Being able to identify the purpose and thesis of a text, as you’re reading it, takes practice. This section will offer you that practice.
One fun strategy for developing a deeper understanding the material you’re reading is to make a visual “map” of the ideas. Mind maps, whether hand-drawn or done through computer programs, can be fun to make, and help put all the ideas of an essay you’re reading in one easy-to-read format.
Your understanding of what the “central” element of the mind map is might change as you read and re-read. Developing the central idea of your mind map is a great way to help you determine the reading’s thesis.
- Hand-drawn Mind Map
Locating Explicit and Implicit Thesis Statements
In academic writing, the thesis is often explicit: it is included as a sentence as part of the text. It might be near the beginning of the work, but not always–some types of academic writing leave the thesis until the conclusion.
Journalism and reporting also rely on explicit thesis statements that appear very early in the piece–the first paragraph or even the first sentence.
Works of literature, on the other hand, usually do not contain a specific sentence that sums up the core concept of the writing. However, readers should finish the piece with a good understanding of what the work was trying to convey. This is what’s called an implicit thesis statement: the primary point of the reading is conveyed indirectly, in multiple locations throughout the work. (In literature, this is also referred to as the theme of the work.)
Academic writing sometimes relies on implicit thesis statements, as well.
This video offers excellent guidance in identifying the thesis statement of a work, no matter if it’s explicit or implicit.
We’ve learned that a thesis statement conveys the primary message of an entire piece of text. Now, let’s look at the next level of important sentences in a piece of text: topic sentences in each paragraph.
A useful metaphor would be to think of the thesis statement of a text as a general: it controls all the major decisions of the writing. There is only one thesis statement in a text. Topic sentences, in this relationship, serve as captains: they organize and sub-divide the overall goals of a writing into individual components. Each paragraph will have a topic sentence.
It might be helpful to think of a topic sentence as working in two directions simultaneously. It relates the paragraph to the essay’s thesis, and thereby acts as a signpost for the argument of the paper as a whole, but it also defines the scope of the paragraph itself. For example, consider the following topic sentence:
Many characters in Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun have one particular dream in which they are following, though the character Walter pursues his most aggressively.
If this sentence controls the paragraph that follows, then all sentences in the paragraph must relate in some way to Walter and the pursuit of his dream.
Topic sentences often act like tiny thesis statements. Like a thesis statement, a topic sentence makes a claim of some sort. As the thesis statement is the unifying force in the essay, so the topic sentence must be the unifying force in the paragraph. Further, as is the case with the thesis statement, when the topic sentence makes a claim, the paragraph which follows must expand, describe, or prove it in some way. Topic sentences make a point and give reasons or examples to support it.
The following diagram illustrates how a topic sentence can provide more focus to the general topic at hand.
Placement of Topic Sentences
What if I told you that the topic sentence doesn’t necessarily need to be at the beginning? This might be contrary to what you’ve learned in previous English or writing classes, and that’s okay. Certainly, when authors announce a topic clearly and early on in a paragraph, their readers are likely to grasp their idea and to make the connections that they want them to make.
However, when authors are writing for a more sophisticated academic audience—that is an audience of college-educated readers—they will often use more sophisticated organizational strategies to build and reveal ideas in their writing. One way to think about a topic sentence, is that it presents the broadest view of what authors want their readers to understand. This is to say that they’re providing a broad statement that either announces or brings into focus the purpose or the meaning for the details of the paragraph. If the topic sentence is seen as the broadest view, then every supporting detail will bring a narrower—or more specific—view of the same topic.
With this in mind, take some time to contemplate the diagrams in the figure below. The widest point of each diagram (the bases of the triangles) represents the topic sentence of the paragraph. As details are presented, the topic becomes narrower and more focused. The topic can precede the details, it can follow them, it can both precede and follow them, or the details can surround the topic. There are surely more alternatives than those that are presented here, but this gives you an idea of some of the possible paragraph structures and possible placements for the topic sentence of a paragraph.
Consider some of the following examples of different topic sentence placements in a paragraph from a review essay of the beloved children’s book, The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. Paragraph structures are labeled according to the diagrams presented above, and topic sentences are identified by red text.
Topic Sentence-Details-Topic Sentence
A good children’s book requires an exciting plot and a problem with which children can sympathize. In The Cat in the Hat there is plenty of action, depicted in the wild antics of the cat, and later in the amazing but dangerous and messy tricks of Thing 1 and Thing 2. All this excitement and action naturally draws children into the story and keeps the plot moving forward at a pace that maintains their interest. There is also tension to be resolved. The fish senses danger and constantly warns the children not to participate in the cat’s perilous stunts. And later, as the mother’s return becomes more imminent, the children begin to heed the fish’s warning and finally wish to contain the chaos and clean up the mess, but how? While this plot is fantastic enough to fuel any child’s imagination, it also contains a problem with which any child can relate: a mess and the threat of a parent’s disapproval. The careful balance of action, tension, and relatability is what makes this book an enduring childhood favorite.
