Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Logo
Apply to SIUE

Learning Support Services

The Writer’s Reference Book


Paragraph Development II




1. TOPIC SENTENCES--The topic sentence is the general statement in a paragraph that explains what the whole paragraph is about. It is usually the first sentence in the paragraph.


a. A topic sentence contains a topic and a statement (controlling idea). The statement (controlling idea) is what the writer intends to say about the topic.


Pollution + demands action.

Pollution + exists throughout the world.

b. A topic sentence implies an argument that must be proven. A statement of fact cannot be used as a topic sentence since it does not need to be proven.

Statement of fact: Television stations broadcast news.

Topic sentence: Television news shows are biased.

c. Topic sentences should not be too general.

Too general: Shakespeare was a great writer.

Topic sentence: Shakespeare's typical education seems unlikely for a genius.

3. UNITY--Any sentence in the paragraph that does not support the topic sentence is considered out of unity. Check each sentence by using the word BECAUSE after the topic sentence:

Topic sentence: Dogs make excellent pets.

(BECAUSE) They are loyal.

(BECAUSE) They are playful.

(BECAUSE) They are useful.

The sentence "They are a lot of trouble to take care of" would be out of unity since it does not explain why dogs make excellent pets.

4. SUPPORT--Paragraphs may have primary (major) support as well as secondary (minor) support. Topic sentence: Dogs make excellent pets.

Primary support: First, they are loyal.

Secondary support: They are devoted to their owners.

Primary support: Next, they are playful.

Secondary support: They enjoy games like catch.

Secondary support: They like to play with toys.

Primary support: Finally, they are useful.

Secondary support: They can protect property.

Secondary support: They can warn of danger.

Look for transition markers (FIRST, ANOTHER, etc.) to identify primary support.

5. CONCLUSION--The conclusion of a paragraph should bring the paragraph to a close without bringing in a new topic or idea. A good concluding sentence for the paragraph in item 4 might be "Dogs are truly man's best friend." A poor concluding statement might be "Goldfish also make good pets."

facebookoff twitteroff vineoff linkedinoff flickeroff instagramoff googleplusoff socialoff