What’s a paragraph?

A paragraph is a group of sentences that share one main idea. A paragraph can stand alone as a composition or may be one part of a longer piece of writing, such as an essay or report. Every paragraph has the same basic structure:

  1. Topic Sentence
  2. Supporting Sentences
  3. Concluding Sentence

What’s a topic sentence?

A topic sentence is the sentence that clearly identifies the main idea in each paragraph. It controls the focus of the paragraph. It is usually, but not always, the first or second sentence within a paragraph.

The following are weak topic sentences:

  1. Canada shares a border with the United States.
    • Too narrow. A fact cannot be a topic sentence because it does not contain an idea that can be developed.
  2. Studying is difficult.
    • Too broad. This sentence needs to be more specific. Studying what? Difficult for whom?
  3. Why traditional values are disappearing
    • Incomplete sentence. While this may be a good topic, it is not a topic sentence because it is grammatically incomplete.
  4. I would like to discuss in this paragraph the growing concern about air pollution in my city.
    • Do not announce your topic or intentions.

A good topic sentence clearly introduces the topic of the paragraph and makes a point about that topic (a main idea). It makes a statement which is neither too broad nor too narrow. A good topic sentence should also give the reader an idea of what type of paragraph he or she will be reading (Narrative, Descriptive, Opinion, Comparison/Contrast, Cause/Effect, Process, Classification, Summary).

Here are some revised versions of the above topic sentences:

  1. Canadian cultural identity has been heavily influenced by its relationship with and proximity to the United States.
  2. Studying two languages at once can be very challenging.
  3. There are several reasons why traditional values are disappearing.
  4. Air pollution is a growing concern in my country.

Review - Paragraph Structure

Review - Paragraph Structure