The Focus Sentence
By Joan Whetzel
Essays and term papers, like any nonfiction writing, require sentence and paragraph structure that make following the writer's theme seem effortless. Paragraphs should be reasonably short, so readers don't lose interest by getting bogged down in overloaded paragraphs that drone on forever. Each essay or term paper paragraph must also begin with a topic sentence.
Defining the Focus Sentence
An essay or term paper's first paragraph introduces the paper's topic. In the same way, the first sentence introduces the topic of the paragraph. In the introductory paragraph, the topic sentence is referred to as a thesis statement, which is the statement that announces the topic for the whole paper. In subsequent paragraphs, the topic sentence for each paragraph is called the focus sentence because it focuses the reader's attention on what will be discussed in that paragraph.
The focus sentence frequently makes an assertion which needs to be backed up with "evidence." That's what the rest of the paragraph is for, to supply supportive arguments that back-up the focus sentence. In the same manner, all the paragraphs in the body of the essay or term paper become back-up -the supporting arguments - for the thesis statement made in the introductory paragraph and the thesis statement.
The focus sentence has the following purposes:
· It summarizes the information contained in the paragraph.
· It links the paragraph to the title, to the introductory paragraph, and to the paper's thesis.
· It alludes to at the supporting evidence that follows in the paragraph.
· It provides the topic discussed in the paragraph.
· It determines the arrangement of the paragraph
· It unites the paragraph topic with the essay topic and the with the other paragraphs.
Supporting the Focus Sentence
Sometimes the topics sentence will appear part way through the paragraph or even at the end of the paragraph (to recap the paragraph's contents, as many concluding paragraphs are written). However, the focus sentence usually appears at the beginning of the sentence. Since each paragraph discusses a single sub-topic of the essay's theme or thesis, it has at least some space to elaborate on that sub-topic. The remaining sentences in each paragraph all refer back to the focus sentence, and should be organized logically. In much the same way, the paragraphs in the body of the paper support the main thesis and must be arranged logically.
How to Write Focus Sentences
Writing a first class focus sentence commences with a good understanding of the essay thesis or theme as well knowing how to break down the topic into its main ideas, which will become the topic of individual paragraphs. The second most important skill is to be able to state that topic or paragraph theme in one's own words. This is the essence of focus sentence writing. The steps for organizing and writing the essay or term paper are the same for writing each paragraph. When trying to figure out the focus sentence for each paragraph, try the following:
1. Brainstorm ideas for the main ideas of each paragraph, listing all applicable words and phrases.
2. Choose the best words and phrases for each focus sentence, the ones that best describe the main idea of each paragraph.
3. Make a simple outline for each paragraph. The Roman Numeral I represents the introductory paragraph, and the Roman Numerals II, III, IV, and V for paragraphs I the body of the essay and the concluding paragraph.
4. The heading listed next to each Roman numeral will become the focus sentence for that paragraph, while the letters and Arabic numbers represent the supporting evidence and the details and examples that will flesh out the paragraph.
The only thing left, is to write those paragraphs beginning with the focus sentence and fleshed out with the supporting evidence. A bit of editing and writing the final draft completes the writing process. Having well-written focus sentences make any essay or term paper more focused on the paper's main thesis or theme.
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