintain a clear direction.
  • Relevance : It must be directly related to the thesis statement or overall purpose of your writing, ensuring that it contributes to the central argument.
  • Conciseness : It should be concise and to the point, avoiding unnecessary wordiness and getting straight to the heart of the matter.
  • Connection : A good topic sentence should establish a clear link to the previous paragraph or the essay's overarching theme, creating a seamless flow of ideas.

Although most of the essay paragraphs must have a topic sentence. But there are some cases when there is no need to add it at all. For example, you can omit if the paragraph continues to develop a story or idea that you introduced in the previous paragraph. 

Tough Essay Due? Hire Tough Writers!

How to Write a Topic Sentence - 5 Simple Steps

Writing an effective topic sentence is a skill that can significantly improve your writing. Follow these five precise steps to craft a compelling topic sentence:

Identify the Main Idea

Be specific and concise, connect to the thesis, check for unity, engage the reader.

Let's break down each of the five steps for writing a topic sentence in more detail:

Before writing your topic sentence, take a moment to identify the main idea of the paragraph. What specific point of view or information in the paragraph do you want to convey?

This is the crux of your paragraph and should be crystal clear in your mind before you start writing.

Once you've identified the main idea, express it in a specific and concise manner. Avoid general statements that lack depth or detail.

Specificity adds clarity to your writing and helps readers understand precisely what you're discussing.

Your topic sentence should align with the thesis statement of your essay or the overall purpose of your document.

This connection ensures that every paragraph contributes directly to your central argument or message. It also keeps your writing coherent and focused.

Ensure that your topic sentence serves as the glue that holds the paragraph together. All the supporting sentences in the paragraph should relate to and reinforce the main idea presented in the topic sentence.

This unity creates a logical and cohesive flow within your writing.

Consider your topic sentence as the hook that captures the reader's attention. Craft it in a way that intrigues the reader and entices them to continue reading.

This engagement is crucial, as it sets the tone for the entire paragraph and encourages readers to invest their time in your content.

Topic Sentences Examples 

Here are five examples of topic sentences, along with their respective topics and controlling ideas:

  • Topic: Climate change
  • Controlling Idea: Growing threat to global ecosystems
  • Topic: Time management skills
  • Controlling Idea: academic success
  • Topic: Benefits of regular exercise
  • Controlling Idea: Extend beyond physical health
  • Topic: Artificial intelligence
  • Controlling Idea: reshaping the job market
  • Topic: Digital marketing strategies
  • Controlling Idea: Transforming business audience reach

Common Pitfalls in Crafting Topic Sentences

When writing a topic sentence, it's important to be aware of common pitfalls and things to avoid to ensure its effectiveness in your writing. 

Here are key things to steer clear of:

  • Vagueness and Ambiguity

Avoid using vague or ambiguous language in your topic sentence. A topic sentence should clearly convey the main idea of the paragraph without leaving readers guessing.

  • Overly Broad Statements

Steer clear of making sweeping, overly broad statements in your topic sentence. Keep it focused on a specific aspect of the topic to maintain clarity.

  • Lack of Connection

Ensure your topic sentence connects logically to the previous paragraph or the overall theme of your essay. Avoid abrupt transitions that disrupt the flow of your writing.

Avoid restating the thesis or repeating information from the essay introduction in your topic sentence. Instead, use it to introduce new ideas or aspects of your argument.

Topic sentences introducing complex sentences or information that may confuse readers. Keep it concise and straightforward. 

In conclusion, writing effective topic sentences is a skill that can significantly elevate your writing. 

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your topic sentences are clear, concise, and engaging.

Remember to identify the main idea, connect to your central argument, engage your readers from the very beginning. Avoid common pitfalls like vagueness, repetition, and lack of relevance, as discussed earlier.

Still struggling to write a topic sentence? Request " do my essay for me " and let our professionals handle the hard work. Whether it's a looming deadline or a complex topic, our essay writing service is here to deliver top-notch papers tailored to your needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between a topic sentence and a thesis statement.

FAQ Icon

A topic sentence is a sentence found at the beginning of a paragraph and introduces the main point of that specific paragraph.

A thesis statement, on the other hand, is usually found in the introductory paragraph of an essay and presents the overall argument or main idea of the entire document. It acts as a guidepost for the entire piece of writing, while topic sentences are specific to individual paragraphs within the document.

What are some good transition words for writing a topic sentence?

Some good topic sentence starters include:

  • Additionally
  • Furthermore
  • In contrast
  • On the other hand
  • Nevertheless
  • In conclusion

These words can help you introduce and connect ideas between paragraphs and provide a smooth transition into the main point of each paragraph.

