Body Paragraphs and Topic Sentences
Body paragraphs present a linked series of ideas from which your paper is constructed. To help your reader see how the evidence in each paragraph serves your main idea or argument, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. A topic sentence should not only identify the paragraph’s main idea but also implicitly or explictly relate to the argument put forth in your thesis statement.
Ideally, if a reader carefully reads your introduction, the topic sentence of each paragraph, and your conclusion, they should understand not only your main argument or claim, but how you construct the evidence and support for that claim, piece by piece.
In order to clearly see how each piece of your argument fits together, it is important that the reader can pick apart the boundaries between the individual ideas and chunks of information you use to build your discussion. Therefore, paragraph length matters, and paragraphs that are too long can make your paper harder to follow. Often a paragraph that runs longer than a page should be broken apart to mark the distinct ideas it contains.
A few topic sentence tips:
- Avoid using a quotation as a topic sentence. Your topic sentences should be in your voice. They should reflect your intentions.
- Avoid starting a paragraph with a sentence that summarizes an event; this is a simple statement of fact rather than an analytical statement.
- Complete a topic sentence reverse outline when you want to assess the strength and clarity of your argument.
Body Paragraphs and Topic Sentences Links
- Handout (printable): "Paragraphs," University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center
- Handout (printable): "Evidence," University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center
- Video (9:47): "Effective vs. Ineffective Paragraphs," Ashan R. Hampton
- Video (28:39): "Writing Structured Paragraphs," Ken Cage, Massey University
The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at email@example.com if we are missing something!