Doctorate Students
Writing/Speaking Class
Week 5
“Writing Support Paragraphs”
“Topic Sentences”
“Supporting Sentences”
The Format of a
5-paragraph Essay
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Introductory paragraph
Supporting paragraph #1
Supporting paragraph #2
Supporting paragraph #3
Concluding paragraph
“Supporting”
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This word supporting is used to show that
these paragraphs are supporting or proving the
main idea of the purpose statement. Therefore
all of the supporting paragraphs are directly
related to the purpose statement.
What is a supporting paragraph?
A supporting paragraph is a group of related
sentences that develops one main idea.
This type of paragraph is made up of three kinds of
sentences that develop the writer’s opinion, or
feeling about a subject. These sentences are:
(1) Topic sentence
(2) Supporting sentences
(3) The concluding sentence.
Today our focus is on writing good paragraphs
using these three types of sentences.
Why are paragraphs important?
Most papers will be about a certain topic that will
have several different ideas.
For example, the topic
“Chinese is the most difficult language in the world”,
has several different ideas that I want to write about:
1. Chinese has 4 tones,
2. Chinese characters
3. Chinese idioms.
The purpose of a paragraph then is to separate the
different ideas in a paper. So each of these
different ideas will have its own paragraph.
Writing a good support paragraph
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The first thing you must do when writing
a support paragraph is to first write a
good topic sentence. It will be the most
important sentence in the entire
paragraph.
Topic Sentence
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A topic sentence is very similar to a purpose
statement.
 The main goal of a purpose statement is to
tell the reader what the main topic and idea
of the entire essay is going to be about.
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The goal of a topic sentence is to tell the
reader what the topic and main idea of each
paragraph is going to be.
Topic Sentence
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Just like a purpose statement, a topic
sentence will contain a main idea. After
the topic sentence has been written
correctly it will be clear to the reader
what the paragraph will be about. The
topic sentence will answer a question that
the reader can ask (what, why, how). The
answer to the question is what is written
in the rest of the paragraph.
Exercise
Exercise: I will list a number of topic sentences
and I want you to determine what the main
idea of that paragraph will be.
1. There are several advantages to growing up in
a small town.
The rest of the paragraph will answer the
question— “What are the advantages?”
Topic Sentence Exercise
2. People can avoid computer viruses by taking
certain precautions.
What precautions can people take?
3. Fixing a flat tire on a bicycle is easy if you
follow these steps.
What are the steps?
4. Effective leadership requires specific qualities
that anyone can develop.
What are the qualities?
Topic Sentence
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In general, the English structure of writing is
to tell readers what you will be writing about
in a paragraph before you begin to write about
it. Thus, the common practice in writing a
paragraph is to begin with the topic sentence
and to follow it with supporting sentences. By
using this method the reader can more easily
identify the main point that the writer is
making.
5 Things You Should Know
1. There is only one purpose statement in an essay.
2. There can be many topic sentences depending on how
many paragraphs you have.
3. Topic sentences must be complete sentences, they are
not written like headlines.
4. The purpose statement is usually the last sentence of
the introduction while the topic sentence is usually the
first sentence of each supporting paragraph.
5. Good topic sentences should not be facts that everyone
already knows and believes.
Poor Example: “Exercise is good for you.”
Topic Sentences
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To get a better understanding of topic
sentences we are going to look at an example
of a 5-paragraph essay. Look at the article
“Children and Video Games” on your handout.
Do not read the entire article. Instead first read
the purpose statement which is in Bold at the
end of the introduction.
Then read each of the three topic sentences
which are underlined.
Do you see how the topic sentences are related
to the purpose statement? (previous slide)
Topic Sentence Exercises
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We are now going to take some time to
practice writing good topic sentences. We will
be using the handout that I have given to each
of you.
Topic Sentence Examples
1. Love is such a wonderful thing that I believe
it is necessary for everyone to love and be
loved in order to have a joyful life.
2. Exercising outside several times a week can
greatly lessen the stress of most people.
Topic Sentence Examples
3.The Internet, which is widely used among
university students, has enhanced the ability
for students to do research.
4.As a basketball player, Yao Ming has done a
great job of introducing Chinese culture to the
United States.