AI Essay Bot

Write Essay Within 60 Seconds!

Nova A.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

Get Help

Paper Due? Why Suffer? That’s our Job!

Keep reading

essay writing guide

Anatomy of a Body Paragraph

TOPIC SENTENCE/ In his numerous writings, Marx critiques capitalism by identifying its flaws. ANALYSIS OF EVIDENCE/ By critiquing the political economy and capitalism, Marx implores his reader to think critically about their position in society and restores awareness in the proletariat class. EVIDENCE/ To Marx, capitalism is a system characterized by the “exploitation of the many by the few,” in which workers accept the exploitation of their labor and receive only harm of “alienation,” rather than true benefits ( MER 487). He writes that “labour produces for the rich wonderful things – but for the worker it produces privation. It produces palaces—but for the worker, hovels. It produces beauty—but for the worker, deformity” (MER 73). Marx argues capitalism is a system in which the laborer is repeatedly harmed and estranged from himself, his labor, and other people, while the owner of his labor – the capitalist – receives the benefits ( MER 74). And while industry progresses, the worker “sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class” ( MER 483).  ANALYSIS OF EVIDENCE/ But while Marx critiques the political economy, he does not explicitly say “capitalism is wrong.” Rather, his close examination of the system makes its flaws obvious. Only once the working class realizes the flaws of the system, Marx believes, will they - must they - rise up against their bourgeois masters and achieve the necessary and inevitable communist revolution.

Not every paragraph will be structured exactly like this one, of course. But as you draft your own paragraphs, look for all three of these elements: topic sentence, evidence, and analysis.

  • picture_as_pdf Anatomy Of a Body Paragraph

Watch CBS News

Trump's New York felony conviction can't keep him from becoming president

By Kathryn Watson

Updated on: May 31, 2024 / 11:55 AM EDT / CBS News

Former President Trump's New York felony conviction Thursday on 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a "hush money" payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels can't stop him from becoming president if the voters put him back in office, legal scholars seem to agree. 

The Constitution imposes very few prerequisites for the presidency — a candidate must be at least 35 years of age, a natural-born citizen and a U.S. resident for a minimum of 14 years. It says nothing about the impact of a felony conviction on a president's ability to serve. 

"The short answer is yes, that there's no constitutional bar," said Corey Brettschneider, a lawyer and professor of political science at Brown University and author of "The Presidents and the People." "The Constitution lays out some specific requirements of what's required … but there's nothing explicitly in the Constitution about being convicted of a crime as a disqualification." 

"There's a wide understanding that the qualifications listed in the Constitution are exclusive — that is, we can't add to those qualifications," said Derek Muller, an election law professor at the University of Notre Dame. He added, "Whether or not you've been convicted of a felony is immaterial for qualification purposes." 

Jessica Levinson, a constitutional law professor at Loyola University and a CBS News contributor, stated plainly: "The Constitution does not have any prohibition on serving as president if you're a convicted felon."

What about the 14th Amendment?

Some states have tried to disqualify Trump under the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol assault . 

Last December, the Colorado Supreme Court allowed Trump to be removed from the primary ballot over 14th Amendment concerns, due to his conduct surrounding Jan. 6. The amendment's insurrection clause, the court found, bars insurrectionists who have previously taken an oath to support the Constitution from holding public office. 

But the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the ruling in March, finding that Trump had to be restored to the ballot because only Congress can enforce the insurrection clause. The high court's ruling resolved challenges to Trump's eligibility for office pursued by voters in several other states. 

"Absent a [new] statute that lays out that disqualification, it isn't a bar,'" Brettschneider said. 

The Constitution gives Congress power to enact laws that would enforce the 3rd section of the 14th Amendment, Brettschneider explained. 

What if Trump is sentenced to prison? 

His sentence may not include prison time , but practically speaking, the implications of a sentence could be more complex if Trump becomes president. 

"You could be convicted of a felony and still not have jail time, right?" Muller said. "You could just have a fine; you could have probation."

But there's no law against running for president and winning an election while imprisoned — or from serving as president from prison. 

If he is sentenced to prison and wins the election, Trump's attorneys might argue that sitting presidents can't be imprisoned, just as Trump has argued that sitting presidents can't be indicted. 

"You could say there's something inherent in the office of president suggesting that states can't incarcerate people serving in federal office or holding those federal officers," Muller said. "There's a little bit of precedent on this. In some old cases that go back 200 years, there were some disputes about states trying to have cases involving federal officers to remove them from office, and the Supreme Court has been clear that states have no authority to do this."