The careful balance of action, tension, and relatability is what makes Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat an enduring childhood favorite. In The Cat in the Hat there is plenty of action, depicted in the wild antics of the cat, and later in the amazing but dangerous and messy tricks of Thing 1 and Thing 2. All this excitement and action naturally draws children into the story and keeps the plot moving forward at a pace that maintains their interest. There is also tension to be resolved. The fish senses danger and constantly warns the children not to participate in the cat’s perilous stunts. And later, as the mother’s return becomes more imminent, the children begin to heed the fish’s warning and finally wish to contain the chaos and clean up the mess, but how? While this plot is fantastic enough to fuel any child’s imagination, it also contains a problem with which any child can relate: a mess and the threat of a parent’s disapproval.
You can relocate the topic sentence to the end here, and you’ll have an example of the Details-Topic Sentence method of organizing the paragraph.
In The Cat in the Hat there is plenty of action, depicted in the wild antics of the cat, and later in the amazing but dangerous and messy tricks of Thing 1 and Thing 2. All this excitement and action naturally draws children into the story and keeps the plot moving forward at a pace that maintains their interest. The careful balance of action, tension, and relatability is what makes Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat an enduring childhood favorite. There is definitely tension to be resolved here. The fish senses danger and constantly warns the children not to participate in the cat’s perilous stunts. And later, as the mother’s return becomes more imminent, the children begin to heed the fish’s warning and finally wish to contain the chaos and clean up the mess, but how? While this plot is fantastic enough to fuel any child’s imagination, it also contains a problem with which any child can relate: a mess and the threat of a parent’s disapproval.
Explicit and Implicit Topic Sentences
Similar to thesis statements, topic sentences may be explicit or implicit.
Consider the following paragraph from an essay titled “The Bothersome Beauty of Pigeons,” by author and Boise State writing professor, Bruce Ballenger. It’s important to note that this is a personal narrative essay rather than a more traditional academic essay, but the paragraph provides a good example of an implied topic. In this essay Ballenger takes the time to consider the beauty of pigeons, a bird that’s usually thought of as nothing more than a nuisance. Just prior to this paragraph, Ballenger talks about how he used a fake owl to scare away pigeons on his property. He goes on to explain,
My pigeons moved next door where an elderly couple feed them bird seed and have the time and willingness to clean up after their new charges; so it seems, in this case, things have worked out for everyone. But the large flocks still haunt the piazzas in Florence and Venice, the squares in London, and similar places in nearly every city across the globe. Despite their ability to distinguish between a Van Gogh and a Chagall, pigeons still deposit droppings that deface the great marble statues and facades–the works of art and architecture that are part of our human heritage–and yet people still buy bags of seed for about a dollar and pose for photographs, drenched in doves. Meanwhile, officials in these cities continue, sometimes quietly, to wage war against the birds (“Introduction”).
Here, Ballenger seems to be saying that in spite of the attempts of so many to rid themselves of the pigeons, others are still drawn to them and will feed them and encourage them to come back. His main idea seems to be that the battle against pigeons is a losing proposition, but he doesn’t come out and say so. His message in this paragraph is implied. Do you think this paragraph would be improved with an explicit topic sentence?
EXERCISE 1: Identify the Topic and Focus
Choose a piece of writing, perhaps an essay or some news articles found online, and for each paragraph identify (1) the topic and (2) the more focused idea. Remember, the topic sentence applies more focus to the broader topic to help narrow the scope of the paragraph. For example, the topic of a paragraph might be school lunches. The more focused idea of that same paragraph might be the idea of having students plant school gardens as a way to help incorporate more fresh produce in the menu.
License and Attributions:
CC licensed content, Previously shared:
Basic Reading and Writing. Authored by: Lumen. Located at:https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Composition/Book:_Basic_Reading_and_Writing_(Lumen)/Module_2:_Critical_Reading/2.05:_Identifying_Thesis_Statements
License: CC BY: Attribution.
Adaptions: Reformatted, some content removed to fit a broader audience.