Topic Sentences—Exercise # 2
Now we are going to do exercise # 2 on your
handout. Read through the following
paragraphs and write an appropriate topic
sentence for each one. These paragraphs do
not have a topic sentence.
Exercise # 2--Examples
1. Opening a savings bank account for a young
child and giving them some money each
month to deposit in this account can be a
very helpful thing.
2. Miami is one of the best places in the United
States to take a vacation.
3. Throughout different periods of his life, Paul
has had different types of hobbies.
Support Sentences
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Today we have talked about the Topic
Sentence which is usually the first
sentence in a paragraph. Again it is
identical to a purpose statement except it
is the main idea for only one or more
paragraphs, not the entire essay.
The next part of a paragraph is made up
of support sentences.
Support Sentences
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Definition:
Supporting sentences are sentences that
directly relate to the topic sentence and help to
answer the question asked by the main idea.
Supporting Sentences develop the topic
sentence by giving specific details about the
topic.
Paragraph Structure
Topic Sentence
Supporting Sentence
Supporting Sentence
Supporting Sentence…
(Concluding Sentence)
Different Types of Support Sentences
1. Facts-information that is easy to verify
-Yao Ming is a great basketball player.
-BNU is the top-ranked teaching university in China.
2. Examples- these must be related to your main idea
-Chinese has many idioms, for example, I still
remember the first time I heard the idiom 马马虎虎。
3. Physical Description-describe how something looks,
smells, tastes, sounds, feels
-Beijing can be as hot as a sauna in the summer.
4. Personal Experience-stories or events from your
own life
-I remember when I first learned to ride a bicycle and
how difficult it was.
The Importance of Unity
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It is important that all of your support sentences
are directly related to the topic sentence. One
way to help you do this is to change your topic
sentence into a question and see if all the
supporting sentences help to answer this question.
Example: “Students should develop the habit of
exercising at least once a week.”
-The question would be:
“Why should they develop this habit?”
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The following support sentences should all be
related to this question you have asked.
Analyzing the Support Sentences
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There are several reasons why many American
women wait until they are 30 years old or older
to have their first baby. Some women have
good jobs and want to continue their careers.
Many American women want to have two
children. Other women don’t want the
responsibility of having children until they are
older. Still others are waiting until they are
financially secure before they start a family.
Analyzing the Support Sentences
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The packaging of many products can be very
wasteful. Often the package is twice as big as
the product. Packaging is used to protect
things that are breakable. Many food items,
for example, have several layers of extra
packaging. Most of these extra layers are
absolutely useless.
Analyzing the Support Sentences
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Running has many positive effects on the body.
First of all, it increases the efficiency of the
heart and lungs. Running also helps the body
develop greater physical endurance, however it
is true that many people prefer swimming.
Finally, it helps the body become more
mechanically efficient.
Support Sentences Exercise
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Look at the handout for Support Sentences.
We are going to do Exercise # 1.
Exercise # 1 in the handout:
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First read the paragraph and cross out the
sentences that do not belong. The topic is
about Mozart. There are many things we
could write about him, but the main idea is
related to his accomplishments and why they
are remarkable even today. Remember that
each sentence should be related to this main
idea.
Revised Mozart Paragraph
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Mozart’s accomplishments in music seem
remarkable even today. First, he began
composing music at the age of five and his first
concert tour of Europe was at the age of six. On
his first tour he played harpsichord, organ, and
violin. He also published numerous
compositions before reaching adolescence.
Mozart composed over six hundred musical
compositions. His most notable works are his
operas, symphonies, quartets, and piano
concertos.
Supporting Sentences—Exercise # 2
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Now we are going to do exercise # 2.
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Write at least four different supporting
sentences for the two topic sentences on your
handout.
Exercise # 2 example paragraph
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Having a part-time job can benefit students in
many ways. When I was a student I found that
my part time job helped me learn more about
my own strengths and weaknesses. A part time
job can also give students valuable experience
in learning how to interact with different types
of people. Another advantage is that they can
give a student an opportunity to interact with
society. One of the most important benefits
though is that it allows the student to earn
money and be more independent.
If we have time…
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To end the class today I want to give you
several minutes to read through the essay
“Children and video games”. In groups of 2-3
summarize what the author is trying to
communicate in this essay.