What about the 25th Amendment?

The 25th Amendment could be a factor, both Muller and Levinson said. 

Section 3 of the 25th Amendment says that "whenever the vice president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the vice president shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as acting president."

It could be argued that a president who is behind bars is unable to carry out his office, Muller said. Whether a convicted president serving time from behind bars could have a Cabinet confirmed could largely depend on the outcome of Senate elections, said Brandon Johnson, assistant professor at the Nebraska College of Law, who wrote  an essay in the Harvard Law Review last year on the topic of a "convict in chief." And if Trump were able to confirm a Cabinet, those members would likely be loyal to him and unwilling to supplant him. 

The 25th Amendment also says "such other body as Congress may by law provide" could get the ball rolling to transmit presidential powers to the vice president, Johnson wrote. 

"The congressional route I think is pretty much going to be a nonstarter too, unless there's a significant change in the 2024 election, because Congress would have to agree to establish this body to begin with to review the president's fitness for office," Johnson told CBS News. 

Johnson argues that the most natural reading of the 25th Amendment would seem to require the vice president's cooperation. 

"But if the vice president's acquiescence is required, then the creation of a congressional body to declare the president unable to carry out their duties could face the same obstacles," Johnson wrote. 

And so far, congressional Republicans have remained  steadfast in their support for Trump following his conviction, with House Speaker Mike Johnson calling the trial "a purely political exercise, not a legal one," and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell writing that "these charges never should have been brought in the first place. I expect the conviction to be overturned on appeal."

Could Trump pardon himself from the New York conviction? 

Trump, should he become president, cannot pardon himself from the New York conviction because it's a state conviction, rather than a federal one. Presidents are only empowered to pardon federal crimes. 

Trump faces three more criminal cases — a state indictment in Georgia over alleged attempts to overturn the election; a federal indictment in Florida over his handling of classified documents; and a federal indictment in Washington, D.C., over alleged efforts to overturn the presidential election. 

–Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

  • Donald Trump

Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital, based in Washington, D.C.

More from CBS News

What's next after Trump's conviction? How he might appeal the verdict

Biden campaign warns: "Convicted felon or not," Trump could still be president

Trump lawyer eager to move forward with appeal of New York conviction

Bragg says "the jury has spoken" after Trump conviction

  • Share full article

what is an topic sentence in an essay

When Prison and Mental Illness Amount to a Death Sentence

The downward spiral of one inmate, Markus Johnson, shows the larger failures of the nation’s prisons to care for the mentally ill.

Supported by

By Glenn Thrush

Photographs by Carlos Javier Ortiz

Glenn Thrush spent more than a year reporting this article, interviewing close to 50 people and reviewing court-obtained body-camera footage and more than 1,500 pages of documents.

  • Published May 5, 2024 Updated May 7, 2024

Markus Johnson slumped naked against the wall of his cell, skin flecked with pepper spray, his face a mask of puzzlement, exhaustion and resignation. Four men in black tactical gear pinned him, his face to the concrete, to cuff his hands behind his back.

He did not resist. He couldn’t. He was so gravely dehydrated he would be dead by their next shift change.

Listen to this article with reporter commentary

“I didn’t do anything,” Mr. Johnson moaned as they pressed a shield between his shoulders.

It was 1:19 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2019, in the Danville Correctional Center, a medium-security prison a few hours south of Chicago. Mr. Johnson, 21 and serving a short sentence for gun possession, was in the throes of a mental collapse that had gone largely untreated, but hardly unwatched.

He had entered in good health, with hopes of using the time to gain work skills. But for the previous three weeks, Mr. Johnson, who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, had refused to eat or take his medication. Most dangerous of all, he had stealthily stopped drinking water, hastening the physical collapse that often accompanies full-scale mental crises.

Mr. Johnson’s horrific downward spiral, which has not been previously reported, represents the larger failures of the nation’s prisons to care for the mentally ill. Many seriously ill people receive no treatment . For those who do, the outcome is often determined by the vigilance and commitment of individual supervisors and frontline staff, which vary greatly from system to system, prison to prison, and even shift to shift.

The country’s jails and prisons have become its largest provider of inpatient mental health treatment, with 10 times as many seriously mentally ill people now held behind bars as in hospitals. Estimating the population of incarcerated people with major psychological problems is difficult, but the number is likely 200,000 to 300,000, experts say.

Many of these institutions remain ill-equipped to handle such a task, and the burden often falls on prison staff and health care personnel who struggle with the dual roles of jailer and caregiver in a high-stress, dangerous, often dehumanizing environment.

