1.1: Topic Sentences
This resource was written by Jaclyn M. Wells.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .
Part 1, Lesson 1 addresses organization. This page deals with topic sentences.
Lesson 1: Organization
This lesson addresses organization. Questions about organization make up 15 percent of the questions in Part I of the GED Language Arts, Writing test. Studying this resource will also help you think about organization in relation to the GED Essay. It will also improve your writing skills in general. Topics included in this resource are as follows: topic sentences, relevance of ideas, order of ideas, and transitions.
Every paragraph should include a topic sentence that identifies the main idea of the paragraph. A topic sentence also states the point the writer wishes to make about that subject. Generally, the topic sentence appears at the beginning of the paragraph. It is often the paragraph’s very first sentence. A paragraph’s topic sentence must be general enough to express the paragraph’s overall subject. But it should be specific enough that the reader can understand the paragraph’s main subject and point.
On the GED, you may be asked to choose a better topic sentence for a paragraph. Sometimes, a topic sentence may be entirely missing from a paragraph, and you will be asked to choose one for it. When choosing a topic sentence, remember these guidelines:
- The topic sentence should identify the main idea and point of the paragraph. To choose an appropriate topic sentence, read the paragraph and think about its main idea and point.
- The supporting details in the paragraph (the sentences other than the topic sentence) will develop or explain the topic sentence. Read all the supporting details in the paragraph and think about the ideas they discuss.
- The topic sentence should not be too general or too specific. When considering the options, look for a topic sentence that is general enough to show the paragraph’s main idea instead of just one of its details. The answer should be specific enough that the reader understands the main idea of the paragraph.
Topic Sentence Exercise
Write a topic sentence for the following paragraph.
During the 1990s, I really enjoyed watching Friends on television every Thursday night. I really wanted Rachel’s haircut—I think every girl wanted Rachel’s haircut back then! Rachel’s haircut went really well with the Guess Jeans that were so popular in the 1990s. I remember all the advertisements for Guess and Calvin Klein Jeans that were in each month’s Sassy magazine. I don’t think Sassy magazine exists anymore, but it was one of the most popular magazines for young women in the 1990s.
Click here for exercise answers.
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Writing a Reaction or Response Essay
Reaction or response papers are usually requested by teachers so that you'll consider carefully what you think or feel about something you've read. The following guidelines are intended to be used for reacting to a reading although they could easily be used for reactions to films too. Read whatever you've been asked to respond to, and while reading, think about the following questions.
- How do you feel about what you are reading?
- What do you agree or disagree with?
- Can you identify with the situation?
- What would be the best way to evaluate the story?
Keeping your responses to these questions in mind, follow the following prewriting steps.
Prewriting for Your Reaction PaperThe following statements could be used in a reaction/response paper. Complete as many statements as possible, from the list below, about what you just read.
I think that
I see that
I feel that
It seems that
In my opinion,
A good quote is
What you've done in completing these statements is written a very rough reaction/response paper. Now it needs to be organized. Move ahead to the next section.
Organizing Your Reaction PaperA reaction/response paper has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
- The introduction should contain all the basic information in one or two paragraphs.
Sentence 1: This sentence should give the title, author, and publication you read.
Sentence 2, 3, and sometimes 4:
These sentences give a brief summary of what you read (nutshell) Sentence 5: This sentence is your thesis statement. You agree, disagree, identify, or evaluate.
- Your introduction should include a concise, one sentence, focused thesis. This is the focused statement of your reaction/response. More information on thesis statements is available.
- The body should contain paragraphs that provide support for your thesis. Each paragraph should contain one idea. Topic sentences should support the thesis, and the final sentence of each paragraph should lead into the next paragraph.
Topic Sentence detail -- example --quotation --detail -- example -- quotation -- detail -- example -- quotation -- detail -- example --quotation Summary Sentence
You can structure your paragraphs in two ways:
OR Author in contrast to You
- The conclusion can be a restatement of what you said in your paper. It also be a comment which focuses your overall reaction. Finally, it can be a prediction of the effects of what you're reacting to. Note: your conclusion should include no new information.
More information on strategies for writing conclusions is available.
SummaryIn summary, this handout has covered prewriting and organizing strategies for reaction/response papers.
- Read the article and jot down ideas.
- How do you feel about what was said?
- Do you agree or disagree with the author?
- Have you had any applicable experience?
- Have you read or heard anything that applies to this what the writer said in the article or book?
- Does the evidence in the article support the statements the writer made?
- Write the thesis statement first.
- Decide on the key points that will focus your ideas. These will be your topic sentences.
- Develop your ideas by adding examples, quotations, and details to your paragraphs.
- Make sure the last sentence of each paragraph leads into the next paragraph.
- Check your thesis and make sure the topic sentence of each paragraph supports it.
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This handout was written by Kathleen Cahill and revised for LEO by Judith Kilborn, the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.
Updated: 6 April 1999