Topic Sentence In Persuasive Essay

Though not every paragraph must contain a clear topic sentence, it’s a good idea if beginning writers practice organizing their thoughts by placing topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. 

What is a topic sentence?  Topic sentences are exactly what they sound like—sentences that announce and summarize a topic for your reader. 

But I thought that’s what a thesis statement was for…?  Thesis statements let the reader know what the purpose of your entire essay will be—they focus on your main idea.  On the other hand, topic sentences let the reader know what will be discussed in a particular paragraph or section of your essay.

Here’s an example to illustrate the difference between the two:

Thesis Statement:  The important link between Civil Rights era music and today’s conception of the R & B genre has been overlooked in today’s music history courses.

Topic Sentence:  The Music History curriculum at top music colleges and universities such as Berkeley, Cornell, and Columbia do not offer courses that focus on the R & B genre.

Notice the key differences between the two types of sentences:  the thesis statement tells us what idea the whole paper will prove or discuss, while the topic sentence is a sub-section of that thesis.  The topic sentence provides us with one reason why readers should agree that music history programs are overlooking an important part of music’s development over the years. 

Example:

Let's say you intend to argue that music history courses shouldn’t forget about the musical developments that occurred during the Civil Rights era in the U.S., especially when they discuss R & B music. 

Then, imagine that you’ve developed a list of reasons why others should agree with you. Don’t worry about researching the topic if you don’t know much about this type of music!  Remember, the topic sentence simply introduces the information—the facts and details wouldn’t be explained until later in the paragraph. 

  • Use of anger/outrage in lyrics 
  • Use of subtext/hidden meanings
  • Artists who gained popularity during this time period

Sample Topic Sentences for the Following Thesis Statement:

Thesis Statement:  The important link between Civil Rights era music and today’s conception of the R & B genre has been overlooked in today’s music history courses.

Topic: Use of anger/outrage in lyrics
Sample Topic Sentence: The turmoil of the Civil Rights era led popular musical artists and lyricists to incorporate explosive and highly personal lyrics into their songs, very much like the explicit lyrics we’ve come to expect from Eminem and Kid Rock today.

Topic: Use of subtext/hidden meanings
Sample Topic Sentence: Music history classes discuss the various ways that music helps bring communities of people together; however, they often overlook the ways that the hidden meanings in songs like “The Backstabbers” by the O’Jays (1972) helped to maintain continued support of the Civil Rights Movement in the African American community.   

Topic: Artists who gained popularity during this time period
Sample Topic Sentence: Many of the influential artists whose work is discussed in music history classes—such as Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, and Sam Cooke—first emerged from the Civil Rights Movement.

A good topic sentence in an argumentative essay will be a thesis statement (topic + argument). While topic statements and thesis statements can be presented in separate sentences, one concise way to approach an essay introduction is to put the two together.

If you put them together your thesis statement will preface both the subject of the essay and the argument the paper will take up regarding that topic.

"The thesis statement is where you will let your readers know what position you will take on your topic. When you write your thesis, don’t be shy: make a bold and factual statement that expresses your position" (eNotes).

Most academic writing takes the form of an argument. Writers set out to prove a point of one kind or another - interpretive, opinion-based or research-oriented. The goal of the writer is to demonstrate that his/her point of view is supported by evidence (which can be textual evidence, anecdotal evidence, scientific evidence, statistical evidence, logical proof, etc.). 

Here is an example of an interpretive argument thesis statement: 

The character of Lennie in Of Mice and Men presents a central irony in the novel as he is intellectually "innocent" of malice yet also guilty of multiple acts of violence. 

This thesis presents the topic (the character, Lennie) and outlines the argument that the paper will make regarding this topic. 

If you are writing a traditional persuasive essay, the thesis statement will be similar. Here is one example: 

College tuition increases are far outpacing inflation in other areas, resulting in a debt crisis that needs to be resolved before it implodes the financial market like the housing bubble did in 2007. 

Again, this thesis presents a topic and an argument relating to that topic, effectively prefacing the contents of the paper. 

Thesis statements, when they work, will always orient the reader by communicating a topic and an argument and also offering a brief overview of the shape that argument will take.  

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