In 2021, Joshua McLemore , a 29-year-old with schizophrenia held for weeks in an isolation cell in Jackson County, Ind., died of organ failure resulting from a “refusal to eat or drink,” according to an autopsy. In April, New York City agreed to pay $28 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of Nicholas Feliciano, a young man with a history of mental illness who suffered severe brain damage after attempting to hang himself on Rikers Island — as correctional officers stood by.

Mr. Johnson’s mother has filed a wrongful-death suit against the state and Wexford Health Sources, a for-profit health care contractor in Illinois prisons. The New York Times reviewed more than 1,500 pages of reports, along with depositions taken from those involved. Together, they reveal a cascade of missteps, missed opportunities, potential breaches of protocol and, at times, lapses in common sense.

A woman wearing a jeans jacket sitting at a table showing photos of a young boy on her cellphone.

Prison officials and Wexford staff took few steps to intervene even after it became clear that Mr. Johnson, who had been hospitalized repeatedly for similar episodes and recovered, had refused to take medication. Most notably, they did not transfer him to a state prison facility that provides more intensive mental health treatment than is available at regular prisons, records show.

The quality of medical care was also questionable, said Mr. Johnson’s lawyers, Sarah Grady and Howard Kaplan, a married legal team in Chicago. Mr. Johnson lost 50 to 60 pounds during three weeks in solitary confinement, but officials did not initiate interventions like intravenous feedings or transfer him to a non-prison hospital.

And they did not take the most basic step — dialing 911 — until it was too late.

There have been many attempts to improve the quality of mental health treatment in jails and prisons by putting care on par with punishment — including a major effort in Chicago . But improvements have proved difficult to enact and harder to sustain, hampered by funding and staffing shortages.

Lawyers representing the state corrections department, Wexford and staff members who worked at Danville declined to comment on Mr. Johnson’s death, citing the unresolved litigation. In their interviews with state police investigators, and in depositions, employees defended their professionalism and adherence to procedure, while citing problems with high staff turnover, difficult work conditions, limited resources and shortcomings of co-workers.

But some expressed a sense of resignation about the fate of Mr. Johnson and others like him.

Prisoners have “much better chances in a hospital, but that’s not their situation,” said a senior member of Wexford’s health care team in a deposition.

“I didn’t put them in prison,” he added. “They are in there for a reason.”

Markus Mison Johnson was born on March 1, 1998, to a mother who believed she was not capable of caring for him.

Days after his birth, he was taken in by Lisa Barker Johnson, a foster mother in her 30s who lived in Zion, Ill., a working-class city halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Markus eventually became one of four children she adopted from different families.

The Johnson house is a lively split level, with nieces, nephews, grandchildren and neighbors’ children, family keepsakes, video screens and juice boxes. Ms. Johnson sits at its center on a kitchen chair, chin resting on her hand as children wander over to share their thoughts, or to tug on her T-shirt to ask her to be their bathroom buddy.

From the start, her bond with Markus was particularly powerful, in part because the two looked so much alike, with distinctive dimpled smiles. Many neighbors assumed he was her biological son. The middle name she chose for him was intended to convey that message.

“Mison is short for ‘my son,’” she said standing over his modest footstone grave last summer.

He was happy at home. School was different. His grades were good, but he was intensely shy and was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in elementary school.

That was around the time the bullying began. His sisters were fierce defenders, but they could only do so much. He did the best he could, developing a quick, taunting tongue.

These experiences filled him with a powerful yearning to fit in.

It was not to be.

When he was around 15, he called 911 in a panic, telling the dispatcher he saw two men standing near the small park next to his house threatening to abduct children playing there. The officers who responded found nothing out of the ordinary, and rang the Johnsons’ doorbell.

He later told his mother he had heard a voice telling him to “protect the kids.”

He was hospitalized for the first time at 16, and given medications that stabilized him for stretches of time. But the crises would strike every six months or so, often triggered by his decision to stop taking his medication.

His family became adept at reading signs he was “getting sick.” He would put on his tan Timberlands and a heavy winter coat, no matter the season, and perch on the edge of his bed as if bracing for battle. Sometimes, he would cook his own food, paranoid that someone might poison him.

He graduated six months early, on the dean’s list, but was rudderless, and hanging out with younger boys, often paying their way.

His mother pointed out the perils of buying friendship.

“I don’t care,” he said. “At least I’ll be popular for a minute.”

Zion’s inviting green grid of Bible-named streets belies the reality that it is a rough, unforgiving place to grow up. Family members say Markus wanted desperately to prove he was tough, and emulated his younger, reckless group of friends.

