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Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences

Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is a sentence that expresses the writer’s position/opinion on a particular subject.   A thesis statement is the controlling idea of a paper. It expresses succinctly the idea that the body of the paper will prove. Other names for the thesis statement are “main idea,” “controlling idea,” and “thesis.”

The thesis statement first appears at the end of the introductory paragraph and it is developed, supported, and explained in the course of the paper by means of examples and evidence.

The thesis statement is formatted according to the type of paper.

An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
An argumentative/persuasive paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence.The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation.The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.
In a literary analysis, the writer will argue for his/her interpretation of the literature that is asked in the paper prompt or topic.  In this, it is a persuasive thesis statement that is arguing for a particular opinion about the literary development of a text.The thesis statement typically includes the author’s name and the title of the literature as well as the comment about the literature.

Formatting a Persuasive Thesis Statement

The persuasive thesis statement has three main parts – the topic, the comment, and the call to action.  It should also include the targeted audience for the paper.

Topic Pesticides
Comment endangers lives of farm workers
Call to action government should ban the pesticides(note that the call to action specifies the audience)
Ex Thesis:  The US Government should ban pesticides because pesticides endanger the lives of farm workers.
Something that has helped students has been to format your thesis like this:

Audience:  _____________________  (Jack and Jill)Should

[aka Call to Action]: _______________________  (walk up the hill)

Because [comment] : ______________________  (because that is where they will get the water)

Thesis:  Jack and Jill should walk up the hill because that is where they will get the water.

Figure out your audience and what you want them to do/think about your topic and why the audience should do/think what you want them to.

The order of the three parts does not matter, but you must have all three parts for a persuasive thesis statement

 Thesis Tree Diagram

Formatting the Literary Analysis Thesis

An analytical writing prompt asks the writer to prove an abstract idea by using concrete evidence from a literary text.  There are three parts to this thesis

Subject The literature that is being analyzed
Comment The writer’s opinion on the subject –  how the writer thinks the author used the literary devices
Concrete element Usually the abstract portion, known as literary devices such as theme, tone, characterization, etc. that is used to prove the writer’s opinion
Ex Prompt: In a well written essay, explain how the author uses figurative language and imagery to characterize Jay Gatsby.

Ex Thesis:  In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the protagonist Jay Gatsby is portrayed as the naïve by grasping character through Fitzgerald’s use of color symbolism and weather motifs.

Handouts and Websites for the Thesis Creation
THESIS STATEMENT by Livaudais creating_effective_thesis_statements_and_topic_sentences
Thesis Statement Thesis chart
Thesis chart for OCS Students

Google Doc version of Thesis chart for OCS students


Literary Analysis Thesis

 Video on Thesis Statements
Purdue OWL on Thesis Statements U. of Illinois Writing

Topic Sentences


In order to come up with topic sentences, students must do preliminary research to find argument/reasons that their targeted audiences should do their intended calls to action.  Those reasons will then become topic sentences and body paragraphs in the persuasive paper.

Brainstorm for Subtopics OCS Subtopics for Research Paper

Topic Sentences

Once you have defined your research paper with an effective thesis statement and written an introduction, the simplest way to develop the paper is by using a series of topic sentences–an additive sequence in which each paragraph introduces a new argumentative point in support of the thesis

A. Each body paragraph must begin with a topic sentence that is the main idea sentence of that paragraph. B. In a persuasive paper, each topic sentence will be persuasive and also contain a topic, comment, and call to action
C. Each topic sentence will be one of the specific reasons why your audience should think/do what you want them to think/do in the thesis. D. To add clarity and to show relation to the thesis, each topic sentence should use the same or synonymous  language/words as the thesis statement (anaphora).
Thesis: Because pesticides endanger the lives of farm workers, the government should ban their use.Topic Sentence: The government should ban the use of pesticides such as ChloroKill since studies show high rates of cancer with the use of similar pesticides.Topic Sentence: High infant mortality rates among farm workers have been linked to the use of pesticides which is another reason that these pesticides should be banned.
Thesis:  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 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.

Websites and Handouts for Topic Sentences:

Topic Sentences topic-sentences-review
 Thesis and Topic Sentences Topic Sentences for OCS

OCS Subtopics for Research Paper

Purdue OWL for Topic Sentences Video on topic sentences
Structure of the Research Paper

Transitions in Topic Sentences

Transitions emphasize the relationships between ideas, so they help readers follow your train of thought or see connections that they might otherwise miss or misunderstand.  Transition words should be used in topic sentences, throughout body paragraphs, and in concluding sentences

Topic Sentences with transitions Transition Words
Website on Topic Sentences and Transitions 

– with video and examples

Topic Sentence with Transition formula

– from Delmar College

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