An argumentative essay comprises -
A thesis statement - This states your argument.
Topic sentences - These introduce each new idea to prove your argument. Writers build paragraphs around topic sentences.
Supporting information - Details, examples, facts, and data that support each topic sentence.
Good organization and logical flow make an effective argumentative essay. Transitions, signals, and other language devices allow writers to link thoughts and achieve coherence. Coherence means ideas are well organized, fact driven and, as a whole, they prove the thesis statement. This is essential in argumentative essay writing.
A common way to link sentences is with the basic words and, but, so and because. Academic language offers alternative words and phrases to ensure your sentences flow well.
And - in addition, additionally, moreover, apart from this, as well (as), further, furthermore
But - alternatively, conversely, despite, although, even though, however, on the other hand, in contrast, on the contrary, nevertheless, nonetheless
So - accordingly, as a result/consequence, consequently, for this reason, hence, therefore, thus
Because - due to, a/the consequence of, the result of, for, since, the effect of
Most of these words join two independent clauses, and they follow similar punctuation and grammar rules. For example:
Technology has enhanced communication. In addition, health & lifestyle benefits are unprecedented.
Technology has a dramatic impact on lifestyle choices; nevertheless, humanity continues to abuse the power that technology bestows.
Economic turmoil threatens business’ survival. Most companies, therefore, invest in technology that promotes efficiency and reduces costs.
Observe the different ways to use linking words to combine independent clauses. Notice their punctuation marks and their varying positions within a sentence. Check a usage guide if you are not sure of the correct rules.
A strong essay links ideas so a reader can follow the progression of an argument without losing focus or becoming confused. Sometimes information needs to be repeated to highlight the angle being developed. Other times, concepts and accusations must be explained or clarified by providing examples.
To repeat/simplify - in other words, simply put, to put it differently / another way
To show similarities – similarly, in a similar manner, correspondingly, in the same way, equally, for the same reason
To give examples - for example, for instance, a further instance of this is..., an example of this is…, such as
To concede/contrast - admittedly, although, even though, however
To show emphasis - interestingly, indeed, it should be noted (that), (un)fortunately, more important(ly), most importantly, unquestionably
Here is an example of how these words improve cohesion and sentence flow:
The complexities and moral dilemmas that nuclear technology poses are beyond the scope of simple minds. In other words, mankind is not ready to adopt nuclear technology into mainstream life. In the same way, advances in cloning and stem cell treatment raise ethical questions that humans struggle with. For example, could cloning be used to advance warfare? Admittedly, progression to this level is years away, but it is a valid concern.
Again, take note of sentence construction and punctuation in the paragraph above.
We have linked sentences and connected ideas. The final step is to provide stepping-stones between paragraphs. This seals the overall essay unity.
A useful mechanism is to remind readers of main points from previous paragraphs so that your next topic sentence makes a stronger impression. Use signal/pointing words at the beginning of paragraphs, as well as time signals.
Signal words - besides, in addition to, having..., not only...but also..., although, even though, while, despite
Time signals – first, second (etc.), meanwhile, subsequently, finally, to conclude
In an essay about the effects of technology on humanity, the topic of one paragraph could be:
Technology has prolonged life through advances in healthcare.
To proceed to the next paragraph, you could write:
In addition to unparalleled progress in medical treatment, technology enables people to acquire unlimited knowledge.
While there have been many positive outcomes, technology has also caused much pain and suffering.
Having looked at several advantages of technology, the negative implications now need to be considered. First,...
The purpose of connecting sentences, ideas, and paragraphs is to guide the reader along the path you develop. That is a solid way to prove an argument. An essay writer does not leave it to the reader to make assumptions or to fill in the blanks. Linking words and phrases, and other transition signals are a vital element of academic work. Learn to use them accurately to write better essay.
Date published November 5, 2014 by Shane Bryson. Date updated: September 17, 2015
If argumentative essays were newspaper articles, thesis statements would be the headlines—and as a thesis statement is like the headline of an essay, a topic sentence is like the headline of a paragraph. This is because, like the thesis, they let the reader know what to expect.
Topic sentences have three basic functions:
- Describe all and only the topic matter of the paragraph.
