Using Writing Tools: Topic Sentences Vs Thesis Statements

Topic sentences and thesis statements are two of the most misunderstood writing tools and concepts in the subject of writing. Why is it so difficult to understand their differences? Probably because at a young age, the student is told that the topic sentence is the focus on the paper, and then by the time they get to middle- and/or high-school the focus of most papers becomes the thesis statement. This transformation usually comes with no explanation as to the difference other than one is used mainly in elementary settings while the other is used in higher educational endeavors.

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A quick review shows the student what is exactly the difference. The thesis statement is the focus of the entire paper. This means that every paragraph will in some way point back to the thesis statement.

The topic sentence is the focus of a specific paragraph that is a part of the thesis statement. Therefore, topic sentences are the main parts or evidence of the thesis statement.

This knowledge tells the student and the parent why there is a discrepancy. At the elementary level, much of the written work is only a paragraph or two, and at most a 5 paragraph essay. However, when starting with only a paragraph, you only need a topic sentence, because that paragraph will be on a specific topic. When the student gets into secondary classes, this changes, because they begin to write research papers that must have a broader focus, thus the thesis statement.

Rather than let the student suffer throughout their academic career, it would be best to get them the knowledge and tools that would allow them to better understand the writing process.

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