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How to Write a Topic Sentence for a Research Paper

The way research papers work, is you have a topic that you can summarize in one sentence, or a topic sentence. Then, you spend the entire paper backing up your ideas with research and proving the point you’re making. This topic sentence is very important, and on a smaller scale is just like a thesis or dissertation. One main idea needs to encompass all your efforts and show continuity between the sources given. Once you have your topic sentence written out, you can much better analyze and talk about your subject intelligently. Follow the steps at the end of this article to create a topic sentence you can be proud of writing.

Crafting a Great Topic Sentence

The best way to start brainstorming ideas for your topic sentence is to think of other words and ideas related to your main topic. Start a mind map by taking a piece of paper and writing your topic in the middle of the page. Circle it, and then draw lines and other words or ideas you think of, from those lines. Circle each new idea, and create more branches and circles with as many words as possible. After you’ve filled the page, look at all of the words and ideas. Do any really stand out to you? Think of your favorite 2-3 and then do these steps:

  1. State the current situation. For example, if your topic is substance abuse, then write something like “Most people think lowering the drinking age would decrease DUAs and accidents…”
  2. Then write the change, unexpected outcome, position, or issue that you’ll be talking about and backing up with research. In our example, this would look like “…but there’s evidence that allowing people to drink alcohol at younger ages would in fact increase accidents.”
  3. If you still can’t find the right words for the two parts of your topic sentence, think about why you want to write about this. Even if it’s a topic that you were assigned instead of one you chose, you can find something that interests you. Focus on the aspects that you’re most excited to write about in your paper.
  4. Lastly, edit your topic sentence for clarity. Our example is pretty long, so here’s a shorter, more concise version: “Most people think that lowering the drinking age would decrease accidents, but research suggests the opposite outcome.”

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