Composing topic sentences and crafting paragraphs– Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD

2 of the concerns I get asked most often not only by my own students but by other scholars on Twitter also are: “how do I compose good topic sentences?” and “how do I compose great paragraphs?“. These two methods are necessary for lots of factors, but the one I consider the most is the topic sentence, because I believe good subject sentences typically can result in robust, well-written paragraphs.

This is one factor why I am (like Dr. Eve Ewing in a tweet I price estimate below), a fan of the 5 paragraph essay (a kind of essay that is typically taught at the college/university level). In my view, well-crafted topic sentences set the phase for meaningful and robust paragraphs which then produce noise, sound, articulate essays. While sometimes undesirable, the Introduction, Body, Evidence, Conversation, Conclusions design (the 5 paragraphs essay) is reproduced in scholarly writing beyond undergraduate writing (see the IMRAD model of scholarly paper). I hence accept Dr. Eve Ewing here because the 5 paragraph essay IS in fact a smart way of presenting undergraduates to academic writing.

out of favor opinion: the 5-paragraph essay actually does mirror the basic principles of excellent essay writing (introduction, evidence, conclusion; a clear sense of structure and signposting) and is a great method to teach trainees the start phases of prose composing https://t.co/CFJhukdta6

— wikipedia “seasonal halloween name” brown (@eveewing) May 19, 2018 This paper on facilities privatization assists me display something that @jessicacalarco has actually talked about in earlier threads on writing abstracts and introductions. Notification where I marked * TS […] this is a subject sentence, duplicated from abstract in the intro. pic.twitter.com/cuGMeFKZfc

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) July 15, 2018 Sadly, some of the journal articles, book chapters and books I check out avoid the standard structure of a paragraph as explained by Dr. Patrick Dunleavy in his article on building paragraphs. This is problematic because if the topic sentence is not the first one that you discover in a paragraph, it is harder to discern which one is the most important and therefore, readers might discover it challenging to assess the material to identify the most crucial and valuable concept within.

The usual structure of a paragraph is (and I borrow from the Dunleavy design here, though I apply my own codes):

  • Subject Sentence
  • Body
  • Tokens (Supporting Evidence(
  • Wrap (Closing)

Professor Dunleavy does not agree that the Wrap sentence (what I call the Closing Sentence) need to link to the next paragraph. Frankly, I do like doing this, and my writing reflects this. I believe that the Closing Sentence should allow me to follow the flow (the Throughline or Red Thread )of the entire

paper. How do I know whether a Topic Sentence is well built? This is a question I frequently get asked. One test I usually ask my students to apply is to highlight in yellow (see my colour-coded highlighting and scribbling plan here) the very first sentence of every paragraph of an entire paper or book chapter. If they are able to comprehend what the paper or book chapter is about through only the topic sentences, then the author picked the ideal ones. This technique for quick reading (skimming) only works if authors follow the design where you begin a new paragraph with the subject sentence.

I accept Dr. Jessica Calarco (Indiana University– Bloomington) here where she states that a robust essay ought to have solid topic sentences and well-written paragraphs.

Agreed. When I assign essays to my undergrads, I offer them suggested details. Those details follow the 5-paragraph model. And they help students learn to frame a clear argument and assistance that argument with claims (subject sentences) and evidence (examples and analysis). https://t.co/p0kzDQG3o7

— Jess Calarco (@JessicaCalarco) May 19, 2018 When I compose, I try to follow the topic sentence design . For me, a key idea must be included in one paragraph. As I searched for sources that I might link to in order to help readers recognize what a good topic sentence is, I discovered D’Angelo(1986)’s short article

,””. This intro to D’Angelo’s analysis of The Topic Sentence is fantastic, as it uses a complete paragraph that consists of the main point AS a topic sentence, and also synthesizes the whole paper in the very first paragraph. Personally, I like this rhetorical strategy. pic.twitter.com/pXAMhyfSof

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco)

October 25, 2018 If you read this short article, D’Angelo returns to the intellectual history of what a topic sentence and a paragraph look like. What D’Angelo and the authors he cites suggest is that a paragraph is a set of sentences that are coherent, cohesive and provide a whole concept in a self-contained system. For that reason, a subject sentence develops the TOPIC (or the style, the essence) of a paragraph.

Baby actions work truly well for me. Break down the work into tiny pieces: a paragraph, say. Then break the paragraph into parts: Topic sentence, example, closing sentence. Focusing on composing a small piece at a time and commemorating that actually helps me construct self-confidence.

— Elise Paradis (@ep_qc)

September 19, 2018 The subject sentence must, for that reason, ensure that if we read it (and just that particular sentence) we can have a broad, bird’s eye view of the full paragraph, even if we include supporting material and a closing sentence afterwards. A paper with great subject sentences must for that reason easily be skimmed by checking out just the first sentence of each paragraph. Although as I discussed above, there are a variety of academic writers who do not follow this model, unfortunately, due to the fact that they feel it is formulaic. I highly believe in following techniques and solutions and THEN utilize slight variations and deviate from the design.

That’s why I suggest composing documents through one of two approaches: (1) Answering Questions and (2) Listing Topic Sentences. These subject sentences then, as Dr. Calarco discusses in her tweet above, become complete sentences. I likewise encourage my students and readers of this blog to consider paragraphs as their target objective. Producing adequate words to end up a few sentences and form a cogent, cohesive and meaningful paragraph ought to be a legitimate objective for scholastic authors. This belief is likewise why I encourage my students to write in paragraphs, one idea at a time.

I think it’s essential to teach procedure. Having an excellent TS should also come from seeing other’s work that’s easy to read and comprehend.

— Mr. J. Puntillo (@MrJPuntillo) August 20, 2017 When you have actually crafted your entire paper/essay, you can then run a Reverse Overviews (Paragraph Replanning) analysis like the one presumed by Dr. Rachael Caeley here. By preparing an outline and seeing how it appears like, you can see if you require to replan specific paragraphs.

A couple of resources:

  • WikiHow’s “How to Compose a Great Topic Sentence” post.

Ideally this post will help individuals formulate much better topic sentences and establish more powerful, more meaningful and sound paragraphs.

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