Lesson Three: Topic Sentences

Each body paragraph of your paper builds towards proving one particular aspect of your thesis, and each of these aspects should be crystallized into a strong topic sentence.

If your paper is quite short, these sentences might represent the main points you mentioned in the blueprint part of your thesis, but they might each be more specific aspects of one of those points, particularly if your paper is longer.

Defining your topics - First and foremost, a topic sentence is a piece of analysis, NOT summary. Think of it in a similar manner to how you thought of your thesis; in other words, an original interpretation based upon the textual evidence of your source. The first of the following examples illustrates a statement of fact, rather than an argumentative topic sentence.

Weak Topic Sentence: "Book Five of Paradise Lost concentrates on the conversation between Adam and the archangel Raphael."

Strong Topic Sentence: "Throughout Book Five, Milton utilizes images of gardening and nourishment to convey man's maturing relationship to the divine."

Relationship of topics to thesis - Your topic statements should each provide a solid area of analysis by which your thesis is true. They should, however, be more specific than a mere restatement of part of it.

Thesis:"In Journey Through the Twelve Forests, David Haberman apprehends the Ban-Yatra pilgrimage as a realization of the god Krishna's omnipresence, through separate realizations of the journey's cyclical nature, the externalization of the divine, and the relationship between asceticism and pleasure."

Topic Sentence for Second Paragraph: "Throughout the narrative, the physical relationship of the pilgrim to the natural landscape of Braj, as well as worshipped images of Krishna and other deities, reflects the presence of Krishna as an interactive externality, rather than the occupant of an inaccessible sphere."

Next: Lesson Four: Building Your Argument — Close Readings

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