How to Write a Topic Sentence for a Research Paper

Every research paper needs a thesis statement or topic sentence. This represents the main idea to your paper. Every argument that you make in your research paper needs to reflect upon your topic. The topic sentence is what captures the attention of the reader.

So how long should it be?

Your topic sentence should be one or two sentences. It should present your topic and also tell the reader what position you are taking in relation o the topic. The thesis needs to tell the reader the purpose of your paper and also act as a guide for you when you are writing. This guide will ensure that your argument remains focused and on task.

Questions to ask yourself when creating a topic

Where does it go?

The topic sentence should be presented early in your research paper. It needs to be somewhere in the introduction. This ensures you can give the reader an idea of the direction of the paper early.

Tip: In order to create a successful topic sentence you should avoid placing your topic sentence in the center of your introduction or later in the paper. You want the topic sentence to be clear and specific. You also want to indicate the purpose of your research paper without being so blunt as to say “the purpose of my research paper is...”

Is the topic sentence specific?

Your topic needs to be as clear as possible. As you refine the argument in your paper you can of course return to the topic sentence and refine it too. You might find that as you write you gain a better idea of what your argument is and where it is going. That is perfectly normal.

Tip: Review your topic sentence. See if there are two big statements in there instead of one. You can do this by searching for conjunctions that you accidentally used to loosely coordinate multiple ideas. If you have two statements instead of one verify whether they are focused or whether they don’t really fit. If they don’t really fit then try and refine your topic sentence so that there is only one main idea.

Is the topic sentence too general?

This can also be a problem. If your topic sentence is to general then you won’t be able to refine your point. You want to be straightforward enough that the reader really gets into the meat of the subject not just the surface of it.

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