Topic sentences

Course subject(s) Writing


Please read the information on the following site: Topic Sentences.

When trying to write a coherent paragraph, keep checking if what you want to write really is immediately connected to the topic, and not a sidetrack. For instance, when writing a paragraph on the disadvantages of nuclear energy, it is tempting to digress and start talking about protests Greenpeace have organised which you may or may not feel sympathetic toward. You could discuss those actions in other paragraphs, but not in the one on the disadvantages.

So please remember that in one paragraph you discuss only one topic: the one that you introduced in what we call the “topic sentence”, usually the first of the paragraph. The rest of the paragraph is then used to explain what was said in the topic sentence, or to give an example or expand on it.

Now have another look at the example paragraph in the first part of this module. How many topics are discussed there? Yes, indeed: two! As a reader, you expect a paragraph about differences in Dutch and African culture, but the second half of the paragraph is about Apartheid.

This is why the following paragraph is a good one. It discusses only one topic, as it should.

When thinking of a product for which biomimicry is used, people often think of ‘the bone structured chair’. The design of the chair is based on the human bone structure, which has perfect mechanical properties which fit the requirements of a chair as bones have the ability to cut material where it is not needed. For the chair, the designers have mimicked this ability by using as little material as possible. Only where strength is needed, material is added.

Two final remarks:

  1. Just as you use connectors to link sentences, there are ways to link paragraphs within a text. This topic, however, goes beyond the scope of this module. You may want to look at this page though, if you would like to know more: The Owl at Purdue.
  2. Writing is a skill that is learned over time and through practice, which is why many schools and universities offer special writing courses for their students. It is outside the scope of this module to teach you all aspects of writing, but by taking this module you can learn a bit more about how texts work.
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