A thesis statement (the main point of a whole essay) is usually found at the end of an introduction. A topic sentence (the main point of a paragraph) is usually at the beginning of a paragraph. Thesis statements and topic sentences are similar in some ways: - They are full sentences that communicate a full idea.How do you identify topic and topic sentences? ›
The topic is the general subject of a paragraph or essay. Topics are simple and are described with just a word or a phrase. The main idea is a complete sentence; it includes the topic and what the author wants to say about it. If the author states the main idea in his paragraph it is called a “topic sentence.”How do you identify a thesis statement? ›
The thesis statement is located in the introductory paragraph, almost always at the end of that paragraph. It usually consists of a single sentence. the writer's opinion or claim about that topic; i.e., it provides a specific focus for the reader.What is the difference between thesis statement and topic sentence explain in 1 or 2 sentence s? ›
In other words, the topic sentence is to the paragraph what the thesis is to the entire essay, chapter, or book. While the thesis gives unity to the essay, the topic sentence gives unity to the paragraph by developing one major point suggested in the controlling idea of the thesis.What is a thesis statement example? ›
A thesis statement should show exactly what your paper will be about, and will help you keep your paper to a manageable topic. For example, if you're writing a seven-to-ten page paper on hunger, you might say: World hunger has many causes and effects.How do you identify a topic sentence in a sentence? ›
The topic sentence is usually the first sentence of the paragraph because it gives an overview of the sentences to follow. The supporting sentences after the topic sentence help to develop the main idea. These sentences give specific details related to the topic sentence.How do you identify a topic sentence and a concluding sentence? ›
The concluding sentence is the last sentence in a paragraph. Its job is to summarize the main idea of the paragraph. If the paragraph is part of an essay, the concluding sentence also transitions to the next paragraph. The topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph.Why is it important to identify the thesis statement of a lesson? ›
The thesis statement is important because it tells the audience what they will be reading about.What is a thesis statement in an essay? ›
A thesis statement is the main idea of an essay. It consists of the topic of the essay and the writer's claim about the topic that will be proven throughout the essay. The thesis usually appears at the end of the introduction, often as the last sentence, and lets the reader know what to expect. Topic + Claim = Thesis.How do you identify and write a thesis statement and supporting details? ›
Once you have written a thesis statement, you can then identify what information you must include to explain it to your audience. To do this, you need to identify supporting ideas by asking yourself the questions, "How?" or "What?" in response to the thesis statement you have written.
The Five point (also known as five paragraph) essay is simply that—an, essay which completes its goal (defending its thesis) in five points. It is one of the easiest essays to utilize, though quite difficult to master, and so appears often in timed writing assignments.What is a thesis in a 5 paragraph essay? ›
The thesis statement is usually only one sentence and is made up of the topic, focus, and three main points of the essay. Each body paragraph should start with a transition — either a word or phrase, like First, or Another important point is. Then, the first sentence should continue with your topic sentence.How do you write a thesis statement with a topic sentence? ›
In a thesis, the writer first states the topic (what the paragraph is about) and then the arguable assertion or opinion about that topic. Similarly, a good topic sentence usually has two parts, the topic and the key words that state the writer's assertion or opinion about the topic.How do I write a topic sentence? ›
- Identify the main point in your piece of writing. Think about the overall topic for your writing. ...
- Write a sentence that connects to your main idea with a what and a why. ...
- Use the sentence you created as an opening statement. ...
- Create the first sentence in each supporting paragraph.
Thesis statements are often one sentence, however, in some cases (e.g. a very in-depth or detailed paper) it may be appropriate to include a longer thesis statement. You should ask your professor for their advice if you think you need to use a thesis statement that is longer than one sentence.What are 3 parts of a thesis statement? ›
The thesis statement has 3 main parts: the limited subject, the precise opinion, and the blueprint of reasons.
- Limited Subject. ...
- Precise Opinion. ...
- Blueprint of Reasons.
Your topic should be something that you already know something about, something you would like to learn more about, and something you care about. Also consider what topics you react to, are puzzled by, are skeptical about, or which inspire you.How will you identify the topic? ›
Ask yourself, “What is the article about?” The answer can often be found in the title. If the topic is not specifically stated in the title, you will want more information before reading the entire article. Preview further by reading subtitles and headings. Look at diagrams and/or visual aids.What are 5 sentences examples? ›
5 sentences: The police department in my town is just around the corner from my house. Every summer I try to find the biggest tree around to climb. My mom always complains that my socks stink after I get home from camp.What is a topic sentence and examples? ›
It consists of the topic and the directing words. Sentence. • It is usually the first sentence in the paragraph, but it may come after a transitional. sentence. Examples: Returning to college to further my education was the smartest thing I ever did.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Types of Sentences
Declarative Sentence. Imperative Sentence. Interrogative Sentence. Exclamatory Sentence.
A thesis statement is written to state the main purpose or argument of your writing. That means that your thesis statement will be supported through all of the body paragraphs that make up your essay. A topic sentence is the first sentence of a body paragraph.How do you locate the main idea and conclusion in the paragraph give two ways? ›
- at the beginning of paragraphs. The first sentence often explains the subject being discussed in the passage.
