Goals and Goal Setting

Advice about Assignments

On Using the Resources for Writers

Selecting Readings

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Focusing Topic Sentences

The following pairs of sentences illustrate broad and vague topic sentences and a clear, focused revised version. Study the pairs of sentences, keeping in mind that a good topic sentence: a) supports the thesis of the essay by stating a single main point in the discussion, b) announces what the paragraph will be about in specific terms, and c) controls the subject matter of the paragraph.

Unfocused: Too many people treat animals badly in experiments. [What people? Badly how? What kinds of experiments?]
Focused: The cosmetic industry often harms animals in unnecessary experiments designed to test their products.

Unfocused: Grades are unfair. [All grades? Unfair how?]
Focused: Course grades based solely on one term paper don't accurately measure a student's knowledge of the subject.

Unfocused: Getting the right job is important and can lead to rewarding experiences. [Note both vague language and a double focus - "important" and "can lead to rewarding experiences."]
Focused: Getting the right job can lead to an improved sense of self-esteem.

Now rewrite the following topic sentences so that they are clear and focused rather than fuzzy or broad.

  1. My personality has changed a lot in the last year.
  2. The evening with her parents was an unforgettable experience.

Note: When looking at topic sentences in your own essay, remember that you first must determine how each topic sentence relates to the thesis of the essay as a whole. Then, after rewriting your topic sentences to be more specific, make sure you check the rest of the paragraph for adherence to that more specific subject. All examples and details in the entire paragraph must directly support the topic sentence.