Like many of them, he obtained a pistol. He used it to hold up a convenience store clerk for $425 in January 2017, according to police records. He cut a plea deal for two years of probation, and never explained to his family what had made him do it.

But he kept getting into violent confrontations. In late July 2018, he was arrested in a neighbor’s garage with a handgun he later admitted was his. He was still on probation for the robbery, and his public defender negotiated a plea deal that would send him to state prison until January 2020.

An inpatient mental health system

Around 40 percent of the about 1.8 million people in local, state and federal jails and prison suffer from at least one mental illness, and many of these people have concurrent issues with substance abuse, according to recent Justice Department estimates.

Psychological problems, often exacerbated by drug use, often lead to significant medical problems resulting from a lack of hygiene or access to good health care.

“When you suffer depression in the outside world, it’s hard to concentrate, you have reduced energy, your sleep is disrupted, you have a very gloomy outlook, so you stop taking care of yourself,” said Robert L. Trestman , a Virginia Tech medical school professor who has worked on state prison mental health reforms.

The paradox is that prison is often the only place where sick people have access to even minimal care.

But the harsh work environment, remote location of many prisons, and low pay have led to severe shortages of corrections staff and the unwillingness of doctors, nurses and counselors to work with the incarcerated mentally ill.

In the early 2000s, prisoners’ rights lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against Illinois claiming “deliberate indifference” to the plight of about 5,000 mentally ill prisoners locked in segregated units and denied treatment and medication.

In 2014, the parties reached a settlement that included minimum staffing mandates, revamped screening protocols, restrictions on the use of solitary confinement and the allocation of about $100 million to double capacity in the system’s specialized mental health units.

Yet within six months of the deal, Pablo Stewart, an independent monitor chosen to oversee its enforcement, declared the system to be in a state of emergency.

Over the years, some significant improvements have been made. But Dr. Stewart’s final report , drafted in 2022, gave the system failing marks for its medication and staffing policies and reliance on solitary confinement “crisis watch” cells.

Ms. Grady, one of Mr. Johnson’s lawyers, cited an additional problem: a lack of coordination between corrections staff and Wexford’s professionals, beyond dutifully filling out dozens of mandated status reports.

“Markus Johnson was basically documented to death,” she said.

‘I’m just trying to keep my head up’

Mr. Johnson was not exactly looking forward to prison. But he saw it as an opportunity to learn a trade so he could start a family when he got out.

On Dec. 18, 2018, he arrived at a processing center in Joliet, where he sat for an intake interview. He was coherent and cooperative, well-groomed and maintained eye contact. He was taking his medication, not suicidal and had a hearty appetite. He was listed as 5 feet 6 inches tall and 256 pounds.

Mr. Johnson described his mood as “go with the flow.”

A few days later, after arriving in Danville, he offered a less settled assessment during a telehealth visit with a Wexford psychiatrist, Dr. Nitin Thapar. Mr. Johnson admitted to being plagued by feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and “constant uncontrollable worrying” that affected his sleep.

He told Dr. Thapar he had heard voices in the past — but not now — telling him he was a failure, and warning that people were out to get him.

At the time he was incarcerated, the basic options for mentally ill people in Illinois prisons included placement in the general population or transfer to a special residential treatment program at the Dixon Correctional Center, west of Chicago. Mr. Johnson seemed out of immediate danger, so he was assigned to a standard two-man cell in the prison’s general population, with regular mental health counseling and medication.

Things started off well enough. “I’m just trying to keep my head up,” he wrote to his mother. “Every day I learn to be stronger & stronger.”

But his daily phone calls back home hinted at friction with other inmates. And there was not much for him to do after being turned down for a janitorial training program.

Then, in the spring of 2019, his grandmother died, sending him into a deep hole.

Dr. Thapar prescribed a new drug used to treat major depressive disorders. Its most common side effect is weight gain. Mr. Johnson stopped taking it.

On July 4, he told Dr. Thapar matter-of-factly during a telehealth check-in that he was no longer taking any of his medications. “I’ve been feeling normal, I guess,” he said. “I feel like I don’t need the medication anymore.”

Dr. Thapar said he thought that was a mistake, but accepted the decision and removed Mr. Johnson from his regular mental health caseload — instructing him to “reach out” if he needed help, records show.

The pace of calls back home slackened. Mr. Johnson spent more time in bed, and became more surly. At a group-therapy session, he sat stone silent, after showing up late.

By early August, he was telling guards he had stopped eating.

