Example Of Thesis Statement And Topic Sentence Examples

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Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences

Thesis Statements

A thesis statement defines the scope and purpose of the paper. It needs to meet three criteria:

1. It must be arguable rather than a statement of fact. It should also say something original about the topic.

    Bad thesis: Lily Bart experiences the constraints of many social conventions in The House of Mirth. [Of course she does. What does she do with these social conventions, and how does she respond to them? What's your argument about this idea?]

    Better thesis: Lily Bart seeks to escape from the social conventions of her class in The House of Mirth, but her competing desires for a place in Selden's "republic of the spirit" and in the social world of New York cause her to gamble away her chances for a place in either world. [You could then mention the specific scenes that you will discuss.]

2. It must be limited enough so that the paper develops in some depth.

    Bad thesis: Lily Bart and Clare Kendry are alike in some ways, but different in many others. [What ways?]

    Better thesis: Lily Bart and Clare Kendry share a desire to "pass" in their respective social worlds, but their need to take risks and to reject those worlds leads to their destruction.

3. It must be unified so that the paper does not stray from the topic.

    Bad thesis: Lily Bart gambles with her future, and Lawrence Selden is only a spectator rather than a hero of The House of Mirth. [Note: This is really the beginning of two different thesis statements.]

    Better thesis: In The House of Mirth, Lawrence Selden is a spectator who prefers to watch and judge Lily than to help her. By failing to assist her on three separate occasions, he is revealed as less a hero of the novel than as the man responsible for Lily's downfall. [Note: Sometimes thesis statements are more than one sentence long.]

4. Statements such as "In this essay I will discuss " or "I will compare two stories in this paper" or "I was interested in Marji's relationship with God, so I thought I would talk about it in this essay" are not thesis statements and are unnecessary, since mentioning the stories in the introduction already tells the reader this.


Topic Sentences

Good topic sentences can improve an essay's readability and organization. They usually meet the following criteria:

1. First sentence. A topic sentence is usually the first sentence of the paragraph, not the last sentence of the previous paragraph.

2. Link to thesis. Topic sentences use keywords or phrases from the thesis to indicate which part of the thesis will be discussed.

3. Introduce the subject of the paragraph. They tell the reader what concept will be discussed and provide an introduction to the paragraph.

4. Link to the previous paragraph. They link the subject of the present paragraph to that of the previous paragraph.

5. Indicate the progression of the essay. Topic sentences may also signal to the reader where the essay has been and where it is headed through signposting words such as "first," "second," or "finally."


Good topic sentences typically DON'T begin with the following.

1. A quotation from a critic or from the piece of fiction you're discussing. The topic sentence should relate to your points and tell the reader what the subject of the paragraph will be. Beginning the paragraph with someone else's words doesn't allow you to provide this information for the reader.

2. A piece of information that tells the reader something more about the plot of the story. When you're writing about a piece of literature, it's easy to fall into the habit of telling the plot of the story and then adding a sentence of analysis, but such an approach leaves the reader wondering what the point of the paragraph is supposed to be; it also doesn't leave you sufficient room to analyze the story fully. These "narrative" topic sentences don't provide enough information about your analysis and the points you're making.

Weak "narrative" topic sentence: Lily Bart next travels to Bellomont, where she meets Lawrence Selden again.

Stronger "topic-based" topic sentence: A second example of Lily's gambling on her marriage chances occurs at Bellomont, where she ignores Percy Gryce in favor of Selden. [Note that this tells your reader that it's the second paragraph in a series of paragraph relating to the thesis, which in this case would be a thesis related to Lily's gambling on her marriage chances.]

3. A sentence that explains your response or reaction to the work, or that describes why you're talking about a particular part of it, rather than why the paragraph is important to your analysis. 

Weak "reaction" topic sentence: I felt that Lily should have known that Bertha Dorset was her enemy.

Stronger "topic-based" topic sentence: Bertha Dorset is first established as Lily's antagonist in the train scene, when she interrupts Lily's conversation with Percy Gryce and reveals that Lily smokes.

 

Topic Sentence and Thesis Statements Examples: Learning from Someone Else’s Experience

As you begin to write papers in high school, you will likely begin to see how using topic sentences and a thesis statement makes it easier for your teachers, and any other readers, to follow your argument. They provide structure and guidance and keep your papers from falling apart.

Topic sentences are most often the first sentence of each paragraph and summarize the paragraph’s central idea. The thesis statement sums up your essay’s argument and is usually put in the introductory paragraph. Understanding the basic principles between the two will help you write better essays and improve your grade drastically.

Here are some samples of each to help you master both on your own:

Topic Sentence

Topic sentences are simply declarative sentences that summarize the central idea you are making in the paragraph. For instance, if your paragraph is discussing how school lunches heavy on unhealthy fats make students tired in the hours after lunch, your topic sentence should make this clear by looking something like this:

Heavy fats in school lunches diminish students’ concentration and learning effectiveness for several hours after the meal.

What a reader expects after this is that you talk about why this is true. You provide guidance and hint at what it is you are trying to do within the context of the entire paper. After each topic sentence it’s important you provide evidence to support the argument but be sure that you don’t stray from the statement. This can cause your reader some confusion and will make for a poorly executed paper.

Thesis Statement

A well-written thesis statement will narrow the subject to a specific topic and state the argument you are making. For instance, a subject might be school sports and the topic might be whether participation can improve grades. Your thesis statement will want to take a clear side on this issue.

For example:

Participating in school sports improve grades by teaching students about discipline and hard-work.

The subject is clear, as is the topic, but most importantly there is a clear side this thesis statement takes on an issue. The rest of your paper will focus on proving why this statement is true. You will use your topic sentences to provide individual ideas that support the claim. The more precise your thesis is the more focused your paper will be.

With enough practice you will be able to construct both of these components with little problem. You’ll find that your papers will improve tremendously and you will reap the rewards of good grades and a learned skilled that applies to a number of subjects.

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