Paragraphs #1: Topic Sentences

Summer in Kochi can be both terrible and wonderful. It can feel like Hell to visitors who are not prepared for how hot and humid it can be. But summer is also the season where Kochi is the most beautiful and full of life. If you know how to dress, where to go, and how to keep yourself cool, summer in Kochi can be Paradise.

A paragraph is a collection of sentences that describe, discuss, or explain one central idea. The three main parts of a paragraph are:

  • topic sentence
  • supporting detail sentences
  • concluding sentence

Every part has a specific function and is important. These three parts make up the logical structure of a paragraph.

Topic Sentences

topic sentence tells the reader the main idea or thought that the writer is trying to express. It is a one-sentence summary of the entire paragraph. Each sentence that follows helps to develop the idea in the topic sentence.

The organization of a paragraph is based on the topic sentence.

Elements of a Topic Sentence

The two main elements of a topic sentence are:

  • the main subject
  • a claim about that subject 

A claim is like an opinion. It is what you, the writer, believes to be true, and can convince the reader that you are right.

  • O Kochi is a great place to live. (A claim, it’s my opinion.)
  • X Kochi is in Shikoku. (Not a claim–it’s a fact, not an opinion.)

“Kochi is a great place to live. Here is reason one… Here is reason two….. Here is reason three…”

A topic sentence contains the main subject of the paragraph and a claim about that subject. The claim guides the main topic in the direction that the writer wants to take it. For example:

#1 Computers can be used in many different situations.

From this topic sentence, we know that the paragraph is going to talk about computers (main subject),  and will explain how people use them in different situations (claim about computers).

#2 Computers have changed enormously in the past 20 years.

From this topic sentence, we know that the paragraph is going to explain how computers have changed over time.

#3 Different computers can appeal to different people.

From this topic sentence, we know the paragraph will explain how different kinds of people like different kinds of computers.

#4 Computers were invented in the twentieth century.

This is not a good topic sentence because it is a simple statement of fact. It doesn’t suggest what will come next. It’s like a ball that doesn’t bounce.

Selecting a Good Topic Sentence

In each pair of sentences, choose the better of the two. Be prepared to explain your choices. (team work)

  1. Bilingual dictionaries can help non-native learners in two very important ways.
  2. In a bilingual dictionary, the information is presented in two different languages.
  1. A person who is interviewing for a job has to arrive on time to the interview.
  2. A person who is interviewing for a job has to do three important things during the interview.
  1. There are many theories about who killed John F. Kennedy.
  2. John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
  1. Smartphones have a number of useful features.
  2. Smartphones use touch screen technology.
  1. Fossils are the remains of plants or animals that died a long time ago.
  2. There are numerous techniques that scientists use to discover the age of a fossil.

Five Points of a Good Topic Sentence

  1. It should guide the whole paragraph. It lets the reader know what’s coming next.
  2. It should not be a well-known fact. “Sugar is sweet.” There’s not much more to say after that.
  3. It needs to be specific. “Computers are useful” is not good because it’s too general. “Computers can be useful in the classroom” is better because it is specific. We expect the paragraph to explain or give examples of how they can be used in the classroom.
  4. It cannot be too specific. “Computers can store large amounts of data” is very specific. There’s not much more to say because the supporting details have already been stated.
  5. It must contain a claim. A good topic sentence has a claim–a group of words or a phrase the helps guide the flow of ideas in the paragraph; “A computer can be one of the most useful tools for the modern classroom.” The underlined words in this sentence are the claim or “controlling idea.”

Pick the best topic sentence (team work)

Read each of the following groups of sentences. What is the general topic and which is the best topic sentence.

  • Smartphones have more features than regular phones.
  • Smart phones are expensive.
  • You can download apps on a smartphone.


  • Pepperoni and mushroom are my two favorite toppings on a pizza from Nino’s Pizzeria.
  • Nino’s Pizzeria has a wide selection of delicious food.
  • Nino’s Pizzeria make good chicken sandwiches.


  • Some dolphins are gray.
  • Dolphins are quiet, friendly, unique, beautiful, and smart.
  • Dolphins are one of nature’s most incredible animals.


  • Few people know the interesting history of snowboarding.
  • Snowboards are made of fiberglass and have sharp metal edges.
  • Snowboarding is a winter sport.


  • My favorite seashell is orange and white.
  • My hobby is collecting seashells, but my brother’s hobby is playing sports.
  • Seashells make great souvenirs for several reasons.

Extended Practice with “Claims”

The “controlling idea” in your topic sentence guides your paragraph and lets the reader know what the paragraph is going to be about. The topic of the paragraph is limited by the claim–it narrows the topic.

Here are some examples of topic sentences. The main subjects are bold and the claims are underlined.

  • Eco-vacations are becoming very popular these days.
    • What the reader expects to learn: why eco-vacations are becoming popular.
  • Electric staplers are easier to use than other types of staplers.
    • What the reader expects to learn: what makes electric staplers easier to use.
  • Singapore is a very popular vacation destination in Asia.
    • What the reader expects to learn: ???

Post your answers below:

You Try #1:

Read each group of sentences. Which is the best topic sentence? What is the  subject? What is the claim? What does the reader expect to learn?


  1. North Americans drink about half a billion cups of coffee every day.
  2. Coffee is the drink of choice for many North Americans.
  3. Most North Americans drink coffee in order to wake up in the morning.

Sample Answer: The best topic sentence is two. The topic is coffee. The claim is that North Americas like coffee best. What the reader expects to learn is why.


  • Yesterday was the tenth of April.
  • Yesterday I spilled spaghetti sauce on my shirt during lunch.
  • Yesterday I had a terrible day at work


  • My iguana’s trip to the veterinarians was a catastrophe.
  • My iguana scratched the veterinarian when she tried to pick him up.
  • People do not like iguanas.

You try #2:

The following topic sentences are too general. Rewrite and add or change the claim to make them better. (Pair work)

Telling lies is bad.  

Sample Answer:  Telling lies successfully requires great skill.

It is important to work hard. 

The Shimanto River is in Kochi Prefecture.

You try #3: Add a topic sentence to each of the paragraphs below:


… Without that morning meal, the body does not wake up completely. It is lacking the necessary fuel for energy. By lunchtime, people who skip breakfast tend to be overly hungry and so will eat too much. Perhaps the most serious effect of not eating breakfast is that the body’s metabolism will not work properly. It has been said for generations: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.


… First you may want to begin your search online. There are numerous  job-search Websites both local and international. When you have found an interesting  job opening, do your research. Find out as much as you can about the company and the position itself. Next, review your resume and make any necessary changes. The resume should fit each job that you apply for. You should also make sure that the resume highlights all of your previous employment and education. Finally, fill out the application and include all the other necessary documentation. Remember that persistence is the key to getting the job you want. By following these steps, you can be confident that you will find a job sooner than later.


… Perhaps the best known type of acting is television acting. This type of acting generally take the form of weekly program produced on studio lots. Another form of acting is stage acting. Plays are performed in many different venues–from large halls to small theaters. The third type of acting is film acting. Film acting begins with a screen play that includes all the written information about the set and the actors’s dialog, and grows into a movie. Regardless of the type of acting, spectators appreciate the craft of acting and the many hours of enjoyment it provides.

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