At some point, no one knows when, he had intermittently stopped drinking fluids.

‘I’m having a breakdown’

Then came the crash.

On Aug. 12, Mr. Johnson got into a fight with his older cellmate.

He was taken to a one-man disciplinary cell. A few hours later, Wexford’s on-site mental health counselor, Melanie Easton, was shocked by his disoriented condition. Mr. Johnson stared blankly, then burst into tears when asked if he had “suffered a loss in the previous six months.”

He was so unresponsive to her questions she could not finish the evaluation.

Ms. Easton ordered that he be moved to a 9-foot by 8-foot crisis cell — solitary confinement with enhanced monitoring. At this moment, a supervisor could have ticked the box for “residential treatment” on a form to transfer him to Dixon. That did not happen, according to records and depositions.

Around this time, he asked to be placed back on his medication but nothing seems to have come of it, records show.

By mid-August, he said he was visualizing “people that were not there,” according to case notes. At first, he was acting more aggressively, once flicking water at a guard through a hole in his cell door. But his energy ebbed, and he gradually migrated downward — from standing to bunk to floor.

“I’m having a breakdown,” he confided to a Wexford employee.

At the time, inmates in Illinois were required to declare an official hunger strike before prison officials would initiate protocols, including blood testing or forced feedings. But when a guard asked Mr. Johnson why he would not eat, he said he was “fasting,” as opposed to starving himself, and no action seems to have been taken.

‘Tell me this is OK!’

Lt. Matthew Morrison, one of the few people at Danville to take a personal interest in Mr. Johnson, reported seeing a white rind around his mouth in early September. He told other staff members the cell gave off “a death smell,” according to a deposition.

On Sept. 5, they moved Mr. Johnson to one of six cells adjacent to the prison’s small, bare-bones infirmary. Prison officials finally placed him on the official hunger strike protocol without his consent.

Mr. Morrison, in his deposition, said he was troubled by the inaction of the Wexford staff, and the lack of urgency exhibited by the medical director, Dr. Justin Young.

On Sept. 5, Mr. Morrison approached Dr. Young to express his concerns, and the doctor agreed to order blood and urine tests. But Dr. Young lived in Chicago, and was on site at the prison about four times a week, according to Mr. Kaplan. Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, was not one of those days.

Mr. Morrison arrived at work that morning, expecting to find Mr. Johnson’s testing underway. A Wexford nurse told him Dr. Young believed the tests could wait.

Mr. Morrison, stunned, asked her to call Dr. Young.

“He’s good till Monday,” Dr. Young responded, according to Mr. Morrison.

“Come on, come on, look at this guy! You tell me this is OK!” the officer responded.

Eventually, Justin Duprey, a licensed nurse practitioner and the most senior Wexford employee on duty that day, authorized the test himself.

Mr. Morrison, thinking he had averted a disaster, entered the cell and implored Mr. Johnson into taking the tests. He refused.

So prison officials obtained approval to remove him forcibly from his cell.

‘Oh, my God’

What happened next is documented in video taken from cameras held by officers on the extraction team and obtained by The Times through a court order.

Mr. Johnson is scarcely recognizable as the neatly groomed 21-year-old captured in a cellphone picture a few months earlier. His skin is ashen, eyes fixed on the middle distance. He might be 40. Or 60.

At first, he places his hands forward through the hole in his cell door to be cuffed. This is against procedure, the officers shout. His hands must be in back.

He will not, or cannot, comply. He wanders to the rear of his cell and falls hard. Two blasts of pepper spray barely elicit a reaction. The leader of the tactical team later said he found it unusual and unnerving.

The next video is in the medical unit. A shield is pressed to his chest. He is in agony, begging for them to stop, as two nurses attempt to insert a catheter.

Then they move him, half-conscious and limp, onto a wheelchair for the blood draw.

For the next 20 minutes, the Wexford nurse performing the procedure, Angelica Wachtor, jabs hands and arms to find a vessel that will hold shape. She winces with each puncture, tries to comfort him, and grows increasingly rattled.

“Oh, my God,” she mutters, and asks why help is not on the way.

She did not request assistance or discuss calling 911, records indicate.

“Can you please stop — it’s burning real bad,” Mr. Johnson said.

Soon after, a member of the tactical team reminds Ms. Wachtor to take Mr. Johnson’s vitals before taking him back to his cell. She would later tell Dr. Young she had been unable to able to obtain his blood pressure.

“You good?” one of the team members asks as they are preparing to leave.

“Yeah, I’ll have to be,” she replies in the recording.

