By Moryah Hennessy
After the introduction of the paper, we encounter the dreaded first body paragraph and face the “how do I start” dilemma. You may ask yourself how to begin. Fret not, the topic sentence has come to the rescue.
A topic sentence is how you might describe it: a sentence that presents a topic. It’s often the first sentence of the paragraph and introduces the paragraph’s main idea; however, what separates a great topic sentence from an adequate one is how the topic sentence furthers the argument in the paper and the main topic of that paragraph. Topic sentences are like road maps. They remind readers and even the writer of, first, the purpose the upcoming paragraph will serve to better develop the ideas of the paper and, second, the direction the thesis is meant to take.
A topic sentence is a guide to a paragraph in the same way that a thesis is a guide to a paper. Something to keep in mind is where topic sentences are necessary and where they’re not. Topic sentences best serve their purpose in body paragraphs. It’s not necessary to include a topic sentence in the introductory paragraph of the paper simply because that is where the thesis is located. Consider the following thesis statement from a paper titled “Sexual Relationship Satisfaction in Older Couples and its Effect on the Relationship.”
Thesis Statement: Although couples that have grown older experience a decrease in sexual interest and frequency, their sexual relationships can still prove to be satisfying through their developed love and intimacy.
Let’s consider the main idea of the first body paragraph to be about sexual satisfaction. To develop an effective topic sentence that represents the main idea we need to understand how sexual satisfaction helps justify the argument that an older couple’s sexual relationship can be satisfying regardless of lack of interest and frequency.
Example topic sentence: Sex in older-couple relationships does not need to be frequent for it to be satisfying and to yield a satisfying sexual relationship.
Would you consider this topic sentence to be effective or ineffective? Does it contain both elements of an effective topic sentence? Take some time to think about how you might change this topic sentence to be more effective; remember, we want the sentence to represent the main idea as well as connect back to the paper’s main argument.
You probably noticed that this sentence did a great job of introducing the next topic—sexual satisfaction—while failing to further the central argument—sexual relationships in older couples can still prove to be satisfying through developed love and intimacy.
Example topic sentence: Satisfaction is based on the emotional and intimate connection two people have, and their ability to understand needs when engaging in sexual activity yields sexual satisfaction in lasting relationships involving older couples.
The above example represents an effective topic sentence because it furthers and connects the argument that satisfaction is based on intimacy and emotional development in the relationship. This sentence also connects this argument to the paragraph’s main topic, sexual satisfaction. When constructing a topic sentence, if you choose paragraph ideas based on how they extend the argument, then the integration between the purpose of the topic and the topic itself ought to come easier than choosing a topic that doesn’t further the argument in any way.
Topic sentences are important for a connective and cohesive paper, so from this day forward take the time to think and plan for more purposeful topic sentences. Your paper will figuratively thank you.