Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences
The Bones of Your Essay
First, we should ask ourselves: what is a thesis statement?
I have always seen a thesis as the argument you are trying to make which, most likely, ties in a preexisting conversation. The thesis statement should cover what you're going to talk about and possibly determine your conclusion. This single sentence seems to have a lot of power in your essay; it shows connections throughout writings, inserts your thoughts into the preexisting conversation, and/or gives an argument to the main topic the essay is over.
Second, what makes a thesis statement “strong?”
A strong thesis statement is a specific one. You want your thesis statement to be clear and concise so that there’s no wiggle-room for your audience to interpret your argument. The thesis should be concise enough to not allow for any need for interpretation, but it should be broad enough so that up can build a diverse essay. For example, if I were to be assigned an essay about analyzing a character in To Kill a Mockingbird, my thesis might look like this: “Even though she grew up in a prejudice community, Scout is mostly morally-impacted because of her father’s advice, her life experiences, and her perspective on life.” This thesis is broad because it doesn’t label specific advice or experiences and doesn’t tell what her worldview is, but the thesis is specific enough to where the audience would know what my paper will be about without having to guess.
What do I do with my thesis? Topic Sentences!
Now that we have a strong thesis, what do we do with it besides put it in the introduction paragraph? How do we reference it throughout the paper to show we are proving our point while still allowing for cohesiveness and fluidity?
This is where topic sentences come into play! A topic sentence is normally at the beginning of each body paragraph and says what you are going to talk about in that paragraph. These sentences are important and add even more value to your essay because it gives you a chance to reference your thesis and connect your paragraphs. For example, in the same essay as my thesis statement example, I already wrote my paragraph over Scout’s father’s advice, and I’m about to write my paragraph over her life experiences. At the beginning of this paragraph, I could say: “Although her father’s advice played a critical role in Scout’s moral development, her experiences throughout life also helped shape her moral values.” Because I mentioned the topic of the last paragraph in a dependent clause, which is my favorite way to transition points, I connected my paragraphs. Then, I mentioned the topic for my next paragraph in the same sentence.
Connecting paragraphs is an important tool because it helps your audience follow along with your ideas and points. My favorite analogy for this is imagining your points as a part of a mountain that your audience has to climb. If they are reading your point on a lower level area, would they need to stretch to reach the next level area (your next point)? Or did you provide a fallen tree or a bridge for them to easily make their way up to the next level area? These topic sentences can act as transitions from paragraph-to-paragraph so that your readers can easily make their way up the mountain to the peak (your conclusion). While there should be transitions throughout your paragraphs, as well, topic sentences are the big bridges in your essay that have signs for your readers to know what to expect in this paragraph coming up.
Thesis statements and topic sentences are really difficult to master—if one can even do that. It takes a lot of practice to be able to use and create them well! It has taken me to my junior year of college to even remotely create an effective thesis statement. So, don't be hard on yourself if it takes multiple rewrites of your thesis to make it say what you want it to say!
As always, if you need help, you can always make an appointment with any of our amazing consultants to help create a thesis statement or produce a cohesive and fluid essay with topic sentences!
Riley Collins is a junior English education major. This fall, you can visit her in the Writing Center on Wednesdays at 7:45 p.m. and online Zoom on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m.