Officers lifted him back onto his bunk, leaving him unconscious and naked except for a covering draped over his groin. His expressionless face is visible through the window on the cell door as it closes.

‘Cardiac arrest.’

Mr. Duprey, the nurse practitioner, had been sitting inside his office after corrections staff ordered him to shelter for his own protection, he said. When he emerged, he found Ms. Wachtor sobbing, and after a delay, he was let into the cell. Finding no pulse, Mr. Duprey asked a prison employee to call 911 so Mr. Johnson could be taken to a local emergency room.

The Wexford staff initiated CPR. It did not work.

At 3:38 p.m., the paramedics declared Markus Mison Johnson dead.

Afterward, a senior official at Danville called the Johnson family to say he had died of “cardiac arrest.”

Lisa Johnson pressed for more information, but none was initially forthcoming. She would soon receive a box hastily crammed with his possessions: uneaten snacks, notebooks, an inspirational memoir by a man who had served 20 years at Leavenworth.

Later, Shiping Bao, the coroner who examined his body, determined Mr. Johnson had died of severe dehydration. He told the state police it “was one of the driest bodies he had ever seen.”

For a long time, Ms. Johnson blamed herself. She says that her biggest mistake was assuming that the state, with all its resources, would provide a level of care comparable to what she had been able to provide her son.

She had stopped accepting foster care children while she was raising Markus and his siblings. But as the months dragged on, she decided her once-boisterous house had become oppressively still, and let local agencies know she was available again.

“It is good to have children around,” she said. “It was too quiet around here.”

Read by Glenn Thrush

Audio produced by Jack D’Isidoro .

Glenn Thrush covers the Department of Justice. He joined The Times in 2017 after working for Politico, Newsday, Bloomberg News, The New York Daily News, The Birmingham Post-Herald and City Limits. More about Glenn Thrush



  1. Topic Sentence: Definition, Examples and Useful Tips for Writing A

    what is an topic sentence in an essay

  2. How To Write A Topic Sentence

    what is an topic sentence in an essay

  3. How To Write An Essay With A Topic Sentence

    what is an topic sentence in an essay

  4. How To Write A Topic Sentence For An Informative Essay

    what is an topic sentence in an essay

  5. Topic Sentence Topic Sentences Definition Every paragraph should

    what is an topic sentence in an essay

  6. PPT

    what is an topic sentence in an essay


  1. Great Writing 4

  2. 10 sentence essay on My favorite food||Easy essay ||My favorite food Essay ||My favorite food

  3. Thesis statement for argumentative essay

  4. what is a topic sentence in a paragraph

  5. Lesson 30 The Topic Sentence

  6. Writing Topic Sentences


  1. How to Write Topic Sentences

    Topic sentences aren't the first or the last thing you write—you'll develop them throughout the writing process. To make sure every topic sentence and paragraph serves your argument, follow these steps. Step 1: Write a thesis statement. The first step to developing your topic sentences is to make sure you have a strong thesis statement ...

  2. Topic Sentences and Signposting

    Topic sentences and signposts make an essay's claims clear to a reader. Good essays contain both. Topic sentences reveal the main point of a paragraph. They show the relationship of each paragraph to the essay's thesis, telegraph the point of a paragraph, and tell your reader what to expect in the paragraph that follows. Topic sentences also ...

  3. What is a Topic Sentence? (Definition, Examples, How to Use)

    A topic sentence, the first sentence of a paragraph, presents the main concept discussed in the paragraph. It must contain sufficient information to support numerous examples and subtopics without being too broad to obscure the essay's intended purpose. The remaining sentences in the paragraph will act as supporting statements, providing ...

  4. How to Write a Strong Topic Sentence + Examples

    Step 3: Make your essay outline. Once you have the points you want to make within your thesis statement hammered out, make an outline for your essay. This is where you'll start to create your topic sentence for each paragraph. You want to clearly state the main idea of that paragraph in the very first sentence.

  5. Writing Topic Sentences

    Topic sentence vs. thesis statement What is the purpose of a topic sentence? The purpose of a topic sentence is to inform the reader of the main idea of the paragraph and how it connects to the overall objective of the essay. An effective topic sentence accomplishes one or more of the following: Makes a claim. Supports other claims made in the ...

  6. Topic Sentence Definition, Examples, and Guidelines

    A topic sentence is a sentence, sometimes at the beginning of a paragraph, that states or suggests the main idea (or topic) of a paragraph. Not all paragraphs begin with topic sentences. In some, the topic sentence appears in the middle or at the end. In others, the topic sentence is implied or absent altogether.

