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Writing: Main Idea, Thesis Statement & Topic Sentences

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  • 0:07 Main Idea, Thesis…
  • 1:01 Main Idea
  • 1:35 Thesis Statement
  • 2:39 Topic Sentence
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

What exactly is your essay about? Writing great thesis statements and topic sentences that align with your main idea will help readers to understand the theme, ideas, and central focus of your essay.

Main Idea, Thesis Statement, Topic Sentences

Have you ever been really excited about a movie? I mean so excited you go to the theater, get popcorn and other snacks, and sit down waiting for an hour and a half of wonderful cinema bliss? Then it happens - it's an hour and a half later and you realize you have no idea what you just watched! Even when you try to explain it to people, the words escape you. The most you can say is that it had no plot and it made no sense. It's a terrible experience when you watch a movie with no plot, and reading an essay with no main idea, no thesis, and no cohesive points tying it all together is no less aggravating of an experience. The best way to avoid such a tragedy in your own writing is to get great at setting the stage for your writing.

Main Idea

The first place to start is with your main idea. The main idea is the key concept being expressed or examined. Putting this in our movie frame of reference, the main idea would be the broad context on what the movie is about, or the genre in which the movie will be viewed. Is it a romantic comedy about high school sweethearts? Maybe it's a historical drama about the Battle of Waterloo or the sinking of the Titanic. The main idea is the overall gist of what the piece will be dealing with as a whole.

Thesis Statements

Okay, so now that we have the main idea, we need to prepare ourselves to clearly explain it to our audience, the reader. What we need is a thesis statement! A thesis statement is a one- or two-sentence condensation of your argument or analysis that will follow in your writing. The thesis statement is our narrowing of our overall main idea.

Moving along with our movie idea, let's say our main idea is a romantic comedy about two high school sweethearts. While that helps narrow things a bit from the entire genre of romantic comedy, it doesn't really help give us the detail we need to truly understand what is unique about our movie. However, I can add the thesis statement of Two high school sweethearts ready to embark on the wonderful world of college. Will they follow their dreams and end up at separate colleges, or follow their heart to the same school? Now we can better understand what this movie is about!

Topic Sentence

Of course, there is a bit more narrowing that can be done in this process. Sometimes space does not allow us to give a longer explanation. Sometimes people really need us to get to the point quickly. This is where our topic sentence comes into play. A topic sentence is generally at the beginning of the opening paragraph and gives a one-sentence summary of the main point. Think of the topic sentence as our movie blurb that everyone grabs a hold of. It's that bit of information the producers want us to hold onto that will allow us to build excitement for the movie and remember with ease the main point of the film.

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