Conveying the Important Info with Thesis Statements and Topic Sentences

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13671

Thesis statements and topic sentences function in a similar way to guide a reader through the most important points in your writing. Learn how to sharpen these sentences in this lesson.


Preparing for College, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Have you heard of the F pattern in regard to the habits of online readers?

Take a look at this artistic rendering of the letter f:


Now, imagine that image overlaid onto an article or essay. What researchers have found, through the use of eye-tracking, is that where the shape of the letter f would appear over the text is where readers tend to look longer.

  • Do you know what is happening with text, visually, in these locations?

It's often the start of paragraphs or subheadings in an article. The eye lingers on the left-hand side most and cuts across when skimming to where there are breaks or chunks.

  • What does that mean for you as a writer?

Read on to find out!

To begin, first make sure you know what thesis statements and topic sentences are.

They are, in a way, the same basic thing: sentences that express and encompass the main idea.

  • But the main idea of what, exactly?

That's where they differ.

Thesis statements are single sentences that express the main idea of an essay or larger work.

Topic sentences express the main idea of a body paragraph within a work. You can think of topic sentences as the thesis statement of each body paragraph.

Some writing instructors advocate for introduction paragraphs to open with a hook and end with the thesis statement, but a thesis statement can appear anywhere in an introductory paragraph.

Topic sentences are often at the beginning of body paragraphs.

Now, thinking back to the F pattern.

  • Why might it relate to thesis statements and topic sentences?

man thinking

If the eye tends to linger on the left-hand side the most (the starting point of text) and trails to the right where there are breaks, chunks, and subheadings, then it stands to reason this is because most readers know where the most vital information is usually located in a text.

Hooks, thesis statements, and topic sentences are things that readers can visually estimate the placement of and, therefore, quickly skim and scan the text to find.

If you have a well-structured and organized essay with strong points, your reader is likely to stay more engaged.

  • Neat, right?

Writing a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement informs your reader what the upcoming piece of writing is going to be about. Having a thesis is important in your essay.

Ultimately, you want to write a thesis that presents what your stance is on the issue you're writing about. Once your thesis is written, you will need to make sure that everything else you write in your essay relates back to your thesis statement.

Let's look at an example.

"I never let my schooling interfere with my education." ~ Mark Twain

Mark Twain makes a pretty bold statement about schooling versus education.

  • What do you think that he meant by this quotation?
  • What may have led him to feel this way?

A good thesis would be:

Education can be interfered with by how information is presented or what information is presented.

This thesis statement opens the door to be able to answer each part of the question. It also clearly states what you will be explaining in your essay.

Once you have stated your thesis, you will have to support everything that you state with facts. First, you must decide what you think about whatever it is you are writing about, and then you can decide what to say and how to support it.

Notice that the thesis statement is not a one-sentence paraphrase or retelling of the entire essay, but it does clearly state the idea or argument the points made in the essay will be supporting.

Topic Sentences

If you were writing an essay response to the prompt above and using the example thesis statement for your essay, think of three points you could use to support that thesis.

You may have come up with any number of ideas, but here is an example of three possible points:

Schools often use a set curriculum that may not address the interests of individual students.

Much of the school day is made up of administrative tasks like switching classes, taking attendance, and participating in events like pep rallies, which take away from time spent engaged in learning activities.

There is so much more to learn in life than just what is presented in the school setting.

Each of the above examples would make fine topic sentences. They make a case for a specific point that supports the thesis.

Likewise, it is possible to think of robust examples and evidence to assist in building convincing arguments in favor of these points.

  • Do the points you thought of work as topic sentences?
  • Can you revise them to work as topic sentences?

happy students

When you're ready, click through to the Got It? section to try developing your own thesis statements and practice identifying strong topic sentences.

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