  7. Using Topic Sentences

    A topic sentence states the main point of a paragraph: it serves as a mini-thesis for the paragraph. ... When read in sequence, your essay's topic sentences will provide a sketch of the essay's argument. Thus topics sentences help protect your readers from confusion by guiding them through the argument. But topic sentences can also help you ...

  8. Topic Sentences

    The best way to understand the role of the topic sentence in paragraph development is to imagine that any given paragraph is a miniature essay that has its own thesis, support, and conclusion. The parts of a paragraph easily correspond to the parts of an essay: Just as an effective essay starts off with an introduction that presents the paper's ...

  9. Paragraphs & Topic Sentences

    A well-organized paragraph supports or develops a single controlling idea, which is expressed in a sentence called the topic sentence. A topic sentence has several important functions: it substantiates or supports an essay's thesis statement; it unifies the content of a paragraph and directs the order of the sentences; and it advises the ...

  10. How To Write a Topic Sentence (With Examples and Tips)

    1. Identify the main point in your piece of writing. Think about the overall topic for your writing. Decide how you can introduce this idea to your readers with an interesting opening sentence. 2. Write a sentence that connects to your main idea with a what and a why. Write a clear topic sentence by describing the what and the why of an idea ...

  11. What is a Topic Sentence & How to Write it

    Essentially, it is a concise and direct statement that captures the essence of what you want to convey. A topic sentence is defined by the following characteristics: It is the first sentence of a paragraph. It indicates the main idea of the paragraph. Acts as a signpost and transition sentence, ensuring clarity and cohesiveness of an essay.

  12. How to Write a Good Topic Sentence: 14 Steps (with Pictures)

    1. Avoid introducing yourself. Although topic sentences vary in structure and content from person to person, at least two things can be assumed about your paper: 1) that you have a title and entire paper to introduce a topic, and 2) your personal information is present somewhere on your essay.

  13. 12 Examples of Good Topic Sentences (and Why They Work)

    4 argumentative essay topic sentences. Topic Sentence #5: Finally, the most compelling reason that Treasure Island should be considered the best pirate novel is its unique plot. Topic Sentence #6: One of the first strategies companies need to implement in order to protect their ships from pirates near the Somali coast is to require armed security on all vessels.

  14. How to Write a Topic Sentence

    Step#1 Clearly State The Main Idea. A topic sentence is the first paragraph of the paragraph. It must clearly explain the particular subject that would be discussed in the paragraph. This should be stated in very clear language so that the reader can easily understand the idea.

  15. Characteristics of a Strong Topic Sentence

    The topic sentence functions two ways: it clearly refers to and supports the essay's thesis, and it indicates what will follow in the rest of the paragraph. As the unifying sentence for the paragraph, it is the most general sentence, whereas all supporting sentences provide different types of more specific information, such as facts, details ...

  16. PDF What Is a Topic Sentence?

    In an essay, a topic sentence is the first sentence of a body paragraph; it introduces the main idea of that paragraph. This means that an essay with multiple body paragraphs will have multiple topic sentences. Each topic sentence should also connect to your thesis statement, which is the controlling idea for the entire essay. Think of it this ...

  17. 5 Simple Steps to Write a Topic Sentence with Examples

    Here are five examples of topic sentences, along with their respective topics and controlling ideas: Topic Sentence: "Climate change poses a growing threat to global ecosystems." Topic: Climate change. Controlling Idea: Growing threat to global ecosystems. Topic Sentence: "Effective time management skills are essential for academic success."

  18. PDF Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences

    one paragraph - not spread throughout the essay. •Topic sentences have been shown to help readers recall the content of the text because they prepare readers for the ensuing ideas of the paragraph. •Topic sentences often follow the "old/new contract" (see handout) and link back to what was es- tablished in the previous paragraph. See ...

  19. Anatomy of a Body Paragraph

    A strong paragraph in an academic essay will usually include these three elements: A topic sentence. The topic sentence does double duty for a paragraph. First, a strong topic sentence makes a claim or states a main idea that is then developed in the rest of the paragraph. Second, the topic sentence signals to readers how the paragraph is ...

  20. Trump's New York felony conviction can't keep him from becoming

    His sentence may not include prison time, ... who wrote an essay in the Harvard Law Review last year on the topic of a "convict in chief." And if Trump were able to confirm a Cabinet, those ...

  21. For Markus Johnson, Prison and Mental Illness Equaled a Death Sentence

    It was 1:19 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2019, in the Danville Correctional Center, a medium-security prison a few hours south of Chicago. Mr. Johnson, 21 and serving a short sentence for gun possession, was ...