Wendy Ward on the topic sentence and the thesis statement

Below is a terrifically succinct statement, written by a professor at Miami-Dade Community College, of the approach English 109 takes to topic sentences and thesis statements:

The Topic Sentence and the Thesis Statement

Both involve main ideas.

A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph.

A thesis statement contains the main idea of an essay.

In this class, your thesis statement will be the last sentence in your introductory paragraph (your first paragraph). It will contain a plan of development, the two* points you want to advance in the body/supporting paragraphs. These points will be mentioned in the same order that you will mention them in the body paragraphs and will have a structure that follows parallelism.

Each body/supporting paragraph will contain a topic sentence, which will be the first sentence in each paragraph.


*In your English classes at Mercy, you will need 3 points, not 2.

The Topic Sentence and the Thesis Statement
Wendy Ward

Speaking as a writer, I can tell you there is a reason so many beginning composition courses teach this form.

The reason: this very simple, highly structured form works for your reader.

When you place a 3-part thesis statement at the end of your first paragraph, and a topic sentence at the beginning of each “body paragraph,” you help your reader (me!) stay with you.

The 5-paragraph essay may be especially useful for beginners, who have yet to master the skill of writing clear essays on complex topics. However, I love the form myself, and I am no beginner. I  wish someone had taught me how to write a 5-paragraph essay when I was young.

Today, I think of a paper’s thesis and topic-sentence set as its X-1-2-3, after William J. Kerrigan’s terrific book Writing to the Point.

My friend Robyne and I used an X-1-2-3 structure in this article for the River Journal.

The 5-paragraph X-1-2-3 form is infinitely malleable. You can expand it, contract it, stand it on its head or make it do somersaults if you like. Master it, and it will not fail you.

By the way, Professor Ward makes excellent use of parallelism and word repetition to get her point across:

A topic sentence contains the main idea of a paragraph.

A thesis statement contains the main idea of an essay.

One-to-one help with all reading and writing assignments in all classes
……..at the Writing Center