Tutorial on Topic and Topic Sentences

What is a Topic?  What is a Topic Sentence?

A paragraph's topic is the subject of the paragraph -- who or what the paragraph is about.  Finding the topic of a paragraph is the first step in finding out what the paragraph is trying to say to you. This simple question will help you find the topic of a paragraph:  In general, who or what is this paragraph about?

Your answer to this question will be the paragraph's topic.  

Read the paragraph below. As you do so, ask yourself "In general, who or what is this paragraph about?" After you have chosen what you think is the topic, read the Explanation that follows:

      Each year, thousands of people are bitten by snakes. Several steps should be taken if you are a victim of a snakebite. First, keep still and warm. Next, remove rings and tight clothing. Wrap a bandage above the snakebite, but do not apply a tourniquet, as this may cut off blood circulation. Also, do not try to remove snake venom from the snakebite hole. Finally, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The topic of this paragraph is:

(a) snakebites

(b) wrapping a bandage

(c) blood circulation

Explanation

The first choice, "snakebites" is the topic because the entire paragraph is about snakebites.  

The second choice, "bandages" is NOT the topic of the paragraph.  Although wrapping a bandage is mentioned in the paragraph, the entire paragraph is NOT about wrapping bandages only--it is just one point mentioned in the paragraph.

The third choice, "blood circulation" is NOT the topic of the paragraph.  Although blood circulation is mentioned in the paragraph, the entire paragraph is NOT about blood circulation only--it is just one point mentioned in the paragraph.

Now you should say to yourself, "Okay, I know that the topic is snakebite.  But what is the whole paragraph trying to tell me about snakebites?"  This question will lead you to the topic sentence, which is the sentence that lets you know what point the whole paragraph is trying to get across to the reader.

Look back at the paragraph about "snakebite."  The paragraph is actually giving steps on what to do in case you are bitten by a snake, so sentence 2, "Several steps should be taken if you are a victim of snakebite," is the topic sentence of the paragraph because it announces the topic and tells us what the paragraph is going to be about.

Now, read the next paragraph and look at the choices for the topic.  After you have chosen what you think is the topic, read the Explanation that follows.

       There's an old saying that goes, "If you want friends, you have to be a friend."  This is easier said than done, but there are ways to be a good friend.  First, remember to be reliable.  Being there when you're needed, for example, to give a ride to school, or offering to feed a cat while someone is away shows that you're reliable.  Additionally, you should be trustworthy.  Keeping secrets shows you can be trusted and will ensure you're a good friend.  Finally, it's important to have a good sense of humor.  Being able to laugh at yourself and the silly things that happen in life will make you the kind of person people want for a friend.

The topic of this paragraph is:

(a) Trustworthiness

(b) reliability

(c) a good friend

Explanation

The first choice, trustworthiness," is just one of the points being made about being a friend.  But the whole paragraph isn't just about trustworthiness, so that can't be the topic.

The second choice, "reliability," is also just one of the point being made.  It also isn't the topic.

The third choice, "a good friend," is the topic because the paragraph is about being a good friend.

Now you should say to yourself, "Okay, I know that the topic is a good friend.  But what is the whole paragraph trying to tell me a good friend?"  This question will lead you to the topic sentence, which is the sentence that lets you know what point the whole paragraph is trying to get across to the reader.

Look back at the paragraph about "a good friend."  The paragraph is actually telling you how to be a good friend, so sentence 2, "but there are ways to be a good friend," is the topic sentence of the paragraph because it announces the topic and tells us what the paragraph is going to be about.

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