- Clearly situate the paragraph’s content in relation to the thesis.
- Provide a transition from the preceding paragraph.
View topic sentences in an example essay
1. How much topic matter to cover with a topic sentence
All and only
Though small, the words “all” and “only” are both very important here. The first requires your topic sentence to cover enough information, while the second limits the amount of information the topic sentence should cover.
All of the information in the paragraph should relate clearly to the topic sentence. This means, reciprocally, that the topic sentence should be just broad enough to account for, with some detail, all the points you make in the paragraph. Make sure the topic sentence is sufficiently expansive and precise. To help with this, use key words from the most important point(s) you make in the body of the paragraph.
However, only the information in the paragraph should be covered by the topic sentence (except in the case of compound topic sentences). This means that the topic sentence should not be any broader than the topic matter in the paragraph requires.
Thinking of these all and only requirements, consider your topic sentence to present a miniature mirror-image of the paragraph’s content. Everything you see in the paragraph you should also see in the topic sentence; on the other hand, usually, information that you don’t see in the paragraph you should not see in the topic sentence.
When revising your paragraphs, if you notice a difference between what the topic sentence covers and what the paragraph covers, you always have two options: change the topic sentence or change the paragraph. Perhaps you will need to carefully add a few words to the topic sentence; or perhaps something important is missing from the paragraph, and you will need to add that. On the other hand, perhaps your topic sentence is too broad, and you need to cut something from it; or perhaps your paragraph covers information irrelevant to the topic sentence, and you need to delete that information or find it a new home.
Compound topic sentences
Sometimes a topic sentence works more like a section introduction, outlining information that will come over the next two or three paragraphs. In this case, you should use two topic sentences in the same paragraph, what we might call a compound topic sentence. The first of the two is the section-heading-like topic sentence—the same “all and only” rules apply to this topic sentence, but it covers a few paragraphs’ worth of information. The second topic sentence picks up one part of the first and covers all and only the information in the present paragraph.
Example Compound Topic Sentence
[First T.S.] The government has three main obstacles to developing tidal hydro power on the coast: funding, location, and technological innovation. [Second T.S.] The problem of funding results from prior financial commitments and the relatively low budget of the province.
The present paragraph would continue to discuss funding, while the next paragraph would take up location, starting with another topic sentence.
2. Connection to the thesis or overall argument
Covering only the first basic function, the topic sentence is incomplete. We might know what the paragraph is about, but we need to know why this information is important to the main point of the essay. The second function of the topic sentence clarifies this matter—connect the topic sentence to the thesis.
To ensure that your topic sentences fulfill this second function, ask yourself, “How does this paragraph help the reader understand why my thesis is right? How can the reader identify the connection between the point I make here and the overall point that I earlier set out to make?” Answers to these questions should be obvious from the topic sentence.
To help ensure these connections are clear, re-use key words that you’ve used in your thesis, and make sure that you are explicit about how the paragraph explores the larger point. To illustrate, for the compound topic sentence we considered a moment ago, consider the following thesis:
Example Thesis Statement
Efforts from NGO’s and the government to establish tidal hydro power in Nova Scotia face many obstacles, but by working together the two groups can meet with success by 2020.
Our compound topic sentence establishes the connection to the parts of this thesis by specifically mentioning “the government” and “obstacles,” so that the reader knows what part of the thesis the associated paragraphs will explore, and by giving some further detail, so that the reader better understands what nuances of the paper will pick out.
As we saw with compound topic sentences, the topic sentence for a paragraph does not always need to relate directly to the thesis. For example, the topic sentences that follow a compound topic sentence refer to the compound topic sentence, but it refers to the thesis. Similarly, in longer essays that use subsections, topic sentences can refer to the main point laid out in the subsection’s introduction.
What’s important here is that the topic sentence either connects to the thesis or connects to something else, which in turn connects with the thesis.
Being the sentence that encapsulates the paragraph, a topic sentence often provides an ideal place to transition from the topic matter of the previous paragraph or section to the topic matter of the present paragraph or section. Transitioning is really an optional function of the topic sentence, but if the transition does not appear in the topic sentence, normally it should appear be just before the topic sentence.