- in the concluding sentences of a paragraph. The main idea can be expressed as a summation of the information in the paragraph as well as a link to the information in the next paragraph.
- Have a thesis statement. ...
- Outline your paper. ...
- Be clear and coherent. ...
- Share an opinion. ...
- Be specific in your wording. ...
- Add transitions between paragraphs.
A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea.
Readers need to be able to see that your paper has one main point. If your thesis statement expresses more than one idea, then you might confuse your readers about the subject of your paper.
Why is identifying the main idea important? Finding the main idea is a key to understanding what you read. The main idea ties all of the sentences in the paragraph or article together. Once you identify the main idea, everything else in the reading should click into place.What type of sentence is used to write a thesis statement? ›
1.2 A thesis statement is a single declarative sentence. A declarative sentence is simply a sentence that makes a statement rather than asking a question or making a command.What is called thesis statement? ›
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay. It usually comes near the end of your introduction. Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you're writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across.Can a thesis be 5 sentences? ›
A thesis statement must be one sentence in length, no matter how many clauses it contains. Clear writing is more important than rules like these. Use two or three sentences if you need them. A complex argument may require a whole tightly-knit paragraph to make its initial statement of position.What are 5 types of evidence thesis? ›
- Direct quotations from a book or other text source.
- Accurate summaries of what happened or was said in the text.
- Larger passages that relate directly to the thesis of your essay.
- Paraphrases of what the author says in the text.
Typically, a thesis contains the following chapters: an introduction; a literature review; a description of methodology; a report and discussion of results; and a conclusion.What are the 5 key features of a good thesis statement? ›
- Specificity. A thesis statement must concentrate on a specific area of a general topic. ...
- Precision. ...
- Ability to be argued. ...
- Ability to be demonstrated. ...
- Forcefulness. ...
In general, paragraphs should have 5-8 sentences.
In this case, if you're tasked with writing a five-paragraph essay, then you should want 25-40 sentences total. However, that's not a hard and fast rule.
- Specificity. A thesis statement must concentrate on a specific area of a topic. ...
- Precision. A thesis statement must be precise enough to allow for a coherent argument and to remain focused on the topic. ...
- Arguability. ...
- Demonstrability. ...
There are two major types of thesis statements: explanatory and argumentative. The explanatory thesis announces the subject to the reader; it never declares a stance which needs an argument to defend. These explanatory theses are evident in expository essays and research essays.What are the two 2 basic parts of any thesis statement? ›
A thesis statement generally consists of two parts: your topic, and then the analysis, explanation(s), or assertion(s) that you're making about the topic. The kind of thesis statement you write will depend on what kind of paper you're writing.What is an example of a topic sentence? ›
Topic Sentence: Cooking requires a number of different skills. The topic is "cooking" and the controlling idea is "many different skills." Topic Sentence: It is important to be ready before buying a house. The topic is "buying a house" and the controlling idea is “it is important to be ready."What are topic sentences? ›
A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph. Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence. Why are topic sentences important? Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.What means thesis statement? ›
What is a Thesis Statement? The thesis statement is the sentence that states the main idea of a writing assignment and helps control the ideas within the paper. It is not merely a topic. It often reflects an opinion or judgment that a writer has made about a reading or personal experience.What are the 3 parts of a topic sentence? ›
There are usually three basic elements: (1) a topic, (2) a topic sentence, and (3) supporting details. The topic sentence states the main, or controlling, idea. The sentences that explain this main point are called supporting details.
- Have a thesis statement. You need to know what your paper or essay is about to determine the topic sentences. ...
- Outline your paper. ...
- Be clear and coherent. ...
- Share an opinion. ...
- Be specific in your wording. ...
- Add transitions between paragraphs.
|Type of Topic Sentence||Definition|
|Overview or Specific Preview||previews the points to be discussed in the paragraph(s)|
|Shocker||a shocking statement or fact|
|Descriptive||a description of a connected event|
|Personal Anecdote||personal connection to the topic|
A thesis statement is usually at the end of an introductory paragraph. The sentences that precede the sentence will introduce it, and the sentences that follow will support and explain it. Just as a topic sentence introduces and organizes a paragraph, a thesis statement helps readers recognize what is to follow.Why is a thesis statement important? ›
A thesis statement makes a promise to the reader about the scope, purpose, and direction of the paper. It summarizes the conclusions that the writer has reached about the topic. A thesis statement is generally located near the end of the introduction.Why is a thesis important? ›
A thesis is an important part of any essay, expository or argumentative, because it introduces a pattern of de- velopment for the rest of your paper to follow. Think of it as a string of pearls; each pearl represents an idea within your paper, and all of the pearls have a common string running through them.