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Supporting Details: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:41 Description & Examples
  • 1:33 Compare/Contrast
  • 1:57 Reasons & Explanations
  • 2:33 Facts & Evidence
  • 2:53 Connect to the Topic Sentence
  • 3:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone
Find out what supporting details are and their role in essay writing. Learn the different ways to include supporting details, then take a quiz to test your new skills.

Supporting Details

Supporting details provide the information that supports the topic sentence. You can create supporting details with descriptions, examples, reasons, explanations and comparisons.

The details you use to support your topic sentences depends somewhat on the development strategy (persuasive, compare/contrast, narrative, expository, etc.) that you're using. Are you writing a narrative or descriptive essay? Make your paragraphs come alive with details. A persuasive essay? Use plenty of facts and evidence. You may end up combining several types of supporting details.

Description & Examples

Descriptive details will expand on the main idea in your topic sentence. Describe the colors, smells, textures and size of things. If your topic sentence claims that a fire was particularly damaging, you would include the color and size of the flames, the smoke, the smell of burning materials, etc. Description can include emotional details as well. Describe your feelings or the feelings others described.

Examples support topic sentences like evidence supports an argument. If you say that your car is in disrepair, give some examples. Is the engine barely running? Does it burn oil? Or, are you referring to the interior with exposed springs? Examples can also be shown with an anecdote, which are brief stories that illustrate the main idea in your topic sentence.

Compare/Contrast

Let's say you're writing a compare/contrast essay about two brands of e-book readers. If your topic sentence says that one has an easy-to-read home page, you might discuss the font sizes and screen colors and follow with what's lacking on the other brand's home page. If your topic sentence states that they're similar in many ways, show the many ways and not just one or two.

Reasons & Explanations

Use reasons to support your opinions. If your main idea is about places to do homework, and you have a topic sentence stating that you feel comfortable in a particular coffee shop, include the reasons. Is it the lighting? The music? Also, if you dislike something, be prepared to include the reasons if you want your claim to be effective.

Explanations focus on clarifying an idea for readers who are unfamiliar with the topic. For example, if your topic is about taxes, and your topic sentence is about tax increment financing, you would include an explanation of what that is.

Facts & Evidence

Describe a problem or an idea that you've stated in your topic sentence. If, for example, you're writing a persuasive essay about green energy, a topic sentence might state a problem that a lot of people have with it. You would then describe the problem and provide facts to support it, or you could counter with evidence that shows how the problem can be solved.

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